Bear Totem Story by Victor’s Childhood Friend

Here is a Bear Totem-Story by Victor’s childhood friend, John Folting. We hope it will stir a memory in you and that you’ll post your own story.  Thanks!  Linda

By John Folting:

I had an experience like Jan in the book Lion Eyes as you described.
My family was at Yosemite when I was about 5 or so and like any other red blooded American boy I decided to explore on my own. Well, needless to say I got lost in the woods. For a couple of hours, it seemed forever, I walked and walked and of course got deeper in trouble.
I really thought I was going to get hurt or die but Providence intervened in a very strange way.
I was just standing there and this mother bear came up to me with her two cubs. I guess she was maternal as I do not know if you know this, adult animals rarely hurt the young of another.
She just nudged me and for some reason I started to follow her. When I was tired I rode her back. She took me to a stream and across the stream was a house. I patted her and walked away towards the house where my father was. He just happened to be there looking for me.
He never believed my story but it was OK because from that time I always loved animals. I still do.
I’ll buy the book and read it and let you know. Nothing happened to me like your heroine, but it at least gave me a life long respect for animals.


6 comments on “Bear Totem Story by Victor’s Childhood Friend
  1. Mr. Adams says:

    I was turned on to Rain of Gold 18 years ago, but it became one of those books on my list that, 18 years later, I still hadn’t read. Providence and a feeling in my gut prompted me to use the book as a mmmmm….totem? You see, I’m a teacher passionate about reaching my students through literature. I had this boy in my low class who was there because he had become accustomed to functioning far below his potential. I kind of see this kid as presidential–and in dire need of an awakening to what this wide world can offer him by way of learning and discovery and engagement.

    The boy’s wrestling coach, nearly a kid himself, took an interest in him (let’s call the kid Augusto, or Gus) and came to me to see if I could offer Gus a chance to raise his grade in my class. The coach wanted Gus to be able to wrestle, but his lackluster grades made him ineligible to play. I saw my chance.

    I asked Gus’s counselor to change his classes, so that now he’s in my honors English class. That was part of the deal. The other part was that he read Rain of Gold (we’re both reading the book) and complete a fairly rigorous book report assignment. I trusted that this would be the kind of book that can make an impact on a kid like Gus. We shall see, but I will tell you this. It already has made quite an impact on me. I’ve just finished the scene in which Dona Margarita offered up Juan’s beloved burro for the starving people waiting for their train to the United States. Not the first time this treasure of a tale has made the tears roll down my cheeks, and I doubt it will be the last.

    Maybe one day Gus will meet you. Maybe one day he will become president. Thank you, Victor Villasenor, for being on the side of honor, and respect for life, and education, and love. Thank you for your book.

    • lindavillasenor says:

      Wow! Thank you, Mr. Adams, for being the teacher you are! Hello to Gus.

      I’m Linda, Victor’s sister. I’ll print your letter for Victor; he doesn’t use computers due to extreme dyslexia. Which brings me to his book, Burro Genius. It’s about Victor’s own youth and education. He was the ‘kid on the edge’. Please take time to read it too and share it with your students – especially Gus and others in the slow class. Crazy Loco Love is the sequel – Victor tells students they probably won’t care for CLL because it has sex in it. Then they promptly read it.

      Perhaps ROG has really been a totem for you!


      • Mr. Adams says:

        Mucho gusto, senorita (or is it senora?) BTW, I have to find the tilde for the “enye.”

        Thank you so much, Linda, for this prompt response. I imagine that in due time I will clue Gus in on these conversations, and then he can introduce himself using his real name.

        I hope I can read BG or CLL and/or Victor’s other works before another eighteen years go by. My dilemma is that I’m a slow reader (I’m generally slow at most things, but when it comes to reading and eating and most other things that involve enjoyment, I just naturally take my time, usually twice the amount most other people take. Another dilemma is that, as a teacher, there’s so much I feel I MUST read, so two novels by the same author in the same month, or even year, is almost necessarily a bit of rash indulgence.

        Still, novels by Latino writers are hugely underrepresented in the American mainstream, and my students are mostly Latino, so whatever literature I can send their way that resides with them between these two worlds is very important to me. Knowing full well that this alone is not enough of a hook (the sex line of Victor’s shows that he gets it–they’re a tough audience) I must find works that will grab them and hold their attention, authorship notwithstanding. To many of them, far too many in my opinion, reading is synonymous to death by boredom, no matter how good the book may be. So, while I can’t promise that I will read another Villasenor after ROG any time soon, I will definitely add the titles to my recommended reading list and encourage our librarian to order some copies.

        Thanks for printing my letter for Victor. That he’s dyslexic somehow makes me appreciate him even more.

        And about ROG being my totem, I’ll have to finish reading to weigh in on that one. It’s certainly showing promise. Hasta luego!

  2. Connie Newman says:

    Dear Victor
    When I’m sad, angry, lonely, frustrated, or forget who I am all I have to do is read Rain Of Gold. Thank you for being you.

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