How a Jewish Cowboy Foiled a Hungry Grizzly Bear and Saved Passover

It Took Frontier Wisdom, Courage — and a Matzo Ball

Kurt Hoffman

By Naomi Zeveloff

Published March 24, 2013, issue of March 29, 2013.
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Cowboy Bob had to act fast to protect his family. With his rifle at the far end of the house, he looked frantically around the kitchen for a weapon. Finally he laid eyes on Boola Boola’s soup. He plunged his hand into the boiling broth, pulled out a matzo ball and stepped onto the porch. Cowboy Bob took aim at the bear’s face and let the matzo ball fly, hitting the bear squarely in the snout.

The grizzly reared back and whimpered into the wilderness, and Cowboy Bob and his family went on to have a peaceful Seder.

The other day, when I asked my father to tell me the story, he included a detail I hadn’t remembered: After the grizzly bear was hit in the snout, he said, it gobbled down the matzo ball. It would have been cruel to tell children a story in which an animal was injured without having anything good happen to it, he said.

But that detail seemed out of place to me, something tailored to appeal his daughters’ — all three of us vegetarians who now live outside Utah — adult sensibilities about animal rights, ethics and fairness. I doubt that the bear ate the dumpling in the story he told us all those years ago. Back when we were kids, the idea that a Jewish cowboy kicked a grizzly’s butt with a single matzo ball was enough.

Naomi Zeveloff is the Forward’s deputy culture editor.


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