One wintry night, when the wind howled and the snow blew sideways, a bear woke up mid-hibernation with a raging thirst. He stumbled from his den and sniffed the air. It was deep, dark winter and all the nearby water sources were iced over. He scratched his ass and grumbled, then headed into the wind for the distant rapids of the Yukon river.
Before too long, he heard a sound behind him. Turning, he saw a fox trotting in his footsteps.
“You’ve got an easy time of it,” grumbled the bear. “Walking in my footsteps and sheltered by my body from the wind.”
“I can’t deny my advantageous position,” conceded the fox. “However, in the interest of fairness, on the way back I’ll walk in front.”
The bear thought this was splendid of the fox. The bear leaned into the wind once more and continued toward the river. The snow pelted his nose with ice shards, and he squinted into the storm until his eyes were nearly closed.
The bear felt miserable. It was bad enough being awake in the middle of winter, but to have to trudge through a storm just to get a sip of water was abominable.
To keep himself motivated, the bear began imagining himself back in his den and drifting off to sleep. It won’t be long until we’re at the river, the bear told himself, and the return trip will be much more comfortable, with the fox out in front.
With this pleasing thought in his head, the distance seemed to shrink and before long, they arrived at the river. The bear and the fox made their way to the frosty edge and sipped long and deep at the ice-cold rapids.
Refreshed, they headed back the way they came. As promised, the fox led the way, walking in front of the bear. Too late, the bear realized he’d been tricked! They were going in the opposite direction and the wind was coming from behind them now! The bear was still blocking the icy wind for the fox.
The bear roared at the fox, but the fox was already scampering off in the tracks they’d made earlier. Before long, the fox’s jaunty tail disappeared into the gloom.
The bear trudged back to his den, even more grumpy than when he started out. He just wanted to curl up and sleep, and forget about the scheming fox.
When the bear arrived at his den, he stopped outside to have a shit. While he was squatting, he noticed fox tracks leading right into his den. “That double-crossing fox!” thought the bear, “I’ll fix him!”
The bear leaned forward and reached into his den. He groped around, then hauled out the sleeping fox by the tail. The bear wiped his ass with the fox, then flung the fox into a snowbank.
Feeling much more cheery, the bear crawled into his den and curled up in the warm spot the fox had left. Or so the story goes.