Wallace noticed that the last wooden black bear that Barry had carved with his Swiss Army knife had a green ribbon tied around its neck. None of the other carved creations had ribbons around their necks. ‘Ah ha!’ exclaimed Wallace as he had his first clue to the missing Barry. Wallace asked Marvin the mole if he knew of a store in Gatlinburg that sold green ribbon? Marvin said that he had purchased some green ribbon last St. Patricks Day in Jennie’s Ribbon and Bows Emporium and General Store. He then asked if anyone had seen his glasses? George the field mouse noted that it looked as if he was holding something in his left hand…whereupon Marvin exclaimed with great surprise and joy that he had forgotten that he was holding his spectacles as he could not see to read with them… when he was wearing them!
Mr. Mole proceeded to the Emporium on his moped with his spectacles firmly affixed to his nose! Frank the fox noted that the last time he had spoken with Barry that he seemed a little down in the dumps… Barry had disclosed to him that there were not nearly as many tourists this year and that he had missed the lively banter with them and constantly getting his photo snapped with them. He had gone on to say that each year when fall arrives he longs for a visit to Cades Cove and the splendor of the historic village and its majestic surroundings! Barry went on to mention that he had met his wife on the first day autumn, 24 years ago, near the Methodist Church in the Cove!
Wallace suggested that the group make their way to the old Methodist Church and Frank the fox said that he would drive them in the Chamber of Commerce van. When they arrived they began to pursue the church grounds, George was the first to notice that there were fresh bear tracks in the historic cemetery. Although they did not have the size of Barry’s foot…they suspected that he had been there not long before their arrival! Frank said that they should enter the church to see if there were more clues. Mole had just driven up on his red moped…and he ran into the church to announce, with some clear-sighted glee, that he had purchased green ribbon just the style and shade of the ribbon that they had discovered on the last carved black bear creation that Barry had done before his disappearance! Marvin went on to inform the group that Jennie, the owner of Jennie’s Ribbon and Bows Emporium and General Store, had told him that Barry had been into the store over the weekend and purchased a full roll of the green ribbon! Jennie then said that when she had asked Barry what he needed so much ribbon for…he had responded that he was going to take a holiday to visit his loved ones at the Cove! George the field mouse exclaimed that he had seen the same green ribbon tied to a oak tree in the cemetery! Wallace called out to his cadre to come over to a pew in the back of the ancient sanctuary to see what he was seeing. There on the back of the pew, carved in perfect block letters, was the inscription…BARRY LOVES ABIGAIL! George jumped up and down and beseeched the group to come and look at the green ribbon that he had noticed on the oak tree in the cemetery. There on the oak tree were the words: Abigail born on September 22, 1996 and died on September 22, 2016. Wallace asked, ‘Did any of you know that Barry was married?’ All the conclave said that they had not known of Barry having any family and that the audiences that watched him carve on a daily basis, including Saturdays and Sundays, seemed to be his family!
About that time walked in Bob Badger the Barrister. No one knew just how old Bob was. He had a law office near the Old Mill and had reported for work there…for many years. Bob asked, ‘Can I help you fine gentlemen?’ Wallace asked, ‘Have you seen any black bears lately?’ Bob the Badger Barrister laughed heartily, as Cades Cove was resplendent with black bears! ‘Could you describe the black bear that you are looking for?’ Marvin the mole answered, ‘He is a large black bear wearing bib-overhauls and a flannel shirt and a Tulley hat balanced on his head.’ Bob replied, ‘Why yes…I just spoke to him…not an hour ago. He was on his way to the Old Mill to have lunch with his daughter, Belinda. Wallace announced, ‘We must go the Old Mill immediately!’
When the investigators arrived there was Bob and several other black bears enjoying a picnic lunch of Bologna sandwiches and potato salad and pickled beets. Barry greeted the entourage with a broad smile and invited them to enjoy the afternoon repast with him and his family. Barry introduced the group to his daughter Belinda and her children, Parker and Payton. He was surprised at the kerfufle that had occurred at his absence as he rarely took time off from the Welcoming Center. He explained that he had fallen in love with his wife Abigail…so many years ago and that on the anniversary of her death he had to be with his daughter and grandchildren. Barry went on to say that he was going to retire from the Center and focus the remaining years of his life on his family. He had always loved the Cove and he and Abigail had agreed on his living away from her and Belinda…in order to make a living. He had realized that he had been away from his daughter and children for far too long… Marvin the mole removed his spectacles and wiped his eyes. Bob the Badger Barrister told the picnic enclave that he had some good deals on real estate in Cades Cove and that he would be happy to set them up with something great and consistent with their budget! George the field mouse asked Barry if he was going to give notice on his retirement from his black bear carving job? Barry said that he would. Frank the fox announced that is was time to head back to the Welcoming Center and close the case of Barry the missing Black Bear! Belinda asked, ‘Did I hear you call uncle Larry…Barry?’
Bob the Badger Barrister asked if the group did not understand that Barry had an identical twin brother named Larry? He went to say that no one could ever tell them apart…including himself…