Volume 3, Number 8
From Stories of the Pioneer
by E. J. and L. S. Hoenshel
(continued from Spring Quarterly 1969)
When I reached home I found everything mighty scarce. It was hard to keep anything to eat during the war, although there was plenty of all kinds of game; deer, turkey, and squirrels by the hundreds. We boys hunted up our old guns where we had hid them in the bluffs during the war. We cleaned and oiled them and we could kill almost any kind of game with them.
I remember when I was at home, mother would dig down in the ash-hopper, put meat in, and cover with ashes. She would shell corn, put it in barrels, take it to the bluff, and hide it in caves, for bread. We had to bring in everything a little at a time, just as we needed it. Had to take corn six miles to the mill to get it ground.
While I was in the army, there was a woman came to mother to get a 20-dollar gold piece changed, so she could send to Springfield to get some meat. People then had to keep everything hid or it would be stolen. So, as mother was sorry for this lady and put confidence enough in her not to tell where she had her money buried, she dug up what she had and put it in a wash pan. The lady went with mother to get it. After the woman left, mother buried the money in another place. In about three hours several ruffians came and demanded her money. She said she didn't have any, but they said, "You are a liar; you have a wash pan full." Of course she did not have that much; she had only $550.00, as well as I remember, in silver and gold. She told them they would have to burn it. She didn't think they would, but they took a shovel full of fire up stairs and threw it on the beds. Then mother thought they would burn the house so she told them if they would put out the fire she would get the money. They did and said, "Now, d__ you, go and get it." They followed her, made her dig it up, and took every cent of it. There are burnt places in the house that were make then. My only sister now lives on the old home place.
And those three mules I spoke of being in the mountains. After I had gone to the army they came up, mother gave them some salt thinking they would go back. But before they left, five or six men came up and wanted to buy them. She thought it would be better to sell them, as they would be taken anyway, so she sold them for $300. The night following some fellows broke into the house at the front door, and ordered mother to stir up a light and get them the $300. She told them to stir up the light themselves. Mother had an old man and wife living in the kitchen just for company. While the men were lighting the lamp, mother jumped out the bed room window, ran to the kitchen which stood a short distance from the house and gave her money to these old folks. As she jumped from the window she fell on a spinning wheel and bruised her breast. This bruise caused a cancer, and she lived only eighteen months afterwards. She died in 1867.
I married Nov. 26, 1865, and lived down the river. After mother died we moved to father's place, and stayed there till 1874, when we moved back to our farm, which we still own. I first homesteaded 90 acres, and then kept buying until I had 470 acres. Afterward I sold 76 acres, but I still own the rest. We lived on our farm until we moved to Branson over a year ago.
While I lived near father, I would very often go over and wrestle with his pet bear. When the bear would see me coming he would rear up on his hind feet and walk straight as a man toward me, with his arms spread out for a wrestle. One day I let him throw me five or six times. He would wallow over me, and sometimes he would open his mouth over my arm as if he were going to bite it off. But I grew tired of his throwing me, and concluded I would throw him as hard as I could and see what he would do. He jumped up and came after me for a fight. I had to get a club and get out of his way. I gave him three or four licks with my club as hard as I could, or he would have hurt me. Father hollowed, "Ike, don't abuse him."
When I lived near father, we would often
go down the river to fish. It was no trouble to get fish any
time you wanted them. The bottom of the river was covered with them. The fall
after peace was made, people came in from the north wagon after wagon. Of course,
at that time they were allowed to seine all they wanted to. I saw seven thousand
pounds seined out at one draw. This was about three miles below where my farm
is now. There were so many fish in the seine we could not draw it out. We carried
out fish and piled them on the gravel bar till we had a pile six feet high.
The fish weighed from two to forty pounds. The seine was stretched up and down
the river 70 or 80 yards, and there were so many fish in it we couldn't get
the "bag" of the seine nearer the bank than thirty yards. I know this sounds
a little "fishy", but ask Uncle Prate McQuerter - he was there, too.
I used to deer-hunt often. Many times I would go down the river at night and kill them when they would fix up a big light - we called it a jack light and could float to within twenty of thirty feet of them and shoot them. They came so close to me that I could almost knock one in the head. You see the light blinded them. I used to kill lots of deer at the licks, too. I had a place fixed up in a tree, where I could sit and wait for a deer to come in. I would go there before sun down and kill them as they came - have killed many that way.
I remember one night sitting up there until very late, and yet no deer had come. A bear began to hollow in the brush near by. I knew it was a bear as soon as I heard him, for I had heard father's pet bear hollow so much. He hollowed several times and I concluded the tree would hold me till morning. An hour later the moon had gone down, and it was awfully dark. Then a deer came to the lick, but it was so dark he looked like a shadow. I shot at him and he fell, and I thought I would get down and go home, believing I had scared the bear away when I shot. I walked out to my deer, and he was lying with his head placed as if he had just lain down. I jumped down and began shooting at his head, but missed him every time. I thought I had better keep a few shots for the bear, so I picked up a rock and knocked the deer in the head. I took him on my back and started home. When I had gone a little distance, I saw something black ahead of me. I thought I saw it move, so I leveled my pistol and began shooting, going toward it all the time. Then I thought, "If you don't run I'll throw down this gun and run myself." It was only a big black stump. I never stopped until reached home with my deer - a good mile.
I remember one day father's pet bear broke his chain and got loose. As soon as he got loose he was in the kitchen, knocking everyting as he came to it. He broke into cupboard and got into the honey, and then came out of the kitchen - Oh so mad! No one was home but my sister, and she was small. She ran into the bedroom, locked the door and began to hollow. Father came to the house and sent my baby brother after me to come and help chain old Sam - I lived about a quarter of a mile away. When father went into the house Old Sam was up in front of the mirror getting ready to slap his picture. Father jerked him down, and about that time I got there, and the bear was in the kitchen again and everywhere, just tearing everyting up as he went. Father and I went out into the yard, and old Sam would come by and put out his paw trying to trip us. But we kept out of his way. Father said, "Ike how will we catch him?" He still had his collar on, and I said, I didn't know how unless we would wait until he came close enough for us to grab his collar and see if we could choke him in some way. Father said, "All right, if you think you can." When he came within reach of us again, I caught him by his collar and began choking him. He whirled on his back and began biting and scratching. I had to fall right down on him to keep him from scratching me with his feet. About that time an old man named Bill Jones came up and father said, "Uncle Billie, take hold and help us, will you?" He said, "No, I am not in for a bear fight." The old bear began scratching me in the back with his hindfeet, and I kept choking him until I had him about choked to death. I called my little brother to come and hold only one foot at a time, but finally we got the bear chained. He would get loose sometimes and get into the springhouse and drink all the milk and honey he could find, and just tear things up as he went.
One time a fellow by the name of Ike Stover and I were camping in the mountains hunting. We started out one morning and he was to go on one side of the hill and I on the other. The ground was covered with snow except on the south hillside. On my side of the hill there was a cave. When I came to it the snow had all melted except around the mouth of the cave, and there was a big bear track where one had just gone in. I went up on
the hill and called Ike, and told him what I had found there, and nothing would satisfy him except to go into the cave after the bear. He said that if I would go with him he would kill him. I said, "We have no light," and he said, "We will fix a pine torch." So we did and started down, Ike in front with my gun. We went on our hands and knees for about twenty feet, then we came to a big opening. We could find bear tracks and beds anywhere in the cave. We got back about seventy-five yards and our light began smoking so that we couldn't see far ahead. Our light finally went out and we had to get out. We went to our camp, fixed a big grease lamp, and then explored the cave, but we found no bear. The smoke had run him out, too.
There are no animals here now as there used to be. Well I couldn't hunt much now anyhow, as I am getting pretty old. I don't do much except read.
We raised a big family. Our first child died when she was small, but we have nine children living, all married. We have seven sons-in-law, and all are Democrats; two daughters-in-law, one a Democrat and one a Republican. We brought up one grandchild and one nephew, and we have twenty grandchildren living.
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly