ENCOUNTERING AN ENRAGED BEAR IN A CAVE
AND A BATTLE WITH A WOUNDED BUCK
By S. C. Turnbo
Every resident at Protem, Mo., and vicinity remembers Abraham Cole. He was the first settler on the W. S. Caldwell farm on the hill southeast of Protem formerly known as the Capt. C. C. Owen place. Mr. Cole died March l, 1899, but his death did not occur on the land mentioned. The earthly resting place of his mortal remains is in the cemetery at Protem. As we have written another sketch of Mr. Cole we will not use any preliminaries here. Uncle Abe in relating pioneer tales of Big Creek in Taney Co., said, "Old Uncle Jimmie Tabor has informed you about himself and Arch and John Tabor killing the big fat bear on the head of Breshy Creek in 1844. Now I will tell you about Arch Tabor and his brother John killing one on the head of Big Creek some years later. Both men told me about it and I do not question the truth of the story. When they met the bear the dogs gave chase which resulted in a running fight for some distance. The head of Big Creek was a wild section, rough hills and hollows, with rank grass and the common upland weeds. While the dogs were pursuing bruin halted for a fight in closer quarters. Arch and John were afoot and it was several minutes before they reached the scene. But they let the dogs know they were coming by their loud fuse they made in hallooing. When the hunters hove in sight bruin thought it best to fight as he ran and he started and away he and the dogs went over the rough stony land with the dogs harrassing him until his bearship took shelter in an opening in the ground. When the men reached the cave they knew bruin was at boiling heat and decided that it was prudent to let the dogs go in first. The dogs were eager to go and the moment they got permission to enter the cave, they rushed in and the hunters heard the racket commence. The dogs had tackled the bear in his lair. Bruin was ready and willing to defend himself and it did not take him long to convince his canine enemies that he was monarch for the time and he soon vanquished the entire pack of dogs and sent them flying to the outside. The hunters waited for the bear to follow the dogs out but he failed to put in an appearance, though they knew he was in a bad humor so the daring men prepared to go in and make an effort to cool his temper with leaden balls. Leaving the dogs out they went in with torch and guns. The cave was large and they experienced but little trouble in getting along. When they saw the bear he was sure enough angry and was as ready for a fight with his human foes the same as with the dogs. After placing the torch in a position where they could take aim accurately, both men fired at it simultaneously. The bear did not fall, but with blood trickling from each bullet wound the enraged animal charged at the men. As the beast come toward them, they dropped their empty rifles and snatched up the burning fagots and made a hasty retreat. As they made fast time toward the outlet of the cavern they called excitedly for the dogs. The furious bear in its rush soon overhauled the retreating men and struck against Arch and knocked him down. John had the torch and was leading the way. When Arch fell the bear stopped to finish him. Neither one had any weapon and the fallen man was helpless and John thought this would be Archs last bear fight and was so greatly excited that he almost lost his senses. It seemed to John that Archs chance for life was a "goner". But at this critical stage the brave dogs come to the rescue and the bear left the man and gave its attention to them. After Arch got up he and John went back and picked up their rifles and placing the burning sticks on a ledge of rock speedily reloaded their guns and returning to the scene of the combat between bruin and the dogs, they placed the muzzle of the guns near the bears body and fired, but it refused to fall. Backing off a few paces they again reloaded by the torchlight and sent two more balls tearing through its body, then it reeled and fell. This was six bullets shot into its body which badly lacerated the animals flesh. After the beast was dead they went out and procured more fuel for light and renewing the torch they took off the hide and out the meat into chunks and carried it out of the cave, but they suffered from the effect of the smoke which accumulated in the cavern from the burning wood. One of the men had to return home for horses to carry the meat to their homes. The animal weighed 400 pounds after it was dressed. When the bear hurled Arch to the floor of the cave it tore his garments but did not seriously hurt him."
After Uncle Abe had ended his bear story he was still in a reminiscent mood and says, "I will tell you now about a serious fight I had with a buck one day on Big Creek where I lived at the next place below the John Morris land where Dave Coiner now lives. This was away back in 1859. On the day mentioned I shouldered my rifle and went into the forest in quest of game. I had proceeded only a short distance from my cabin when I noticed a big buck with large horns. He was standing still in the shade of a tree. I stopped and looked about for more deer but there were no other ones in sight. The animal though seemingly on the alert appeared to have not observed me. I pulled down on it and shot. When the bullet struck the beast it flew into a terrible fury and seeing me now it came toward me on a charge. The buck had a look of murder in his eyes. The angry deer was so near me that I had no opportunity to reload the rifle or scramble up a tree and felt like any other man when getting into a bad predicament. I well knew I was not able to outrun it and I clubbed my rifle and stood still. When within reach I struck it a hard blow, but did not stagger it. I was very stout and active then and contrived to dodge its sharp horns, and as I leaped about to avoid its sharp points, I kept hitting it sharp blows on the head with my gun. It was not long until the gun stock was shattered and the splinters flew in every direction. The combat lasted over fifteen minutes and we fought over twenty yards square. After the gun stock was broken I used the barrel. The barrel alone was much handier than with the stock attached to it in a hand to hand fight. After I had dealt the buck several blows it began to weaken, but it kept pitching at me and I had to jump around pretty lively to prevent it striking me with its sharp prongs of horns. I had worked so fast in defense that I was getting greatly wearied, but I never stopped hitting it blow after blow on its head and body until it sank down and was not able to give me further trouble. I cut its throat with a small pocket knife and watched it kick until its life was gone. After I knew it was dead I sat down for a long resting spell, for I felt that I was in need of it. The flesh was so badly bruised where I struck it with the gun that it was not fit for use. This was the only hard fight I ever had with a buck and I do not relish the thought of coming in contact with another one," said Mr. Cole as he finished his account of the battle.
Springfield-Greene County Library