A HUNGRY BEAR EATS HIS LAST MESS OF PORK
By S. C. Turnbo
Just over the Missouri state line in the north part of Marion County, Ark., is the old Wilshire Magness place. This land lies on Big Creek at the mouth of Little Cedar Hollow. It is known now as the Steve Copelin farm. In the early fifties when Wilshire Magness married Miss Nancy Elizabeth Holt he bought the improvement on this land from Billy Howard. He also bought an improvement from Jimmie Jones, the latter which was just above the Billy Howard claim. Wilshire sold this last claim to his brother, Bob Magness, and when Bob died here in 1856 the claim fell into the hands of Hughe Magness who lived here some time. This land is known now as the Fately place. Going back to the Wilshire Magness place we find a noble spring of water that Issues out of the ground ¼ mile from Big Creek. Wilshire Magness and his family used water out of this spring while they lived here. Just below the mouth of Little Cedar at the foot of the bluff is another spring of water which was well known to the old time settlers. Many years before Wilshire Magness and his wife lived at the first named spring It was the scene of an interesting encounter between a lot of dogs and a bear, the story of which was told by Mrs. Patsey Magness, widow of Joe Magness, who died in the old Magness bottom in the latter forties. Mrs. Magness died one morning at sunrise in December, 1856. She lived just two days after the burial of the dead body of her son, Robert. Two years before the death of Mrs. Magness I heard her relate the account of the bear and I give It in her own words as near as I can remember it. "When I and Joe Magness, my husband, settled in this bottom, Joe cleared and fenced enough ground in three years to raise plenty to live on. The soil was so fertile that it produced big ears of corn and monster pumpkins. We located here In 1827 and by the time 1830 rolled around Joe and the boys had a nice start of hogs, but it required close attention to prevent their destruction by wild beast. In the fall of 1830 Joe enclosed 3 acres of ground adjoining the yard fence with heavy poles and rails and put three of our best hogs in there to make bacon of them. The fence was so stout and high that my husband scouted the idea of a bear climbing over the fence and attacking the porkers. They were fed on corn and pumpkins until they were exceedingly fat and were ready to be butchered. one morning early Wilshire, who was a little fellow then, went out to feed them and found that one of the hogs was missing. The child hurried back to the house and told us about it and Joe went to the lot and found that a bear had entered the enclosure and killed the hog and had carried It to the fence and after pushing off some of the top rails threw the hog over the fence and climbed over and picked up the hog again and passed on through the cane and up the face of the bluff on the east side of the hollow opposite the house. I do not know how it happened that we never heard the bear kill the hog nor the dogs never found it out. After Joe followed the trail of the bear a short distance up the bluff he returned to the house and had ate breakfast he sent one of the boys down to Alex Duggins at the mouth of Big Creek with a request for Duggins to come and bring his gun and bear dogs. As soon as Mr. Duggins arrived he and Joe rode across the bottom and with their combined force of dogs reached the foot of the bluff where they dismounted and lead their horses up the bluff where the bear had carried the fat porker. Some distance up on the bluff they found where the bear had stopped long enough to devour part of the dead hog and concealed the remainder with leaves and trash. The hunters did not tarry long here, but hurried on to overtake thieving Bruin. The trail lead straight toward Big Creek. Before arriving at the creek they found where the animal had lay down to rest and had got up and went on. On following his trail 300 yards further they overhauled him while he was lying down asleep. The dogs soon woke him up and Bruin prepared himself for battle and while the fight was going on one of the men shot and wounded him and the result was a running fight from there to the creek and across to the spring on Little Cedar Creek ¼ mile east of Big Creek. Here at this water Bruin took his last stand and fought his last battle. My husband said that when the dogs closed around Bruin he knocked them right and left with his big paws. The fight did not continue long before some of the dogs were disabled. One of which was almost killed. As soon as the two men had approached near enough they shot the bear down. By the time they had removed the hide from the bear and cared for the meat the men thought the dog was dying and would not live more than 3 hours at least. They cut the bears meat into chunks and loaded it onto their horses and started back home leaving the dog lying at the spring nearly lifeless. Now comes in a mystery to me, " said Mrs. Magness, "for just one week from that day we were all astonished and puzzled to the fullest measure to see that same dog return home. But he was so desperately hurt that he never did get entirely over It."
Springfield-Greene County Library