A DESPERATE COMBAT WITH A BEAR
By S. C. Turnbo
Between the east prong of Brattons Spring Creek and Gooleys Spring Creek is a small prairie hill known as the Salt Ball. This mound is 3 miles northeast of Pontiac, Ozark County, Mo. Years ago when Joseph McClungafterward Governor of Missourisold goods at Harlewood he went to New Orleans and bought one thousand sacks of salt and intended to have it shipped up White River to Forsyth on a steamboat. But by the time the boat arrived at the mouth of Big North Fork which was known as the "Point" then, the water had dropped to such a low stage that the boat could get no further and remained here several days expecting another rise in the river soon, but it failed to appear and the salt was put ashore here and McClung hired a number of men to cut out a wagon way from Hariewood to where his salt was laid off the boat and the salt was hauled on big ox wagons to Harlewood. This old salt road, as it Is called, passed by the present village of Isabella and by the Dick Martin spring and after leaving Brattons Spring Creek it lead up Turnback Hollow and passed just on the north side of this hill and since that time it has been called the Salt Bald Hill and the trace of this old time road is yet known as the old salt road. On the south and southwest slope of Salt Ball Hill it is rough with low ledges of rock and big stones lay promiscuously over the side of the hill. Rocky Branch has Its source here which forms a gulch and part of it Is lined with scrubby timber. This part of Ozark County was one of Paton Keesees favorite hunting grounds for bear. Elias Keesee, son of Paton Keesee, give me an interesting account of a bear fight that his father and his dogs had one day on the south side of this noted hill. Mr. Keesee said that it occurred in the month of April, l83O. "I was nearly 6 years old when the fight occurred. One day my father took 5 bear dogs and rode up the right prong of Brattons Spring Creek to the mouth of what is now Trace Hollow and up to the source of it where the dogs met a bear and after a not chase overhauled it near Bushy Knob and father shot and killed it and after taking off the hide he cut the meat into four parts and loaded it and the hide onto his horse and lead the horse home with his load of wild meat. Having such excellent luck he decided to return the following day In search of another Bruin and kill it to Increase his supply of meat. Instead of going up the creek as he did on the previous day he followed the divide between the right prong of Spring Creek and Gooleys Creek, but neither one was not known by any name at that early date. Near ¼ mile south of Salt Ball which bore no name either, he saw an enormous bear. The dogs were brave and eager for the chase and my father encouraged them and off they started on a lively race. The bear made in the direction of the salt hill and stopped in the gulch at the base of the hill for a battle. The plucky dogs attacked him at once and bear and dogs fought in the gulch and all around on the south and southwest slope of the hill. The bear was in a terrible rage and fought the dogs furiously and was more than a match for them. When father galloped his horse up to the scene of the combat he saw at a glance that the huge beast would soon whip his dogs and hurriedly dismounting and turning his horse loose he shot the bear and wounded. him which rendered his anger more desperate and before he could reload his gun the bear killed three of the dogs almost instantly. One of the other two dogs was named "Doc" and he was a favorite and a trusty one and as soon as the fearful beast had finished the life of the other three dogs he snatched up the dog in his hug and without waiting to finish reloading his rifle father rushed up to the infuriated animal as he sit on his haunches with the dog in his embrace and jabbed the muzzle of the rifle into the bears mouth which relieved the dog from the bears teeth out not from its hug. He then jerked the muzzle of the gun out of the bears mouth and reversed ends of the gun and forced the breech of the gun Into the beasts mouth. At this the bear dropped the dog and nearly shivered the breech of the gun into splinters with its teeth and would have hit father with its paws but he avoided the stroke by leaping, out of the way. There was only one dog left that was able to keep up the fight and he would not get In close quarters with the enraged animal but he kept it at bay until my father hurriedly reloaded what was left of his gun and shot the bear dead which ended the bloody combat. Though my father and one dog had come out a little ahead but it was a dear bought victory. Three faithful dogs lay dead on the battleground and another one so desperately wounded that he had to be carried home and a new gunstock had to be made and it was a long time before the disabled dog had strength enough to take part in another fight with a bear, and in the meantime my father had to raise a new recruit of dogs to engage in the chase."
Withen Mr. Keesee had finished the account of this desperate encounter with the bear he suggested that this bald hill ought to be called "Dead Dogs Hill" instead of Salt Bald.
Springfield-Greene County Library