HOW THE OLD TIME HUNTER, CHRISTOPHER C. HENDERSON,
KILLED A BEAR ON THE HEAD OF SHOAL CREEK
By S. C. Turnbo
Back in the early 70s Christopher C. Henderson lived a few years on the east prong of Shoal Creek in Taney County, Mo. Mr. Henderson was a great hunter and delighted in the pursuit of that occupation, but he never killed a great deal of big game while he lived on Shoal Creek for the wild beast of the forest in the shape of bear were disappearing when he resided on this stream, but there were plenty of deer though and smaller game. After he left Shoal Creek and returned to Newton County, Ark., where he lived in former times. Here in the mountain country of the valley of the Buffalo River he gave up this life and ceased to follow the bear, panther and stalk deer and is taking that long sleep that we all have to enter into sooner or later. Uncle Chris as he was commonly known was a kind hearted old man and I remember that he often advised the writer to follow the right road of truth and honor in Gods way and not travel in the paths of the devil and his fashions. Aunt Millie (Parton) Henderson, his wife, died at Buckhorn Tavern, Independence County, Ark., and is buried there. In Newton County where he lived some time before he lived on Shoal Creek he and his boys slew the fat bear by the dozen, not at one shot or in one day but they killed lots of them in a short space of time. Here in the mountain fasts of the noted stream of Buffalo he and his boys had a merry time saving bear skins and had a royal time feasting on the meat. During one fall and the succeeding winter he and his two sons Lihue and West killed 39 Bruins; 29 of these were caught in pens that the hunters had constructed for the purpose. The other 10 were shot in caves. The excitement attending the slaughter of so many bear during one hunting season if written out would fill a small volume. Uncle Chris said that he loved a rifle gun from the time he learned how to aim one and pull the trigger. He said he well remembered the time he owned his first gun which was a good rifle. "The night after I fell in possession of the gun which was a new one not able to go to sleep for thinking of my gun and I seemed powerless to resist the temptation of getting out of bed and hold the gun in my hands and so I did and would sit down and hold the much prized rifle across my lap for an hour at a time before retiring to bed again." One day not long ago while the writer was passing over the road which leads from Protem, Mo., to Hercules and on reaching that part of the ridge which divides the two main prongs of Shoal Creek I stooped and taken a view of that part of the east prong where Mr. Henderson lived and hunted many years ago, and as I stood there viewing the little farms and farmhouses scattered along the creek I was reminded of the former days when Uncle "Chris" Henderson lived here and killed the deer with his well aimed rifle and partook of his wild meat and wild honey and enjoyed himself while he lived here among the bald knobs and wooded hills of Taney County, Mo. Mr. Henderson was an industrious man, friendly and sociable. Hunting game was laborious to the old timer. A tramp over the hills from sunrise till sunset following a bunch of deer and killing some of them, removing their hides and dressing the meat was not an easy job. Then pulling through the tall grass which grew here then, with tired feet and legs made sore from the effects of the thousands of saw briars made the old pioneer hunter weary and sleepy at night. But then he was happy. He owed no man a sum that was worthy of mention. His means were small. He made but little, but It required but little to do him. He handled only a small amount of money but it was sufficient to purchase the necessaries of life. Then again the people in those pioneer days did not feel the effects of the money power that is now oppressing the thousands of farmers and other classes throughout the United States. Not the millionaire and rich corporations alone are crushing the life out of the mass of people but the society fads help move it along. Then we thought of those people who live here now. Those tillers of the soil and other laboring classes who make their living by the "sweat of the brow." It is an honest way to live and should be an independent way. Everyone who live in Taney County and throughout southern Missouri and northern Arkansas who possess a home ought to be happy and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Yet those toiling people who make their living by diligence and perseverance in the farming line of business feel the effects of the deadly sting of combines and all other institutions that are gotten up to pull down the working classes under the heel of oppression and want. The grip on them is so unrelenting that in millions of cases it is hard for the people to make both ends meet and many times the ends grow wide apart and does not meet at all, yet time goes on and the poor toiling working man and woman go on with unceasing labor striving to eke out a living for themselves and children some way. But we have said enough now on this subject and will go on with our story and tell how Uncle "Chris" Henderson killed a bear one day in these hills on the head of Shoal Creek which I am viewing now and think back to the former days of Taney County. The bear story was told me by "Wess" Henderson, son of Uncle Chris, who give it in the following way.
"One day," said he, "my father picked up his rifle and calling his little dog started out into the woods to kill a deer for fresh eating. He had not left the house very far before his dog chased three coons up a hillside until the coons concluded they would leave the ground and go up a tree. Being short of ammunition he let the coons alone and walked on up to the top of the hill where he caught sight of a bear coming slowly along toward him near ¼ of a mile from him. Believing that the animal would hold its course directly toward him he sit down in a clump of bushes and made the dog lay down behind him and in this way he was hidden from the eyes of Bruin but he could watch its approach through a small opening in the foliage of the bushes. Bruin seemed to be in no hurry and traveled in a very leisure way. When the bear got up in close rifle range my father sent a rifle ball at it which inflicted a wound only. Bruin was greatly astonished when the bullet struck him and he wheeled round and went back the way he had come, but his speed was more swifter than when he was approaching. As the animal turned back father encouraged the little dog and sent it in pursuit of the bear. Father started too and reloaded his gun as he followed the fleeing bear and pursueing dog. It was amusing to watch the fearless little dog dash up behind the retreating bear and catch him by the hind leg and bit it so hard that Bruin would wheel around and try to catch the dog but before he could accomplish this the dog would spring out of his way. Then as the wounded beast would turn around and start on again the dog would keep up its courage by making another dash at Bruins hind legs and give him more trouble. My father had seen his best days on the chase, but the excitement of wounding and pursueing one more bear urged him on with renewed vigor and the veteran hunter managed to keep close up to bear and dog as they went rapidly along over hills and across rough valleys. Father sent a rifle ball into Bruins meat rine at every opportunity until 5 more bullets had entered his flesh. The last shot brought him down and the game was captured. My father said the race in chasing the animal was something near a mile. It was rather a short one to follow after a wounded bear but it was the most exciting little chase he ever enjoyed with a bear."
Springfield-Greene County Library