BRUIN WALLOWS A HUNTER IN CLAY
By S. C. Turnbo

Between the village of Peel and White River In Franklin Township, Marion County, Arkansas, is a bald hill or ridge of glades which divides the drainage of the two hollows known as Long Bottom and Little Foot. The first named stream enters the river where Wm. Yocum, son of Mike Yocum, lived and who died In the month of May, 1860. Asa Yocum, a brother of Wm. Yocum, lived at the next farm above the mouth of Long Bottom. Little Foot hollow which empties into Long Bottom a short distance above the mouth and which has its source at the river bluff opposite the mouth of Big Creek derived its name from the two settlers just named. Here in among the hills and valleys of Long Bottom one prong of which has its source at Peel was once a great stock range and Wm. Yocum and his brother Asa owned a goodly number of cattle and horses. These men owned a few slaves and were hard working people and were kind to their negroes and allowed them a great deal of liberty. I well remember when I and Asa Yocum’s sons, Mike and John, and the negro boys played together in the latter 50’s. The two Yocum men and their families were kind and friendly and I have enjoyed many hours at the homes of these two settlers. In the section of country these two hollows drains is supposed to be Tom Terry’s lead mine where he procured lead ore and smelted it and moulded it into bullets. There is hardly a doubt but that Mr. Terry got plenty of lead ore somewhere in one or the other of these hollows but it seems that he guarded the location of it so closely that no one so far as known has never discovered the exact locality of the mine. Terry was a very careful man and kept his own councils and did not divulge the secret of the whereabouts of its location. Parties have searched for the mine from time to time but have never succeeded in finding enough ore worthy of attention. It is supposed to be hidden by the washing of gravel and dirt over it during freshets or that Mr. Terry covered it up at the beginning of the war. At the mouth of Little Foot hollow is where the old settlement road lead up the hill going west from the river and followed the ridge refered to until it reached the ridge between Trimbles Creek and Becca’s Branch thence to the residence of Allin Trimbles who lived on the river just above the mouth of Trimble Creek. Many years ago this same trail way was known as the Yocum and Allin Trimble road. Just on top of the hill from the fork of the two hollows is a bald or glade where just south of the old road are two caves which was well known to the old timers. One of these caves is lower down the hill than the other and was once the Beene of an exiting encounter with a bear which occurred in the year 1851. Mike and John Yocum, sons of Asa Yocum, are the authors of the story. At the time of the incident they were too young to go a hunting and did not accompany the men who encountered Bruin, but they both remember distinctly the account given by the hunters on their return from the chase. They said the dogs pursued a bear until it went into this cave. Then their father and their uncle Bill Yocum, Peter Friend, Enoch Fisher and Ron Terry followed the bear and dogs to the mouth of the cave. Ron Terry and one of the other men accompanied by Enoch Fisher as torch bearer entered the cave with their rifles to shoot Bruin. The hunters were thirsting for a taste of bear meat and bear grease. As they started into the mouth of the opening the other two men promised to keep the dogs back so they would not interfere with their work of slaying Bruin. They wanted the pleasure of killing his bearship without the help of the dogs. As the men were advancing into the interior of the ground Bruin was aroused at the noise made by the approaching hunters and at the appearance of the light from the torch he seemed to make up his mind that it was best for his wellfare to make a hasty exit out of his place of refuge and he started out as fast as the nature of the cave would admit. The three hunters heard him coming and were frightened and halted in a roomy place and waited for the coming of the bear In great anxiety back a few feet where they had just come through, the opening was narrow. The three excited hunters did not have but a few seconds to wait before the bear was on them with a rush. The animals anger was wrought up and he cared not whose toes he trampled on. Just a moment before the bear reached them the two men who carried the rifles dodged into a pocket or shallow offshoot to avoid its rush. But Fisher who was the worst scared of the three wheeled around with torch in hand and attempted to out race the bear out of the cave, but he barely had time to get into the narrow way when the beast overhauled Fisher and jammed up against him with such strength and force that the terrified man was hurled face foremost into a bed of wet clay. The torch flew from his hand and the material lay scattered on the floor of the cavern and went out and left man and beast in total darkness. A hard struggle ensued between animal and man, the former exerting itself to pass over the struggling form of the hunter who was expecting to be crushed to death in a moment. The scene in that dark passage was an active one. The bear scratched, pulled and surged forward to pass on and in so doing Fisher’s face was pressed hard against the soft clay which nearly suffocated him until with a great effort he succeeded in turning his face out of the damp clay to prevent smothering to death. The man groaned with fright and pain. The other two men were only a few feet from him and could distinctly hear the agonizing cries of the terrified fellow, but the darkness was so intense In there that they dare not venture to their comrades assistance for fear the bear In his fury might kill them both. They were not so enthusiastic now to meet Bruin as they were when they first entered the cavern. They could hear the sound of fierce growls and scratching by the bear and Fisher was begging for help and groaning in a piteous way but they were powerless to render him aid. They believed the bear was killing Fisher when Bruin slew him it might attack them and treat them likewise. They kept their positions and waited with dreadful feelings. After a short time Bruin scrouged through by forcing its way over the prostrate and helpless man and went on and the latter ceased to moan so loud and the other two men heard him wiggling around to ascertain if he was more dead than alive. Finding that he could move his body and limbs he made an effort to pick himself up and to his great joy he discovered that he was more alive than dead and that there were no bones broken or dislocated and was not seriously injured and soon groped his way out of the cave. The other two followed on just behind him. When his bearship emerged from his domicile, the other two men who stood on guard at the mouth of the cave to shoot the animal when he made his appearance failed to make an effort to bring him down and the animal went on as fast as he could go with the dogs in hot pursuit. The two men after recovering from the surprise when the bear dashed out of the cavern followed on a run encouraging the dogs. After a chase of a mile or more Bruin hesitated to run any further without a fight and halted for that purpose and as the dogs closed up around the angry beast he began spatting the canines with his paws, but his pleasure of slapping the dogs was of short duration for when the two men ran up to where the battle was going on they soon shot the beast to death and after the arrival of the other three unfortunate hunters who had entered the cave they all went to work and removed the animals hide, dressed the meat and carried hide and meat to Asa Yocum’s where the meat was equally divided among the five men. With the exception of bruises and scratches that the bear had inflicted on Fisher while he was in its power but he was not bad hurt and soon recovered. But his face, head and clothes were well painted with yellow while Bruin was wallowing him in the clay."

Next Story | Table of Contents