SERIOUS WOUNDS INFLICTED ON HUNTERS BY INFURIATED BEARS
IN THE BUFFALO MOUNTAINS OF ARKANSAS
By S. C. Turnbo
Some of the most entertaining stories of hunting we have gathered originated In the Buffalo Mountains. These old time bear tales were not given me as fictitious stories and were related to me either by the participants in the hunt or their children or close friends that knew something about it themselves.
Here is a story told years ago by a pioneer who once lived on Buffalo of the name of John Cross who after the incident I am about to relate lived some years on White River just over the line In Marion County, Ark., and was a relative of Allin Lucas and family. This man said that when bears were plentiful along Buffalo River the hunters would keep the fat bear restless and moving. In giving the account Mr. Cross said that on a certain time a famed bear hunter accompanied by his little boy and another hunter with a number of dogs went out into the mountains near his cabin to lay in a fresh supply of bear meat. The dogs who were alert while on the hunt soon struck ones trail which resulted in a long chase and running fight. During the chase the boy was left behind some distance. When the bear stopped his rage was so great that he would just as soon fight a man as the dogs.
While the dogs were fighting the animal the two hunters went up in close rifle range, and one of the men shot, but the excitement of a long run on foot caused him to miss. At the report of the gun the bear charged at both men, who turned and fled at once. The one who fired at the bear threw his empty rifle down. The men as they raced before the furious beast remained together for a while, then separated and ran in different directions. The bear with an instinct common to these animals to avenge a wrong, pursued the man who shot at it. Bruin gained on the hunter fast and the dogs were following at his heels and harrassing him. It was a forest scene not often met with and never to be forgotten. The man strained every nerve and muscle to keep in advance. But he was unable to avoid the angry brute, for after a race of a few hundred yards the man gave out and was compelled to stop and the bear caught him by the leg with its teeth.
As the sharp teeth were crunching the tender flesh the man suffered in agony out he managed to grab a small tree and locked his arms around it. Two of the dogs took hold of the bears ears. A desperate struggle followed, but the black beast refused to release the hunters leg. While the two dogs were tugging at its ears the bear pulled back and the man held to the sapling with ail his strength. The strain on the hunters leg was awful and he underwent intense suffering. He thought his leg would be pulled off. Such strained pressure was brought to bear on his hands it seemed that his fingers would be disjointed. It was a critical moment for the hunter yet he believed it best for him to hold to the sapling.
At this dangerous stage the other man had lost his senses or presence of mind as some call it and forgot to take advantage and shoot the bear. The man, though enduring the torments of lacerated flesh by the bears teeth and the great pull on his leg, was suffering too severely to direct the other what to do. The little boy, who had been left behind, was getting in hearing of the racket and soon rushed up in the presence of the frightful scene. It took but a moment to realize the peril of his beloved father, and snatching the other mans gun from him and placing the muzzle of it against the bears head, sent a ball in Bruins brains. The bear dropped to the ground and the hunter removed his torn and bleeding leg from its mouth. When the man got well an ugly scar was left to bear testimony of the ferocity of Bruins wrath."
Mr. Cross gave the writer the names of these hunters and the given name of the little boy and I regret that I have forgotten them.
A story of a similar nature to the above was told me by Jasper Casey, who mentioned in another sketch that his grandfather, Jesse Casey, was an early settler on Buffalo above the town of Jasper in Newton Co., Ark. Casey was a bear hunter as well as a preacher. Mr. Jasper Casey said that it was told him that his grandfather, after killing a few bear to supply the family with meat a few months, would leave home on preaching tours. He would visit the settlements along White River and Crooked Creek and preach at all the settlers houses who desired him to, and pay equal respects to those who lived on Buffalo. His hunting after bear and other wild animals was generally attended with fair success until one day when he and his son, Steve Casey, who died on Crooked Creek in 1899, went out together to hunt for a big fat bear, which they had seen on a few occasions and which they knew was not hard to find. In a few hours the dogs which were 4 in number started a monster fellow which proved to be the one they were looking for and after a short chase It climbed up a tree which stood on a steep hillside with a ravine or gully a few feet below the tree. The ravine was 7 feet wide by 6 feet deep with steep banks on each side. When grandfather and Uncle Steve come up to the tree the former shot the bear, and it fell to the ground as limp as if he was dead and rolled down into the gully. He was not dead but quickly revived and rose on his feet. The brave dogs leaped down and attacked him immediately which nearly resulted in the death of one of the dogs. Grandfather was a great admirer of his bear dogs and loved them because they were faithful and obedient and if there was danger of one losing its life in a conflict with a wild beast he would risk his own life to save one of his dogs. When he saw that the bear was crushing the life out of his dog with its teeth he grabbed Uncle Steves rifle, which was loaded, and took aim to shoot the bear, but it and the other three dogs were mixed in such a roll and tumble way and the bear still hold of the wounded dog that he desisted for fear that he would kill or wound a dog. There was no time for delay in waiting to see whether the dog would get free from the bear or not for without interference the bear would certainly end the life of his faithful animal.
Snatching his knife from the scabbard grandfather leaped into the ravine, intending to bury the long blade into the bears body. Bruin was on his guard and as the man drew his arm back to make a desperate stroke with the knife, the bear dropped the dog and dealt the hunter a terrific blow with his paw which sent him backward against a sapling. The beast was wild with rage and rushed at grandfather and caught him by the right knee and tore the knee cap loose with his teeth. It was a terrible moment and Uncle Steve was horrified at his fathers dangerous position and without a moments hesitation jumped down the bank in front of the bear and placing the muzzle of the gun within a few inches of the forehead, fired. The bullet tore a great gapping hole in the head of the bear.
Grandfather was careful about training his children to never indulge in the use of improper language. He could never allow them to use profane words or unbecoming talk of any kind in his presence. To carry this rule out in a proper way he would set a good example himself before his family, for it was the desire of his heart to raise his offsprings to be honorable citizens and obedient Christians. But as the dying bear was sinking down, Uncle Steve could not refrain from saying, "Now, dn your black hide, you infernal bear, I guess you will let loose of fathers leg." Grandfather though suffering intense pain, noticed Uncle Steves strange exclamation and remarked, "Steve, you know I taught you better than to use such an expression, and this is the first time I ever heard one of my children make such an uncalled for remark and it hurts me to hear you say it." It was many a day before grandfather was able to leave his bed. He was lame the remainder of his life.
Springfield-Greene County Library