THEY FASTENED ON THE WRONG BEAR
By S. C. Turnbo
Here is a story that is rather amusing and is told by Levi Duren of Yellville, Arkansas. Mr. Duren is an old pioneer of north Arkansas and was born in Wayne County, Tennessee, in 1642. His father, Carrol Duren, settled on Bennettes Bayou In Fulton County, ArK., in 1651. He lived here until in 1663 when he moved to Marion County and located in the Cowan Barrens south of Yellville. He has been dead a number of years and his remains rest in the Cowan Cemetery 4 miles south of Yellville. This village of the dead is an old burial ground. Levi Duren says that when his father lived on Bennettes Bayou the names of the earliest settlers there in his neighborhood were Nicholas McCarty, Jim Cockrum, Abe Grubbs, Lewis Pumphrey. Ben Hawkins, Mathias Rice, Noah L. Baker and old man Stinnette, a brother of Dave Stinnette, an early settler of Marion County. Baker served 8 years as sheriffe of Fulton County. Mr. Duren also says that he was acquainted with the Tolberts for whom the Barrens in Baxter County was named for and says their given names were Walter ("Wat"), Bazzeel, Cinnamon and Frederick. They all come here very early and were prominent citizens. Though I have been living in Arkansas nearly 60 years but I cannot boast of being a hunter. But several who lived all around us were slayers the burr of the ear and blow a hole through its head. As soon as the animal quit kicking both men retired to the outside and brought in a long rope and looped one end around the supposed bears hind leg. Then Squirrel Bill took the other end of the rope and passed out of the cavern leaving his brother to pull on the part of the rope near the bear, When all was ready, and to loosen the dead beast when it hitched against the jagged stones. Soon after the hunter got outside of the cave he signaled back that he was ready. His brother hallooed "Haul away" and both men gave a vigorous pull at the bear and dragged it off of the bed. But a surprise had awaited them for the bear scrambled to his feet and kicked the rope off it leg. The man was bewildered with astonishment at the bear getting up, but coming to himself in a moment he yelled to his brother that the bear had come back to life. As soon as Bruin was rid of the rope he started for the outside. The thoroughly scared hunter was just in front of the beast and he made for the mouth of the cave too. The bear did not travel fast but the man did and in his hurry he stumble and fell and before he could rise the bear overhauled and ran over him. When Bruin made his appearance at the mouth of the cave he received a hot reception from the dogs which dispelled his drowsiness and there ensued a roll and tumble fight a few minutes between him and the dogs followed by a lively chase down the mountain side. The man soon emerged from the cavern and joined his brother. The two of game and a few of them were great bear hunters. As I was never a hunter I cannot tell you of any exploits of my own. But I will give you a story that was told me by William wood or Dick Wood as they call him for short. My author said the tale is true. Away back during the lifetime of the old pioneers they loved to talk about meeting the bear and stealthy panther, finding rich bee trees and killing deer. It was a pleasure for them to meet together at some public place and exchange yarns with each other. But the old pioneers are nearly all gone to their long homes. A new generation have sprung up. Times, customs and conversations have changed. But if plenty of big game were to reappear here again and last a few years, new hunters would be in line and new hunting stories would be added to the old ones. Many of our citizens would enjoy the chase like their fathers, grandfathers and other kindred did in the pioneer days and they would relate as charming stories as the old timers use to tell. Many of these old time stories are amusing. Some are told In a serious way, others are not so serious, while others are not so funny. In giving you the account of what William Wood told which I started out to tell he said lie would vouch for its truthfulness. He said that one day Squirrel Bill Wood and his brother in time of a snow went. Into a cave in the mountains of lower Buffalo and discovered a drowsy bear lying on its bed. The animal was so sleepy that it allowed the hunters to advance up to it and place the muzzle of a rifle against astonished hunters followed on to where the bear had halted at the foot of the hill where it and the dogs were fighting and succeeded in "rekilling" it. When they examined its head them could find no wound of any sort. They made a thorough examination of its body all over and no wound except the one just made when they shot it. The hunters were badly puzzled for they knew that they had shot it in the burr of the ear and killed it. There was no mistake about it being dead when they left it and went after the rope. It was strange that it had revived and the bullet mark had disappeared. They were not able to solve the mystery until after they had returned back into the cave to make a further investigation and discovered the dead bear lying where they had shot it. Then it rose in their minds that they had struck a live bear instead of the one shot. A further shot revealed that in their haste and eagerness to haul the dead bear out they had passed into an offshoot as large as the main passage and discovered another bear lying broadside on its bed asleep which they had mistook for the dead one and fasten on it which proved to be the wrong one with the result as stated, said Mr. Duren.
We do not like to finish this chapter without copying a similar story published in the Globe-Democrat, and which was written at Semour, Mo., August 3rd, 1900. The author signs the initials of his name J. W. B. The following is the account.
"In the winter of 1845 two Stewart brothers were hunting in that part of the Ozark Mountains which was then Green County, but is now Webster County. They come up on a bears trail in the snow and, after following It a short distance, discovered the bear and succeeded in wounding it, but the brute made its escape into a neighboring cave. The boys then procured a torch and a long, strong rope and made their entrance into the cave, one bearing the torch while the other carried the gun. By the torches light they discovered the bear and succeeded in placing a ball just back of the brutes ear and then hastily withdrew. Hearing no further noise and concluding that Bruin was dead, one of the boys took the rope and entered the cave without any light and attempted to slip the noose over the bears hind leg to draw him out. Just then the leg moved, and the startled hunter called this news to his brother, who advised him to fasten the rope anyway and they would drag the bear out dead or alive. The rope was no sooner slipped over the bears leg when he suddenly raised up and, with a growl of fright and rage, charged over the hunter and, knocking him down, made for the mouth of the cave. As the bear come out into daylight he was shot by the hunter without. On examination no wound was found in him except the last shot fired, which had proved fatal. This puzzled the Stewart boys, as they were certain they had placed two other shots in him and one behind the ear. Upon searching the cave they were astonished to find another bear dead, which they then knew to be the one they had first seen and wounded.
The truth of this story will be vouched for by Judge Denny and James Brixey, both of Seymour, the latter of whom relates it."
Springfield-Greene County Library