TWO BEARS EATING HICKORY NUTS
ONE OF THEM CHASES A HUNTER IN A LIVELY WAY
By S. C. Turnbo
Edward Upton or Uncle Ned as he is commonly known was born in Rutherford
County, North Carolina, August 24th, 1833. His fathers given name
was also Edward and he settled in southern Mo. in 1852, and lived in Howel
and Ozark Counties from time to time until his death near Gainesville. His
body was interred on the Ellis farm on Lick Creek one mile below Gainesville.
His wife, Mrs. Nancy (Bracket) Upton, died in Rutherford County, North Carolina.
Young Edward Upton was 19 years old when his father come to Missouri and
taken an active part with other settlers hunting game. Some of his hunting
stories are given in this chapter. While his father lived on Lick Creek
below Gainesville young Edward Uptons main hunting ground was on a
small stream that empties into Lick Creek. Mr. Upton said that one day in
1856 while hunting in this little valley he noticed two buck acting queer.
They were running back and forth across a shallow hollow on the side of
a hill. As they passed to and fro they would halt a short while in the bed
of the branch and stamp their feet. I stood still and viewed the deer until
they had become quiet and walked away without shooting at one of them. I
went on up to see what they had been doing and found a large rattlesnake
badly mutilated, by the deers feet. The rattler carried 13 rattles,
and was nearly cut to pieces in the middle part of its body.
"I have killed a great number of deer here in Ozark County," said Uncle Ned. "But I never was lucky enough to kill more than one deer at one shot. But on one occasion while hunting with father on the south fork of Bennetts Bayou he shot at a deer about 60 yards. The animal was standing near a pond of water and its body was partly concealed from view by a bush. When father shot I saw the deer drop. While we were advancing to where it lay we found another deer lying in the agony of death in 30 yards of the other deer and on a line from where father stood to the one shot at. The one shot at the ball had entered its neck. The bullet had passed through the other deers head. We did not see but the one deer when the shot was fired. It was supposed the deer was lying down and had rose on its feet the moment father pulled the trigger of the gun or just in time to receive the bullet through its head. A hunter meets with peculiar incidents sometimes and the above is one of them which is not hearsay with me. Another little incident worth noting down occurred to my father and my brother, Daniel Upton, while they were hunting one day in the hills west of Lick Creek. Father shot and wounded a big buck 4 miles from home. The dogs pursued it 4 miles down Brattons spring creek then the deer made a short circuit and turned back up the creek again and the dogs chased it to the head of the creek then over the dividing ridge to where we lived on Lick Creek ¾ of a mile below where Gainesville now stands, and the dogs caught it at the yardgate. The deer had run 12 miles from the time it was wounded until the dogs overhauled and killed it. Father had shot at the buck uphill and by some means the discharge of the gun broke the main spring of his gun lock and brother Dan jokingly remarked to father that shooting uphill was the cause of the main spring getting broke. I have seen several bunches of deer together since I have lived in the Ozarks," said Uncle Ned. "Herds of deer present a beautiful forest scene. The largest number of deer I ever saw near together was 150 on Bennetts Bayou one evening at sunset. The herd was divided into two parts but both bunches were in my sight at the same time. It was delightful to witness so many deer together but in those early days it was common to meet droves of deer more or less in number almost every day. But the most fascinating sight of deer I ever had was in Howel County, Mo. I and my brother Daniel were sitting on a fence that enclosed 6 acres of sod land planted in corn. The fence was new and was considered stock proof. The young corn was half leg high. Rasin weed and other wild growth had sprung up all over the new ground. While we were resting on the fence 15 deer come to the opposite side of the field from where we were and jumped over the fence into the field like a bunch of sheep. The deer, which were all does, were followed by 20 young fawns which entered the enclosure through the opening between the rails. When the does and fawns got together in the field a lively and interesting scene commenced. The old and young deer played all sorts of antics. They run and frolicked all over the field. We sit perfectly still and carried our conversation on in a whisper. Some of the deer played in a few yards of us without seeing us. Ever now and then the does would stop a few minutes and feed on the rasin weed then resume the play. We could have sit on the fence till sunset and enjoyed this beautiful scene of nature, but after the deer had frolicked together some time one of the does seen us and apparently gave the alarm to the others and off they bounded to that part of the fence where they had entered the field and leapped over to the outside and was soon lost from view. The fawns appeared to be surprised at the sudden disappearance of their mothers and stood as if bewildered. "Ah, what a jolly time we will have catching fawns," said I, and me and Dan jumped off the fence and ran toward them. The fawns all started toward the fence where the old ones had leapped over. When they reached the fence they all huddle up together in the fence corner. I thought we would sure capture some of them at least, but the next thing we knew the fawns disappeared through the fence into the tall grass on the outside and that was the last we saw of them. I have heard of hunters seeing white squirrels here," said Mr. Upton. "I met one of this kind on Lick Creek below Gainesville in 1966. The squirrel was as white as the whitest of cotton. I had my rifle with me but I would not shoot at it. The squirrel was up a sycamore tree. Many times afterward I looked up this same tree and other timber which stood nearby to catch sight of this pretty little animal again but that was the last I seen of it. I will now give you a little story of finding bee trees. One day I and my father and my brother Daniel found 11 bee trees on the dividing ridge between Lick Creek and head prongs of Brattons Spring Creek and expected to rob all the trees the following day. So we started out early in the morning with anoox wagon and plenty of vessels to collect the honey. The first tree we reached was a small post oak. As the tree was little we did not expect to find much honey in it. Dan struck the tree with the axe to sound it and found that the wall between the hollow and outside was a thin shell. Then he sank the blade of the axe into the tree and withdrawing it honey run out at the apeture made by the axe. This astonished us and we hacked around the tree near the ground with the axe and let it down to the ground as easy as we could. It proved that the tree was crammed full of rich honeycomb for 12 feet up the hollow. We filled three large vessels full of honey and put 20 lbs In a sack. The quantity of honey found in this tree exceeded our expectation so far that we returned home without visiting the other trees that day. But none of them proved to be as rich in honey as this one was. I suppose, "said Mr. Upton, "that almost every settler has had some experience with wolves. I have had some trouble with them, but I cannot tell a very big yarn about wolves because I never have had the experience with them as others have. But there were plenty of them here. I recollect on one occasion when we lived on Lick Creek, a bunch of wolves got among our hogs. It was in open daylight. The wolves had ventured close to the dwelling where the hogs were lying in their bed and attacked them. The hogs rallied and made a great to do. I and brother Daniel ran out with rifles in hand to drive the wolves off, but before we could do so they killed two fine sows and wounded a shoat. We shot and killed two of the wolves which were gray ones and the others left the dead porkers and retreated. I have another wolf story to tell you that is a little funny which happened in this way. I knew of a place on Lick Creek where a lot of wolves were raising their young. When I thought they were large enough to give a fellow a little sport in capturing them I took a sack and paid the den a visit. The bed was under a shelving rock. There were 7 young wolves lying In the bed large enough to yelp. Looking about to see if the coast was clear of old ones, I caught one of the young beast and put it in the sack. The others scattered and hid in the grass on the hillside below their bed and I had much trouble before I captured them all and crammed them into the sack. The young beast mixed together lively in the sack and made all sorts of noises. I looked for the old ones to rush up every moment, and I heard them howl just as I started to leave. My business lay rolling away from there. The 7 wolves in the sack was not a light load to carry and how they did kick, snap and cut up. I left that vicinity on a fast run. The pups kept up their kicking and fuss until I was pretty well satisfied the old ones heard them for it was now evident they were answering the pups in the sack. This stimulated my running powers and how I did run with that sack of wolves. After I had sped ¼ of a mile from the bed I stopped and looked back and heard them howling and whining at the bed. Then I lit out running again and did not halt until I had run another ¼ mile. I did not tarry but a moment for they were pursueing me. I could not see them but I could hear their angry noise between me and their den. Their howling sounded too lonesome to suit me and on I went again and did not stop until I arrived home exhausted and almost out of breath. I do not presume the wolves followed me far, or they certainly would have overtaken me. Did I ever have any trouble with a bear, you say? Well no. I have seen plenty of them but it was not my lot to be a bear hunter. But my brother Daniel Upton if alive could give you a few entertaining stories about wild bear. One day Dan went stock hunting on head of Barren Fork of Little North Fork. He was afoot. He carried his rifle but had no dog with him. As he went along a hillside., he heard something eating hickory nuts. He imagined it was hogs. The noise was below him and the nature of the hill prevented Dan from seeing them. Going down the hillside to a ledge of rock he stopped to survey the spot from where the noise eminated to try to ascertain the owner of the hogs for he was surprised to meet hogs out in this wild section where there was no settlements. But no hogs were there but two bears were in close rifle range. They were so busy masticating the nuts that they did not notice the humane intruder. Raising his gun Dan leveled it at one of the bears and fired. The animal dropped to the ground. The other one quit eating the nuts, stood still and was evidently puzzled to understand what made such a noise and his companion falling all on sudden. "Well," thought Dan, "I will reload my gun and kill you too." But his bearship did not allow him time for Dan had barely commenced pouring powder into the charger before the bear looked up the hill and spied him standing on the ledge of rock. The black beast seemed to get terrible mad and charged toward him. Dan did not get mad but he got awful bad scared and dropped the gun and fled like a deer fleeing before a pack of hounds. The man run for life. The bear run to catch him. The latter was gaining on his humane enemy rapidly and would soon overhaul him. As It happened a man of the name of Beasely was hunting near this same spot and heard the report of Dans gun and saw the man retreating toward him. Directly the pursueing bear come in view. He waited until the bear was near him and he shot it through the head. Dan was ignorant of the mans presence until the welcome report of the gun rang out and the bear had fell. My brother said that Beasely was just in time to save him and he felt very grateful to him for his timely interference. Each hunter had a dead bear on hand and they turned their attention to them., removing the hides,dressing the meat and conveying it home."
Springfield-Greene County Library