DESPERATE ENCOUNTER WITH A WOUNDED BEAR
By S. C. Turnbo
The following stories was given me by Phillip Green, an old timer of Ozark County, Mo.
"While I was hunting one day in a hollow known as Little Caney which runs into Little North Fork from the west side I seen 5 deer running and jumping around in a circle. I did not understand their actions. Their hair stood out straight and they would stop and close their feet together and leap stiff legged onto something in the center of the circle, then leap away as far as they could. I stood and watched their curious movements until they all had become quiet and stood around where they had been running and jumping. I now aimed at one of the deer and shot it down. The other deer ran away. On going up to the spot I found that the deer had trampled a large striped viper snake to death. Its head and neck was mashed into a pulp by the deers hoofs.
The largest deer I ever killed was a buck with big antlers. He weighed 214 lbs gross minus of its entrails which I had taken out. The buck was killed on the dividing ridge between Little North Fork and Pond Fork. One day while I was hunting a short distance south of the present hamlet of Isabel, I killed two bucks and wounded a doe at one shot. One of the bucks fell where it stood. The other ran 50 yards and fell. I put the dog In pursuit of the doe and he caught her in ½ a mile of where I had wounded her. The three deer all stood on a line with my bullet. The one shot give me 3 deer hides and plenty of venison. The largest number of deer I seen was on Copelins Bald Hill 3 miles east of Isabel. I could not count the deer but there was snow on the ground and I counted their trails and there were 27. I was afoot and had my rifle with me and followed them and got in 150 yards of some of them but not close enough to make a sure shot. Sometimes a hunter meets with things that sounds unreasonable to tell. Here is a little story of that kind. I have lots of faith in the truth of it whether you have or not. One blustery afternoon I took my gun and went down Little North Fork to find some kind of game to shoot at. Just below the mouth of Barren Fork I saw a big buck standing. I shot and the buck tumbled down on its tracks. I ran to it with knife in hand to cut its throat in order to make it bleed. Before I had time to touch it with the knife the deer began struggling to rise. Like many other hunters under the same circumstances I caught the buck by the horns to prevent its escape. But the animal proved to be so stout that it soon jerked loose and pitched at me and struck me with its horns and knocked me over a ledge of rock 7 feet high. The deer when it struck me hurt me severely and when I fell over the cliff my bruises was made worse. At first I was not able to get up. I was scared too. As I lay there grunting the buck looked down at me with a fierce looking eye. This exercised my feelings and I got better, for I thought the mad brute was going to leap down on me and I rolled and scrambled from under the edge of the cliff. When I took time to look back again the buck had backed away from the ledge a few feet and was staggering and I saw it fall. I was now able to rise on my feet and went to a part of the ledge where I could climb up and went to where the deer lay. It was not dead but it failed to get up then. I was careful though not to take hold of it again but thinking it was too long about dying I picked up my gun and reloaded it with the intention of shooting it the second time. Now comes the funny part of the game. My gun was tricky at times and while I was trying to make the gun discharge the load the buck seemed to revive all at once and to my astonishment it got up and run away.
While I was engaged calling up a flock of wild turkeys one day and before they were in shooting distance I heard a disturbance among them. The turkeys were below me behind a rise and I could not see them or what was bothering them, but I supposed it was an eagle. After a while the turkeys become quiet, and I heard them start off in an opposite direction from me. I sit still thinking they might come back. Very soon I heard a slight noise behind me. I turned my head to see what it was and beheld a catamount creeping on its belly toward me. I whirled around facing the animal quicker than you can snap your finger. The cat wheeled around too and before I could aim at it the beast leapped behind a tree. Then how it did run from there. Did I wait for them turkeys to come back? No sir, my business lay rolling away from there at a fast pace. I will now tell you a bear story the incident of which occurred east of Big North Fork in what is now Howel County, Missouri. The occurrence happened several years before I saw the light of day. But I saw my uncle several times when I was a little fellow and saw his crippled foot and heard him relate the account of the fight. His narrative was also authenticated by my father, Pleasant Thomas Green. The name of my uncle who had the fight with the bear was John 0. Tabor. The man had married my fathers twin sister (Mary) against the wishes of the family.
Tabor was of an overbearing disposition. Aunt Mary was a weakly girl and the pet of the family. Tabor treated her very mean. Of course, such ill treatment of the girl embittered the whole family against Tabor. Father and other members of the family entreated the man not to abuse his wife but he disregarded their entreaties. This went on until one day in 1858 when Tabor began to abuse his wife in fathers presence the latter expostulated with him to desist and quit mistreating Aunt Mary, but his remonstrances did no good and father killed him to end further abuse of his sister. Though Tabor was mean and overbearing yet he was a bold and fearless bear hunter. One day while he was living in the section of country just mentioned he took his dogs and rifle and started into the forest to hunt for a bear. About one mile from home the dogs chased a monster bear pretty lively. Tabor was afoot but he followed closely behind the bear and dogs on a run. After a while his bearship stopped for a battle but the dogs kept at a respectful distance and bayed him until Tabor reached the spot and shot and wounded the bear which seemed to madden the beast terrible. The dogs were well trained and obeyed their master and when he shot Bruin he told the dogs to take hold of it and every dog darted up to the bear and attacked him ferociously. The enormous beast rose quickly on it haunches and knocked the dogs away except one which he caught in his hug and commenced crushing the life out of it. The man not having time to reload the gun in time to save the dog dropped the gun and snatching an old case knife from the scabbard that he had formed into the shape of a butcher knife to cut bullet patching with and with this small weak weapon ran up and attacked the bear in the hope of saving the dog. But the man was too late for he saw at a glance that the dog was dead. The hunters rage knew no bounds and while the bear was holding the lifeless dog in his embrace the infuriated man flew at the bears throat and made a slash across the animals wind pipe. At that critical period the other dogs flew to the aid of their master. As the dogs rushed up Bruin released the dead dog and gave its attention to the attacking dogs and a terrific fight began at once. The bear on the one side bit and knocked. The man tried to cut and slash with the old case knife. The dogs were game and they done all they could to help win the battle. As the fight progressed the bear did not heed the man, but gave all its attention to the dogs until Tabor had gouged it so much with the knife that Bruin turned on him at last and man and beast struggled together. In a short time the bear in his rage caught Tabor by the foot and crunched the heel so severely with its teeth until there was nothing left of his heel but a mass of chawed flesh and bone, but Tabor was too mad to give up the fight and the bloody encounter went on. By this time Bruin had wounded all the dogs. They were covered with blood from the bleeding gashes made by the bears teeth, but Bruin was weakening too from the gun shot wound and the worry caused by the fight and soon after this he gave up and sank down in the agony of death. After it ceased to struggle Tabor pulled himself away from it and lay down to regain his exhausted strength. His wounded foot pained him severely. Though the bear was dead, but here he lay badly crippled. There lay one of his dogs as dead as a "door nail" and the other dogs were more or less wounded. Him and the dogs had come out but little ahead. He was not able to take care of the meat of the bear but crawled home the best he could and sent a neighbor back to remove Bruins hide, dress the meat and bring it home. It was many days before Tabors foot got well. After the sore had healed over an ugly scar was left to tell the tale of the terrific encounter."
Springfield-Greene County Library