SCENES AND STORIES OF MEETING BEAR IN THE FOREST
By S. C. Turnbo
Paton Keesee said that him and Joe Bridges went out one day on horseback on a bear hunt. Their hunting grounds on that occasion was in the hills between where Gainesville, Mo., is now and Big North Fork. "Bridges was mounted on a large roan horse and I was riding an Indian pony," said Mr. Keesee. "Joe Bridges made sport of my pony saying that if we got after a bear I would be left behind for my littly pony would not be able to keep up with his horse. I told him it was all right, if his big horse held out longer than mine, he should have all the bear if we killed one that day. "Very good," said Bridges, "if we chase a bear and your pony beats mine to it the bear will be yours," said he. It was several hours before the dogs scented one. He was a fine looking fellow and ran lively and a long distance before the dogs brought him to a standstill. During the chase my pony gained so much on Joes horse that I reached the bear and dogs and killed Bruin before the big horse and his rider came into view. But like a good fellow he acknowledged his defeat and admitted that he was mistaken in the holding out powers of my pony. I told him we would divide the meat and he willingly accepted half of it."
Peter Baughman tells this story of his father, Henry Baughman, and John Sutton hunting for turkeys one day in Dry Hollow, a branch of Crooked Creek, and finding a bear. They quit shooting turkeys and sent the dogs after Bruin, which soon brought him to bay. The hunters ventured up in 60 yards of his bearship and sent two balls into him, which brought him down but he instantly rose to his feet again, but was not able to run. But he staggered around until they reloaded their guns and shot two more balls into his body. The effects of the two last shots, however, seemed to revive him instead of killing him and he run a large circle about 3 times with the dogs at his heels. After reloading their rifles Sutton sent a ball into the bears head and he dropped down and turned on his broad side and lay still. The two hunters were afraid to venture near it until they had hit it with a few stones to prove whether it was dead or not. Finding that it did not move from the jar of the stones they moved up to it in a cautious way and found that it was entirely dead."
Mrs. Dorah Ross, daughter of old uncle Billy James, who lived on East Sugar Loaf Creek before the war tells the following account. "One day in 1858 when I was about 10 years old one of Henry Colberts girls who was also 10 years of age come to our house to play with we children. Colbert lived only a short distance from us. The parents of the girl had named her "state of Arkansas. Why they give her that name I dont know unless they thought Arkansas was the beat state in the union and that they wanted the little girl to bear the honor of the name of the state. They called her state for short. After we had played several hours together the little girl thought it time for her to start back home. My mother gave me permission to go with her as far as the blackberry patch, the berries of which were full ripe. Arriving at the briar patch we both fell to picking and eating the delicious wild fruit. In a few minutes we had become separated several yards apart. Being anxious to find the best berries I made my way through the briar thicket until I discovered a bunch of briars that was heavier loaded with fruit. I paid no attention where I was putting my feet and while I was pressing against the briars so that I could reach the best ones, I heard a noise on the ground at my feet but I was so busy picking and eating berries that I never once thought of danger until I heard a low snort or sniffle. Casting my eyes down at my feet I was horrified at seeing a bear lying at my feet. In reaching for the berries I had touched the animal and disturbed him. Fortunately for me he happened to be in a pleasant humor and had warned me not to interrupt him. The only thing I thought of then was to escape from there. Like a scared deer I leaped and ran through the briars regardless of the sharp points tearing my clothes and flesh and screaming as I ran, "Its a bear, a bear." Which caused the other girl to scream too. When we both got out of the thicket of briars each of us hurried home. When I reached our house father had just returned home and was eating dinner. I was so excited from seeing the bear and running home that I could not hardly tell my story. After father understood my account of it he hurried off to collect men and dogs to capture the bear. Among the men who took part in its capture were Sol and William Wood, sons of George Wood, and Bill Flippo. The dogs soon hustled Bruin out of the briar thicket and after a lively chase the dogs brought him to bay in the creek bottom a short distance above where Lead Hill, Ark., is now. The men on approaching the bear saw that he had a big frame but very thin in flesh and they resolved to capture him alive. There were so many dogs the bear was almost powerless to defend himself and they soon stretched him on the ground. One of the men run to a fence and brought a stout ten foot rail and placed it across the bears neck and several men held him down. Other men run home for chains. When they returned with the chains they bound Bruin with them securely and drove him to Bill Flippos who kept it until it was fat, and they killed it and divided the meat among each other. I remember well eating some of the meat."
Van Carrier furnishes this rather amusing account. "I and Tom Spencer and a Mr. Garnette while a snow lay on the ground taken a wagon drawn by a mule team and went on a camp hunt in the pinery in the vicinity of where Kirbyville, Taney County, Mo., is now. In a day or two we tracked an old bear and two yearling cubs into a cave. When we reached the entrance to the cavern we consulted together to decide who would go in and who would stay out. I had the best gun and proposed that I would stay at the mouth of the cave and shoot the bear if it come out if the other two would go in. Spencer says, "My gun is as good as yours, Van, and I will stay out while you and Garnette goes in, for I can shoot the bear if it comes out as well as you can." Seeing no use for further argument me and Garnette prepared a torch of pine splinters and started in. I carried the rifle and Garnette the torch and his own rifle. After passing some distance into the cave we heard the footsteps of some animal behind us running which convinced us that we had passed one of the bears in an off shoot and it was running out. Continueing further into the cave we discovered the two cubs. We were satisfied now that it was the old one that had gone out and expected to find her lying dead at the entrance to the cavern when we got out. Garnette shot one of the cubs and killed it. The other made a rush for the outside. We thought now Spencer will shoot it too as it went out. When we returned back to the mouth of the cave we found plenty of evidence to prove that Spencer was not a faithful sentinel, for his tracks in the snow showed that when the old bear had reached the entrance Spencer had run without firing on her and when the bear was gone he had went back to the cave and when the cub rushed out the man run off again without shooting. He claimed that he shot at the old one but testimony was against him for the same old percussion cap was on the gun tube that he had put on a day or two before. But there were plenty of evidence that Spencer did some tall running when the bears come out without using the gun cap for a witness."
Peter Friend, whose father Jake Friend lived at the mouth of Little North Fork in Marion Co., Ark., as early as 1830, located on the right bank of White River below mouth of Big Creek and a short distance above the Bull Bottom. Uncle Peter was 16 years old when his father come to White River and it was in the early 40s that he settled where we have just mentioned. His brother, Jim Friend, located on the opposite bank of the river from where Peter lived. These brothers have passed over the mystic river some time ago, Uncle Peter dying in 1876. Both of them rest in the graveyard on the old Asa Yocum land. The part of the river where they located is known to the present day as the Friend Bend. But the Friends were not the first settlers here, for Peter Graham lived here in 1817, who afterwards went to what is now Washington County, Ark., and died on Lees Creek and was buried in a grave 6 feet deep. Paton Keesee also lived here in 1821 living a short while on the right bank of the river then went across to the left bank. Here his daughter, Hettie, who when she was grown married Sam Johnson, was born October 21st, 1821. Soon after Peter Friend located on the right bank he went out one evening and found a rich bee tree about a mile from his cabin. Steve Friend, a son of his, says that he was a little fellow then but he remembers about his father going out with ax and vessels to rob the bees. "After felling the tree," said Uncle Steve, "father cut out a large chip or block and took out enough honey to fill the vessels he had brought with him. There was a good lot of rich honeycomb left in the tree, and while he was replacing the block back in order to save the remaining honey until he could return with more vessels he saw a bear at the stump with its forepaws resting on the butt of the fallen tree. Bruin had approached unnoticed while he was busy taking out the honey. The animal was looking at father very wishful. He seemed to ask him to divide honey with him. Father replied by dropping the ax and snatching up his rifle which lay on the ground nearby and fired on the beast. Though only 25 feet from the bear yet he missed it, but the report of the gun frightened Bruin for he left on a run. Father replaced the block and brought the honey home. He did not go back until next morning and found that the same bear or another one had scratched the block of wood out of its place and had devoured all the honey he had left in the tree."
Springfield-Greene County Library