CHASING A FAMILY OF BEARS
By S. C. Turnbo
Between the town of Lead Hill, Ark., and Bradlys Ferry on White River is a high ridge that is part prairie and part of it is covered with scrub timber. The Lead Hill and Protem road crosses this ridge via Bradleys Ferry, from the crest of this hill we have a distant view in almost every direction. Nearby we have a view of part of the valley of East Sugar Loaf Creek and a plain view of the Sugar Loaf Knob and part of the town of Lead Hill. This part of the ridge divides the source of the hollow that empties into the river at Bradleys Ferry and the hollow that runs into East Sugar Loaf Creek at the Newt Justus farm known as Horse Hollow. This ridge is in Crocket township, Marion County. A short distance from where the road crosses this divide stands the Possom Trot school house and which is the voting precinct of Crocket township. During the pioneer days of this locality bear chases were the order of the day, one of which we will relate in this story.
Mr. Henry Tabor come to Arkansas from the state of Illinois in 1833 and settled on Long Creek in Carroll County. A few years afterward he left Long Creek and settled on Big Creek In Taney County, Mo. One day in the early fifties he and his son John Tabor, who in his old age was blind and deaf and died in Ozark County March 11, 1905, started on a visit to Elijah Tabor, who lived on East Sugar Loaf Creek above where Lead Hill is now. They forded White River at the shoals just below Bradleys Ferry and followed the trail up the hollow and to the top of this same divide and when they reached the grove of timber on the summit of the ridge where the wagon way was made afterward they spied a grown bear and two cubs. The time was in the month of March and the weather was unusually warm. They had neither dog nor gun. The men were anxious for some sport and concluded to try to drive the Bruins near a house where they could obtain a gun or dogs. Raising a war whoop they spurred their horses into a gallop and charged the bears. The old one started on a lively run with the cubs close behind. The hills and hollows had been swept by forest fires a few days previous, the grass had been so rank and thick the ashes left from the fire made the surface of the ground black and the naked stones bare of their covering of grass and weeds seemed to make the ground more rough and the mens progress in pursuit of the animals was slow. The bears lead the way toward Sugar Loaf Knob and as this knob had been fresh burned over it loomed up above the Sugar Loaf Prairie like a big black cone. When they reached the creek the bears were thirsty and the trio halted to fill up on water. While they were drinking the men rode up in close quarters before they again started away. When the bears reached the foot of the knob the old one seemed to change her mind and turned sharply to the left toward the creek and crossed it again without stopping for another drink of water and went on in the direction of Short Mountain. The chase was full of life; we tried to head them off and make them turn to the right and go up Sugar Loaf Creek but the old one had her way and kept straight forward on a run. As the weather was quite warm, the cubs began to fag. We now become better encouraged and determined to overtake the cubs and slay them. Urging our horses along faster we were soon near them. The old one was several yards in the lead and seemed to realize the situation. She retraced her steps to protect her young. When old Bruin wheeled we did likewise. Presently the bear seeing the hunters retreat stopped and viewing the men with no pleasing look turned again and went on and the two hunters resumed the chase. On they went through the timber, and across rough hollows and over rocky glades until finally they led the way into the prairie valley known as Locust Hollow, a tributary of East Sugar Loaf Creek. Up this little valley they went with the old bear shambling along some distance in advance. Hunters and bears were making time. They hurried along over the ground the bears and horses were tires. The young Bruins were more wearied than the old one and pulled themselves along In the rear of their mother. The fire had not swept over this valley yet and the animals as they traveled on were frequently hidden from view by the tall dead grass and weeds and the horsemen urged their horses along to prevent the beast from escaping out of their sight. Up near the head of the hollow after they had got into the Timber one of the cubs was so far behind that the men concluded to capture it alive. when the hunters got up to it they dismounted and caught the cub bear by the hind feet. The young Bruin made a strong resistance and they found that they could not control it alive without getting badly scratched and bit by it and they made an attempt to kill It with a big knife. The young beast set up a hideous outcry. When old Bruin came back on double quick time. The men had to release the cub and mount their horses and flee for safety; they were not successful in any of their game. The chase was given up and old Bruin and her family were allowed to go on their way into the wooded range of Short Mountain and the baffled settlers turned back and retraced their steps down Locust Branch to Sugar Loaf Creek.
Springfield-Greene County Library