IN CLOSE CONTACT WITH A BEAR
By S. C. Turnbo
At the present writing John (Uncle Jack) Haggard is quite an old man and lives at Peel, Ark. We have already mentioned that he settled on Swan Creek in Taney County, Mo., in 1841. Uncle Jack is a son of John Haggard and was born in Roanne County, Tennessee, May 22, 1823. He married Miss Nancy Ann Jackson, daughter of Dave Jackson, another pioneer of Swan Creek.
In continuing his reminiscences of hunting on Swan Creek Mr. Haggard says that deer would approach near the house and settlers would kill them from the woodyard. I remember on one occasion my wife took the cedar pail and went to the spring, which was only a short distance from the house. When she come back she said there were three deer near the spring and that they were not wild, or in other words were not inclined to run. I took my rifle from the rack, took off my hat and put on my wifes bonnet and started to the spring and saw the deer standing at the spring. I stopped and shot one down, the other two made no effort to run and I reloaded my gun and killed the second one, and the other stayed close by until I reloaded again and killed it also.
There were a few bands of Indiana roaming through the country when we come to Taney County. On one occasion in 1842, I met a great bunch of them on Swan Creek. They were traveling and had their women and children with them. They were all friendly and most of the party were on horseback. They had pack ponies with them which were loaded with furs and peltry.
There were elk in Taney County when we come here, but I do not remember any being killed on Swan Creek, though Charles Ellis and William Breedlove went to Bryants Fork of Big North Fork one fall season on a camp hunt and killed several there. Tully Sanders who lived at Forsyth owned a wild elk taken from the woods while young which he kept as a pet for some time.
I have already told you about a panther coming to a deer lick while Henry Clift and I were there watching for deer. Now I will tell you about an adventure my brother-in-law, Judge Casey, had with a bear on Swan Creek Casey, like others of old, could not resist the temptation of hunting a bear In his den or chasing him in the hills. Occasionally an original settler is censured by some of the present generation for putting In nearly all his time hunting and let the opportunity slip in not owning a choice farm. To this I will say that hunting was a custom among the people then and most everyone took part in it, and so they done more hunting than plowing. There were lots of bear and other game and settlers supplied their tables with wild meat and there was no necessity of laboring In the field except for a little bread, when it was so easy to obtain a support without much work on a farm. A few hunters were very daring and would risk all sorts of danger in a bear fight to save a dog. Judge Casey was among this class of hunters. During a battle one day with a bear he interfered to save the life of a favorite dog and stood in imminent peril of being attacked by the enraged beast. The incident occurred one Sunday soon after we located on Swan Creek. It was common among the settlers to hunt on Sunday. People never thought it wrong to do so for It was a custom. Down here In Arkansas we violate the Civil Law if we hunt on Sunday. The hunting part is not considered so serious in law if we do not shoot. It costs money here in Arkansas or a "lay it out" in jail to fire a gun on Sunday. This Is a good law and ought to be enforced right up to its requirements for we ought to find better employment than hunting on Sunday at this late date. We should try to avoid violating the civil laws for It is our duty to obey the laws in force where we reside. But away back yonder we never thought it harmful because there were no laws in force to antagonize it and therefore, being customary, we hunted on Sunday as well as on a "weeky" day.
So one Sunday morning, Caseys bear meat had run short, and taking his rifle and calling his trusty dog, went off into the hills to lay in a fresh supply. A fellow did not have to travel all day to meet a bear then, for they were plentiful. On that Sunday morning a fat bear was the first game he encountered and away It went with the dog in pursuit. The chase was a long one tiresome and weary to Casey. After making a big circuit It ran to Swan Creek, one mile and a half above Forsyth, and went up a tree which stood In the creek bottom. Though the hunter was nearly out stripped in the race he managed to follow the right trail, and come in hearing of the dog while it was barking at Bruin up the tree. Though Casey was very tired in walking and running so far on the chase but he trudged along, and on coming up near the tree, in close range of the big black. beast, he let fly a bullet at it. The bear turned loose and fell to the ground, seemingly dead. The dog leaped on it for a fight, but finding that the bear made no resistance, left the bear and appeared well pleased that the long, hot chase was ended. Casey thought Bruin was dead too, but man and dog were reckoning too soon, for in a few seconds more Bruin revived and was on his feet. The dog was as much astonished at seeing the bear raise up as his master was. The former without showing the least fear or hesitation, sprang at it for a fight. The bear, though desperately wounded, was ready to receive the "gritty" dog and as it reached the bear the latter caught it with its teeth and would have killed it in short order but for the timely interference of Casey. Though having no time to reload his rifle, (he forgot to bring his hunting knife with him) he dropped the gun and snatched up a small, sound stick of wood which lay on the ground close by and rushed up to the bear and pressed one end of the stick Into its mouth, which partially relieved the dog, but not enough to enable it to get away. Casey expected the black brute would turn on him and he braced himself ready for action, In case it wheeled on him for battle. The man could have done more to relieve the dog by pressing the muzzle or the empty gun into the bears mouth out In the excitement of the moment he had exchanged the gun for the piece of wood, and this was all he had to defend himself with. The bear paid no attention to him but held to the dog, and the hunter kept pushing the piece of wood further into the bears mouth and held it there until the great black creature began to totter. Then it sunk down in the agony of death from the effects of the gun shot wound.
"It was risky business to run up to that bear with the dog in its mouth, but there were hunters, " said Mr. Haggard, "that would risk their lives anytime and on any occasion to save the life of a trusty dog. Caseys dog was severely wounded and several weeks elapsed before he was able to take another Sunday morning bear chase with his master."
Springfield-Greene County Library