VIEWING A BEAR WHILE PREPARING ITS BED DURING A SNOW
By S. C. Turnbo
The old timer, Ezekiel Eslick, who died near Arno, Doublas County, Mo., in February, 1896, and buried in the Spring Creek graveyard near Beaver Creek, was born in Bartholomew County, Indiana, February 22, 1829. Uncle Zeke was a son of Artis and Celia (McBride) Eslick who come to Green County, Mo., when Uncle Zeke was a little more than 4 years old. Art Eslick lived here until in 1838 when he moved to James River and stayed here until the following year when he located on Beaver Creek near where Arno is in Douglas County. Art Eslick died in 1862 and is buried in the Hack Snapp graveyard opposite Forsyth. His wife died in Webster County, Mo., and is buried 5 miles west of Marshfield. "Sam Eslick was my grandfather, " said Uncle Zeke, "and come to Douglas County a few years earlier than father did. he died on Beaver Creek and is buried in a graveyard 2 miles below Arno. Jarriette Huffman, who was among the earliest settlers of Douglas County, is buried on Cowskin Creek 4 miles from Arno. Charley Miliken, father of John Miliken, who built the cabin on Milikens Bald in early times near where Cedar Creek, Taney County, is now, died in the Horseshoe Bend of White River and is buried in a graveyard there. Two of my brothers, Artis and Frank Eslick, and two of my sisters, Delilah and Elizabeth Eslick, are buried in the same cemetery where Miliken rests." Uncle Zeke in refering to their arrival in Green County, Missouri, in the early thirties said that he can remember that Springfield was so small then that it could hardly be called a village. It contained a few goods which were kept in a small log building by Esbrum Danforth and a man of the name of Fullbright. I remember seeing the negro Hannah who belonged to Fullbright. It is said that this negro help to clean off the spot of ground where the first house was built in Springfield. I remember that the mens garments and footwear were mostly made of dressed buckskin which we called moccasins, breeches and hunting shirts. Nearly every man depended on his rifle for meat. There were a few elk on Beaver Creek when we went there in 1839 but I never saw any. My father saw 3 or 4 but he never got to kill one. He found several pair of elk horns in the woods which he brought home from time to time which measured 5 feet long. One day when I was just large enough to hunt I counted 90 deer in one bunch in sight of the present town of Ava. A year or two after this Simon Lakey said that he counted 83 deer in a herd near this same locality. A man can never be too careful when shooting at anything he takes for game. An over anxious hunter is liable to kill stock or a human even. One day I went to a pond on Beaver Creek and concealed myself behind a sycamore tree to watch for deer to come into the water to "moss". After a while I noticed some spicewood bushes shaking lightly and saw the glimpse of a brown colored object moving among them. Thinking it was a deer I took aim with my rifle and was in the act of pulling the trigger when I heard the object cough. At this my heart seemed to sink down lower in my chest for I knew now it was another hunter. I walked away without saying a word to him. I learned afterward that it was Jim Ellison who was wearing a brown hunting shirt of tanned buckskin and had come to the pond on the same errand I had. Though I have hunted many years yet I never met two bucks with their horns interlocked. But my father found two skeletons of deer once with their horns locked fast together. The bucks had met and fought and got their horns locked and not being able to pull themselves apart had perished from hunger and thirst. He brought the skulls and horns home and hung them on the gate post where they remained several years. On another occasion my father discovered two live bucks with their horns locked together. They were both almost starved to death. He killed both of them and saved their hides. There is some things that occurs in a hunters life that his recollections about it never fades. Some of these little incident do not amount to much, but there is one so vivid in my mind that I will tell it to you. One day while hunting on the site of where Arno now stands I saw a deer and shot it down and hurried up to it to cut its throat. After getting astride of the prostrate deer I placed the knife against its throat and cut into the flesh. When the deer quickly contracted itself into a knot followed by a sudden extention of its hind legs and kicked me just 14 feet. The kick and the jolt against the ground hurt me seriously and I was slow about getting up. The deer was in a dying condition and was dead in a few minutes more.
"Did I ever have the buck ague? Yes, I had a severe attack of it once, which happened to me on Cowskin Creek that flows into Beaver. I was passing over a ridge covered with black oak trees when I saw a buck coming toward me. The sight of his big horns made me feel nervous and I dropped down behind a log. When the deer got in 30 paces of where I was concealed behind the log it stopped and began to horn at a dead hickory bush. I took as accurate aim at the buck as possible and shot. But he never let on like he heard, felt or saw anything. I reloaded the gun and shot at him the second time. But the deer went on with its work of horning the bush. I reloaded and shot until I had shot at him twice more or 4 shots in all and never made the least impression on him. I was staggered with surprise at missing the deer and the boldness of the animal. It all seemed strange to me. The buck never even looked toward me. Very soon after I had shot the last time I was able to find out the cause of my bad shots for I was shaking like a leaf moved by a gentle breeze and knew I had the buck ague. The buck walked off and left me excited and shaking and as soon as I felt able to go I started too. Sometimes boys get to thinking they are really smart and know more than old people does. I had an experience of that kind myself once when I was young which taught me a good lesson. One day in 1842 Len Mosely come to our house to borrow a few loads of ammunition. He carried the longest rifle I ever saw. He had one dog with him which was red with fresh blood. I says, "Mr. Mosely, what makes your dog so bloody." He replied, that he had shot and broke the foreleg of a big black wolf about a mile back and the beast come near killing the dog, and having no more bullets he had come on to our house for more powder and balls. Father was not a home but mother loaned him all the ammunition he needed. Mosely said he left the wolf in a hazel thicket. Before starting back Mosely says to me, "Have you got a dog that can whip a wolf?" "Yes says I "Ive got a dog that can clean up any wolf on Beaver Creek or anywhere else." Of course this was boasting and Mosely looked at me in a way that I knew he did not believe a word I had said. But he said, "Take your dog and go back with me and I will try his mettle." When we arrived at the thicket the wolf was still there and my dog attacked him. Moselys dog would not take hold of the wolf for he had been whipped too well by the beast an hour or two previous. The fight between the wolf and my dog was fierce. Though the wolfs foreleg was almost shot in twain yet he was able to thresh my dog, and was getting the better of him fast. At that stage Mosely rushed up with his gun to shoot the wolf. I yelled, "Mosely, dont shoot. You will kill my dog." Mosel stopped and turned around and looked at me sternly and said, "Young man, you are too smart. Hold your tongue. Im running this boat." Of course I obeyed and Mosely shot the wolf through the neck and killed it." Mr. Eslick in mentioning another incident of killing wolves said, "I have told you that Jarriette Huffman was an early settler here. Jarriette had a brother, Jess Huffman, who lived in Indiana and wanted to come to Beaver Creek. Jarriette wrote to Jesse that when he come to bring dogs with him that was not afraid of wolves. Jesse in his reply that he owned two English bulldogs he called Brutus and Green that was not afraid to tackle anything. When Jesse come he brought these dogs with him. This was soon after my father located on Beaver, and we had brought with us a good bulldog. My grandfather Sam Eslick and the merchant Danforth refered to above were free masons and the latter gave the former a fine slut which was half blood hound and half "Tan" hound as we called it. Her name was Ring but she took an ailment one day and grandfather thinking she was going to die give her to me. I did not appreciate the gift of a dead dog very highly but as she had been a great favorite dog of grandfathers I said nothing. But to my gratification the dog took a turn for the better and soon fully recovered and proved to be as good as ever. One day after this an old wolf and 3 half grown wolves come along close to the house. Me and father mounted our horses and took this slut and the bulldog and chased the wolves up Beaver Creek and overhauled the three young wolves and killed and scalped them. But we chased the old one about 4 miles before we finally killed her. We saved her scalp and hide both. Father laid the wolfs hide across the forepart of his pack saddle and we started homeward, and went by where Jesse Huffman had recently located. His dogs had never had the opportunity since coming here to be tested as to their courage in fighting wolves. But as it happened while my father was conversing a few moments with Huffman his two dogs Brutus and Green come running out of the yard like they were going to eat our two dogs up. But when they ran up in a few feet of fathers horse they scented the wolf hide. They both wheeled at once and fled back to the cabin and under the floor, each with his tail dropped between his legs and yelping woo, woo, woo, as fast as they could utter it. Huffman tried to call them out from under the house but they would not offer to come out while we remained there. This is enough on the subject of wolves at present and I will tell you a bear story," said Uncle Zeke. "There were plenty of them in Douglas County when we went there. Father killed several and took much interest chasing and killing them, but none of these chases were exciting enough to be of much interest. But I remember that one wintry day John Eslick, an uncle of mine, went out afoot without a dog. He hunted in the neighborhood where we lived. He expected to kill a lot of deer, but he said after returning home that he could not find any deer. A snowstorm set in a short while after 12 oclock and he turned his course homeward. The snow was attended by a blizzard from the northwest as he was hurrying along and while passing near a low bluff on Beaver Creek, he saw a bear preparing its bed under a shelving rock. The animal was busily engaged raking sticks and leaves together with its paws. He was close to the bear before discovering it and Bruin did not appear to have observed him. As the snow was falling pretty thick my uncle said he ventured up a little closer in order to get a better view of its movements and watched the beast until it had completed its bed. Then it lay down on it. He now attempted to shoot it, but the gun was wet with snow and the powder in the priming pan was too damp to ignite and the gun refused to fire. Believing that the bear would stay there till next day he come on home. The cold increased until the following day was bitter cold. I and my brother Frank and my father and my grandfather Sam Eslick went back with uncle John and found Bruin enjoying his morning nap on the bed. We had 4 dogs with us, but we held them back until uncle John crept up near the bear and shot it which caused it to rise up and utter a loud squall. Then it ran down to the creek. Here the dogs attacked it and a fight occurred which lasted about 5 minutes. Then Bruin changed tactics by rising on his hind feet and knocked the dogs senseless with its paws. When the dogs recovered two of them left on quick time for home but the other two were fearless and kept the bear at bay until the hunters shot it twice more and killed it. The bear was very fat and weighed a little over 400 lbs dressed. We had a cold time taking it home."
Springfield-Greene County Library