A WILD BEAR AND TWO BOYS DRINK WATER TOGETHER
By S. C. Turnbo
Mrs. Sally Anderson, wife of Arch Anderson, told some interesting reminiscences regarding life here In the early history of upper White River which include the customs and manners of the settlers and thrilling scenes and adventures with wild beast. She said that there were so many strange things and curious incidents occurred that if they had all been collected together and printed it would have been entertaining reading matter.
Mrs. Andersons maiden name was Miller. At the age of 15 she married Gid Brown, who was 15 years her senior. They lived a few years at the mouth of Buffalo. Then went up to Little North Fork and were living there when Brown was killed on the right hand fork of Big Creek by a pedler in 1839. Shortly after Browns death the widow married Ben Risley and they lived a number of years near the present site of Theodosia. After the death of Risley she married Arch Anderson and lived many years on the Pine Flat near Dodd City, Ark. Here among the majestic pine trees Uncle Arch and Aunt Sally passed many happy hours together. Their kind hearts and steadfast friendship for neighbors made them many friends, but the old pioneers had to part as others had done before them, for the angel of death visited their humble home and took away Aunt Sally. it was hard for Uncle Arch to have to give up his dear old companion but yield he must and he resigned himself to the great power above who loves the ones that love him. The parting was sad indeed. She wanted her mortal remains to rest in the cemetery opposite the Panther Bottom and the mourning family and friends followed the hearse from the residence to White River where she was laid to rest according to her request. Her death occurred in 1884.
Miss Catherine Risley, daughter of Mrs. Anderson, was born on Little North Fork in 1843. She gives an account as told by her mother about two little boys meeting a bear one day under peculiar circumstances. Miss Catherine said she had heard her mother speak of the incident repeatedly when she was a little girl and when she was grown.
And this is the way she related it. "About the year 1810 my grandparents, whose names were Miller, settled in the vicinity of mouth of Buffalo. A family named Brown had preceded them there and both families lived near neighbors.
Mr. Brown and his wife had two small boys named Lewis and Gid. There were no mills there then nor any inducements to build any. The settlers brought their necessary supplies from Batesville which was the nearest trading post. The manner of transportation was in canoes or on pack horses. These supplies consisted of corn, coffee and salt. The corn was pounded in mortars and converted into bread. Plenty of meat and honey were obtained from the forest. Before any land was put in cultivation the settlers were often compelled to do without bread for weeks at a time before they could procure another supply. Some used dried venison as a substitute for bread till corn could be obtained.
The boys just mentioned usually wore garbs prepared from bear skins. It was arranged so that one hide answered for coat, pants and cap. When dressed in this strange raiment the boys much resembled cub bears.
Brown lived in a cabin which stood on the bank of the river and when the water was low these merry children would play and frolic on the gravel bar. It was just the spot for little boys to while away their time, running and romping together. In the fall of the year when the weather admitted they passed many happy hours here. When they wearied of play they would pick up muscle shells and curious shaped pebbles. One day when they were some distance from the house they had become weary of running races on the bar and sit down to rest near the bank. They were both thirsty for water and after resting a few minutes they rose and ran to the river and lay down to drink at the edge of the water.
They were only a few feet apart and before either one had quenched his thirst they heard something approach. Without rising each turned his head and was horrified to see a full grown bear within a few yards of them coming right up to where they lay. Though it was a critical moment, yet the boys did not jump to their feet nor scream but they whispered to each other to lay perfectly quiet which they did.
Bruin walked up between them and putting his nose down to the water smelled twice then proceeded to drink his fill. After raising his head he stood and looked at first one boy and then the other for a minute or more. Then he smelled over one and the other until it seemed his curiosity was satisfied.
To say that the boys were scared is putting it mildly but however they managed to control themselves and act the possom until Bruin turned around slowly and walked back across the bar the way he come. As he was leaving the boys watched him until he passed from view, then leaping up they both sped for the house and told their mother of their adventure.
Their mother informed them that they both looked so much like bears that when the bear saw them he took them for cubs and took the occasion to show his familiarity. This same Gid Brown, one of the little boys, was my mothers first husband and she learned the story from him," said Miss Catherine Risley.
Springfield-Greene County Library