Don Mariano did not shoot. "The Good Father," he said, "has given brains like that only to such of his children as have souls. I would not commit murder for the value of a pig. Besides, I casually noticed that I had miraculously forgotten to put caps on the gun. Nevertheless I cut away all the limbs from the tree on the side toward the corral, and I still have the old sow and one pig."
WHEN MONARCH WAS FREE.
For several years a large Grizzly roamed through the rugged mountain's in the northern part of Los Angeles county, raiding cattle ranges and bee ranches and occasionally falling afoul of a settler or prospector. He was at home on Mt. Gleason, but his forays took in Big Tejunga and extended for twenty or thirty miles along the range. Every settler knew the bear and had a name for him, and he went by as many aliases as a burglar in active practice. As his depredations ceased after the capture of Monarch in 1889, those who assert that Monarch was the wanderer of the Sierra Madre and Big Tejunga may be right, and some of the stories told about him may be true.
Jeff Martin, a cattleman, who lived in Antelope Valley, and drove his stock into the mountains in summer, had several meetings with the big bear, but never managed to get the best of him. When the Monarch didn't win, the fight was a draw. Jeff had an old buckskin horse that would follow a bear track as readily as a burro will follow a trail, and could be ridden up to within a few yards of the game. Jeff and the old buckskin met the Monarch on a trail and started a bear fight right away. The Monarch, somewhat surprised at the novel idea of a man disputing his right of way, stood upright and looked at Jeff, who raised his Winchester and began working the lever with great industry. Jeff was never known to lie extravagantly about a bear-fight, and when he told how he pumped sixteen forty-four calibre bullets smack into the Monarch's shaggy breast and never "fazed" him, nobody openly doubted Jeff's story.
He said the Monarch stood up and took the bombardment as nonchalantly as he would a fusilade from a pea-shooter, appearing to be only amazed at the cheek of the man and the buckskin horse. When Jeff's rifle was empty, he turned and spurred his horse back down the trail, followed by the bear, who kept up the chase about a mile and then disappeared in the brush. Jeff's theory was that the heavy mass of hair on the bear's breast effectually protected him from the bullets, which do not have great penetrating power when fired from a forty-four Winchester with a charge of only forty grains of powder.
About a week after that adventure the Monarch called at Martin's summer camp on Gleason Mountain to get some beef. It was about midnight when he climbed into the corral. The only beef in the corral that night was on the bones of a tough and ugly bull, and as soon as the Monarch dropped to the ground from the fence he got into trouble. The bull was spoiling for a fight, and he charged on the bear without waiting for the call of time, taking him amidships and bowling him over in the mud before the Monarch knew what was coming. Jeff was aroused by the disturbance and went over to see what was up. He saw two huge bulks charging around in the corral, banging up against the sides and making the dirt fly in all directions, and he heard the bellowing of the old bull and the hoarse growls of the bear. They were having a strenuous time all by themselves, and Jeff decided to let them fight it out in their own way without any interference. Returning to the cabin, he said to his son Jesse and an Indian who worked for him: "It's that d——d old Grizzly having a racket with the old bull, but I reckon the bull is old enough to take care of himself. We'll bar the door and let 'em go it."
So they barred the door and listened to the sounds of the battle. In less than a quarter of an hour the Monarch got a beautiful licking and concluded that he didn't want any beef for supper. The bull was tough, anyway, and he would rather make a light meal off the grub in the cabin. Jeff heard a great scratching and scrambling as the Monarch began climbing out of the corral. Then there was a roar and a rush, a heavy thud as the bull's forehead struck the Monarch's rear elevation, a growl of pain and surprise and the fall of half a ton or more of bear meat on the ground outside of the corral.
"I reckon the old bull has made that cuss lose his appetite," chuckled Jeff. "He won't come fooling around this ranch any more. I'll bet he's the sorest bear that ever wore hair."
The three men in the cabin were laughing and enjoying the triumph of the bull when "whang!" came something against the door, and they all jumped for their guns. It was the discomfited but not discouraged Monarch breaking into the cabin in search of his supper. With two or three blows of his ponderous paw the grizzly smashed the door to splinters, but as he poked his head in he met a volley from two rifles and a shotgun. He looked at Jeff reproachfully for the inhospitable reception, turned about and went away, more in sorrow than in anger.
Jeff Martin's next meeting with the Monarch was in the Big Tejunga. He and his son Jesse were hunting deer along the side of the canyon, when they saw a big bear in the brush about a hundred yards up the hill. Both fired at the same moment and one ball at least hit the bear. Uttering a roar of pain, the grizzly snapped viciously at his shoulder where the bullet struck, and as he turned his head he saw the two hunters, who then recognized the Monarch by his huge bulk and grizzled front. The Monarch came with a rush like an avalanche down the mountain side, breaking through the manzanita brush and smashing down young trees as easily as a man tramples down grass. His lowered head offered no fair mark for a bullet, and he came on with such speed that only a chance shot could have hit him anywhere. Jeff and his son Jess did not try any experiments of that kind, but dropped their rifles and shinned up a tree as fast as they could. They were none too rapid, as Jeff left a piece of one bootleg in the Monarch's possession. The Monarch was not a bear to fool away much time on a man up a tree, and as soon as he discovered that the hunters were out of reach he went away and disappeared in the brush. The two men came down, picked up their guns and decided to have another shot at the Monarch if they could find him. They knew better than to go into the brush after a bear, but they hunted cautiously about the edges for some time. They were sure that the Monarch was still in there, but they could not ascertain at what point. Jeff went around to windward of the brush patch and set fire to it, and then joined Jess on the leeward side to watch for the reappearance of the Monarch. The wind was blowing fresh up the canyon and the fire ran rapidly through the dry brush, making a thick smoke and great noise. When the Monarch came out he came rapidly and from an unexpected quarter, and the two hunters had just time enough to break for their tree again and get out of reach.
This time the Monarch did not leave them. He sat down at the foot of the tree and watched with malicious patience. The wind increased and the fire spread on all sides, and in a few minutes it became uncomfortably warm up the tree. The bear kept on the side of the tree opposite the advancing fire and waited for the men to come down. Jeff and Jess got a little protection from the heat by hugging the leeward side of the trunk, but it became evident that the tree would soon be in a blaze, and unless they jumped and ran within the next minute or two they would be surrounded by fire. They hoped that the Grizzly would weaken first, but he showed no signs of an intention to leave. When the flames began crawling up the windward side of the tree and the heat became unbearable, Jeff said:
"Jess, which would you rather take chances on, Grizzly or fire?"
"Dad, I think I'll chance the bear," replied Jess, covering his face with his arm.
"All right. When I say go, jump and run as though you were scooting through hell with a keg of powder under your arm."
Jeff and Jess crawled out on the limbs and swung by their hands for a moment, and at the word they dropped to the ground within ten feet of the bear and lit out like scared wolves. They broke right through the burning brush, getting their hair singed as they went. The bear started after them, but he was afraid to go through the fire, and while he was finding a way out of the circle of burning brush and timber, Jeff and Jess struck out down the mountain side, making about fifteen feet at a jump, and never stopped running until they got to the creek and out of the bear's sight.
HOW OLD PINTO DIED.
This is an incredible bear story, but it is true. George Gleason told it to a man who knew the bear so well that he thought the old Pinto Grizzly belonged to him and wore his brand, and as George is no bear hunter himself, but is a plain, ordinary, truthful person, there is not the slightest doubt that he related only the facts. George said some of the facts were incredible before he started in. He had never heard or read of such tenacity of life in any animal. But there are precedents, even if George never heard of them.
The vitality of the California Grizzly is astonishing, as many a man has sorrowful reason to know, and the tenacity of the Old Pinto's hold on life was remarkable, even among Grizzlies. This Pinto was a famous bear. His home was among the rocks and manzanita thickets of La Liebra Mountain, a limestone ridge southwest of Tehachepi that divides Gen. Beale's two ranches, Los Alamos y Agua Caliente and La Liebra, and his range was from Tejon Pass to San Emigdio. His regular occupation was killing Gen. Beale's cattle, and the slopes of the hills and the cienegas around Castac Lake were strewn with the bleached bones of his prey. For twenty years that solitary old bear had been monarch of all that Gen. Beale surveyed—to paraphrase President Lincoln's remark to Surveyor-General Beale himself—and wrought such devastation on the ranch that for years there had been a standing reward for his hide.
Men who had lived in the mountains and knew the old Pinto's infirmity of temper were wary about invading his domains, and not a vaquero could be induced to go afoot among the manzanita thickets of the limestone ridge. The man who thought he owned the Pinto followed his trail for two months many years ago and learned many things about him; among others that the track of his hind foot measured fourteen inches in length and nine inches in width; that the hair on his head and shoulders was nearly white; that he could break a steer's neck with a blow of his paw; that he feared neither man nor his works; that while he would invade a camp with leisurely indifference, he would not enter the stout oak-log traps constructed for his capture; and finally, that it would be suicide to meet him on the trail with anything less efficient than a Gatling gun.
Old Juan, the vaquero, who lived in a cabin on the flat below the alkaline pool called Castac Lake, was filled with a fear of Pinto that was akin to superstition. He told how the bear had followed him home and besieged him all night in the cabin, and he would walk five miles to catch a horse to ride two miles in the hills. To him old Pinto was "mucho diablo," and a shivering terror made his eyes roll and his voice break in trembling whispers when he talked of the bear while riding along the cattle trails.
Once upon a time an ambitious sportsman of San Francisco, who wanted to kill something bigger than a duck and more ferocious than a jackrabbit, read about Pinto and persuaded himself that he was bear-hunter enough to tackle the old fellow. He went to Fort Tejon, hired a guide and made an expedition to the Castac. The guide took the hunter to Spike-buck Spring, which is at the head of a ravine under the limestone ridge, and showed to him the footprints of a big bear in the mud and along the bear trail that crosses the spring. One glance at the track of Pinto's foot was sufficient to dispel all the dime-novel day dreams of the sportsman and start a readjustment of his plan of campaign. After gazing at that foot-print, the slaying of a Grizzly by "one well-directed shot" from the "unerring rifle" was a feat that lost its beautiful simplicity and assumed heroic proportions. The man from San Francisco had intended to find the bear's trail, follow it on foot, overtake or meet the Grizzly and kill him in his tracks, after the manner of the intrepid hunters that he had read about, but he sat down on a log and debated the matter with the guide. That old-timer would not volunteer advice, but when it was asked he gave it, and he told the man from San Francisco that if he wanted to tackle a Grizzly all by his lonely self, his best plan would be to stake out a calf, climb a tree and wait for the bear to come along in the night.
So the man built a platform in the tree, about ten feet from the ground, staked out a calf, climbed up to the platform and waited. The bear came along and killed the calf, and the man in the tree saw the lethal blow, heard the bones crack and changed his plan again. He laid himself prone upon the platform, held his breath and hoped fervently that his heart would not thump loudly enough to attract the bear's intention. The bear ate his fill of the quivering veal, and then reared on his haunches to survey the surroundings. The man from San Francisco solemnly assured the guide in the morning, when he got back to camp, that when Pinto sat up he actually looked down on that platform and could have walked over to the tree and picked him off like a ripe persimmon, and he thanked heaven devoutly that it did not come into Pinto's head that that would be a good thing to do. So the man from San Francisco broke camp and went home with some new and valuable ideas about hunting Grizzlies, chief of which was the very clear idea that he did not care for the sport.
This is the sort of bear Old Pinto was, eminently entitled to the name that Lewis and dark applied to his tribe—Ursus Ferox. Of course he was called "Old Clubfoot" and "Reelfoot" by people who did not know him, just as every big Grizzly has been called in California since the clubfooted-bear myth became part of the folk lore of the Golden State, but his feet were all sound and whole. The Clubfoot legend is another story and has nothing to do with the big bear of the Castac.
Pinto was a "bravo" and a killer, a solitary, cross-grained, crusty-tempered old outlaw of the range. What he would or might do under any circumstances could not be predicated upon the basis of what another one of his species had done under similar circumstances. The man who generalizes the conduct of the Grizzly is liable to serious error, for the Grizzly's individuality is strong and his disposition various. Because one Grizzly scuttled into the brush at the sight of a man, it does not follow that another Grizzly will behave similarly. The other Grizzly's education may have been different. One bear lives in a region infested only by small game, such as rabbits, wood-mice, ants and grubs, and when he cannot get a meal by turning over flat rocks or stripping the bark from a decaying tree, he digs roots for a living. He is not accustomed to battle and he is not a killer, and he may be timorous in the presence of man. Another Grizzly haunts the cattle or sheep ranges and is accustomed to seeing men and beasts flee before him for their lives. He lives by the strong arm, takes what he wants like a robber baron, and has sublime confidence in his own strength, courage and agility. He has killed bulls in single combat, evaded the charge of the cow whose calf he has caught, stampeded sheep and their herders. He is almost exclusively carnivorous and consequently fierce. Such a bear yields the trail to nothing that lives. That is why Old Pinto was a bad bear.
So long as Pinto remained in his dominions and confined his maraudings to the cattle ranges, he was reasonably safe from the hunters and perfectly safe from the settler and his strychnine bottle, but for some reasons of his own he changed his habits and his diet and strayed over to San Emigdio for mutton. Perhaps, as he advanced in years, the bear found it more difficult to catch cattle, and having discovered a band of sheep and found it not only easy to kill what he needed, but great fun to charge about in the band and slay right and left in pure wanton ferocity, he took up the trade of sheep butcher. For two or three years he followed the flocks in their summer grazing over the vast, spraddling mesas of Pine Mountain, and made a general nuisance of himself in the camps. There have been other bears on Pine Mountain, and the San Emigdio flocks have been harassed there regularly, but no such bold marauder as Old Pinto ever struck the range. Other bears made their forays in the night and hid in the ravines during the day, but Pinto strolled into the camps at all hours, charged the flocks when they were grazing and stampeded Haggin and Carr's merinos all over the mountains.
The herders, mostly Mexicans, Basques and Portuguese, found it heart-breaking to gather the sheep after Pinto had scattered them, and moreover they were mortally afraid of the big Grizzly and took to roosting on platforms in the trees instead of sleeping in their tents at night. Worse than all else, the bear killed their dogs. The men were instructed by the boss of the camp to let the bear alone and keep out of his way, as they were hired to herd sheep and not to fight bears, but the dogs could not be made to understand such instructions and persisted in trying to protect their woolly wards.
The owners were accustomed to losing a few hundred sheep on Pine Mountain every summer, and figured the loss in the fixed charges, but when Pinto joined the ursine band that followed the flocks for a living, the loss became serious and worried the majordomo at the home camp. So another reward was offered for the Grizzly's scalp and the herders were instructed to notify the Harris boys at San Emigdio whenever the bear raided their flocks.
Here is where Gleason's part of the story begins. The bear attacked a band of sheep one afternoon, killed four and stampeded the Mexican herder, who ran down the mountain to the camp of the Harris boys, good hunters who had been engaged by the majordomo to do up Old Pinto. Two of the Harris boys and another man went up to the scene of the raid, carrying their rifles, blankets and some boards with which to construct a platform. They selected a pine tree and built a platform across the lower limbs about twenty feet from the ground. When the platform was nearly completed, two of the men left the tree and went to where they had dropped their blankets and guns, about a hundred yards away. One picked up the blankets and the other took the three rifles and started back toward the tree, where the third man was still tinkering the platform.
The sun had set, but it was still twilight, and none of the party dreamed of seeing the bear at that time, but within forty yards of the tree sat Old Pinto, his head cocked to one side, watching the man in the tree with much evident interest. Pinto had returned to his muttons, but found the proceedings of the man up the tree so interesting that he was letting his supper wait.
The man carrying the blankets dropped them and seized a heavy express rifle that some Englishman had left in the country. The other man dropped the extra gun and swung a Winchester 45-70 to his shoulder. The express cracked first, and the hollow-pointed ball struck Pinto under the shoulder. The 45-70 bullet struck a little lower and made havoc of the bear's liver. The shock knocked the bear off his pins, but he recovered and ran into a thicket of scrub oak. The thicket was impenetrable to a man, and there was no man present who wanted to penetrate it in the wake of a wounded Grizzly.
The hunters returned to their camp, and early next morning they came back up the mountain with three experienced and judicious dogs. They had hunted bears enough to know that Pinto would be very sore and ill-tempered by that time, and being men of discretion as well as valor, they had no notion of trying to follow the dogs through the scrub oak brush. Amateur hunters might have sent the dogs into the brush and remained on the edge of the thicket to await developments, thereby involving themselves in difficulties, but these old professionals promptly shinned up tall trees when the dogs struck the trail. The dogs roused the bear in less than two minutes, and there was tumult in the scrub oak. Whenever the men in the trees caught a glimpse of the Grizzly they fired at him, and the thud of a bullet usually was followed by yells and fierce growlings, for the hear is a natural sort of a beast and always bawls when he is hurt very badly. There is no affectation about a Grizzly, and he never represses the instinctive expression of his feelings. Probably that is why Bret Harte calls him "coward of heroic size," but Bret never was very intimately acquainted with a marauding old ruffian of the range.
The hunters in the trees made body shots mostly. Twice during the imbroglio in the brush the bear sat up and exposed his head and the men fired at it, but as he kept wrangling with the dogs, they thought they missed. This is the strange part of the story, for some of the bullets passed through the bear's head and did not knock him out. One Winchester bullet entered an eye-socket and traversed the skull diagonally, passing through the forward part of the brain. A Grizzly's brain-pan is long and narrow, and a bullet entering the eye from directly in front will not touch it. Wherefore it is not good policy to shoot at the eye of a charging Grizzly. Usually it is equally futile to attempt to reach his brain with a shot between the eyes, unless the head be in such a position that the bullet will strike the skull at a right angle, for the bone protecting the brain in front is from two and a half to three inches thick, and will turn the ordinary soft bullet. One of the men did get a square shot from his perch at Pinto's forehead, and the 45-70-450 bullet smashed his skull.
The shot that ended the row struck at the "butt" of the Grizzly's ear and passed through the base of the brain, snuffing out the light of his marvelous vitality like a candle.
Then the hunters came down from their roosts, cut their way into the thicket and examined the dead giant. Counting the two shots fired the night before, one of which had nearly destroyed a lung, there were eleven bullet holes in the bear, and his skull was so shattered that the head could not be saved for mounting. Only two or three bullets bad lodged in the body, the others having passed through, making large, ragged wounds and tearing the internal organs all to pieces.
The skin, which weighed over one hundred pounds, was taken to Bakersfield, and the meat that had not been spoiled by bullets was cut up and sold to butchers and others. Estimating the total weight from the portions that were actually tested on the scales, the butchers figured that Pinto weighed 1100 pounds. The 1800 and 2000-pound bears have all been weighed by the fancy of the men who killed them, and the farther away they have been from the scales the more they have weighed.
There is no other case on record of a bear that continued fighting with a smashed skull and pulped brains, although possibly such cases may have occurred and never found their way into print. Gleason saw Old Pinto shortly after the fight and examined the head, and there is no reason to doubt his description of the effect of the bullets.
THREE IN A BOAT.
The Cascade Mountains in Oregon and Washington Territory are full of bears, and as the inhabitants seldom hunt them, the animals are disposed to be sociable and neighborly and wander about close to the settlements. Harry Dumont and Rube Fields had a very sociable evening with a black bear at the Upper Cascades on the Columbia some years ago. They were crossing in a boat above the falls, when Dumont, sitting in the stern, pointed out what he said was a deer, swimming the river, about a hundred yards away. Rube bent to the oars and pulled towards the head that could just be seen on the water, intending to give Dumont a chance to knock the deer on the skull with a paddle and tow the venison ashore. When the bow of the boat ran alongside the head the supposed deer reached up, caught hold of the boat and clambered aboard without ceremony. It was a black bear of ordinary size, but it was large enough to make two men think twice before attacking it with oars. The bear quietly settled himself on the seat in the bow of the boat and looked apprehensively at the men, who were so astonished that they did not know whether to jump overboard or prepare for a fight. As the bear made no hostile movement they decided not to pick a quarrel. The boat meanwhile had drifted down stream and got into swift water, and Rube Fields saw that he must row for all he was worth to avoid going over the falls, which would be sure death. The bear seemed to realize the danger and acted as though he was uncertain whether it were better to stay aboard or take to the water again.
"Pull! pull for the shore!" urged Dumont, in a hoarse whisper, and Rube bent to the oars with all his muscle, glancing nervously over his shoulder at the silent passenger in the bow. The bear kept one eye suspiciously on the men and the other on the distant shore, and gave every indication of great perturbation of spirit. It was a hard pull to get the heavily-laden boat out of the current, but Rube finally accomplished it and rowed into safer water. He hoped that the bear would slide overboard and abandon the boat, as it made him nervous to have such a passenger behind him, and it was awkward rowing with his head turned over his shoulder all the time. He suggested to Dumont that they make a rush for the bear and pitch him out, but Dumont declined and told him to pull ashore as fast as he could. Rube pulled, and as soon as the boat's prow grated on the sand, the bear made a hasty and awkward plunge over the side, scrambled up the bank with his head cocked over his shoulder to see if there was any pursuit, and galloped away into the woods in evident fear.
Rube Fields wiped the perspiration from his brow with his forearm and fervently said, "Thank the Lord!"
Dumont gazed after the galloping bear and murmured, "Wellibedam!"
A PROVIDENTIAL PROSPECT HOLE.
One-eyed Zeke, who hunted for a living along Owen River, in Inyo County, Cal., in the early seventies, claimed to have a method of killing bears that might be effective if a man had nerve enough to work it and a gun that never missed fire. He carried a revolver and a heavy double-barrelled shotgun, but never a rifle, and when he saw a Grizzly he said he opened on him with the six-shooter and plugged him often enough to leave the bear in no doubt as to the source of the annoyance. Standing in plain view with the heavily-loaded shotgun ready, he awaited the charge, and at close quarters turned loose both barrels into the bear's chest.
That sounds like a plausible scheme. The heavy charges of shot at close range smash the Grizzly's interior works in a deplorable manner and he dies right away. But only a few men have the nerve to face a big ugly bear in full charge and reserve fire until he is within two yards of the muzzle of the gun. One-eyed Zeke and a celebrated hunter of the Bad Lands are the only men I have known who professed to have acquired the habit of hunting the Grizzly in such a fashion, and the celebrated Bad Lands ranchman did his killing with a rifle and always shot for the eye, which was the more remarkable because he was very near-sighted and wore eyeglasses.
Zeke once met a bear in the mountains near Owen Lake and played his customary game, but not with complete success. By some extraordinary bad luck both cartridges in his gun had defective primers, and when he pulled the triggers he was very much pained and disappointed by the absence of the usual loud report. It was a critical moment for Zeke. It took him the thousandth part of a second to grasp the situation and spring desperately to the right. Another small fraction of a second was consumed in his unexpected descent to the bottom of an old prospect hole that was overgrown with brush and had escaped his notice.
Probably that was the only prospect hole in that part of the Sierra Nevada, and it must have been dug by some half-cracked Forty-niner like Marshall, who prospected all the way from Yuma to the Columbia. Zeke vows it was dug by Providence.
The sudden and unaccountable disappearance of the man with a gun surprised the bear, and he had thrown himself forward and plunged into the chaparral several yards before he began to catch on to the fact that Zeke was not before him. As soon as Zeke struck bottom, he looked up to see if the bear was coming down too, and then he removed the bad cartridges and quickly inserted two more in his gun. He knew the bear would smell him out very soon.
In half a minute the bear's snout appeared at the top of the hole. It disappeared and was at once replaced by the bear's hind legs. Caleb was coming down stern foremost after the noxious person who had fired bullets at him. As the bear scrambled down, Zeke aimed just under his shoulder and sent two handsful of buckshot careering through his vitals in a diagonal line. The wound was almost instantly fatal, and the bear came down in a heap at the bottom of the hole, which was about ten or twelve feet deep.
The excitement being over, Zeke realized that he had been injured in the fall, and that standing up was painful. He sat down on the bear to rest and reflect, and to induce reflection he took out his pipe and lighted it. The flare of the match lighted up the prospect hole, and Zeke was interested on seeing a good-sized rattlesnake lying dead under his feet, its head crushed by his boot heel. He had landed on the snake when he fell in the hole, and the slipping of his foot sprained the ankle.
Zeke had a hard time climbing out of the prospect hole and getting back to camp, but he got there and sent some men up to hoist the bear to the surface. The Grizzly's weight was estimated to be 900 pounds, and it grew every time Zeke told the story until the last time I heard it, when it was just short of a ton.
* * * * *
Zeke's bear-killing exploits with a scatter gun may be classed with the "important if true" information of the newspapers, but there is at least one authentic instance of the killing of a grizzly with a charge of bird shot.
Dr. H. W. Nelson, who was in later years a prominent surgeon of Sacramento, practiced medicine in Placer county, Cal., in the early fifties and was something of a sportsman. He was out quail shooting one day with a double shotgun and was making his way up a ravine in a narrow trail much choked with chaparral, when some men on the hill above him shouted to him that a wounded bear was coming down the ravine and warned him to get out of the way. The sides of the ravine were too steep to be climbed, and the noise made by the bear breaking the brush told him that it was too late to attempt to escape by running. So the doctor cocked his gun, backed into the chaparral as far as he could and hoped the bear might pass him without seeing him.
In another moment the Grizzly broke through the brush with a full head of steam directly at the doctor, and the bear's snout was within three feet of the muzzle of the gun when the doctor instinctively pulled both triggers. The two charges of small shot followed the nasal passage and caved in the front of the bear's skull, killing him instantly, but the animal's momentum carried him forward, and he and the doctor went down together. The doctor suffered no injury from the bear's teeth or claws, but was bruised by the shock of the collision and the fall.
KILLED WITH A BOWIE.
The favorite weapon of the bear hunter of the old time Wild West story book was the bowie, and doughty deeds he used to do with it in hand-to-claw encounters with monstrous Grizzlies.
It was the fashion in those days for bears to stand erect and wrestle catch-as-catch-can, trying to get the under-hold and hug the hunter to death, and the hunter invariably stepped in and plunged his bowie to the hilt in the heart of his foe. But the breed of Grizzly that hugged and the type of hunter who slew with the knife became extinct so long ago that no specimens can be found in these days.
I have known many bear slayers, but never one who would say that he ever did or would deliberately attack a Grizzly with a knife, or that he should expect to survive if forced to defend himself with such a weapon. Neither did I ever hear of a Grizzly that tried to kill a man by hugging him.
The only case of successful use of the bowie in defence against a Grizzly that seemed to be well authenticated, among all the stories I heard from hunters, was that of Jim Wilburns' fight in Trinity. Wilburn was a noted hunter and mountaineer of Long Ridge, and he had the scars to show for proof of the story. His left arm was crippled, the hand curled up like a claw, and the end of a broken bone made an ugly knob on his wrist. On his scalp were two deep scars extending from his forehead almost to the nape of his neck.
Wilburn had chased a big Grizzly into the brush and was unable to coax him out where he could get a shot at the beast. An Indian offered to go in and prospect for bear, and disappeared in the thicket. His search was successful, but perhaps it was a question whether he found the bear or the bear found him. The Indian came out of the thicket at a sprinting gait with the bear a good second, and they came so suddenly that even Jim Wilburn was taken by surprise. In two more jumps the bear would have been on top of the Indian, but Jim sprang between them, rifle in hand.
Before he could fire, the weapon was wrenched from his hands and broken like a reed. He grabbed his pistol, and that was knocked out of his hand in a jiffy. Then the bear closed on him and both went down, the bear on top. The first thing the bear did was to try to swallow Jim's head, but it was a large head and made more than a mouthful. The bear's long upper teeth slipped along the skull, ploughing great furrows in Jim's scalp, while the lower teeth lacerated his face.
Before the bear could make another grab at his head, Jim thrust his left fist down the animal's throat and kept it there while the Grizzly chewed his arm into pulp. Meanwhile he had got hold of his big knife and plunged it into the bear's side with all his strength. Again he tried to stab his enemy, but the knife did not penetrate the hide, and he discovered that in the first thrust the knife had struck a rib and the point was turned up.
The bear clawed and chawed, and Jim felt around for the wound he had made first. When he found it he thrust the knife in and worked it around in a very disquieting way. In the struggle the knife slipped out of the hole several times, and once Jim lost it, but he persistently searched for the hole when he recovered the knife and prospected for the bear's vitals.
At last he worked the blade well into the Grizzly's interior and made such havoc by turning it around that the brute gave up the fight and rolled over dead, with Jim's mangled left arm in his jaws.
It was a tough fight and a close call and old Jim was laid up in his cabin for many a day afterward.
A DENFUL OF GRIZZLIES.
A man from San Gabriel Canyon came into Los Angeles and told bear stories to the Professor and the Professor told them to other people. The main point of the man's tale was that he had found a den inhabited by two Grizzlies of great size and fierce aspect. He had seen the bears and was mightily afraid of them, and he wanted somebody to go up there and exterminate them so that he might work his mining claim unmolested and unafraid. The Professor, being guileless and confiding, believed the tale, and he tried to oblige the bear-haunted miner by promoting an expedition of extermination. Seventeen men replied to his overtures with the original remark that they "Hadn't lost any bears." Since 1620 that has been the standard bear joke of the North American continent, and its immortality proves that it was the funniest thing that ever was said.
At last the Professor found a man who did not know the joke, and that man straightway consented to go to the rescue of the bear-beleaguered denizen of San Gabriel Canyon. He and three others went into the mountains with guns loaded for bear, which was an error of judgment—they should have been loaded for the tellers of bear tales. An expedition properly outfitted to hunt bear liars rather than bear lairs could load a four-horse wagon with game in the San Gabriel Canyon.
Old Bill, who had lived in the canyon many years, sorrowfully admitted that the canyon's reputation for harboring persons of unimpeachable veracity was not what it should be. The man-who-was-afraid-of-bears could not be depended upon to give bed-rock facts about bears, but he, Old Bill, was a well of truth in that line and had some good horses and burros to let to bear hunters. He, Old Bill, had killed many bears in the canyon, but had left enough to provide entertainment for other hunters. His last bear killing was heaps of fun. He ran across three in a bunch, shot one, drowned another in the creek, and jumped upon the third, and "just stomped him to death." As for the man up the creek, who pretended to have found a den of bears, he had been telling that story for so many years that he probably believed it, but nobody else did. The man up the creek had the nerve to pretend that his favorite pastime was fighting Grizzlies with a butcher knife, and anybody acquainted with bears ought to size up that sort of a man easy enough, said Old Bill.
The man up the creek, the original locator of the denful of Grizzlies, had his opinion of Old Bill as a slayer of bears. It was notorious in the canyon that the only bear Old Bill ever saw was a fifty-pound cub that stole a string of trout from under Bill's nose, waded the creek and went away while Old Bill was throwing his gun into the brush and hitching frantically along a fallen spruce under the impression that he was climbing a tree. As for himself, he was getting too old and rheumatic to hunt, but he had had a little sport with bears in his time. He recalled with especial glee a little incident of ten or a dozen years ago. He had been over on the Iron Fork hunting for a stray mule, and he was coming back through the canyon after dark. It was darker than a stack of black cats in the canyon, and when he bumped up against a bear in the trail he couldn't see to get in his favorite knife play—a slash to the left and a back-handed cut to the right, severing the tendons of both front paws—and so he made a lunge for general results, and then shinned up a sycamore tree. To his great surprise he heard the bear scrambling up the tree behind him, and he crawled around to the other side of the trunk and straddled a big branch in the fork, where he could get a firm seat and have the free use of his right arm. He could just make out the dark bulk of the bear as the beast crawled clumsily up the slanting trunk in front of him, and as the bear's left arm came around and clasped the trunk, he chopped at it with his heavy knife. The bear roared with pain. Instantly he lunged furiously at the bear's body just under the arm pit, driving the knife to the hilt two or three times, and with a moan the beast let go all holds and fell heavily to the ground.
For a minute all was silent. Then the growling began again, and he heard the scratching of claws upon the tree. In another moment the dark bulk of the bear appeared again in front of him, and again he drove the knife to the hilt into his body and felt the hot blood spurt over his hand. Clawing, scratching and yelling, the bear slid back down the tree and bumped heavily on the ground, but in a moment resumed the attack and climbed the tree as quickly as if he were fresh and unwounded.
The man up the tree was puzzled to account for such remarkable vitality and perseverance, but he braced himself for the combat, and at the proper moment chopped viciously at the bear's forearm and felt the blade sink into the bone. This time he got in three good hard lunges under the arm, and when the bear fell "ker-flop" he had no doubt that the fight was ended.
But there never was another such bear as that one. It wasn't a minute before the whole thing had to be done over again, and the man up the tree varied the performance by reaching around and giving the bear a whack in the neck that nearly cut his head off. This sort of thing was repeated at intervals for two or three hours, but at last the attacks ceased, and all was still at the foot of the tree. The man was weary, and to tell the truth a little rattled. He did not deem it wise to come off his perch and take any chance of trouble on the ground, so he strapped himself to the branch with his belt and fell asleep.
It was gray dawn when he awoke. He rubbed his eyes and looked down at the ground. Then he rubbed them again and pinched himself and glanced around at the rocks and trees to make sure that he was not in a trance. He said to himself, being a reader of the poets, "Can such things be, or is visions about?"
It was no dream and the man up the canyon said it was no lie. Lying about the foot of the sycamore were nine dead bears, weltering in their gore.
Which explains why the Don and the Colonel and the rest of the expedition of extermination returned forthwith to Los Angeles without having seen a bear. There are no more bears. The man up the canyon killed them all years ago.