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The Last of the California Rangers (1928) by Jill L. Cossley-Batt


XX
GRIZZLY EXPERIENCES

Every old-timer has some thrilling hunting experience to relate, and there is nothing so stimulating as a good story of an encounter with a grizzly. Captain Howard had a few narrow escapes from the grizzly’s claws of steel; but his bear stories were inclined to be humorous rather than thrilling, and the episodes that follow are of interest mainly as revealing another side of his character. They show that he enjoyed playing a joke on a greenhorn.

Following the completion of the surveying contract, General and Mrs. Connor went to Stockton, while Captain Howard went to Fort Tejon, where he was the guest of Edward Beale. A certain doctor from Stockton was also spending a few days at the Beale residence, and he expressed a wish to take part in a grizzly hunt. Beale supplied the physician with a mule for the trip, while Howard rode his faithful thoroughbred. Arrangements were made for a Mexican named Josť to accompany them, and when all was ready they set out for Bear Canyon, in full expectation of some real sport.

After traveling for seven hours they reached the canyon, and William’s keen eyes spotted a large male bear standing on his hind legs in the bush. Quickly dismounting, he handed his bridle reins to Josť, saying, “I’ll approach him near enough to shoot, and when I fire, you bring my horse.”

At the crack of the rifle he whirled around to get his horse, but to his horror saw the two men, who were still mounted, running away with the faithful creature. Fortunately, the bear was badly wounded, which gave the marksman a chance to escape, and while running, he at length prevailed upon the frightened Mexican to bring his horse.

Once again in the saddle, William and his fellow sportsmen walked their animals until another grizzly was seen in the act of running up a hill. This time they all discharged their guns without dismounting, but did not kill it.

Another thirty minutes’ ride brought them into a beautiful open country, which was covered with wild oats, where a bear was busy eating off the heads.

“Do you see it?” said William to the doctor. “I have to get down and shoot, and for heaven’s sake, bring me my horse when I fire.”

As soon as he fired, the doctor ran again, and Josť followed with the faithful mare. Presuming that Josť had obeyed the physician’s orders, William became very angry and fired close to his head. This frightened both of them so much that they suddenly stopped. Then he shouted, “Bring my horse, or I’ll take a little better aim next time.”

The bear slunk away with an injured back, so when safely mounted again William went closer and put another bullet through the animal, which finished her outright. Then, cutting off a foot, he carried it behind his back as he approached the physician, who was sitting on his mule several yards away. When the doctor asked for the coveted trophy, William, instead of handing it to him, held it under the mule’s nose. This caused the animal to buck and run away, leaving the physician in a sitting posture on the earth.

While Josť was riding after the mule, William assisted the doctor to his feet, and after ascertaining that he was not hurt, offered to exchange mounts. The physician was at a loss to comprehend the antics of the mule, not having seen William place the bear’s foot under its nose.

Josť soon recovered the animal, and this relieved the doctor’s anxiety, altho the fall had made him so nervous that he refused to mount it again. He had lost all interest in grizzly hunting, and was easily persuaded to exchange animals. All three soon returned to Fort Tejon, and when Beale asked the doctor how he had enjoyed the hunt, he turned the conversation by saying, “I must get back to Stockton.”

William volunteered to go with him, so early next morning they saddled their horses and made for the Stockton road. Twenty miles of fast traveling brought them to White River, where they decided to spend the night with their friends, Mr. and Mrs. Goodhill.

Antelope hunting was William’s bright suggestion the next morning, but to this proposition the doctor strongly objected; all that he wanted was a good swim. An unpleasant climb through bush and brier brought him to the river, and while he was reveling in the cool water, William hid his clothes. On coming out of the river, the physician searched for the hidden garments until his body was burnt and blistered; then, in a state of exhaustion, he entered a corral near the house. When his shouting had attracted Mrs. Goodhill’s attention, he said to her, “Bring me some clothes; the Indians have stolen everything.”

Mr. Goodhill was a much larger man than the doctor; therefore, when the good housewife pushed some of her husband’s clothes through the cracks of the corral, the poor naked victim had a terrible time endeavoring to make them fit.

At twelve o’clock, when William returned from antelope hunting, the sunburned and perturbed doctor whispered to him, “Oh, Howard, the Indians have stolen all my clothes.”

“Come and show me where you put them,” Howard replied, “and I will go after the Indians.”

In the meantime the culprit had brought the garments from their hiding place; therefore the search was a short one, and it was not many moments before he called to the doctor: “Why, here are your clothes!”

“My, my! just where I put them!” answered the victim. Delighted at recovering his garments, he continued: “Why, Howard, you’re the greatest man that ever lived.”

A few days after this hunting expedition Captain Howard was standing by the side of the Tuolumne River, when on the opposite bank he saw three Indians, one on foot and two on horseback, driving a male bear. Suddenly he heard the report of a gun and saw the bear slash one of the Indians with its terrible claws. Realizing the poor fellow’s sufferings, he threw off his coat and swam across the river, holding his pistol in his right hand high above his head. As he ran up the bank, the bear, on seeing him, left its victim lying on the ground. The Indian’s arm was broken and a part of his tongue and several of his teeth were missing. William shot the bear in the neck, but the revolver bullet only aroused the animal’s anger to greater intensity, and it made a rush for him. However, owing to the fact that a bear cannot run on the side of a slanting hill, he had the advantage and continued to shoot.

While this battle was taking place, one of the Indians had gone across the river for William’s horse and gun, but in the meantime the grizzly disappeared. It did not take him long to mount, and then with rifle in hand he pursued the bear in the direction of a large oak tree. Old Bruin hid behind the tree until he was overtaken, when he rushed out and frightened the horse. William then commenced shooting from horseback, and the twelfth shot finished the bear.



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Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management

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