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Bears and Girls and Fence Rails

 


As Told By “Uncle Jim Biggs to Claude H. Thurman


[From The Weekly Democrat-Gazette, McKinney, Texas, February 8, 1934.]

When our honored friend, Mr. Rudyard Kipling remarked that the female of the species is more vicious than the male, he could have had no reference to any phase of character of this story, for I am quite sure that he was not acquainted with any one of the men or women who took part in the unique adventure of killing a bear with fence rails....but to the story....

It happened fifty years ago this June. [1884]

Levi MUNCY, brother of “Uncle” Bill and “Uncle” Sam MUNCY, with John WATSON, son-in-law of “Uncle” B?ly HERRON, was in the field on that particular hot day in June, fifty years ago, busily engaged in the annual job of hauling in sheaf oats to be stored for winter stock feed. They were working just east of HERRON’s Branch and through the Jim BIGGS’ farm north of Celina. They had been talking desultorily as John pitched the yellow dusty bundles from the ground to the top of the growing load, where Levi placed them, so as to make a well-formed cube. They had spoken of “early days” of wild game that used to infest those parts, of prospective weddings..... finally, being hot, they spoke of the cool grove that stood so invitingly near. As they spoke of the grove, they instinctively glanced in the direction of the green trees. What they saw almost made their eyes pop out and did cause a thrill of excitement, not to say fear, to course up and down their spines. For out of the grove with perfect nonchalance, walked a real bear. The big animal was headed east, and would have to pass close to the men.

Levi’s sporting blood was immediately stirred, but with all his boldness, he was discreet. He felt that he should have allies in so important a venture as butchering a bear in an oat field on a hot June day. He accordingly turned excitedly to John and exclaimed:

“John, you stay here and watch that critter, and I’ll take one of the horses and go fetch the dogs. Ned, John, Old Doc and Drive’ll get ‘em.”

Slipping the harness from one of the horses and leaping upon its back, Levi was off after the dogs. Presently he returned with Old Doc and Drive, two large beasts, and a small fice dog, which, like the barber’s pig, was more fuss than hate. At once the dogs, followed at a safe distance by the two men, gave chase to the bear, which became excited and finally jumped into a pool of muddy water, situated a mile or so east of the point where it had emerged from the grove. Here the dogs attacked him.

Apparently, Bruin did not fancy such arrogant and forward interference with his well-laid plans so he proceeded to make short work of the two large dogs by slapping them over in the water several times, until they were wet and entirely used up; then he made a concentrated attack upon the fice, which was still jumping upon the bank and barking in a wildly ferocious manner. One well-aimed slap finished him, sending him hurtling among a group of curious men and women, who had foregathered around the pool to view the uneven fight. The fice breathed twice and passed out, a martyr to the hunt.

Seeing the sad fate of the dogs, and foreseeing a like fate for themselves, the crowd of men and women stood politely aside and permitted the bear to pass unmolested and to walk calmly into a field of maturing corn, which came down almost to the edge of the pool. The animal disappeared and the crowd dispersed.

Now it seems that when bears have had a dip in the muddy water of a country pool, and have been slightly irritated by bold men and bolder dogs, they naturally long for rest and peace. In any event, such seemed to be the case with this particular bruin. So he made the mistake so commonly made by bears and other philosophers, to paraphrase Hardy of thinking he could bring about peace simply by letting other people alone. According he sought the apparent privacy and security of the corn rows, little thinking that an ignominious demise awaited his Lordship. But alas and alack, such was the trend of fate at that very moment.

For no sooner had he lain himself down in the cool shade of a clup of cornstalks intertwined with morning glory vines, and fallen into a soft slumber, and begun dreaming, no doubt, of wild honey, than a bevy of young girls, armed with rails, taken hurriedly from a worm fence that extended along the field, descended upon him. A flutter of feminine cries, a rustle of gingham skirts, a few rapid blows, and Bruin had departed to that far-off delectable Mountain where all good bears go when killed in such a humiliatory manner.

The fair and young bear-killers, Misses Sue, Mary, Florence, and Gennie CALLAHAM, reported their quarry to the neighboring men, who bravely skinned the beast and distributed the meat to about forty families. Levi invited Jim BIGGS, to take dinner with him the next day. They had bear meat. Perhaps Kipling is right. At any rate, in this instance, the female is shown to be bolder than the male.

END