A Fat Little Editor And Three Little Browns
Mount Sinai, Heart of the Sierras--this place is one mile east and a
little less than one mile perpendicular from the hot, dusty and dismal
little railroad town down on the rocky banks of the foaming and
tumbling Sacramento River. Some of the old miners are down there
still--still working on the desolate old rocky bars with rockers. They
have been there, some of them, for more than thirty years. A few of
them have little orchards, or vineyards, on the steep, overhanging
hills, but there is no home life, no white women to speak of, as yet.
The battered and gray old miners are poor, lonely and discouraged, but
they are honest, stout-hearted still, and of a much higher type than
those that hang about the towns. It is hot down on the river--too
hot, almost, to tell the truth. Even here under Mount Shasta, in her
sheets of eternal snow, the mercury is at par.
This Mount Sinai is not a town; it is a great spring of cold water
that leaps from the high, rocky front of a mountain which we have
located as a summer home in the Sierras--myself and a few other
scribes of California.
This is the great bear land. One of our party, a simple-hearted and
honest city editor, who was admitted into our little mountain colony
because of his boundless good nature and native goodness, had never
seen a bear before he came here. City editors do not, as a rule, ever
know much about bears. This little city editor is baldheaded,
bow-legged, plain to a degree. And maybe that is why he is so good.
"Give me fat men," said Caesar.
But give me plain men for good men, any time. Pretty women are to be
preferred; but pretty men? Bah! I must get on with the bear, however,
and make a long story a short story. We found our fat, bent-legged
editor from the city fairly broiling in the little railroad town, away
down at the bottom of the hill in the yellow golden fields of the
Sacramento; and he was so limp and so lazy that we had to lay hold of
him and get him out of the heat and up into the heart of the Sierras
by main force.
Only one hour of climbing and we got up to where the little mountain
streams come tumbling out of snow-banks on every side. The Sacramento,
away down below and almost under us, from here looks dwindled to a
brawling brook; a foamy white thread twisting about the boulders as
big as meeting houses, plunging forward, white with fear, as if glad
to get away--as if there was a bear back there where it came from. We
did not register. No, indeed. This place here on Square Creek, among
the clouds, where the water bursts in a torrent from the living rock,
we have named Mount Sinai. We own the whole place for one mile
square--the tall pine trees, the lovely pine-wood houses; all, all.
We proposed to hunt and fish, for food. But we had some bread, some
bacon, lots of coffee and sugar. And so, whipping out our hooks and
lines, we set off with the editor up a little mountain brook, and in
less than an hour were far up among the fields of eternal snow, and
finely loaded with trout.
What a bed of pine quills! What long and delicious cones for a camp
fire! Some of those sugar-pine cones are as long as your arm. One of
them alone will make a lofty pyramid of flame and illuminate the scene
for half a mile about. I threw myself on my back and kicked up my
heels. I kicked care square in the face. Oh, what freedom! How we
would rest after dinner here! Of course we could not all rest or sleep
at the same time. One of us would have to keep a pine cone burning all
the time. Bears are not very numerous out here; but the California
lion is both numerous and large here. The wild-cat, too, is no friend
to the tourist. But we were not tourists. The land was and is ours. We
would and all could defend our own.
The sun was going down. Glorious! The shades of night were coming up
out of the gorges below and audaciously pursuing the dying sun. Not a
sound. Not a sign of man or of beast. We were scattered all up and
down the hill.
Crash! Something came tearing down the creek through the brush! The
fat and simple-hearted editor, who had been dressing the homeopathic
dose of trout, which inexperience had marked as his own, sprang up
from the bank of the tumbling little stream above us and stood at his
full height. His stout little knees for the first time smote together.
I was a good way below him on the steep hillside. A brother editor was
slicing bacon on a piece of reversed pine bark close by.
"Fall down," I cried, "fall flat down on your face."
It was a small she bear, and she was very thin and very hungry, with
cubs at her heels, and she wanted that fat little city editor's fish.
I know it would take volumes to convince you that I really meant for
the bear to pass by him and come after me and my friend with both fish
and bacon, and so, with half a line, I assert this truth and pass on.
Nor was I in any peril in appropriating the little brown bear to
myself. Any man who knows what he is about is as safe with a bear on a
steep hillside as is the best bull-fighter in any arena. No bear can
keep his footing on a steep hillside, much less fight. And whenever an
Indian is in peril he always takes down hill till he comes to a steep
plane, and then lets the bear almost overtake him, when he suddenly
steps aside and either knifes the bear to the heart or lets the
open-mouthed beast go on down the hill, heels over head.
The fat editor turned his face toward me, and it was pale. "What! Lie
down and be eaten up while you lie there and kick up your heels and
enjoy yourself? Never. We will die together!" he shouted.
He started for me as fast as his short legs would allow. The bear
struck at him with her long, rattling claws. He landed far below me,
and when he got up he hardly knew where he was or what he was. His
clothes were in shreds, the back and bottom parts of them. The bear
caught at his trout and was gone in an instant back with her two
little cubs, and a moment later the little family had dined and was
away, over the hill. She was a cinnamon bear, not much bigger than a
big, yellow dog, and almost as lean and mean and hungry as any wolf
could possibly be. We helped our inexperienced little friend slowly
down to camp, forgetting all about the bacon and the fish till we came
to the little board house, where we had coffee. Of course the editor
could not go to the table now. He leaned, or rather sat, against a
pine, drank copious cups of coffee and watched the stars, while I
heaped up great piles of leaves and built a big fire, and so night
rolled by in all her starry splendor as the men slept soundly all
about beneath the lordly pines. But alas for the fat little editor; he
did not like the scenery, and he would not stay. We saw him to the
station on his way back to his little sanctum. He said he was
satisfied. He had seen the "bar." His last words were, as he pulled
himself close together in a modest corner in the car and smiled
feebly: "Say, boys, you won't let it get in the papers, will you?"
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