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Monnehan The Great Bear-hunter Of Oregon
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Treeing A Bear
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Monnehan The Great Bear-hunter Of Oregon
He wore a tall silk hat, the first one I had ever seen, not at all the
equipment of "a mighty hunter before the Lord;" but Phineas Monnehan,
Esq., late of some castle (I forget the name now), County of Cork,
Ireland, would have been quite another personage with another sort of
hat. And mighty pretension made he to great estates and titles at
home, but greatest of all his claims was that of "a mighty hunter."
Clearly he had been simply a schoolmaster at home, and had picked up
all his knowledge of wild beasts from books. He had very impressive
manners and had come to Oregon with an eye to political promotion, for
he more than once hinted to my quiet Quaker father, on whose
hospitality he had fastened himself, that he would not at all dislike
going to Congress, and would even consent to act as Governor of this
far-off and half-savage land known as Oregon. But, as observed a time
or two before, Monnehan most of all things desired the name and the
renown, like Nimrod, the builder of Babylon, of a "mighty hunter."
He had brought no firearms with him, nor was my father at all fond of
guns, but finally we three little boys, my brother John, two years
older than I, my brother James, two years younger, and myself, had a
gun between us. So with this gun, Monnehan, under his tall hat, a pipe
in his teeth and a tremendously heavy stick in his left hand would
wander about under the oaks, not too far away from the house, all the
working hours of the day. Not that he ever killed anything. In truth,
I do not now recall that he ever once fired off the gun. But he got
away from work, all the same, and a mighty hunter was Monnehan.
He carried this club and kept it swinging and sweeping in a
semi-circle along before him all the time because of the incredible
number of rattlesnakes that infested our portion of Oregon in those
early days. I shall never forget the terror in this brave stranger's
face when he first found out that all the grass on all our grounds was
literally alive with snakes. But he had found a good place to stay,
and he was not going to be driven out by snakes.
You see, we lived next to a mountain or steep stony hill known as
Rattlesnake Butte, and in the ledges of limestone rock here the
rattlesnakes hibernated by thousands. In the spring they would crawl
out of the cracks in the cliffs, and that was the beginning of the end
of rattlesnakes in Oregon. It was awful!
But he had a neighbor by the name of Wilkins, an old man now, and a
recent candidate for Governor of Oregon, who was equal to the
occasion. He sent back to the States and had some black, bristly,
razor-backed hogs brought out to Oregon. These hogs ate the
rattlesnakes. But we must get on with the bear story; for this man
Monnehan, who came to us the year the black, razor-backed hogs came,
was, as I may have said before, "a mighty hunter."
The great high hills back of our house, black and wild and woody, were
full of bear. There were several kinds of bear there in those days.
"How big is this ere brown bear, Squire?" asked Monnehan.
"Well," answered my father, "almost as big as a small sawmill when in
"Oi think Oi'll confine me operations, for this hunting sayson, to the
smaller spacies o' bear," said Mr. Monnehan, as he arose with a
thoughtful face and laid his pipe on the mantel-piece.
A few mornings later you would have thought, on looking at our porch,
that a very large negro from a very muddy place had been walking
bare-footed up and down the length of it. This was not a big bear by
the sign, only a small black cub; but we got the gun out, cleaned and
loaded it, and by high noon we three little boys, my father and
Monnehan, the mighty hunter, were on the track of that little black
bear. We had gone back up the narrow canyon with its one little clump
of dense woods that lay back of our house and reached up toward the
big black hills.
Monnehan took the gun and his big club and went along up and around
above the edge of the brush. My father took the pitchfork and my
younger brother James kept on the ridge above the brush on the other
side of the canyon, while my older brother John and myself were
directed to come on a little later, after Mr. Monnehan had got himself
in position to do his deadly work, and, if possible, drive the
terrible beast within range of his fatal rifle.
Slowly and cautiously my brother and I came on, beating the brush and
the tall rye grass. As we advanced up the canyon, Mr. Monnehan was
dimly visible on the high ridge to the right, and father now and then
was to be seen with little brother and his pitchfork to the left.
Suddenly there was such a shout as almost shook the walls of the
canyon about our ears. It was the voice of Monnehan calling from the
high ridge close above the clump of dense wood; and it was a wild and
a desperate and a continuous howl, too. At last we could make out
"Oi've thrade the bear! Oi've thrade the bear! Oi've thrade the bear!"
Down the steep walls came father like an avalanche, trailing his
pitchfork in one hand and half dragging little brother James with the
"Run, boys, run! right up the hill! He's got him treed, he's got him
treed! Keep around the bush and go right up the hill, fast as you can.
He's got him treed, he's got him treed! Hurrah for Monnehan, at last!
He's got him treed, he's got him treed!"
Out of breath from running, my father sat down at the foot of the
steep wall of the canyon below Monnehan and we boys clambered on up
the grassy slope like goats.
Meantime, Monnehan kept shouting wildly and fearfully as before. Such
lungs as Monnehan had! A mighty hunter was Monnehan. At last we got on
the ridge up among the scattering and storm-bent and low-boughed oaks;
breathless and nearly dead from exhaustion.
"Here, byes, here!"
We looked up the hill a little ahead of us from where the voice came,
and there, straddled across the leaning bough of a broad oak tree hung
Monnehan, the mighty hunter. His hat was on the ground underneath him,
his club was still in his daring hand, but his gun was in the grass a
hundred yards away.
"Here, boys, right up here. Come up here an' get a look at 'im!
Thot's vaght Oi got up 'ere fur, to get a good look at 'im! Right up
now, byes, an' get a good look at 'im! Look out fur me hat there!"
My brother hastily ran and got and handed me the gun and instantly was
up the tree along with Monnehan, peering forward and back, left and
right, everywhere. But no sign, no sound or scent of any bear
By this time my father had arrived with his pitchfork and a very tired
little boy. He sat down on the grass, and, wearily wiping his
forehead, he said to Monnehan,
"Mr. Monnehan, how big was the bear that you saw?"
"Well, now, Squire, upon the sowl o' me, he was fully the size of a
very extraordinary black dog," answered Mr. Monnehan, as he descended
and came and stood close to my father, as if to defend him with his
club. Father rose soon after and, with just the least tinge of
impatience and vexation in his voice, said to brother John and me,
"Boys, go up and around the thicket with your gun and beat the bush
down the canyon as you come down. Mr. Monnehan and I will drop down to
the bottom of the canyon here between the woods and the house and
catch him as he comes out."
Brother and I were greatly cheered at this; for it was evident that
father had faith that we would find the bear yet. And believing that
the fun was not over, we, tired as we were, bounded forward and on and
up and around the head of the canyon with swift feet and beating
hearts. Here we separated, and each taking a half of the dense copse
of wood and keeping within hailing distance, we hastily descended
through the steep tangle of grapevine, wild hops, wild gourdvines and
all sorts of things, shouting and yelling as we went. But no bear or
sign of bear as yet.
We were near the edge of the brush. I could see, from a little naked
hillock in the copse where I paused to take breath, my father with
his pitchfork standing close to the cow path below the brush, while a
little further away and a little closer to the house stood Mr.
Monnehan, club in hand and ready for the raging bear.
Suddenly I heard the brush break and crackle over in the direction of
my brother. I dropped on my knee and cocked my gun. I got a glimpse of
something black tearing through the brush like a streak, but did not
Then I heard my brother shout, and I thought I heard him laugh, too.
Just then there burst out of the thicket and on past my father and his
pitchfork a little black, razor-backed sow, followed by five black,
squealing pigs! Monnehan's bear!
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