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Monnehan The Great Bear-hunter Of Oregon
Treeing A Bear
Away back in the "fifties" bears were as numerous on the banks of the
Willamette River, in Oregon, as are hogs in the hickory woods of
Kentucky in nut time, and that is saying that bears were mighty plenty
in Oregon about forty years ago.
You see, after the missionaries established their great cattle ranches
in Oregon and gathered the Indians from the wilderness and set them to
work and fed them on beef and bread, the bears had it all their own
way, till they literally overran the land. And this gave a great
chance for sport to the sons of missionaries and the sons of new
settlers "where rolls the Oregon."
And it was not perilous sport, either, for the grizzly was rarely
encountered here. His home was further to the south. Neither was the
large and clumsy cinnamon bear abundant on the banks of the beautiful
Willamette in those dear old days, when you might ride from sun to
sun, belly deep in wild flowers, and never see a house. But the small
black bear, as indicated before, was on deck in great force, at all
times and in nearly all places.
It was the custom in those days for boys to take this bear with the
lasso, usually on horseback.
We would ride along close to the dense woods that grew by the river
bank, and, getting between him and his base of retreat, would, as soon
as we sighted a bear feeding out in the open plain, swing our lassos
and charge him with whoop and yell. His habit of rearing up and
standing erect and looking about to see what was the matter made him
an easy prey to the lasso. And then the fun of taking him home through
the long, strong grass!
As a rule, he did not show fight when once in the toils of the lasso;
but in a few hours, making the best of the situation like a little
philosopher, he would lead along like a dog.
There were, of course, exceptions to this exemplary conduct.
On one occasion particularly, Ed Parish, the son of a celebrated
missionary, came near losing his life by counting too confidently on
the docility of a bear which he had taken with a lasso and was leading
His bear suddenly stopped, stood up and began to haul in the rope,
hand over hand, just like a sailor. And as the other end of the rope
was fastened tightly to the big Spanish pommel of the saddle, why of
course the distance between the bear and the horse soon grew
perilously short, and Ed Parish slid from his horse's back and took to
the brush, leaving horse and bear to fight it out as best they could.
When he came back, with some boys to help him, the horse was dead and
the bear was gone, having cut the rope with his teeth.
After having lost his horse in this way, poor little Ed Parish had to
do his hunting on foot, and, as my people were immigrants and very
poor, why we, that is my brother and I, were on foot also. This kept
us three boys together a great deal, and many a peculiar adventure we
had in those dear days "when all the world was young."
Ed Parish was nearly always the hero of our achievements, for he was a
bold, enterprising fellow, who feared nothing at all. In fact, he
finally lost his life from his very great love of adventure. But this
is too sad to tell now, and we must be content with the story about
how he treed a bear for the present.
We three boys had gone bear hunting up a wooded canyon near his
father's ranch late one warm summer afternoon. Ed had a gun, but, as I
said before, my people were very poor, so neither brother nor I as
yet had any other arms or implements than the inseparable lasso.
Ed, who was always the captain in such cases, chose the center of the
dense, deep canyon for himself, and, putting my brother on the
hillside to his right and myself on the hillside to his left, ordered
a simultaneous "Forward march."
After a time we heard him shoot. Then we heard him shout. Then there
was a long silence.
Then suddenly, high and wild, his voice rang out through the tree tops
down in the deep canyon.
"Come down! Come quick! I've treed a bear! Come and help me catch him;
come quick! Oh, Moses! come quick, and--and--and catch him!"
My brother came tearing down the steep hill on his side of the canyon
as I descended from my side. We got down about the same time, but the
trees in their dense foliage, together with the compact underbrush,
concealed everything. We could see neither bear nor boy.
This Oregon is a damp country, warm and wet; nearly always moist and
humid, and so the trees are covered with moss. Long, gray, sweeping
moss swings from the broad, drooping boughs of fir and pine and cedar
and nearly every bit of sunlight is shut out in these canyons from one
year's end to the other. And it rains here nearly half of the year;
and then these densely wooded canyons are as dark as caverns. I know
of nothing so grandly gloomy as these dense Oregon woods in this long
I laid my ear to the ground after I got a glimpse of my brother on the
other side of the canyon, but could hear nothing at all but the
beating of my heart.
Suddenly there was a wild yell away up in the dense boughs of a big
mossy maple tree that leaned over toward my side of the canyon. I
looked and looked with eagerness, but could see nothing whatever.
Then again came the yell from the top of the big leaning maple. Then
there was a moment of silence, and then the cry: "Oh, Moses! Why don't
you come, I say, and help me catch him?" By this time I could see the
leaves rustling. And I could see the boy rustling, too.
And just behind him was a bear. He had treed the bear, sure enough!
My eyes gradually grew accustomed to the gloom and density, and I now
saw the red mouth of the bear amid the green foliage high overhead.
The bear had already pulled off one of Ed's boots and was about making
a bootjack of his big red mouth for the other.
"Why don't you come on, I say, and help me catch him?"
He kicked at the bear, and at the same time hitched himself a little
further along up the leaning trunk, and in doing so kicked his
remaining boot into the bear's mouth.
"Oh, Moses, Moses! Why don't you come? I've got a bear, I tell you."
"Where is it, Ed?" shouted my brother on the other side.
But Ed did not tell him, for he had not yet got his foot from the
bear's mouth, and was now too busy to do anything else but yell and
cry "Oh, Moses!"
Then my brother and I shouted out to Ed at the same time. This gave
him great courage. He said something like "Confound you!" to the bear,
and getting his foot loose without losing the boot he kicked the bear
right on the nose. This brought things to a standstill. Ed hitched
along a little higher up, and as the leaning trunk of the tree was
already bending under his own and the bear's weight, the infuriated
brute did not seem disposed to go further. Besides, as he had been
mortally wounded, he was probably growing too weak to do much now.
My brother got to the bottom of the canyon and brought Ed's gun to
where I stood. But, as we had no powder or bullets, and as Ed could
not get them to us, even if he would have been willing to risk our
shooting at the bear, it was hard to decide what to do. It was already
dusk and we could not stay there all night.
"Boys," shouted Ed, at last, as he steadied himself in the forks of a
leaning and overhanging bough, "I'm going to come down on my laz rope.
There, take that end of it, tie your laz ropes to it and scramble up
We obeyed him to the letter, and as we did so, he fastened his lasso
firmly to the leaning bough and descended like a spider to where we
had stood a moment before. We all scrambled up out of the canyon
together and as quickly as possible.
When we went back next day to get our ropes we found the bear dead
near the root of the old mossy maple. The skin was a splendid one, and
Ed insisted that my brother and I should have it, and we gladly
My brother, who was older and wiser than I, said that he made us take
the skin so that we would not be disposed to tell how he had "treed a
bear." But I trust not, for he was a very generous-hearted fellow.
Anyhow, we never told the story while he lived.
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