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

active operation."



"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

these words:



"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

other.



"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

anywhere.



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

fire.



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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