"A Mad Bear Runs Over Two Hunters Leaping Astride of a Bears Back"

By S. C. Turnbo

Excerpt from The Turnbo Manuscripts (volume 6)

Among the earliest residents of Marion County, Arkansas, was Dave Stinnette, who come to White River about 1810 and lived a short time at the mouth of Big North Fork then come further up this stream and occupied the bottom near where old Tolberts ferry was established. Mr. Stinnette married Elizabeth, daughter of Bill Wood, and the couple finally lived on the farm 1 ¾ miles west of Yellville. This farm lies on the east side of Crooked Creek and is on the main wagon road that leads from Yellville to Harrison. The log house occupied by Stinnette and his wife is yet standing. The present owner of this land is Bill Wilkerson, who with the help of his industrious wife, is enjoying life on this old time farm. Stinnette and his wife died here and both are resting in the old cemetery at Yellville. "Ice", a son of Dave Stinnette, was sheriff of Marion County 8 years and was serving in that capacity when the war broke out. Ice and Ben Stinnette, another son of Dave Stinnette, told some interesting items of early days in Marion County. Ice said that part of Shawneetown was in the Crooked Creek bottom below the present site of Yellville. The first cabin built by a white man was in what is now the lower part of town. He said that Isaac Dial took possession of the Indian village after the red men were ordered away by Thomas Culp, and that Jess Everette owned the claim for awhile where the main part of Yellville now stands. Ice Stinnette before his death often entertained his friends with stories of bygone days when the country was over run with fat bear, ferocious panther and ravenous wolves. One afternoon in December, 1867, while on my way home from Augusta, Arkansas, I learned that Ice Stinnete was sick and I stopped to see him. He was living on the river near the crossing at Tolberts ferry. Though bedfast but he was cheerful and took a deep interest in conversing about the early settlers and their experiences with wild beast. Among the rest he told a bear story that his father participated in once on Buffalo. He said that his father in company with Josh Minyard went to that stream on prolonged hunt. Of course they killed more than one fat bear, but I will pass that over and relate an exciting experience they had with a bear one day while out on that trip. The dogs had encountered Bruin which was a big fat fellow in a very rough place and routed him out and the animal soon took refuge in a cave nearby. The hunters with torch and guns went into the cavern to hunt and slay his bearship. Leaving the dogs on the outside to keep guard if the beast should come out, the men were cautious and went along slow and looked into every pocket and offshoot for Bruin. After a tedious search they discovered him some distance back in the cavern. The animal was not in a pleasant humor and did not relish the thought of being hemmed in a place where his human enemies had the advantage over him, and with a sudden rush he charged upon the hunters to make his escape from the cavern. A scared bear does not stop to show good manners nor has respect of persons when he starts out of a cave. So it was in this case and the animal was so quick about it that the men had no time to dodge out of his way. The beast hurled himself against the front man and knocked him a somersault and did likewise to the other fellow. The guns flew from their hands and the fuel of the torch was scattered and the two bruised hunters were groaning with pain in total darkness, but really they were more scared than hurt for soon after the infuriated bear passed on they picked themselves up and groped their way out and heard the dogs barking vigorously about ¼ of a mile away. Knowing by this that the dogs had pursued the bear and put it up a tree they hastily prepared another torch and went back into the cave and recovered the guns and went on and shot the bear," said Uncle Ice.

As we close this story we are reminded of another one as told me by Frank Woods who said that "away back in the early history of Marion County hunters met with many perils with bear on the chase and in caves but for all this," said Mr. Woods, "the old timers enjoyed much fun together. Camp hunting was a common practice among the famed hunters as well as among those of less prominence. It was nothing unusual for a lot of fellows to go into the hills or to some stream of water with dogs and guns and camp equipage and be absent a week or more and as a rule when they returned home their pack horses were loaded with wild meat and hides. Ever now then quite a lively stir would happen on a camp hunt which the participants would never tire of telling. I recollect hearing my father tell repeatedly of being on a camp hunt with John Churchman and others on Music Creek once. Churchman was a son of old Jake Churchman and was known to court danger on the chase when it was not necessary. "We were gone several days," said father, "and loaded our horses to "the gourds" with a fresh supply of bear meat. While we were camping on this rough stream we shot and wounded a bear that the dogs soon chased into a sink hole or deep swag with steep banks. There were enough room in the bottom of the hole to give the dogs a little play while they were fighting the beast. When we reached the swag and looked into it the dogs were baying the bear. Churchman wanted to shoot Bruin first and passed down the steep bank which surrounded the sink hole and halted just over the bear’s back and rested against a small sapling and pushed the muzzle of his rifle down toward the bear to shoot it in the back. In doing so the man reached too far and over balanced his weight and was precipitated onto the enraged animal’s back. The man was stout and active and as he started to fall he let go his gun and with a dexterous movement he alighted astride of Bruin and caught the beast’s left ear with his left hand. The sudden onslaught and the weight of Churchman’s body made his bearship stagger for a few seconds. But after recovering from the shock he made a desperate resistance against being broke to ride and leaped, plunged and reared to rid himself of his human burden. Then he wriggled and twisted his body into different shapes and did his utmost to bite the hunter. But Churchman held on the tighter for he knew if Bruin succeeded in throwing him off his back the enrage brute would either kill or maim him for life. The dogs were thick in the affray, but Bruin heeded them not for he was giving all his attention now to the man. No doubt this was the liveliest hunting scene that ever happened on this noted stream. We horrified spectators stood dumbfounded while this was going on. We had lost our presence of mind for when we saw the man fall we expected every moment to see him mangled by the infuriated beast. But recovering from our fright we started to rush down to save the life of our friend. But before we could render him assistance Churchman jerked his long keen bladed hunting knife from the scabbard with his right hand and buried the blade into the body of the bear and it sank down in the agony of death and Churchman left the struggling beast and without taking time to pick up his gun got out of that swag in a hurry. When the excitement had quieted down and while we were taking the dead bear out of the sink, Churchman remarked, "Boys, I had much rather be mounted on the worst bucking mule I ever saw than undertake to break another bear to ride."
June 26, 1902

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