Black Bear

Editor's Note: This is an ongoing series which runs each Thursday morning titled the Richland Chronicles Volume 2, by author Paul Lintern. It is set in the summer of 1831 and tells the story of Richland County through the eyes of young people. This is the second in a three-book trilogy. Volume 1 was Amelia Changes Her Tune.

The boys were happy to see the reserve, to tell everyone about their visits, about what they saw and learned.

Wolf Paw held a clinic with his bow and arrow, while Isaac practiced running and loading, but not firing, his musket.

It seemed awkward, and he kept dropping the musketball or cloth, and using his ramrod to push the ball down the barrel was a much bigger challenge for someone his height than for a tall man such as Simon Kenton. Still, by the end of the day, he was getting the hang of it.

“Let's chase you through the woods and see how good you are at that,” Francis said.

“Only if you'll let me shoot at you,” Isaac said.

Both thought better of the idea.

As the day drew to a close, the friends were sitting around a fire. Mathew Mudeater had joined them, along with his sister Taressa, as well as the Marys and young John Wesley Grey-Eyes, who sat next to his sister Margaret. She was sitting next (and, Isaac noticed, very closely) to David Young.

Wolf Paw was sitting across the fire and would not even look at Margaret and David. That's okay, I wouldn't want to look at Eliza and Anthony, if they were here, Isaac thought. Then it occurred to him that they weren't here.

Where are they?

Matthew told stories about his recent canoe trip to Lake Erie and the way Sandusky is growing into a big port. He bragged about his upcoming trip to the Kansas territory where the new Wyandot reserve was, and said he would bring back a pile of bison skins for the winter.

Wolf Paw and Isaac had decided, with Francis and Matthew, to go hunting the next day, hoping to have a deer for the neighbors for supper. Deer are most active at dusk and dawn, and so the four were out before dawn. They split up in pairs and headed north into the woods, with Wolf Paw and Isaac walking toward the river to look for deer paths.

They found some prints and a bedding place, but no deer. They waited a time by what they thought was a path, but saw nothing. Wolf Paw, much more patient as a hunter, was willing to wait at the path, but Isaac could not stand it.

“You can wait here, but I'm going farther up the river,” he said. “Who knows, maybe I'll find some ginseng, too.”

“Then at least scare the deer toward me and not away from me,” Wolf Paw whispered.

Isaac nodded and crept away, noticing that he could see some parts of the river, because dawn was coming. He could see outlines of trees and realized the time of opportunity would soon close, as deer bedded down to sleep through the day.

He picked up his pace, walking quickly along the banks, until he stopped at once. A small rustling in the bush not 20 feet from him had halted him. He slowly raised his musket and waited, trying not to breathe hard. If a deer is in there, it wouldn't be making all that noise; something bigger is in there. Something that doesn't care if anyone else hears it.

What is it?

No sooner had Isaac thought that, than his question was answered. A huge black bear, as tall on all fours as Isaac was standing on two, burst out of the bushes and stared Isaac faceto-face, growling angrily and taking deliberate steps toward him.

Isaac had been told not to turn and run from a bear, not to make sudden moves or sounds. He also had been told that moving slowly away from a bear would not attract attention. He also had heard that bears do not attack, unless provoked. But right now, he had no idea what was the right thing to do; who ever knows what a bear is thinking?

Instead, Simon Kenton's words came to him. Aim small and hit small. Aim big and miss big. Isaac slowly raised his musket, which to him now weighed a ton. He slowly started backing away, step by small backward step. Maybe if I just inch away…

But suddenly, the bear growled and lunged toward him. Isaac fired his musket out of shock, the ball hitting the bear on a shoulder, slowing him for a moment, long enough for Isaac to start running, aware that the bear was coming after him. Run and load your weapon. You can do this. One step at a time.

Isaac tried to hear Simon's voice, his instructions. He tried not to listen to the growls of the bear or his footsteps. Powder, paper, ball, rod, turn, fire. Isaac had gone several yards, yet the bear was still as close as ever. Aim small. He saw the eyes, aimed between them and  fired.

Again the bear stopped, for a moment. The second ball had grazed the top of the head, embedding in back of the thick neck. Still the bear came.

Run, powder, paper, ball, rod, turn, fire. Again, the bear was close, but not as close. Aim small.

The next ball struck the bear in the head. It stopped him dead in his tracks, not a growl, not a step, not a sound. Except the sound of Isaac breathing hard. He quickly loaded his musket again, then realized the bear was not moving. He sat down and wondered what to do next.

A moment later he heard footsteps behind him and turned around, his gun pointed toward the sound. It was Wolf Paw.

Isaac breathed out in relief, lowered his musket and saw nothing as Wolf Paw stopped, looked past Isaac toward the bear, then let out a piercing whoop, a war cry, a sound of victory that drew Matthew and Francis to the site. Francis ran back to the village to get help, as it took eight men to carry the beast in, hanging upside down from a thick branch, legs tied together on the top.

The rest of the day was spent by Grandmother and others skinning the fur, collecting the meat and preparing various parts for the delicacies and clothing they could provide.

Isaac was happy to tell the story to whoever would listen, and his friends were bragging about the accomplishment. None of them had ever killed a bear.

That night, around the campfire, Matthew was saying that it is time for Isaac to have a Wyandot name.

“Like yours?” Isaac asked.

Matthew smiled. “We all have Wyandot names, but most often we use English names or the English way of saying our names.”

“I think he should be 'Shoots while running away,'” Wolf Paw said.

“How about 'Rides a green horse?'” Eliza asked.

“Maybe “Third shot hits mark,” Francis suggested.

Matthew held up his hand.

“Your name will be 'Anue cuh quon doo roo.' 'Bears fear him.'”

“Isaac David Baughman Anue cuh quon doo roo Zeiters. I like that,” Isaac said.

Support Our Journalism

History is about understanding where we’ve been. A membership with the Source supports where we’re going. Help us tell your story in the present.