A Bear-Hunt in the Sierras by Alden Sampson

1895

A few years ago, a friend and I were cruising for our amusement in California, with outfit of our own, consisting of three pack horses, two saddle animals, tent and camp furnishings. We had started from Los Angeles; had explored various out-of-the-way passes and valleys in the San Bernardino and San Rafael Mountains, taking care the while to keep our camp supplied with game; had killed deer and exceptionally fine antelope in the hills adjoining the Mojave Desert; had crossed the San Joaquin Valley and visited the Yosemite, where the good fortune of finding the Half Dome, with the Anderson rope, carried away by ice, gave us the opportunity for one delicious climb in replacing it.

Returning to Fresno, we had sold our ponies and ended our five months' jaunt. My friend had gone East, and I had accepted the invitation of a member of the Union Club in San Francisco, to whom I bore a letter of introduction, to accompany him upon a bear-hunt in the Sierras. He explained to me that the limited extent of his ranch in the San Joaquin Valley—a meager and restricted demesne of only 7,000 acres, consisting of splendid pasturage and arable land—made it necessary for the sheep to look elsewhere than at home for sustenance during the summer months.

Many of the great ranches in the valley possessed prescriptive rights to pasturage over vast tracts in the high Sierras. These, although not recognized by the law, were at least ignored, and were sanctioned by custom. The land belonged to nobody—that is, it belonged to Uncle Sam, which, so far as a Texas or California stockman was concerned, amounted to exactly the same thing. The owner of such a right to pasturage zealously maintained his claim; and if, for any reason, he could not use it himself during a particular season, he formally gave his consent to some one else to enjoy the privilege in his stead. It was considered a gross violation of etiquette for a stockman to trespass upon that portion of the forest habitually used by other sheep. Such intrusions did occur, particularly upon the part of Mexicans with small flocks—"tramp sheep" they were called; but when the intruder was shot, small sympathy accompanied him to the grave, and the deep damnation of his taking off, in more senses than one, served as a salutary reminder to other gentlemen with discourteous tendencies to maraud. The consequence of all this was that a big ranchman spoke of his summer range with the same sense of proprietorship and security of possession as of his alfalfa field or pits of ensilage.

We arrived at my friend's ranch in the evening, and the next morning but one were in the saddle and on our way—it having been arranged that the younger brother of my host was to take his place upon the hunt. As we were to arrive at the sheep-herders' camps on the fourth day from the ranch, no elaborate preparations were necessary; we took but a single animal for the pack, besides the horses we rode. A Mexican herder, Leonard, was the third member of the party—cook, packer, guide, general storehouse of information and jest. The first night we camped in the foot hills, in a grove of big-cone pines, curiously enough in the exact place where, a fortnight before, my friend Proctor and I had pitched our tent on the way from the Yosemite to Fresno, and which we had left without the slightest expectation, on the part of either, of ever seeing again.

Little of the journey to the mountains remains in my memory. We passed a great timber chute of astonishing length—twenty or forty miles, or something of the sort—down which timber is floated from the great pine and spruce forests to the railroad, with little trouble and at slight expense; the water being of commercial value for purposes of irrigation during the summer, and bringing a good price after it has fulfilled its special function as carrier. The drinking water for my friend's ranch was taken from this, a supply being drawn in the cool of the morning sufficient to last throughout the day, and most grateful we found it during sultry August days in a part of the country where ice is not to be procured.

Each of the four days of our journey we were climbing higher among the mountains, into a thinner and more invigorating atmosphere. The days were hot so long as one remained exposed to the sun, but the shadows were cool and the nights most refreshing. Upon the last morning of our journey, crossing a mountain creek, my attention was called to a rude bridge, where had occurred a battle of the ranchmen upon the occasion of an attempted entry by a "tramp" owner with his flock into somebody's "summer range." The intruder was killed, and I believe in this particular instance the possessor of the unwritten right of exclusive pasturage upon Government land found the laws of California awkward to deal with; not so deadly, it may be, as a six-shooter, but expensive and discouraging to quiet pastoral methods.

Another point of interest was Rattlesnake Rock, which we rounded upon the trail. This was a spot peculiarly sheltered and favored by the winds, the warmest corner that snakes wot of, and here they assemble for their winter's sleep. In the mild days of early spring, when the rest of the world is still frozen and forbidden, this one little nook, catching all the sun, is thawed and genial. From beneath the ledge crawl forth into the warmth great store of rattlers, big and little. Coming out from the Yosemite Valley, I had killed one quite four feet in length and of exactly the same girth as my wrist, which I was assured was not at all an extraordinary size for them "in these parts." Near this rock, in an unfeeling manner, I shot the head off another big one, and he will no longer attend the yearly meeting of his kind at Rattlesnake Rock.

Upon this stage of our journey we met no one, yet the noble forest of spruce through which we were traveling bore only too plainly the signs of man's presence in the past, and of his injurious disregard of the future. Everywhere were the traces of fire. The trees of the Sierras, at the elevation at which we were, an altitude of 8,000 or 10,000 feet, grow more sparsely than in any forest to which we are accustomed in the East. Their dry and unimpeded spaces seem like heaven to the hunter familiar only with the tangled and perplexing undergrowth of the "North Woods," where the midday shadow, the thick underbrush, the uneven and wet, mossy surface, except upon some remote hardwood ridge, are the unvarying characteristics. In the Rocky Mountains, and that part of the Sierras with which I am familiar, it is quite different. In California the trees do not crowd and jostle one another, but have regard for the sacredness of the person so far as the mutual relation of one and all are concerned. Broad patches of sunshine beneath the trees encourage the growth of rich grasses, none so sweet as those which are found at a great altitude; and, although the prevailing tint under foot is that of the reddish earth, tufts of succulent feed abound sufficient to repay the sheep for cruising everywhere, while occasional glades furnish the most delicious and abundant pasturage. As in every forest, the processes of nature are slow—it takes a long time for the dead past to bury its dead. On every side lie fallen trees; and a generation of rain and snow, sunshine and wind and tempest, must elapse before these are rotted away, and by the enrichment of the soil can furnish nourishment and life to their progeny and successors. Naturally these trees are a hindrance and annoyance to the sheep herder; they separate his flock and greatly increase his labors. The land is not even his master's, whose one idea is temporary gain, hence there is no restraining influence whatever for their preservation. "So long as it lasts my lifetime, what matter?" is the prevailing sentiment.

As there is no rain during the summer months, the fallen trees become perfectly dry; a handful of lighted twigs is all that is required to set fire to them, when they blaze or smoulder until consumed. Owing to the absence of underbrush, forest fires are far less common than would be expected; but, of course, the soil is impoverished by the deprivation of its natural enrichment, the decaying wood, and the centuries to come will there, as well nigh everywhere in our country, point the finger of scorn at our spendthrift forestry.

Although this is the chief economic injury, the beauty of the woods is sadly marred; all large game is frightened away, except the bear, which is half human and half hog in his methods, and minds it not at all—in fact, finds the presence of man perfectly intelligible, and his fat flocks a substantial addition to his own bill of fare. Leonard pointed out to us a certain mountain shrub, a rank poison to sheep. Every cluster of it in his range is known to the herder, who keeps the sheep in his charge at a safe distance. This is one of his important duties; for, if a sheep eats of this plant, he is a "goner."

In one particular the pasturage of the high Sierras has greatly suffered. The ranchmen naturally wish to get their sheep off the home range as early in the spring as possible—in fact, the last month there is one of starvation. The new crops have not yet grown, nothing remains standing of the old but a few dead stalks of weeds, the supply of alfalfa cut the year before has long since been exhausted, and, metaphorically speaking, the sheep and cattle have to dine, as the hungry Indian is said to do, by tightening his belt half a dozen holes and thinking of what he had to eat week before last. Only the weaklings die, however; the others become lean and restless, and as eager as their masters to start for the mountains. The journey supplies them with scant pickings, just enough to keep body and soul together, but morally it is a relief from the monotony of starvation at home, and they work their way stubbornly and expectantly up the mountains and into the forest as soon as the sun permits and anything has grown for them to eat. The consequence of this close grazing is that certain species of the grasses upon which they feed are never allowed to come to flower and mature their seed; hence those with a delicate root, the more strictly annual varieties, which rely upon seed for perpetuation of the plant, have a hard time of it. Where the sheep range, the wild timothy, for example—a dwarf variety and an excellent, sweet grass—has almost disappeared, although formerly it grew in abundance.

The forest glades through which we passed had the appearance of a closely-cropped pasture, as different as possible from the profusion of tall grasses and beautiful flowering plants which grow in similar openings untroubled by sheep. So far as the grasses are concerned—or "grass," by which, I take it, is ordinarily designated the foliage of the plant—I doubt if it is molested to any great extent by deer. Their diet is mainly the tender leaves of plants—"weeds" to the unscientific person. The heads of wild oats and of a few of the grasses might prove sufficiently sweet and tempting to arrest their fancy; but as for grazing, as sheep or cattle do, it is not their habit. When deer shall have come to trudge up hill in the plodding gait of the domestic beasts, and shall have abandoned their present method of ascending by a series of splendid springing leaps and bounds, the very embodiment of vigor and of wild activity, time enough then for them to take to munching grass, the sustenance of the harmless, necessary cow. At present they are most fastidious in their food, and select only the choicest, tenderest tips and sweetest tufts of herbage, picking them here and there, wandering and meditating as they eat. I will not say that they never touch grass, for I have seen deer feeding among cattle in the open, but it is not by any means the chief article of their diet, and when they partake of it under such circumstances, it is more as a gratification of their social instincts, I think, than from any particular love of the food itself.

A little before noon upon the fourth day, we arrived at one of the sheep camps, to which we had been directed by a stray herd, and where we were to find the foreman of the sheep gang. At that hour of the day there were naturally in camp but a few men. The cook was there, of course. His functions were simple enough—to make bread, tea, and boil mutton, or bake it in a Mexican oven beneath the coals. With him was the chief herder and a half-witted Portuguese, who, upon the day following, in the plenitude of his zeal and mental deficiency, insisted upon offering himself as live bait for a grizzly, as will be narrated.

During the afternoon I strolled further up the mountain with my rifle, in the hope of a shot at a stray deer, and to have a look at the lay of the land. Bear tracks I saw and a little deer sign also, but it was too early in the day regularly to hunt. All nature nodded in the dozy glare of the August afternoon, and after the hot journey in the saddle I found a siesta under the clean spruce trees refreshing. Toward sunset I awoke to find a pine martin in a tree across the gulch reconnoitering, and evidently turning over in his mind the probabilities whether the big creature curled up on the hillside "forninst" him were of the cast of hunter or hunted. I soon brought him out of that, and upon my return to camp the hide was graciously accepted by the chief herder, who converted the head of it into a tobacco pouch with neatness and dispatch. At the evening meal there were good-natured references to chile con oso—bear's meat cooked with red peppers—regret expressed that the camp's larder could at present afford none, and expressions of confidence that this delicacy would soon be set before us—all most politely and comfortably insinuated. They had the gratification of their desire; it was on the next day but one.

That night there was a great jabbering of bad Spanish around the camp-fire. Had this been the rendezvous of Sicilian brigands, it doubtless would have had a slightly more picturesque appearance, but the difference would have been only of degree, not at all of kind. The absence of rain made tents unnecessary. Piles of bedding, of cooking and riding equipment, defined the encampment. Around the fire a dozen Mexicans clustered, of whom, except the chief herder and Leonard, not one spoke English. They wore the broad hats of their race, and were arrayed for protection against the cool night winds of the Sierras in old and shabby cloaks, some of which had been originally bright in color, but now were subdued by age and dirt into comfortable harmony with the quiet tones of the mountain and the forest. Old quilts and sheepskins carpeted a small space where we had been invited to seat ourselves upon our arrival. Then, as throughout our stay, every possible mark of hospitality was shown us—a delicious, faint survival of Castilian courtesy.

Long after I had turned in, somewhere in the dead vast and middle of the night, I was aroused by the sound of scurry and scampering among the bunch of sheep which was rounded up near the camp. Experience has taught these creatures to efface themselves at night, and they are only too glad to sleep quietly, as near as possible to humans, with no disposition to wander after dark. They realize their danger from bears, yet the protection which a Mexican affords is a purely imaginary thing, as unsubstantial as the baseless fabric of a vision, of as little real substance for the protection of the flock as the dream of mutton stew and fat bear, by no means a baseless fabric, which engrosses the sleeping shepherd, body and mind. The disturbance upon this occasion soon subsided. One and another of the shepherds sleepily moved in his blankets—perhaps swore to himself a hurried prayer or two—but not one of them spoke aloud or indicated the slightest intention of investigating the cause of the commotion. Only too well they and the sheep knew what it signified. Quiet reigned again, and, attaching no importance to the incident, I was promptly asleep.

In the morning I learned that the disturbing cause had been the charge of a grizzly into the flock within a stone's throw of us, a sound too familiar to occasion comment at the time. There were the tracks, to leeward of the sheep, of a she grizzly and two cubs. Their approach had been without a sound; not the snap of a twig, or the faintest footfall, had given any signal of their presence. The mother had critically overhauled the flock in her mind from a slight rise of ground, on a level with their backs or slightly higher, and made deliberate choice of a fat wether, having a discriminating eye, and being too good a judge of sheep flesh to take any but such as are in prime condition. A single quick rush and she has secured her victim, in an instant, before the rest are fairly upon their feet, and is off, carrying the sheep in her mouth as easily as a cat would her kitten, her delighted cubs trotting behind. Every two or three nights this occurrence was repeated, with no interference upon the part of the Mexicans. "What recks it them?" "The hungry sheep look up and are not fed." On the contrary, the bears are. As for the Mexicans, they have "lost no bear!" To have seen the intruder would have been only a gratuitous anxiety, since nothing in the world would have tempted them to fire at it. Should they risk life and limb for a sheep? and that the patron's, who had so many! It was not their quarrel! The charge of the grizzly was a thing as much to be accepted as an incident of the Sierras as the thunderbolt—equally dangerous to him who should interfere as the lightning stroke to one daring to interpose his rifle between the angry heavens and the fore-doomed tree.

We may feel sure that the lesson is not lost upon the cubs. They are taught energy, sagacity, craft in maturing their plans, courage and promptness in their execution. They are taught reverence for the ursine genius, unbounded admiration for their mother's leadership and steadiness of nerve, at the same time that they are taught contempt for the stupidity of sheep and the pusillanimity of humans. It may be that an apologist for the latter might find a word to mitigate their too severe sentence. A she grizzly of the Sierras, at night, with hungry cubs to feed, is not an altogether pleasant thing to face when infuriated by wounds, none of which may be bad enough to cripple her, yet combined are amply sufficient to make her pretty cross and dangerous. The Mexican is a poor shot, but what can you expect? His vocation is a humble one. Were he of more positive and determined temperament, he would be a vaquero of the plains, or boyero (Anglicè "bull-whacker") on the Santa Fé trail or down in old Mexico; and not the dry nurse of these "woolly idiots," in whose race, for innumerable centuries, man has elaborately cultivated stupidity, and, by systematic process of artificial selection, has faithfully eliminated every sign of insubordination and the last trace of individuality of temperament, and that which in our race is called character. No native-born white man in this country can be induced to follow, for any length of time, the vocation of shepherd. The deadly monotony of the occupation drives him either to imbecility or desperation. It is well known that men who habitually care for any animal come in time to resemble him. Stable boys, bred to the vocation of groom, become horse-faced and equine of disposition, eventually they wheeze and whistle like a curry-comb. Cowboys partake of the scatter-brained recklessness of the Texas steer which they tend. No one can admit dogs to be daily and familiar companions without absorbing into his system somewhat of their sense of humor and of their faithfulness. The lion-tamer, who enters unscathed the den of his charge, must share the robustious courage and determination of the beast with which he associates. The rat-catcher, whether he be ferret or man, partakes of the fierce slyness of the game he follows; and I remember that, years ago, before I ever heard mention of this peculiarity of resemblance, I could detect, plainly writ in the face of the attendant of "Mr. Crowley," when he was kept in the old arsenal building in Central Park, the reflected temperament and animalism of the poor, indolent, captive chimpanzee, whose fellow and all too sympathetic friend he had made himself. Naturalists are well aware of this phenomenon.

If this be so, and stupidity catching, what more potent influence of fatty degeneration of the intellect could there be than the uninterrupted society of sheep, with nothing in the world to think of except their care—without even the stimulating influence of gain to redeem the paralyzing service. The sheep are not their own, and if the bears eat them up the keepers do not feel the stimulating ache in their money-pocket that might tempt them, however feebly, to resist aggression. Moreover, as a rule, they are wretchedly armed. Each of these men carried an old six-shooter of an outlandish and forgotten pattern, good enough to try a chance shot at another Mexican with, but only a source of more or less pleasurable titillation to a bear, were one ever to be discharged at him, and about as effective as pelting an alligator with strawberries. If the last stage of misery for a horse be to drag, along its rigid road of stone and iron, the city horse-car with its thankless freight of fares, the corresponding degradation of the "gun" is to rest upon the hip of a degenerate sheep-herder, half Spaniard, half Indian and half coyote. Any self-respecting weapon reduced to such straits would be conscious of its low estate; its magazine would revolve in a creaky, half-hearted, reluctant fashion; it would doubtless fire an apologetic bullet; its report would be something between "scat" and "beg your pardon," to which a bear would pay but slight heed. Others of the Mexicans were armed with old muskets, somewhat rusty and ramshackly, but with a furry longitudinal perforation throughout their length, along which—it could not creditably be called a bore—a ball could after a fashion, if you gave it time enough, be propelled. Leonard was exceptionally fortunate in this respect; he carried an old rim-fire .44-40 Winchester, the action of which occasionally worked and occasionally did not. Comparatively speaking, he was rather a swell in the matter of firearms; but if one should put his trust in him in case of emergency as a sheet anchor to windward, there was always the remote possibility, were the strain too intense, that he might not be a dependence of absolute security.

The afternoon of this day, much against my real inclination, but in accordance with the prevailing desire, we started out, the whole rabble of us, to follow the she grizzly's trail. It could not be called a "still-hunt," for the reason that six men hunting in a pack are never still; however, it did not matter. We found in a neighboring gulch bits of the fleece, bones and hides of three sheep, and the sufficiently plain evidence, upon the trampled and bloody ground, of recent feasts. Yet this was the banqueting hall and not the children's nursery. A bear thinks nothing of a little stroll of ten miles or so before or after eating. It aids digestion, and in case of a female, as this was, wards off an attack of the nerves. Particularly a bear with cubs would put at least that distance between herself and hunters. Moreover they are so clever that I doubt not this one knew already by scent and subtle process of ratiocination how many of us there were in camp, where we were from, the color of our hair, what sort of rifles we carried, their caliber, how heavy a bullet and how many grains of powder they fired. This is said in the light of after events and of further experience.

That afternoon, in our unjustifiably sanguine forecast, we had hopes of finding this particular bear. The half-witted "Portugee," of whom I have spoken, showed especial zeal in the presence of the patron, and insisted, in spite of mild and repeated caution, in going ahead and scrupulously investigating every possible ambuscade where there was the remotest chance of finding the bear, or, what was much more likely, of the bear finding him. In consideration of the fact that this was a she one which we were after, that she was proud and well fed, and on the lookout for pursuit, had the "Portugee" found her, she would in all probability have received his visit with cordial warmth. Not speaking his tongue fluently, I was unable to express my solicitude except by signs and admonitory gestures. The rest of the party apparently seemed to think that, while the bear was interested and occupied with him, a good opportunity would be offered for getting in a shot; and as Portuguese were a drug in the market in that part of California, and grizzly bears, dead, a great rarity, he was suffered to contribute his mite to the success of la chasse, and all went merrily. Not a thicket or a den did he leave unprobed.

An hour or two were spent in beating up the gulch to its head. Then a barren mountain side presented itself, three or four miles of it, with no shelter. Leonard ran the trail here like a dog, literally ran it, and the pack of hunters tailed behind him for a half or three-quarters of a mile. A bit before sundown we were at the edge of the chaparral—a tangle of bushes and quaking asp—rather a baddish place in which to stumble upon her serene highness. However, my companions did me the honor to promote me to the "Portugee's" place and function. With rifle across the crook of arm, we stole as silently as might be—the United States army would have made more noise—into the jungle. Sunset overtook us up on the far edge, with a stretch of open forest in sight, and, I doubt not, with Madam Bruin and her cubs miles ahead in some inaccessible snarl of bushes, where the crackling underbrush would warn her of approach as fully as could the most complete system of burglar alarms.

That night, leaving word that whoever might be the first to stir in the morning should call me, I unrolled my blankets under a spruce somewhat apart from the crowd, and was soon asleep. Before daylight I was astir, had a cup of coffee and a bite, and was off. Upon the previous afternoon I had picked the direction I would take, which was to skirt certain openings in the forest below. Fresh sign I saw that assured me of the excellence of the range for bear, but I encountered nothing alive worth powder and ball, and returned to camp about 9 o'clock. I was greeted by Leonard with the joyful news that during my absence he had seen from camp a big bear cross the side of the mountain only a mile or so away, and disappear over the ridge. This happened about 7 o'clock. The chief herder and my companion received the information somewhat in a spirit of respectful incredulity, but Leonard assured me that it was so, and we made preparations to follow the trail toward night. Meanwhile I breakfasted and slept.

We left camp about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, and without the slightest difficulty found the beast's trail exactly where the Mexican had said we should. Before this time I had killed an odd bear or so in Colorado, and had had some little experience in unraveling the trail of game. It may be rather priding myself upon the accomplishment, but let me here acknowledge the superiority of professional talent. Leonard, to all intents and purposes, had been born and raised on a sheep range. His earliest recollections had been of the sheep camps of the Sierras, of the reputation of the arch-enemy of the flock and of the havoc which he works. From infancy he, like all the herders, had been constantly upon the lookout for bear sign; it was his one keenest intellectual accomplishment and diversion. The result of this special training was such an acuteness of vision and nice discrimination of eye that he could clearly distinguish a bear's footprints upon the naked sand and gravel where at a quick glance I was unable to see any indication whatever. A single grain of sand displaced was sufficient to arrest his eye; he detected it instantly. To him the minutest particle had its weather-beaten side as well as a boulder. A bear could not put his foot upon the ground without leaving an impress which he could detect. His talent was so quick and unerring that we soon organized a division of labor. He was to concentrate his energies and attention upon the trail, while I, by his side or a step in advance, when the trail read itself and permitted such a course, was to watch ahead and around for both of us. Fortunately this arrangement was satisfactory to him. The hardest of the trail to decipher was where it was written in condensed shorthand across a mountain slide or coulisse of naked granite boulders. Here not one trace was to be found in a dozen yards. Fortunately we could trust in the genius of the bear; he was aware, as well as La Place, that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points. He undoubtedly knew exactly where he was heading. We had his general direction, and by beating about for a tuft of grass here with a blade displaced, a stray gooseberry bush there with a leaf awry, and yonder a patch of thicker vegetation, betraying interference, we soon succeeded, owing mainly to Leonard's genius as a pathfinder, in getting through a couple of acres of this most vague and illegible pedography. At last we had the trail upon the mountain side once more, where, after such difficulties surmounted, following it was a comparative luxury.

After having proceeded in this manner for perhaps two hours, we entered timber, and were obliged to advance with greater caution to avoid the slightest sound which might betray our presence and give the alarm. With two men the risk of doing this is increased in geometrical ratio. One person alone, traveling through the woods, may, and almost certainly will, break an occasional twig under foot. If game is within hearing, the sound will inevitably be detected; the deer, if it be a deer, will lift his head and listen; but if the hunter stops and waits for a time, the chances are that the animal will, after due interval of silence, resume his feeding if so engaged, or his rumination, be it physical or moral, and the alarm may not prove fatal. Not so when companions are hunting together. It would seem as if the second man, with dreadful promptness, never failed to snap his twig also, which sounds as loud as a pistol coming upon the strained attention of the listening beast, who is off like a streak, leaving the disappointed hunter, as he hears him crashing away, to moralize that company in the chase halves the pleasure and doubles the sorrow. The only safety where union is necessary is to proceed with exaggerated and fantastic caution.

Leonard was a treasure in this. He had dreamt of grizzlies all his life, yet had never been in at the death. His heart was in the hunt—he fairly sighed for gore. We crept into the woods as silent as panthers and as "purry" in the ardor of the chase. After a mile or so our bear had come to an immense fallen spruce, lying across the trail, with the big butt, five or six feet in diameter, to our right, the top pointing up the hill. Over the middle of this, at right angles, lay another large tree, with the point toward us. I felt that behind the first of these, if I had been the original and unmolested settler in these parts, as the bear was, with all the world before me where to choose, I should have made the bed for my morning nap. It was long after daylight when he had reached this covert. He had doubtless been stirring soon after sunset the evening before; he had, it is not unlikely, been traveling all night; had feasted heartily upon a sheep during that interval, and by the time he reached this place, which may have been in his mind from the start, was feeling comfortably lazy and inclined to the refreshment of sleep. Behind that tree, so admirably suited for the purpose, I trusted that he might still remain. The big end would protect a cool space from the heat of the morning sun, and we might yet be so lucky as to find him in his lair beneath its shelter. A signal to Leonard was enough, and we proceeded to circle the fallen timber, which fortunately the wind permitted, with all the caution of which we were capable. Had the gentleman we were after been our dearest friend at the crisis of a fever, we could not have tiptoed about his bed with more solicitude lest we disturb sweet slumber. The big tree lay in front of us; by this we crept at a respectful distance, and then approached the further end of the tree lying across it. With great care I sneaked up until I could look over its trunk at the desired point. Alas! no bear had made his nest there.

Sorrowfully, but without a sound, I crawled upon the intervening log and slowly stood erect. There, directly beneath me, where I could have jumped into it most comfortably, was the deserted form of the bear, which he had dug in the morning within an hour after Leonard had seen him, and in which the greater part of the day had been spent, until he had stirred abroad for water, with which to wash down the recollection of his muttons. Although ardently hoping that he was behind the tree, I had not in the least expected to find his bed in this particular place. Had he stayed quietly there until our arrival, he would have given one of us a delicious surprise, and the mutual agitation of the moment might have induced a shot with unpremeditated haste, and possibly have caused me to get off that fallen spruce tree in somewhat quicker time than I had climbed it. One naturally would not feel any keen desire to display his acrobatic skill in walking a log for the entertainment of an infuriated grizzly. A few hairs proclaimed him a cinnamon, who is either a variety of the grizzly or his first cousin—authorities differ; at all events, he closely resembles him except in color, which, although of a uniform light, fady brown, might be an extreme type of the "sorrel top" of the Rockies. In size the cinnamon fully holds his own with the grizzly; I should say that his head was rather longer. The generous excavation which this one had made showed that he was no mean representative of his species.

Not twenty yards away, and near the end of the big tree where I had expected to find him, was a little spring. To this, still without a word, we proceeded, saw where he had stood to drink more than once, doubtless long and deep. To our left, in the soft earth, lay his retreating footsteps—a continuation of the general direction of his previous course. A moment's pause for closer scrutiny, a smile and a whispered word exchanged—just to show that we were not bored; then, respectful of the silence of the darkening woods, we were again upon the trail. It was now easy to see why he had left his lair; it faced the west, and the heat of the afternoon sun had annoyed him, warmly clad and irritable with high living.

We had proceeded only about a stone's throw further when I caught a glimpse of our bear. Within twenty paces, under the shadow of a tree at the edge of a cool, umbrageous thicket, between him and the setting sun, lay the beast we were after; or, as I for a moment thought, judging from the great inchoate mass of brown fur, a pair, perhaps male and female, or one, it might be, a yearling cub. With finger lifted I signaled Leonard to stop. A great head was slowly raised and turned my way. A bullet between the eyes and down it went again, and I threw another cartridge into the chamber, expecting to see the second bear spring to his feet, ready to do whatever, in his judgment, the occasion required, either to fight or to run. Whichever he might elect to do, it was well to be prepared. "Give him another shot," said the prudent Leonard, and I fired a second time, sending this ball quartering and, like the first, through the brain; then I realized that there was but one, and he of creditable size. We soon had him out in the open, for nothing is easier to roll about than a bear just killed. He is like a great jelly-fish, and I have seen a little terrier no larger than a rabbit worry and shake a great carcass four times as large as the most commodious kennel he could desire, provided he were a sensible pup and had the comfortable instinct of wild things for snugness rather than ostentatious display. Enough of daylight remained for us to get his pelt off, with head and claws unskinned and attached, and to hurry over the mountain by moonlight with our trophy, a junk of rank meat for such as might desire it not forgotten.

We were cordially welcomed back to camp, and, after the usual pow-wow, the cook, with due formality, with Mexican chile and Spanish politeness, proceeded to concoct the boasted chile con oso—a much overrated dish when made of a tough old cinnamon he bear. After I had turned in I heard much laughter, and subsequently learned that it was at an incident of the day. As we were starting out in the afternoon, and before we had struck the bear's trail, in order to avoid any possibility of a premature shot I had casually inquired of Leonard if he wished to earn five dollars.

"Certainly, Señor, I am always glad to get the chance."

"Well, don't shoot then until I give the word, and you shall have it."

This circumstance Leonard had innocently narrated to the group around the camp-fire in the fuller elaboration of the hunt, and the story had an immediate success, the idea seeming to prevail that nothing in the world could have tempted him to fire before he was compelled to—which, as a matter of fact, I think was only prudent on his part, considering the arms he bore.

The next morning, to the infinite chagrin of some of us, the younger patron discovered that his presence was required at home, where, if he was mildly chid by my friend, his elder brother, who in generosity to his junior had yielded his own place and the leadership of this expedition, I should not greatly grieve.

Upon the third day thereafter we regained the ranch.