Bears I have Met and Others, free!
Late in October, I heard that a bear had got into a trap on Gleason Mountain, and leaving Pinto to his own devices, I went over to look at the captive. The Mexican acting as jailor did not know me, and I discovered that Allen Kelly was supposed to be the agent of a millionaire and an “easy mark,” who would pay a fabulous sum for a bear. The Mexican assured me that he was about to get wealth beyond the dreams of avarice for that bear from a San Francisco man, meaning said Kelly, whereupon I congratulated him, disparaged the bear and turned to go. The Mexican followed me down the trail and began complaining that the alleged purchaser of the bear was dilatory in closing the deal with cash. He, Mateo, was aggrieved by this unbusinesslike behavior, and it would be no more than proper for him to resent it and teach the man a lesson in commercial manners by selling the bear to somebody else, even to me, for instance. Mateo’s haste to get that bear off his hands was evident, but the reason for it was not apparent. Later I understood.
Monarch had the bad luck to get into a trap built by a little syndicate of which Mateo was a member. Mateo watched the trap, while the others supplied beef for bait. They were to divide the large sum which they expected to get from me in case they caught a bear before I did, and very likely my fired assistant had a contingent interest in the enterprise. Mateo was the only member of the syndicate on deck when I arrived, and deeming a bird in his hand worth a whole flock in the syndicate bush, he made the best bargain he could and left the others to whistle for dividends. Ten years afterward I met the cattleman who furnished the capital and the beef, and from his strenuous remarks about his Mexican partner I inferred that the syndicate had been deeply disappointed. I also learned for the first time why Mateo was so anxious for me to take the bear off his hands when the evident original purpose was to held me up for a good round sum. The hold-up would have failed, however, because I had spent more than $1,200 and lost five months’ time, was nearly broke, did not represent anybody but myself at that stage of my bear-catching career, and for all I knew the editor might have changed his mind about wanting a Grizzly at any price.
Finally I consented to take the bear and struck a bargain, and not until money had passed and a receipt was to be signed did Mateo know with whom he was dealing. He paid me the dubious compliment of muttering that I was “un coyote,” and as that animal is the B’rer Rabbit of Mexican folk lore, I inferred that the excellent Mateo intended to express admiration for the only evidence of business capacity to be found in my entire career. That dicker for a bear stands out as the sole trade I ever made in which I was not unmistakably and comprehensively “stuck.” Mateo was more than repaid for his trouble, however. He helped me build a box, and get the bear into it, and I took Monarch to San Francisco and sold him to the editor of the enterprising paper, who eventually gave him to Golden Gate Park.
The newspaper account of the capture of Monarch was elaborated to suit the exigencies of enterprising journalism, picturesque features were introduced where the editorial judgment dictated, and mere facts, such as the name of the county in which the bear was caught, fell under the ban of a careless blue pencil and were distorted beyond recognition.
More than one-fourth of Joaquin Miller’s “True Bear Stories”‘ consists of that newspaper yarn, copied verbatim and without amendment, revision or verification. The other three-fourths of the book, it is to be hoped, is at least equally true.
Considering all the frills of fiction that were put into the story to make it readable, the careless inaccuracies that were edited into it, and the fact that many persons knew of the preliminary attempts to buy any old bear and fake a capture, it is not strange that people who always know the “inside history” of everything that happens, wag their heads wisely and declare that Monarch was obtained from a bankrupt circus, or is an ex-dancer of the streets sold to the newspaper by a hard-up Italian.
The Amateur Poacher by Richard Jeffries, English nature writer, 1870s
They burned the old gun that used to stand in the dark corner up in the garret, close to the stuffed fox that always grinned so fiercely. Perhaps the reason why he seemed in such a ghastly rage was that he did not come by his death fairly. Otherwise his pelt would not have been so perfect. And why else was he put away up there out of sight?—and so magnificent a brush as he had too. But there he stood, and mounted guard over the old flintlock that was so powerful a magnet to us in those days. Though to go up there alone was no slight trial of moral courage after listening to the horrible tales of the carters in the stable, or the old women who used to sit under the hedge in the shade, on an armful of hay, munching their crusts at luncheon time.
The great cavernous place was full of shadows in the brightest summer day; for the light came only through the chinks in the shutters. These were flush with the floor and bolted firmly. The silence was intense, it being so near the roof and so far away from the inhabited parts of the house. Yet there were sometimes strange acoustical effects—as when there came a low tapping at the shutters, enough to make your heart stand still. There was then nothing for it but to dash through the doorway into the empty cheese-room adjoining, which was better lighted. No doubt it was nothing but the labourers knocking the stakes in for the railing round the rickyard, but why did it sound just exactly outside the shutters? When that ceased the staircase creaked, or the pear-tree boughs rustled against the window. The staircase always waited till you had forgotten all about it before the loose worm-eaten planks sprang back to their place.
Fox-Trapping- I wouldn’t use this for trapping foxes, obviously. I would use it for learning more about foxes and possibly improving my chances of seeing them in the wild. Details about skinning and curing skins not for the weak of heart.
In hilly and mountainous countries they travel much on the highest ground, and have regular “crossings,” where the experienced hunter or trapper often makes a kill or catch.
Foxes are carnivorous–living on flesh. Their principal food consists of rabbits, squirrels, mice, birds, bugs, eggs, etc. In some places where the food named is not plenty they visit creeks, lakes and ponds hunting crabs and fish. While they prefer fresh meat, they take stale and even decayed meats in severe weather.
Most wild animals can be attracted a short distance by “scent” or “decoy,” and the fox is one of them. Several good recipts for scent are given, but if there are no foxes in your neighborhood you can use all the “scents” and “decoys” you wish on a hundred traps all season without making a catch. There is no “decoy” that will attract a fox a mile, but there are some that are good. That many of the writers made good catches is bourn out by the various photographs, and in some instances by personal visits by the author to the trapper.