From The Scrap Book
A Bear Story
October 12, 1990
By Dr. Bill Randall
I had a great idea for a story this week! It would have been about a moose hunt! Surely, I thought, some of my sources would have a successful hunt…but sorry about that, no luck.
How about a ‘bear’ story? I realize I’m close to infringing on Ed Christie’s subject matter, but my story is real old and from “Scrapbooks”. It’s from a sort of autobiography written by John McMurray of Lake George, collected by Ruth Cleghorn and made available to the Harvey Historical Association (HHA). According to Ruth Cleghorn John McMurray was born May 10, 1843 at Lake George. This is his story.
When I was a small boy I stood with my father and mother outside the door listening to the wolves on the further side of Lake George. Ten or twelve years after that, I lay in those woods alone, six miles from any house and had nothing but my little gun. I would lie down by some fallen tree and sleep there all night. The sun would be up in the morning when I would awake. I would get up and boil my tea in a kettle, making the fire where it could be easily put out. Some big wild animal would smell the smoke and circle around me breaking the limbs but I couldn’t see him. I caught quite a lot of fur and took it to Fredericton to sell and get myself clothes. I went to a tailor
by the name of James Howie. I told him I didn’t know anything about clothes but I wanted a suit of good clothes and an overcoat. He cheated me on that, for in after years I sold the same kind of coat for $4. He didn’t make much by cheating me for afterwards I bought hundreds of dollars worth of clothing for the miners (at the Antimony Mines in Lake George) but never gave him another dollar.
The most thrilling experience I ever had with a wild animal was when I was about 15 years old. Those times when a couple got married they “chivareed” them. I never was to one of them before. It was in July and very hot weather. I had a light striped shirt on. We were supposed to blacken our faces or dress in disguise. They said to make a good black wet your hands and rub on cedar coals. It would wash off easily. When we came from the chivaree it was about 11 o’clock. I left the other boys and walked about half a mile to my father’s. I knew there was some water near the gate in some long grass. This grass was at the edge of the woods. I went in and found the water and washed my face I thought very good.
I started to walk back to the gate and heard a terrible noise right behind me. There was a roar, a growl and hiss and stamping on the ground. I turned around suddenly and faced a huge she-bear. This bear lay stretched out on the path, her eyes glistening in the moonlight, ready to make a spring. It was so sudden I didn’t know what to do. All I did was pull my old straw hat off my head and jump and strike at the bear and make all the noise I could. The bear saw I wasn’t a sheep and raised up on her hind legs and made a jump for the woods. I jumped the other way over the fence below the barn and ran up into the house. The bears were so plentiful that they would chase the sheep and calves right to the door. We had a big black dog that always jumped in between the bear and them until someone would fire a shot or drive it away someway. We kept two guns loaded in the house for bears.
I told father I saw a bear at the gate. He said, “you had better not go out there in the dark.” I said I would try one shot and took the gun and went out. Father dressed as quickly as he could and followed with a light.
There was a fence running from the gate to the house. I went to the fence and looked over into the woods for the bear. It was dark and I couldn’t see much, but when my father came with a light the bear jumped. She was only about two rods from me creeping towards me. She broke limbs as she went and made an awful noise. Next morning we went out to look where the bear had chased me. When I was washing my face in the water in the long grass the bear thought I was a sheep and lay down a little distance from me until I started for the path. We looked where the bear had gone and in some soft places we could see the cub’s tracks.
The next experience I had on the farm with a bear was when I lived on the Lawson farm. They sent word up that a bear had killed a sheep and was eating it down by the lake shore. I took my shot gun and putting some powder in, rolled a bullet on top. When I got down, there were about six others with guns. Little Johnny Ray said he would like to take the first shot at the bear when it was eating the sheep. So we agreed to let him do that. Some (men) went on one side along the shore and some on the other. When he (Johnny Ray) fired, the big black dog ran for the bear and we all knew where the bear was, by the dog. I ran up to where the bear and dog were. The bear was sitting down fighting the dog. I fired at the bear and know I must have struck it but not in any vital spot. The bear jumped and ran again and every once in a while a shot would go off. I fired three myself. There were nine (shots) fired altogether. The bear went right up through the crowd into the main forest and strange to say no one tried to follow the next day. The dog would have found him if anyone had gone.
This week’s accompanying photography however is obviously not “the one that got away”.
Also, we list the family of John McMurray and his three wives. Mr. McMurray died in 1922 and is buried in the Magundy Cemetery.
Source: Rev. Bill Randall’s “From The Scrapbook Vol. One.”