Hall Remembers . . .
Old Ponto vs. the Cinnamon Bear
Court Hall Remembers---
(Recollections of Jackson County Sporting Events by Veteran Sportsman.)In the very early pioneer days, there roamed over the Cascade Mountains many cinnamon bears. Although it is not generally known, this bear is considered far more vicious than the grizzly. The early settlers were aware of this fact and allowed him no quarter when they met up with him. He was able to scent quickly a foe at a considerable distance, especially from the windward side. Like the grizzly, the cinnamon bear is now almost extinct.
In 1880 George Beale and his old dog Ponto were roaming through the woods in the vicinity of Bear Wallow, located about five miles a little north and east of Rancherie. Suddenly Beale stopped his leisurely strolling. About two hundred yards away in the direction of Bear Wallow he saw a huge cinnamon bear eating berries. He was not particularly alarmed at the apparition, for he had his muzzle-loading rifle ready for such emergencies, yet in case he should misfire he did not care to be too near his lordship. He took aim and fired at once. Just as he fired the old bear threw up his head and the bullet struck him square in the forehead, but glanced along between the skin and the skull and out again without doing any particular damage except to arouse all that is ugly and dangerous in a wounded cinnamon. The bear jumped upward, whirled madly a few times, pointed his nose in the air, scented Beale, and made a beeline in his direction.
Just as Beale shot, Old Ponto ran for the bear and tackled him in the rear, but only succeeded in stopping him for a second or two until the old cinnamon was on his way again. This procedure happened several times when Beale realized that he had not sufficient time to reload before the bear would be upon him. George realized his danger and knew he had to make a run for it. This he did, trying to reload as he went, but without success. He reached a creek, dashed in and dashed out, trying to find a shelter near on the other side.
About one hundred yards away was a big pine tree. Beale made for this pine tree in high, but it seemed that Bruin had shifted in the same gear, and was close on his trail, Old Ponto nowhere in sight. Astonished at being forsaken by his faithful dog, Beale forgot his danger for a second and stopped loading long enough to verbally chastise him. As he yelled "Got darn you, Ponto, where are you?" Ponto came dashing out of the water. In crossing the creek the cool water felt so good to him he had decided to take a few seconds off for refreshments. Once out of the water Ponto overtook the bear again when only thirty yards intervened between the bear and tree behind which Beale was hidden. Old Ponto attacked the bear more viciously than ever and sank his teeth in the cinnamon's left hind leg, compelling the bear to turn and give his attention to him instead of Beale. For a few seconds the cinnamon tried every trick known to keep Old Ponto in front of him, but wise old dog that he was, he knew a trick or two himself and kept the bear busy until Beale got his gun loaded again and stepped out from behind the tree, fired and shot the bear straight through the heart. The old fellow fell dead with scarcely a quiver.
This was one of the largest cinnamon bears ever killed in this country, and to Old Ponto belongs half the credit of his demise, and it is not to be wondered at that henceforth he was known as Beale's favorite dog.
Medford Mail Tribune, April 27, 1930, page 6
Last revised September 2, 2009