The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Court Hall Remembers . . .

Court vs. the Bear

Court Hall Remembers---
(Recollections of Jackson County Sporting Events by Veteran Sportsman.)\

    During the years of 1884 and 1889 I worked on my uncle's stock farm at Rancherie, eight miles west of Butte Falls. The last three years I was at Rancherie I taught school in what was called the Mt. Pitt district. The school term would usually begin about April 1st and end August 1st. After the school term I would continue my work of riding on the range the balance of the summer. My uncles, Thomas and Vinton Beall, had about 300 head of cattle and also raised about 75 mules every year. Mules at this time brought pretty fair prices, San Francisco buyers paying $300 per span for unbroken mules. These years were pleasant ones for me. The gentle winds blowing through the big pine trees, the tall bunchgrass on the mountainsides, the green little glades with deer lazily lying about, an occasional sight of bear, lynx and bobcats, the clear, cold streams of water with abundance of fish, each and all appealed to me. Many times I visited the big spring at Lick Prairie, but little did I think that this cold, pure water would someday flow to Medford. Wild game was in abundance. I remember one old grizzly who roamed between Rancherie and the Hanley ranch. This old fellow was a great destroyer of cattle. Though wounded several times he always managed to escape. Finally the Nichols boy ran across him in the deep snow on the side of Mt. Pitt. The crust would hold up the boys, but the old grizzly would break through, which made him easy prey for the boys.
    Those days cougars seemed very fond of young horse meat. Quite often they would spring on the back of a young horse, fasten their teeth in the horse's neck and almost claw them to pieces. Occasionally the horse would escape after being badly mangled. One night a large cougar killed a young mule two months old, dragged it 500 yards to some willows. After the cougar had satisfied his appetite he covered the mule over with leaves and grass, then slunk away for a nice little nap. Missing the mule the next morning we easily, by the aid of our two dogs, tracked the cougar to the willows. The dogs were getting frantic, so we turned them loose and in a short time they had the old cougar treed less than one-half mile away. From the first limb on a fir tree the cougar was swishing his tail and glaring at us with balls of fire. My cousin and I both fired at once at the cougar's head, killing him almost instantly. Yet in his dying struggles he fatally wounded our best dog.
    One of the oddest adventures I had at Rancherie occurred during the fall of 1886. In those days every girl and boy owned their own saddle horse. My horse had gotten crippled and Mamie Beall, now Mrs. Charles Strang, loaned me her pony to help round up the mules off the range for fall selling. One morning four of us boys rode east from Rancherie towards Four-Bit range, when one and one-half miles out we decided to separate and meet at an old sheep corral beyond Four-Bit Creek. My route was north of the rest and led along the Four-Bit country near the side of Oak Mountain. There was only one gun in the crowd, and it was carried along by my cousin to the sheep corral.
    It was less than fifteen minutes after my separating from the rest of the bunch I ran onto an old bear and two half-grown cubs. They were about sixty yards away, and we saw each other about the same time. Suddenly the bears started to lope off. The pony I was riding had never been on the range before, and I was uncertain as to how it would act in an affair like this. Nevertheless I put the spurs to her and dashed after the bear, yelling like a Comanche Indian. After a three-hundred-yard spurt I was right at the bears' heels. There were two pine trees standing about two feet apart and each cub took up one of these trees. The old bear was standing on her hind legs, lolling out her tongue, acting like she was ready for battle. I began riding around the bear, trying to hit her with a quirt. Suddenly the old bear ran off about sixty feet and sat down. Then the young bear started down the trees, which compelled me to hurry back and give the young bear a cut with the quirt, which sent them back up the tree to the first limb. Now the old bear came moseying back a few feet at a time. She would sit down and look at me and then come on a little farther until she was within fifteen feet of me. The nearer the old bear got, the more restless the young cubs became.
    For two hours I was compelled to run the old bear away, then hurry back to keep the young cubs up the trees. Finally, the old bear and I became better acquainted as I sat on my pony beneath the cubs while the old bear lay quietly by on all fours. I treed the bear at 10 a.m., and for four solid hours I kept these young bear up the trees. I had been yelling continuously, but had gotten so hoarse that my yelling did not have much effect. The boys had gone on to the sheep corral, waited some time for my appearance and then returned by the route I was to take. These boys were used to all sorts of things in the woods, but they got the surprise of their lives as they came over a little hill and caught sight of me sitting on my horse with two good-sized bear up a tree and another lying quietly nearby.
    I waved for the boys to stop, but in their excitement they rushed up as fast as possible, which scared the old bear and caused her to run off 150 yards and sit on a rock pile. One of the boys thought he could kill the old bear from that distance. He missed and she scampered off. Asbury Beall, who lives near Ross Lane, killed one of the cubs and I killed the other. The cubs were fat and dressed more than one hundred pounds. We enjoyed eating bear steaks for some time after.
Medford Mail Tribune, March 23, 1930, page 6

Last revised September 2, 2009