Feb. 11, 2022

A Greenhorn and Big John in the Wilds of Michigan - January 18, 1877

A Greenhorn and Big John in the Wilds of Michigan -  January 18, 1877

If the sketch which follows, depicting a general outline of incidents which entered into the experience of a "Greenhorn," on his first deer hunt in the wilds of Michigan, shall have the effect of driving the work-encumbered denizens of the city into...

If the sketch which follows, depicting a general outline of incidents which entered into the experience of a "Greenhorn," on his first deer hunt in the wilds of Michigan, shall have the effect of driving the work-encumbered denizens of the city into some reasonable consideration for his own wellbeing, by taking for himself such recreation as will yield him the greatest possible benefit, the object of it will have been accomplished. After a fellow has spent say thirty years of his life with his nose at the grindstone, it is not astonishing that it comes to strike him at last as being somewhat monotonous, and then when he comes to look at the results and sees little but cavernous eyes, sunken cheeks, attenuated frame, and a general slaughter of the vital energies, it is well that he began to think, "What is to be the end of all this anyhow? Does it pay? and, if not, what is the remedy?"

When a man has reached this crisis, and asks himself seriously these questions, there is hope for him, and happy will it prove if he can profit by my experience, so he may enjoy himself to the full limit of his capacity; and his capacity will require no stinted draught, particularly if he has been a constant reader of Forest and Stream, for while yet in the toils his tastes and inclinations will have been so shaping and developing as to prepare him to receive the maximum amount of enjoyment and satisfaction the moment he breaks the monotony and enters upon the rejuvenating process.

In my case I went into early training. It commenced with the first issue of Forest and Stream, and it still continues. Thursday nights my watch is slow, and from the moment I take my seat before my wide open grate, with slippers and cigars until bed time, I let the world wag. I am drinking in new life, shaking hands with Thad. Norris, holding high carnival with Major Sarasota, and courting old Al. Fresco as I would my “Gum Drop”. Wife says we must make that “party call” tonight. "Not much," say I; "here's mettle more attractive!

 Well, I read my Forest and Stream through; then turn again to your new title page on the outside of the cover, study that grand old head, which is the Daniel Webster of all mooses, then to the camp, the rods, the guns.  0h! I wish I were there; but then— not any of this for me. Oh! no, the delicious reality is too far beyond my reach. It is all very nice to know that there is such a fountain of perpetual youth, and that the mysteries of the Forest and the Stream can be enjoyed by some, so that we can read about them and get the crumbs as it were from the rich man's table, or to borrow a smile, we can look at the blackened frames next morning after the fireworks are over, and so enjoy the fireworks second-hand like.

Now, it so happens, that in one of these reveries, the post carrier brings a letter posted "Wild Cat," Michigan. Of course that's from Elisha ('Lish for short), lumberman, merchant, notary, constable, sportsman and brother-in-law. Let's see what he has to say; some patent business probably, as usual. What! do I read aright? Why, the boy says: "Dear Greenhorn, if you want some sport, come here at once; lots of deer, plenty of bear, clouds of turkey, wild cats quantum sufficit, and as for partridges, quail, jack rabbits, and all such small insects, they overrun the country, begging for a front seat in a pot-pie. Come quick. Bring "Bird" (that's my wife) and stay eighteen months. Gentle reader: (Original but not copyrighted) were you ever struck by lightning? If so, you can probably imagine the thrill that shivered my timbers the moment the full force of this thing struck me. Here was the grand opportunity of a life time; but how can I? Oh! The tantalizing cuss! he knows it's impossible. Of course it is. But the vision haunts me; like Banquo's ghost, it will not down. I imagine I see the handwriting on the wall — he "who hesitates is lost." Well, I hesitate! I am lost! I resolve. I will go. There ! It is done. I will telegraph so that I can't back out, and a message goes instantaneous. Are there any skeptics in your large family that don't believe in the virtue of a good resolution? Let them try it and see. My resolution is scarce an hour old, and here is a new man already. Why, the new life bursts out all over; the tension of a long strain is off; the whole frame springs upright; the true manhood steps forth and asserts the privilege of a hitherto imprisoned birthright, which else might have gone, like Esau of old, for a mere mess of pottage. So it is fixed. I go. Now to business.

Let's see; I must have a Winchester and a— well, never mind. I will tell you just what I did take, and then let you know in the end how the items respectively served my purpose, as follows, viz: A Winchester rifle, a heavy blue flannel shirt, a tightly knit cardigan jacket, a pair of rubber boots, a few pairs of extra heavy woolen socks, a Holabird shooting coat, an old soft felt hat, and a sheath knife, all together (except of course the rifle) filling not more than half an ordinary sized hand bag. I did not take a shot gun, as my ambition was for the "heavy weights" — no sparrows and wrens and sich, for my bag, this time. All these things provided, therefore, the most beautiful morning of the whole year (two month's since) saw me on the rear platform of a Pullman parlor, passing quietly out of the Erie depot, bound for sundown. The next morning found me at Port Huron, with a trip of thirty miles up the shore of Lake Huron yet before me, and no practicable way of making it but by boat. A boat of the regular line would not pass up until evening, but I must do better if possible, for I thought of that "Lordly Buck" that was waiting, and afraid lest Bergh might make a case against me if I taxed his patience too long; but it was no use. After hailing all sorts of craft, and trying to drive a bargain with numerous tug captains I gave it up, and it was ten o'clock at night before I set foot on the dock at Lexington, where was a pair of stalwart arms wide open to embrace, and they being clad in the shaggiest of Ulsters, it was no great stretch of the imagination in the hug that followed, to believe that I had found my own Grizzly, and that he had got the best of me. Five miles more inland in the pitchy darkness behind "Old John" (of whom more anon), brought us to our destination, and by midnight I was fast in the arms of Morpheus under a hospitable shelter, with warm hearts and true around me, and the "Lordly Buck" scarce five hundred yards away in "the bush," waiting to bid me good morning.

I was awakened betimes by the sound of voices under my window, and looking out, I saw in the faint grey of the early dawn the preparation on foot for the sport of the day; the boys were waiting for us with the hounds (splendid fellows), and a good backwoods team with hay, straw, robes, and other creature comforts filling the box, and into which, after a glorious breakfast of venison, fresh eggs, wafer-like buckwheat cakes, and the most fragrant and delicious of coffee, we all bundled. Then, amid a jolly outburst of orchestral music from some half-dozen fog horns we started, just as the streaks of grey in the east began to broaden and reflect a silver sheen on the frosty landscape. Now, while we are driving along gaily, but not rapidly (for the corderoy road forbids that), I will introduce my companions:

First, there is "'Lish," our brother-in-law, a thorough sportsman, "with all that that implies," a born gentleman in all his walks and conversation, the worthy head of the community, and the authority of an extended local district in all matters pertaining to the horse, the dog, or the gun— a mechanical genius of the first water— and a most genial and intelligent companion. Next comes Buxton, young in years, but old in wood craft; can scent a deer about as well as a hound; can thread the mazes of the forest without breaking a twig, or losing his locality for an instant; a most willing and unselfish worker for the enjoyment of others. Then comes Bertham, an educated and intelligent gentleman, whom taste and inclination, and perhaps fortune, has led to a frontier life, an ardent lover of all manly sports, and a valued teacher and mentor to the youth of the community. Last, but not least, is Joe Butterball, in charge of the team. What Joe don't know about getting a team through a "slashing" isn't worth knowing; but when it comes to guns — well, if Joe has one in his hands give him a wide berth. He "don't know nothing about the dog-goned things — don't like 'em." So we had prepared for Joe an old muzzle loader loaded with blank cartridge, to be used as we should instruct. I was armed with a Winchester, Buxton with a Spencer carbine, Bertham with a fine Webley breech loader, loading buck-shot. 'Lish had both a Winchester and a Daly gun.

Well, here we are. We have come a mile due west of the hamlet, and here is apparently a cross road; at least they call it such but it is really little else than a path cut for the surveyor's through the forest for the laying out of the section line roads. Here we drop Buxton and the hounds. They go a mile or two further on foot, when they enter the forest to the north of the road, gradually making their way back towards us, and driving the deer before them. We turn into the forest to the north, and after going in a short distance the horses are hitched, and Joe left in charge. We give him the blunderbuss loaded and prepared for his use, and tell him to pull the trigger if he hears the hounds coming too near his station, so as to frighten the deer over towards us. We cock the gun for him, and leave him fully prepared for the emergency. We then take up our several positions about five hundred yards apart, on a line due north from each other. Joe first, Bertham second, myself third, and 'Lish last. As a Greenhorn, I am told to keep my eye on a certain black stump when I hear the hounds coming, for if the deer comes through on the runway I am watching, he will surely pass within ten feet of that stump. I am told, also, that if the deer gets by me unhurt, not to let the dogs follow, but to stop and tie them fast. I am provided with stout muslin cords for that purpose, for the deer would probably lead them to the lake, seven or eight miles distant, and we might see no more of them for days, our hunt for the next day be spoiled. So, with these hints, I wait in the grand solitude of the virgin forest, with ears intent for the voice of the hounds. I cannot tell how long I waited. I only know that in a supreme moment of contemplation, when the soul seemed filled with the greatness, the grandeur, the glory of the illimitable wilderness, I was suddenly aroused to a realizing sense of the situation by a distant cry of the hounds, distant and low at first, gradually coming nearer and more distinct; now evidently running to the north, now to the south. Oh! the music of that full chorus, which now began to break loudly on the still air, was inspiring. All else was still as death, and every particular hair was standing on end with expectation. One loud, deep, and wonderfully clear voice, was evidently nearer than the rest, but running too far north, for my runway. Presently, crack goes a shot, evidently from 'Lish's Winchester; then another, and another in quick succession. All is still again. The deep, loud-voiced hound, is heard no more; but the others are in full cry, nearly in front of me, but yet at some distance. I cannot resist the inclination to climb that high stump at my right, to see if I can see the result of those three sharp cracks. I am up there in an instant, but can see nothing: I suddenly hear a twig snap almost at my side, and looking down quickly, there is a beautiful fawn bounding lightly by, scarcely seeming to touch the ground, so graceful, so beautiful. I am spell-bound, and haven't the heart to stop him. No! Go on, my jewel, and take your life with you. The hounds are still crying loud and near. I am now back in an instant to my old position, with my eye on the black stump, though my game has probably passed. I must stop the hounds. A' ah! there is a commotion in the brush over by that stump now. No fawn this time. A crash in the thicket, and out rushes like the wind an old grey-haired monarch, plunging like lightning right by my wondering and bewildered vision, and myself powerless to raise an arm to stop him. In an instant, however, Richard is himself again, and I send a wild shot after him. He is away now two hundred yards, going straight from me. I raise my rifle again with comparative deliberation this time. Ah! old fellow, where are you now? His heels fly up, and turning a complete sommersault he lies still. The shot had struck him behind the ear and entered his brain, and in falling his momentum had carried him completely over.

I viewed my prize with a pride that I will not attempt to express. He was a grand fellow, and his head and antlers will remain an heirloom, I hope, for many generations to come. I now start to get Joe to help me in the details of bleeding and dressing him. Hark! there goes Joe's gun! Can there be another coming? I stop to listen, but hear nothing but a faint, distant jargon, in Joe's peculiar vernacular, and hasten to see what has happened to him. I found him leaning against a stump, with his hands pressed over his abdominal region, throwing out curses by the bushel on all guns, and that gun in particular, which was lying in the mud at his feet. He was able finally to explain that, after he had heard our shots, he thought all necessity for shooting his gun had passed, and he didn't like to see it standing there cocked, for the "durned thing might go off of itself, you know," and so resolved to put the hammer down. In performing the operation he held the breech against his stomach, the hammers slipped from his fingers and exploded both barrels, the recoil sending him flat on his back, and as he expressed it, "knocking his breakfast clean up into his hat."

'Lish and Bertham had now come up with the hounds, and we passed congratulations and enjoyed a hearty laugh at Joe's expense. 'Lish had killed a buck and a doe, which satisfactorily accounted for his three shots. Bertham had not been in luck, and all agreed that the Greenhorn had acquitted himself with credit, but rather joked the sentiment which gave the fawn his liberty. We now waited for Buxton to come in before we tackled the substantials that we had brought for the inner man. He was not long after the hounds, however, and while regaling ourselves at the festive board, Buxton related how the large buck that I killed was started up by the hounds, only a few rods from where he was standing, and he could have captured him easily, but he thought of that "chap from York who had come a thousand miles to shoot deer, and he wouldn't steal any of his chances no how." Who says there isn't honor and fellow feeling in the backwoods? Indeed, that is just the place to look for it and its name, when you find it— is" Buxton. Well, there must be an end to all things, and the end had now come to our first day's hunt. We all turned to and had our venison stored in the wagon box in short order, which obliged all but that "favored chap from York" to walk home. That night a mysterious party, with glistening knives and lanterns, were busy until midnight cutting up and dividing the spoils, and planning for the next day's hunt, which promised lively sport, inasmuch as bear and wildcat were included in the programme. I find I have forgotten to speak of "Old John," as I promised. He is a grand character in his way, but the length of this paper precludes the singing of his virtues, and of his wonderful intelligence at this time, but will come in with a subsequent account of the three day's sport that followed, and which was participated in by Greenhorn.

Part 2

As "Old John" is to figure more or less conspicuously in the account of the next day's hunt, it will be well to introduce him on the start. He is a stallion of almost regal magnificence when he is in shape; but it is not usual in the hunting season to find him in this condition, for his master is almost constantly on his back, and they rough it together, scouring the country in all weathers, and it is a matter of almost daily occurrence to see them come in at nightfall— -'Lish on foot followed by Old John bearing a buck, or a bear, or a brace of turkeys slung over his back; and when we consider the pure white of his coat it is easy to imagine that with such usage he does not at this season appear at his best, as far as looks are concerned, being blood stained and soiled; but as soon as the hunting season is over he appears in his dress suit, which is pure glossy white with jet black spots scattered about his loins and shoulders, with a mane and tail flowing thick and long like silken floss prepared for the loom. A sight of him impressed one with supernatural strength and endurance, combined with the most perfect symmetry and grace of form and movement. 'Lish bought him while a colt, and commenced his education at once. We call him Old John, but he has only turned his sixth year, and is therefore not jet in his prime. His natural intelligence is something wonderful, and after he had been taught that he had an absolute master it was perfectly easy for him to be made to understand and to perform anything. He will acknowledge but one master, however, and -it is worth the life of a stranger to attempt any familiarities with him, and yet 'Lish will put his little six-year old Gussie and five-year old Nellie on his back, and Old John will follow him like a pet dog even into the house, proud of his precious burden.

But the noble animal shows best his mettle when on the hunt with his master on his back. The bridle lines are always hanging loosely over his neck, for they are rarely used. 'Lish has his Winchester slung over his shoulder, his breech loader over his arm, his knife in his belt, and off they go like the wind, through thickets, over ditches and fallen logs, turning this way and that, guided by his master's voice or the sway of his body, or a wave of his hand; it is a picture worth going miles to see.

Now we will imagine 'Lish and Old John coming home together after a hard day's hunt. They pass in the lane and stop at the side door of the house. The game is taken off Old John's back, and the bridle also removed and done up snugly; no such encumbrance as a saddle is used. Old John is then made to take the bridle in his mouth and receives his orders there. "Now, sir, take your bridle down and hang it up and go into your room and shut the door," and Old John starts off at a lively gait for the barn at the end of the lane, while ‘Lish goes in, kisses wife and babies, takes his game into the dressing room, and then goes down to make Old John comfortable for the night. He finds the bridle hung on its peg all right, and lifting the latch finds the old fellow awfully impatient for his oats; so the feed box is filled, and just as Old John is going for it with a rush, he hears a warning, thus : "Stop, sir! Don't you dare touch an oat until I tell you." We go out and latch the door and look through a crack, keep perfectly still and watch. John stretches out his nose towards the oats just near enough to get a sniff, then throws back his head and looks all around slyly; then once more slowly and cautiously allows his nose to get within an inch of the tempting pile, and holds still a moment, then the lips begin to quiver, then to open and stretch forward. "T-a-k-e c-a-r-e, sir," and back goes his head with a sigh and a half whinney, when 'Lish says "Go in, old chap," and his nose goes in half way up to his eyes, and he is happy. Such is Old John.

In order that the plan of the second day's hunt may be clearly comprehended, it is necessary to explain that the Black River runs through the country due south, passing directly through the village where our headquarters are located. All the deer that are started west of here make for this river, which is mainly a deep stream, and probably ten or twelve rods wide, with an occasional fording place. The banks on either side are mostly high and precipitous, of clay and gravel, and fringed with the virgin forest. The river is generally full of logs, which are floated down from lumber camps above to a large saw mill at the village. The deer, when pressed by the hounds, will plunge into the river and hide under the floating masses of logs, with nothing above water but their nostrils, and many of the countrymen who do not own hounds take their stations along the east bank of the river trusting to luck for a shot at some deer who may have run the gauntlet of hunters beyond. Our plan for this day's hunt was for Buxton to take the hounds and go west about a mile, then north two miles, and drive towards the river, while we were to go directly up the east bank of the river about two miles, tramping the whole distance, as there are no roads from the village in this direction, and then take our several stations. I was to take the station furthest north, and 'Lish was to go on Old John and scour a limited district north of me for bear, wildcats, or turkeys, and when he found them, he was either to return to me and let me know, or, if circumstances would not permit of his leaving the game, he was to give two quick shots from his Winchester rifle, and I was to make my way as best I could to where he was, being guided by an occasional whistle from him, he keeping the game cornered or treed as the case might be, until I should come up. We were honored on this trip with the company of Mr. Wildman Mills the owner of countless broad acres in this and adjoining counties, and whose great industry and success in clearing and reclaiming the wild swamp lands of the district causing them to blossom as the rose, has rendered his name a synonym for industry, progress and civilization.

Well, Buxton gets an early start with the hounds, and we a little later go our way. Mr. Mills takes the first station, Bertham next, and myself to the extreme north of the line. As we get located 'Lish rushes by on Old John, and with a nod at me he is out of sight in the timber in an instant. We are now all ready for whatever may turn up, and waiting on the tip-toe of expectation for something to happen to call our energies into action. Besides listening for the hounds I have an eye and an ear in the direction whence 'Lish disappeared, and while there waiting I am slightly exasperated by a duck flying around the bend of the river below, and settling in the water directly in front of me— a splendid shot for my rifle, but I dare not shoot for fear of frightening off nobler game, which is liable to appear on the opposite bank at any instant, so I content me by drawing a bead on the duck's head, and betting myself a hundred dollars that I could take it off as clean as a whistle, if I only chose to pull the trigger. We have waited now nearly an hour, and yet no sound from 'Lish or Buxton or the hounds. Meantime Bertham has come up to my station for company, and being a trifle chilled we have built a blazing fire from the fallen pines and birches, and have almost forgotten the excitement of the hunt in the delicious comfort of the situation, and the chat over the camp fire in the midst of the grand, wild surroundings. Bertham does not expect much from this hunt, particularly in the way of deer as the range of the hounds is too limited and the wind is wrong, having changed to the east since we started, and the deer running towards us against the wind might scent us and turn to the north and be lost to us in the swamps abounding in that direction. He acknowledges, however, that with 'Lish's proverbial good luck it would be unusual if he did not start something; and just as he comes to the conclusion we are startled by two quick cracks of the rifle, apparently from a direction a little west of north. Bertham thinks they are from across the river. The wind, however, being from the east might deceive us a point or two, and so I start directly up the river bank, being assured by Bertham that if I have occasion to cross, there are plenty of good places where it can, be done. I follow up the bank of the river perhaps quarter of a mile on the run; but here I am stopped by a dense undergrowth, which it seems impossible to penetrate. I try it, however, and I am startled by a sudden whirr! then another, and another, until it seemed as if at every step I must almost tread on a partridge. Fairly bewildered with excitement at the idea of losing so much of what we in the east would call first class sport, I press forward and come out finally on the edge of a small clearing, where I stop to take breath, listen, and get my latitude. While there listening I notice on the other side of the clearing, moving closely beside the debris of roots and branches which form the northern boundary of the clearing, a long, lithe, brownish figure creeping close to the ground, but rapidly, in the direction of a large pile of roots and logs at the further corner of the field. It was surely a cat, but certainly larger than any I had heard described in these parts. The suddenness of the apparition, so entirely unlooked for, checked my ardor quickly, and led me to consider with such faculties as I remained master of, whether in this case discretion would not be the better part of valor. Alone in the forest with a wildcat, or something worse, for I felt sure from its size that if it were a cat it must be the father of the whole tribe. What shall I do? "I want to go home!" Had he seen me? I could not be sure of it. Could it be possible that this was the game that 'Lish had found, and was he lurking around somewhere taking notes of the situation? No, this could not be, as his shots were further to the westward, and I had been trying to work to the westward as fast as the river would let me. The cat, or whatever it was, had now dragged his sinuous course to the log pile and had disappeared under it, and at this moment I heard a whistle from 'Lish, and evidently on the other side of the river, and not far away; so I concluded at once to retrace my steps to a point where I could hail Bertham and let him have the wildcat all to himself- Back I went— at good speed, too, for I imagined every time a twig snapped that my "friend" was behind me. Reaching a tree that had been uprooted and fallen over the river, with the top nearly to the opposite shore, I crossed on it and down the opposite bank until I could see and hail Bertham, to whom I gave all the points concerning the cat. He seemed to comprehend everything clearly, and started for the game at once, while I turned and made my way towards the sound of the whistle. I had not far to go before I saw 'Lish at a distance lying on the ground and rolling over and over in a manner to astonish me. I hastened to him, thinking he was hurt, but on coming up found him in a fit of uncontrollable laughter. Old John was lying behind a clump of bushes prone on his side and still as a mouse, while all 'Lish could do was to point in a certain direction and laugh until his face was purple. I looked in the direction he pointed, but could see nothing until my attention was attracted by the falling of a piece of bark, or something like it, from a tree near by, and guided by that I soon saw the cause of the "trouble." Only a few rods from where we were was an old pine tree which had been broken off short so that only about a third of the original tree was left standing, and about the top, say perhaps fifteen feet from the ground, a few large branches were left, while from that point down almost to the ground were innumerable small stumps of branches a foot or more in length, the branches themselves having been torn and twisted off by storm and accident so that the stubs were left mainly sharp and slivery. Up in the top among the large branches was a bear cub about two-thirds grown, and he had gotten himself wedged in between two of the large branches so that he could neither advance or retreat, while his hinder parts were astraddle of a long, sharp stub that stood out from the tree directly under him. He was so wedged that he could neither raise himself much above it nor get around it. In endeavoring to keep himself clear of it he had clawed the bark all off, so that now there was no hold for him, and he was continually slipping down on the sliver, which would pierce him every time he touched it, and at such times the snarling and growling and scratching were something terrific, and when undertaking to look around under him to see what the trouble was his head would bump savagely against the limb that held him, and his eyes would fairly shoot fire with rage; in his calmer moments he would look down and seem to say; "This, may be fun for you, but wait till I get down, that's all." We had now had all the laugh that we could possibly endure, and it was really a feeling of alarm for ourselves as to the consequences of immoderate laughter that led us to consider measures of bringing the affair to an end. I proposed shooting him where he was. "Oh! no," says 'Lish,"give him a chance for his life; and besides I want to see him come down from that tree himself. Its a mighty handy tree to climb, but a mighty aggravating one to descend. I'll start him." So saying, 'Lish slipped in a cartridge loaded with No. 6 shot and sent it up to the bear. It stung him perceptibly, and stimulated him to a tremendous effort, which resulted in getting his hinder parts around sufficiently to get one of his hind feet on the sliver, then raising himself up, lifted his foreshoulders out of the crotch and gave a long sigh of relief, and looked again at us as much as to say : "Now I'll attend to you" he then backed around to the other side of the tree and commenced letting himself down. We started also for the other side, and reached there just in time to see him brought up by another sliver. When about a third of the way down his hinder parts had by this time become very tender and susceptible, and his rage at this latter infliction was intense. He bit at the tree with a savage snarl, taking out a piece of bark and shaking it as a terrier would a rat. Everything now assumed a decided air of business. I stood ready with my rifle, 'Lish by my side with his breech-loader ready, in case I should miss. Down came old Bruin, and on touching the ground faced us and raised himself, evidently determined to fight. I could wait no longer, but pulled trigger, aiming directly between his foreshoulders. Expecting to see him drop at once, I did not then reload, and when I saw him come rapidly for us after my shot, I confess to a "buck fever," or something else, that rendered me incapable of any reasonable action, for I let another cartridge into the chamber and pulled the trigger without raising the gun, and the dirt and chips flew in all directions where the shot struck, and if 'Lish had not quickly put two charges of buckshot in a vital spot, I will not pretend to say what the end would have been. The last charge was put in at very short range, tearing a hole in his neck that saved any use of the knife in bleeding him. We soon rigged a purchase, raised him up, opened and cleaned him. We found that my ball had entered just to the right of his breastbone, and instead of penetrating it had glanced and followed the bone around just under the skin, lodging under the shoulder-blade at the joint; an inch further to the left would undoubtedly have finished him at once.

While we had been entertained by the bear we had heard two shots in Bertham's direction, and we had also imagined that we had heard the hounds far to the south and west of us, but we had been so busy that we could not feel certain.

'Lish now called up Old John, and placing him in a convenient position, by dint of some tugging and lifting Mr. Bear was placed across his back and started for a ford of the river near where we expected to find Bertham. At the ford the banks on either side were comparatively low, and we had no difficulty in crossing. John, however, did some powerful jumping and plunging on the way, but his eye was continually on his master, and he followed his footsteps closely no matter where they led. Reaching Bertham  at last we found that he had got his cat, and had it propped up on a stump as if in the act of springing. Old John didn't like the looks of the animal in that life-like attitude, for he was about giving it a wide berth, but at his master's command he came up to it trembling and snorting, and finally stood quietly beside it. The cat was a large one, but not as large as he had seemed when I saw him in the field.

We now took up our line of march homeward, and related our several experiences. Bertham had made an easy capture of the cat. He tracked him into the pile and ascertained that he had not left it, hence he concluded that the cat had seen me and was keeping dark. Gentle means failing to dislodge him, Bertham had gathered some dry birch bark, which burns like. kerosene, and filling up the crevice on the windward side of the pile, started it burning and stood off waiting results. Pussy soon took the hint, and left, being brought up all standing at the first shot; but Bertham  didn't feel like caressing him much until after the dose had been repeated.

On coming up to Mr. Mills's station we found the lunch basket open and Buxton and Mr. M. going for the choice cuts before a blazing fire of birch bark and pine knots. The hounds were tethered near by, and we all sat down to the feast. Any hunter can imagine the delights of the situation at this moment. It was a time for unbridled indulgence in all the propensities that actuate the true bred, genial and jolly sportsman. The incidents of the day, thus far, had been sufficient to furnish material for all sorts of sparkling sallies, which were mostly aimed at your good-natured correspondent.

 Of course, it was wholly my generosity that gave Bertham a chance at the wildcat! Nervous? who said anybody was nervous? That shot in the dirt was the fault of that confounded mechanic who put the weapon together and manipulated the lock to pull at a good deal less than the regulation three pounds. Of course, it was. Why certainly. No buck fever in this crowd — oh! no! This might have continued indefinitely had not Buxton suddenly started and run up the bank of the river, soon followed by the whole party.

We had learned on first reaching them that Buxton and the hounds had started a doe, but had lost him in the river and the chase had been given over, they supposing that they had seen her tracks up the eastern bank, indicating that she had crossed and was probably on her way to the lake. Buxton had seen some circling ripples in the water up near a bend in the river above us, which was the cause of his sudden start. On arriving at the bend, it was evident that something had been agitating the water, though nothing could be seen. It might have been a duck starting up, or a muskrat. Buxton, meantime, had made his way to the foot of the bank, and was looking intently at a small pile of rubbish which had lodged on a snag near the middle of the river. As this game, whatever it might turn out to be, belonged of right to Buxton and Mr. Mills, we did not interfere. Buxton called on Mr. Mills to put a charge of buckshot in that clump of rubbish, which he did, and immediately a doe's head came to the surface and turned for the opposite shore.

Another charge did not stop her. The water now shallowed, and as she was making a final plunge for a foothold, a ball from Buxton's rifle laid her over as quiet as a lamb. Buxton paddled over on a log and towed her across, when we all set to and had her hung-up and dressed in short order. We now had a short rest at the fire, and then for home.

Within forty-eight hours from that moment I was treading again the stones on Broadway, but with a lighter step than I had known for years, being now resolved that another hunting season — Providence permitting— will find me once more in Michigan, and with the same genial and kindly companions.

Finally, I would say that the articles I took with me all served admirably, and I would duplicate them on another trip, but with the addition, I think, of a good breech-loading shot gun, for the smaller game is so plenty as to be an aggravation unless one has the means of bagging it. After my next trip I trust I may feel sufficiently initiated to abandon the cognomen of Greenhorn.

Wildman MillsProfile Photo

Wildman Mills

Wildman Mills, 1831-1894
Wildman Mills, of Croswell, farmer and dealer in real estate, was born Sept. 17, 1831 in the township of Portland, Erie Co., Ohio. He has been a resident of Croswell since his removal hither in 1866, and has been and still is one of the most prominent factors in the development of Sanilac County. The characteristic traits of Mr. Mills are of the type which have wrought out within the past half century the most marvelous development known to mankind in the portion of the United States territory designated " The West." His parents were Isaac Augustus Mills and Sophia Lyman Mills. Wildman's grandfather was Judge Isaac Mills, one of the co-founders of the city of Sandusky, Ohio. Wildman Mills moved to Sanilac County, Michigan in the 1860s. He was active in several business ventures, including real estate, lumber, railroads, and farming. The unexpected nomination of Mr. Mills for Governor of Michigan by the Anti-Monopolists in 1884, would imply in him an active interest in politics which is entirely remote from the facts in the case. He has never taken more than a passing interest in politics, as they have been in no sense auxiliary to his purposes in life. The town of Sandusky, Michigan, was named by Wildman Mills, in honor of the place of his birth, Sandusky, Ohio. In 1858, Wildman Mills married Julia Moss, and they had five children. After Wildman Mill died in Croswell, Michigan, his remains were returned to Sandusky, Ohio for burial at Oakland Cemetery.
Source: Portrait and Biographical Album of Sanilac County (Chapman Brothers, 1884), https://archive.org/stream/portraitbiograph09chic#page/n3/mode/2up