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56 - Little Man with a Big Nerve

 

 

 

from The Treasury of Newfoundland Stories published, by Maple Leaf Mills Limited, in 1961

Obadiah Robinson, our Uncle Obe, as he is usually called, packed his lunch, slung his powder horn and shot bag over his shoulder and picked up his ancient muzzle-loader shotgun. Then he headed for Skipins' Ridge, some 10 miles west of Burlington, Green Bay. It was in the month of March, 1950. All his bottled meat had been consumed. With nothing left to make gravy, Uncle Obe, though a little man, hoped to bag a big moose.

After travelling from early morning until mid-afternoon, he was beginning to get tired when he came upon an old track. The snow had filled it in, and it was hard to tell what kind of animal had been that way.

Uncle Obe was sure of one thing; the track was big enough to be that of a moose. Nothing would hold the hunter back. Hungry as he was, and fond of hot tea, he didn't wait to make a fire and cook a snack. Instead, he settled for a slice of bred and a cup of ice-cold water from a nearby brook.

After walking two miles he found himself at the Middle Arm. Near the side of a cliff he saw a hole in the snow that was almost large enough for him to walk into without stooping. Wise to the ways of the wilds, he knew now that he was not tracking a moose but a bear, and that he had come upon its den which was, to be truthful, a cave, the entrance of which had been covered by old boughs.

They had been freshly broken, so plainly the bear had come out of hibernation not long before, and, having seen his shadow, decided to hole up once again, a custom that bruins are supposed to observe.

Uncle Obe cocked his gun, and, pulling back the boughs, peered into the den. Unable to see the bear, he stepped back a few feet and shouted, "If you be in there come out. Or are you a coward?"

The bear ignoring this challenge, Uncle Obe proceeded to enter the den without an invitation.

After four short paces he noticed a side-opening in the cave, like a door into another room. The aperture was formed by two large, tapering boulders which met at the top and almost formed a gable roof, as you often see on a barn.

Holding a breath, Uncle Obe thought he heard the bear snoring. But he couldn't be sure. there wasn't any doubt, however, about the growl that suddenly shook the cave. And the beast's angry eyes glowed like coals of fire as he sprang at Uncle Obe.

Soon as he caught sight of Mr. Bear's snout Obe pulled the trigger. While the old three-quarter bore went off like a howltzer and knocked the bear flat, Obe couldn't make out if he had really killed the beast or only wounded it.

Backing out of the cave, he charged up his gun for a second shot. When he crept into the den again, the bear lay quiet, then let out a growl, far worse than before the first shot was fired.

Having learned as a boy that a dying bear often comes to life long enough to claw his assailant, Uncle Obe decided to leave Mr. Bruin alone in the cave for the time being. And he didn't call the critter a coward either.

Two days later he went back with his son. They found the bear had left the den. And around a birch tree where Uncle Obe had reloaded his gun, the bear had scratched and chewed a ring nearly an inch thick, perhaps as a warning about how he would treat the hunter if he called again.

Uncle Obe and the boy chased the bear for the rest of the day, then gave up, hoping as we do, that the bruin lived happily ever afterward.

And the day after that Uncle Obe went to the store and bought himself another case of bottled meat.

 

 

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This page transcribed by James Butler, 2000
REVISED: August 2002 (Terry Piercey)

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