John Toner’s bear encounter continued

Posted Photo courtesy John M. Motter
During the early years of Pagosa Country, the first settlers grew a lot of grain. In this photo, pioneer Ethereal T. Walker is threshing on his place at the intersection of today’s highways 84 and 160. The smoke you see is from a steam engine Walker brought across Cumbres Pass when he entered Pagosa Country in 1879.[/caption]

We continue from last week with the story of “A Bear and Two Tenderfeet” as written by John Toner in 1926.

“We wished to call the attention of the audience to the fact that his (John Toner) worn, tired, and haggard appearance was not due to his having fought forest fires day and night for the past week. That, he said, was the only soothing recreation he’d had for a long time.

“He had been entertaining a couple of tenderfeet and had, therefore, lived under a great mental stress. It was necessary to blaze trees between his house and the spring-house, else when the tenderfeet went for water, they would get lost and have to be hunted up.

“They developed a desire to capture a bear. He took them over on Pagosa Creek, where they went cautiously into camp, forty yards beyond Mr. Reno’s house, and returned home, believing that for a night or two he would sleep in peace. At midnight he awoke with an impression of impending disaster and remembered that he had forgotten to hobble his friends. Fearing that they would stray away from camp and get hopelessly lost, he dressed and struck out across the country.

“Arriving at the camp, he saw by the light of the moon that his guests had taken remarkable precautions for self-preservation. They had built a high barricade of logs around the tent and outside of it a circle of dry grass and brush. There was a contraption holding a match and an ingenious scratching device whereby a circle of sacred fire could be instantly had by pulling a string from within the tent. Several steel traps were set around the place, none of them, however, attached to clogs. Feeling reassured for the safety of his friends, he turned to go home but stood face to face with an enormous silvertip bear.

“Mr. Toner had never before believed in Darwinian theory, but as he sat on a pine limb forty feet from the ground he became convinced that the progenitors of man were of arboreal habits and that if instincts be allowed to prevail, man could climb a tree far easier than he could the ladder of fame. He differed, however, with Mr. Darwin as to process in one detail. It did not seem reasonable to think that evolution in her grand work had evolved the bear before she did man, because he could not imagine man venturing down the line of descent with a bear at the bottom.

“After he had studied the situation and his symptoms from a purely scientific standpoint, he thought of his friends and did all in his power to wake them up. He yelled, ‘pop corn, soda pop, ice cream, pink neckties, shirtwaists’ and everything else that would naturally appeal to the heart of a dude, but in vain.

“In the meantime, Bruin cleaned up a gallon of honey, four open cans of salmon, along with other delicacies intended for his capture, then began to tear down the fortification and it seemed to Mr. Toner that all was lost.”

More next week on this “true?” bear story as told by old-timer Toner.