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Guide to Life and Literature
of the Southwest

Bears and Bear Hunters

THE BEAR, whether black or grizzly, is a great American citizen. Think of how many children have been put to sleep with bear stories! Facts about the animal are fascinating; the effect he has had on the minds of human beings associated with him transcends naturalistic facts. The tree on which Daniel Boone carved the naked fact that here he "Killed A. Bar In the YEAR 1760" will never die. Davy Crockett killed 105 bars in one season, and his reputation as a bar hunter, plus ability to tell about his exploits, sent him to Congress. He had no other reason for going. The grizzly was the hero of western tribes of Indians from Alaska on down into the Sierra Madre. Among western white men who met him, occasionally in death, the grizzly inspired a mighty saga, the cantos of which lie dispersed in homely chronicles and unrecorded memories as well as in certain vivid narratives by Ernest Thompson Seton, Hittell's John Capen Adams, John G. Neihardt, and others.

For all that, neither the black bear nor the grizzly has been amply conceived of as an American character. The conception must include a vast amount of folklore. In a chapter on "Bars and Bar Hunters" in On the Open Range and in "Juan Oso" and "Under the Sign of Ursa Major," chapters of Tongues of the Monte, I have indicated the nature of this dispersed epic in folk tales.

In many of the books listed under "Nature; Wild Life; Naturalists" and "Mountain Men" the bear "walks like a man."


James Bridger, Salt Lake City, 1922 reprinted by Long's College Book Co., Columbus, Ohio. Contains several versions of the famous Hugh Glass bear story.


The Adventures of John Capen Adams, 1860; reprinted 1911, New York. OP. Perhaps no man has lived who knew grizzlies better than Adams. A rare personal narrative.


True Bear Stories, Chicago, 1900. OP. Truth questionable in places; interest guaranteed.


Saddles and Lariats, Boston, 1909. OP. The chapter "In a Grizzly's Jaws" is a wonderful bear story.


The Grizzly, Our Greatest Wild Animal, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1919. Some naturalists have accused Mills of having too much imagination. He saw much and wrote vividly.


The Song of Hugh Glass, New York, 1915. An epic in vigorous verse of the West's most famous man-and-bear story. This imagination-rousing story has been told over and over, by J. Cecil Alter in James Bridger, by Stanley Vestal in Mountain Men, and by other writers.


Hunting Adventures in the West (1885) and The Wilderness Hunter (1893) -- books reprinted in parts or wholly under varying titles. Several narratives of hunts intermixed with baldfaced facts.


The Biography of a Grizzly, 1900; now published by Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York. Monarch, the Big Bear of Tallac, 1904. Graphic narratives.


Bears in the Yellowstone, Chicago, 1925. OP. A naturalist's rounded knowledge, pleasantly told.


Meet Mr. Grizzly, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 1943. Montague Stevens graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1881 and came to New Mexico to ranch. As respects deductions on observed data, his book is about the most mature yet published by a ranchman. Goodnight experienced more, had a more ample nature, but he lacked the perspective, the mental training, to know what to make of his observations. Another English rancher, R. B. Townshend, had perspective and charm but was not a scientific observer. So far as sense of smell goes, Meet Mr. Grizzly is as good as W. H. Hudson's A Hind in Richmond Park. On the nature and habits of grizzly bears, it is better than The Grizzly by Enos Mills.


The Grizzly Bear: The Narrative of a Hunter-Naturalist, Historical, Scientific and Adventurous, New York, 1928. OP. This is not only the richest and justest book published on the grizzly; it is among the best books of the language on specific mammals. Wright had a passion for bears, for their preservation, and for arousing informed sympathy in other people. Yet he did not descend to propaganda. His The Black Bear, London, n.d., is good but no peer to his work on the grizzly. Also OP.

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