Maurice G. (Maurice Garland) Fulton.

Southern life in southern literature; selections of representative prose and poetry online

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I would sometimes have to get down and crawl like a varment
to get through it all ; and a vine had, as I supposed, caught
in the handle and pulled it out. While I was standing and
studying what to do, my friend came to me. He had followed
my trail through the harricane, and had found my knife, which
was mighty good news to me, as a hunter hates the worst in


the world to lose a good dog or any part of his hunting tools.
I now left McDaniel to butcher the bear, and I went after our
horses and brought them as near as the nature of the case
would allow. I then took our bags and went back to where
he was ; and when we skinned the bear, we fleeced off the fat
and carried it to our horses at several loads. We then packed
it up on our horses, and had a heavy pack of it on each one.
\Ve now started and went on till about sunset, when I con
cluded we must be near our camp ; so I hollered, and my son
answered me, and we moved on in the direction to the camp.
\Ve had gone but a little way when I heard my dogs make a
warm start again ; and I jumped down from my horse and
gave him up to my friend, and told him I would follow them.
He went on to the camp, and I went ahead after my dogs with
all my might for a considerable distance, till at last night came
on. The woods were very rough and hilly and all covered over
with cane.

I now was compelled to move more slowly, and was fre
quently falling over logs and into the cracks made by the
earthquakes, so I was very much afraid I would break my
gun. However, I went on about three miles, when I came to
a good big creek, which I waded. It was very cold, and the
creek was about knee-deep ; but I felt no great inconvenience
from it just then, as I was ovenvet with sweat from running
and I felt hot enough. After I got over this creek and out of
the cane, which was very thick on all our creeks, I listened for
my dogs. I found they had either treed or brought the bear to
a stop, as they continued barking in the same place. I pushed
on as near in the direction of the noise as I could, till I found
the hill was too steep for me to climb, and so I backed and
went down the creek some distance, till I came to a hollow,
and then took up that, till I came to a place w r here I could
climb up the hill. It was mighty dark, and was difficult to see


my way, or anything else. When I got up the hill I found I
had passed the dogs ; and so I turned and went to them. I
found, when I got there, they had treed the bear in a large
forked poplar, and it was setting in the fork.

I could see the lump, but not plain enough to shoot with
any certainty, as there was no moonlight ; and so set in to
hunting for some dry brush to make me a light ; but I could
find none, though I could find that the ground was torn mightily
to pieces by the cracks.

At last I thought I could shoot by guess and kill him ; so
I pointed as near the lump as I could and fired away. But the
bear did n t come ; he only dumb up higher and got out on a
limb, which helped me to see him better. I now loaded up
again and fired, but this time he didn t move at all. I com
menced loading for a third fire, but the first thing I knowed,
the bear was down among my dogs, and they were fighting all
around me. I had my big butcher in my belt, and I had a pair
of dressed breeches on. So I took out my knife, and stood,
determined, if he should get hold of me, to defend myself in
the best way I could. I stood there for some time, and could
now and then see a white dog I had, but the rest of them, and
the bear, which were dark-colored, I could n t see at all, it was
so miserable dark. They still fought around me, and some
times within three feet of me ; but at last the bear got down
into one of the cracks that the earthquakes had made in the
ground, about four feet deep, and I could tell the biting end
of him by the hollering of my dogs. So I took my gun and
pushed the muzzle of it about, till I thought I had it against
the main part of his body, and fired ; but it happened to be
only the fleshy part of his foreleg. With this he jumped out
of the crack, and he and the dogs had another hard fight
around me, as before. At last, however, they forced him back
into the crack again, as he was when I had shot.


I had laid down my gun in the dark, and I now began to
hunt for it ; and, while hunting, I got hold of a pole, and I
concluded I would punch him awhile with that. I did so, and
when I would punch him the dogs would jump in on him,
when he would bite them badly, and they would jump out
again. I concluded, as he would take punching so patiently,
it might be that he would lie still enough for me to get down
in the crack and feel slowly along till I could find the right
place to give him a dig with my butcher. So I got down, and
my dogs got in before him and kept his head towards them,
till I got along easily up to him ; and placing my hand on his
rump, felt for his shoulder, just behind where I intended to
stick him. I -made a lunge with my long knife, and fortunately
struck him right through the heart, at which he just sank down,
and I crawled out in a hurry. In a little time my dogs all come
out too, and seemed satisfied, which was the way they always
had of telling me that they had finished him.

I suffered very much that night with cold, as my leather
breeches and everything else I had on was wet and frozen.
But I managed to get my bear out of this crack after several
hard trials, and so I butchered him and laid down to try to
sleep. But my fire was very bad, and I could n t find anything
that would burn well to make it any better; and so I concluded
I should freeze if I did n t warm myself in some way by exer
cise. So I got up and hollered awhile, and then I would just
jump up and down with all my might and throw myself into
all sorts of motions. But all this would n t do ; for my blood
was now getting cold, and the chills coming all over me. I was
so tired too that I could hardly walk ; but I thought I would
do the best I could to save my life, and then if I died, nobody
would be to blame. So I went up to a tree about two feet
through, and not a limb on it for thirty feet, and I would climb
up to the limbs and then lock my arms together around it and


slide down to the bottom again. This would make the inside
of my legs and arms feel mighty warm and good. I continued
this till daylight in the morning, and how often I climbed up
my tree and slid down I don t know, but I reckon at least a
hundred times.

In the morning I got my bear hung up so as to be safe, and
then set out to hunt for my camp. I found it after a while,
and McDaniel and my son were very much rejoiced to see me
get back, for they were about to give me up for lost. We got
our breakfasts, and then secured our meat by building a high
scaffold and covering it over. We had no fear of its spoiling,
for the weather was so cold that it couldn t.

We now started after my other bear, which had caused me
so much trouble and suffering ; and before we got him we got
a start after another, and took him also. We went on to the
creek I had crossed the night before, and camped, and then
went to where my bear was that I had killed in the crack.
When we examined the place, McDaniel said he would n t have
gone into it, as I did, for all the bears in the woods.

We then took the meat down to our camp and salted it, and
also the last one we had killed ; intending in the morning to
make a hunt in the harricane again.

We prepared for resting that night, and I can assure the
reader I was in need of it. We had laid down by our fire, and
about ten o clock there came a most terrible earthquake, which
shook the earth so that we rocked about like we had been in a
cradle. We were very mucjj alarmed ; for though we were
accustomed to feel earthquakes, we were now right in the
region which had been torn to pieces by them in 1812, and we
thought it might take a notion and swallow us up, like the big
fish did Jonah.

In the morning we packed up and moved to the harricane,
where we made another camp, and turned out that evening


and killed a very large bear, which made eight we had now
killed in this hunt.

The next morning we entered the harricane again, and in a
little or no time my dogs were in full cry. We pursued them,
and soon came to a thick canebrake, in which they had stopped
their bear. We got up close to him, as the cane was so thick
that we could n t see more than a few feet. Here I made my
friend hold the cane a little open with his gun till I shot the
bear, which was a mighty large one. I killed him dead in his
tracks. We got him out and butchered him, and in a little time
started another and killed him, which now made ten we had
killed ; and we knowed we could n t pack any more home, as
we had only five horses along ; therefore we returned to the
camp and salted up all our meat, to be ready for a start home
ward next morning.

The morning came, and we packed our horses with meat,
and had as much as they could possibly carry, and sure enough
cut out for home. It was about thirty miles, and we reached
home the second day. I had now accommodated my neighbor
with meat enough to do him, and had killed in all, up to that
time, fifty-eight bears during the fall and winter.

As soon as the time come for them to quit their houses and
come out again in the spring, I took a notion to hunt a little
more, and in about one month I killed forty-seven more, which
made one hundred and five bears which I had killed in less
than one year from that time.


[John James Audubon was born near New Orleans in 1780 of
French and Spanish extraction. I?e was educated in Paris, where
he had lessons in painting from the celebrated painter J. L. David.
Returning to America in 1 798, he settled on an estate of his father s
near Philadelphia, and gave himself up to the study of natural


history, and especially to the drawing of birds. Afterwards he was
for a time a merchant in various Southern cities. Finally he gave
up all regular business pursuits and spent his time roaming hither
and thither in the forests making observations of animal and of bird
life. His greatest production, " The Birds of America," published
from 1 83 1 to 1 839, consisted of five volumes of biographies of birds
and four volumes of portraits of birds, the latter volumes containing
over four hundred drawings, colored and life-size.]


Although every European traveler who has glided down the
Mississippi at the rate of ten miles an hour has told his tale of
the squatters, yet none has given any other account of them
than that they are " a sallow, sickly-looking sort of miserable
being," living in swamps and subsisting on pignuts, Indian
corn, and bear s flesh. It is obvious, however, that none but a
person acquainted with their history, manners, and condition
can give any real information respecting them.

The individuals who become squatters choose that sort of
life of their own free will. They mostly remove from other
parts of the United States after finding that land has
too high in price, and they are persons who, having-
strong and hardy children, are anxious to enable them to pro
vide for themselves. They have heard from good authorities
that the country extending along the great streams of the ^est
is of all parts of the Union the richest in its soil, the growth of
its timber, and the abundance of its game ; that, besides, the
Mississippi is the great road to and from all the markets in
the world ; and that every vessel borne by its waters affords
to settlers some chance of selling their commodities, or of ex
changing them for others. To these recommendations is added
another, of even greater weight with persons of the above
denomination, namely, the prospect of being able to settle on


land, and perhaps to hold it for a number of years, without
purchase, rent, or tax of any kind. How many thousands of
individuals in all parts of the globe would gladly try their for
tune with such prospects I leave to you, reader, to determine.

As I am not disposed too highly to color the picture which I
am about to submit to your inspection, instead of pitching on
individuals who have removed from our eastern boundaries,
and of whom certainly there are a good number, I shall intro
duce to you the members of a family from Virginia, first giving
you an idea of their condition in that country previous to their
migration to the West. The land which they and their an
cestors have possessed for a hundred years, having been con
stantly forced to produce crops of one kind or another, is
completely worn out. It exhibits only a superficial layer of red
clay, cut up by deep ravines, through which much of the soil
has been conveyed to some more fortunate neighbor residing
in a yet rich and beautiful valley. Their strenuous efforts to
render it productive have failed. They dispose of everything
too cumbrous or expensive for them to remove, retaining only
a few horses, a servant or two, and such implements of hus
bandry and other articles as may be necessary on their journey
or useful when they arrive at the spot of their choice.

I think I see them harnessing their horses and attaching
them to their \yagons, which are already filled with bedding,
provisions, and the younger children ; while on their outside are
fastened spinning wheels and looms, and a bucket filled with
tar and tallow swings betwixt the hind wheels. Several axes
are secured to the bolster, and the feeding-trough of the horses
contains pots, kettles, and pans. The servant now becomes a
driver, riding the near saddled horse ; the wife is mounted on
another ; the worthy husband shoulders his gun ; and his sons,
clad in plain, substantial homespun, drive the cattle ahead and
lead the procession, followed by the hounds and other dogs.


Their day s journey is short and not agreeable. The cattle,
stubborn or wild, frequently leave the road for the woods,
giving the travelers much trouble ; the harness of the horses
here and there gives way, and immediate repair is needed.
A basket which has accidentally dropped must be gone after,
for nothing that they have can be spared. The roads are bad,
and now and then all hands are called to push on the wagon or
prevent it from upsetting. Yet by sunset they have proceeded
perhaps twenty miles. Fatigued, all assemble around the fire
which has been lighted ; supper is prepared, and a camp being
run up, there they pass the night.

Days and weeks, nay months, of unremitting toil pass before
they gain the end of the journey. They have crossed both the
Carolinas, Georgia, and Alabama. They have been traveling
from the beginning of May to that of September, and with
heavy hearts they traverse the neighborhood of the Mississippi.
But now, arrived on the banks of the broad stream, they gaze
in amazement on the dark, deep woods around them. Boats of
various kinds they see gliding downward with the current, while
others slowly ascend against it. A few inquiries are made at
the nearest dwelling, and assisted by the inhabitants with their
boats and canoes, they at once cross the river and select their
place of habitation.

The exhalations rising from the swamps and morasses
around them have a powerful effect on these new settlers, but
all are intent on preparing for the winter. A small patch of
ground is cleared by the ax and fire, a temporary cabin is
erected ; to each of the cattle is attached a bell before it is let
loose into the neighboring canebrake, and the horses remain
about the house, where they find sufficient food at that season.
The first trading boat that stops at their landing enables them
to provide themselves with some flour, fishhooks, and ammuni
tion, as well as other commodities. The looms are mounted,


the spinning wheels soon furnish yarn, and in a few weeks the
family throw off their ragged clothes and array themselves in
suits adapted to the climate. The father and sons meanwhile
have sown turnips and other vegetables, and from some Ken
tucky flatboat a supply of live poultry has been purchased.

October tinges the leaves of the forest ; the morning dews
are heavy, the days hot and the nights chill ; and the unaccli-
matized family in a few days are attacked with ague. The
lingering disease almost prostrates their whole faculties. For
tunately the unhealthy season soon passes over, and the
hoarfrosts make their appearance. Gradually each individual
recovers strength. The largest ash trees are felled, their trunks
are cut, split, and corded in front of the building ; a large fire
is lighted at night on the edge of the water; and soon a
steamer calls to purchase the wood and thus add to their
comforts during the winter. This first fruit of their industry
imparts new courage to them ; their exertions multiply ; and
when spring returns the place has a cheerful look. Venison,
bear s flesh, and turkeys, ducks, and geese, with now and then
some fish, have served to keep up their strength, and now their
enlarged field is planted with corn, potatoes, and pumpkins.
Their stock of cattle too has augmented ; the steamer which
now stops there, as if by preference, buys a calf or pig together
with their wood. Their store of provisions is renewed, and
brighter rays of hope enliven their spirits.

\Yho is he of the settlers on the Mississippi that cannot
realize some profit ? Truly none \vho is industrious. When the
autumnal months return, all are better prepared to encounter
the ague which then prevails. Substantial food, suitable cloth
ing, and abundant firing repel its attacks ; and before another
twelvemonth has elapsed the family is naturalized. The sons
have by this time discovered a swamp covered w r ith excellent
timber, and as they have seen many great rafts of saw logs,


bound for the mills of New Orleans, floating past their dwelling,
they resolve to try the success of a little enterprise. Their
industry and prudence have already enhanced their credit. A
few cross-saws are purchased, and some broad-wheeled " carry-
logs " are made by themselves. Log after log is hauled to the
bank of the river, and in a short time their first raft is made on
the shore and loaded with cordwood. When the next freshet
sets it afloat, it is secured by long grapevines or cables until,
the proper time being arrived, the husband and sons embark
on it and float down the mighty stream.

After encountering many difficulties they arrive in safety at
New Orleans, where they dispose of their stock, the money
obtained for which may be said to be all profit, supply them
selves with such articles as may add to their convenience or
comfort, and with light hearts procure a passage on the upper
deck of a steamer, at a very cheap rate on account of the
benefit of their labor in taking in wood or otherwise.

And now the vessel approaches their home. See the joyous
mother and daughters as they stand on the bank ! A store of
vegetables lies around them, a large tub of fresh milk is at their
feet, and in their hands are plates filled with rolls of butter.
As the steamer stops, three broad straw hats are waved from
the upper deck, and soon husband and wife, brothers and
sisters, are in each other s embrace. The boat carries off the
provisions for which value has been left, and as the captain
issues his orders for putting on the steam, the happy family
enter their humble dwelling. The husband gives his bag of
dollars to the wife, while the sons present some token of affec
tion to the sisters. Surely, at such a moment, the squatters are
richly repaid for all their labors.

Every successive year has increased their savings. They now
possess a large stock of horses, cows, and hogs, with abun
dance of provisions and domestic comfort of every kind. The


daughters have been married to the sons of neighboring
squatters, and have gained sisters to themselves by the marriage
of their brothers. The government secures to the family the
lands on which, twenty years before, they settled in poverty and
sickness. Larger buildings are erected on piles, secure from
inundations ; where a single cabin once stood, a neat village
is now to be seen ; warehouses, stores, and workshops increase
the importance of the place. The squatters live respected, and
in due time die regretted by all who knew them.

Thus are the vast frontiers of our country peopled, and thus
does cultivation, year after year, extend over the western wilds.
Time will no doubt be, when the great valley of the Mississippi,
still covered with primeval forests interspersed with swamps,
will smile with cornfields and orchards, while crowded cities will
rise at intervals along its banks, and enlightened nations will
rejoice in the bounties of Providence.


[William Elliott was born in Beaufort, South Carolina, in 1 788.
After graduating from Harvard, he returned to South Carolina.
Except for some early incursions into politics, he chiefly devoted
himself to the management of his estates, and, as a writer and lec
turer on agricultural and other subjects, became widely known. He
contributed to one of the newspapers of Charleston the series of
sporting sketches which were collected and published in 1 846 under
the title of " Carolina Sports by Land and Water." He died in
Charleston, South Carolina, in 1863.]


It was a glorious winter s day sharp, but bracing. The sun
looked forth with dazzling brightness, as he careered through a
cloudless sky ; and his rays came glancing back from many an
ice-covered lagoon that lay scattered over the face of the ground.


The moan of an expiring northwester was faintly heard from
the tops of the magnificent forest pines. Three sportsmen,
while it was yet early, met at their trysting place, to perpetrate
a raid against the deer! They were no novices, those hunts
men ; they had won trophies in many a sylvan war, and they
now took the field " of malice prepense " with all the appliances
of destruction at their beck practiced drivers of the pack,
often proved, and now refreshed by three days rest. Brief was
their interchange of compliment ; they felt that such a day was
not to be trifled away in talk ; and they hallooed their hounds
impatiently into the drive yet not as greenhorns would have
done. " Keep clear of the swamps " was the order of the
drivers -"leave the close covers ride not where the ice
crackles under the horse s hoof, but look closely into the
sheltered knolls, where you will find the deer sunning them
selves after the last night s frost." The effect of this order was
soon evident, for in the second knoll entered by the hounds a
herd of deer were found thawing themselves in the first beams
of the ascending sun. Ho ! what a burst 1 with what fury the
hounds dash in among them ! Now they sweep along the
thickets that skirt the drive and climb the summit of that ele
vated piny ridge destined one day to become a summer
settlement and to bear the name of - . But not unfore
seen or unprovided for was the run which the deer had taken.
Frisky Geordy was in their path, and crack went the sound of
his gun, and loud and vaunting was the twang of his horn that
followed the explosion ! And now the frozen earth reechoed to
the tramp of horses hoofs, as the huntsmen hurried to the call
that proclaims that a deer has fallen. There was Geordy, his
gun against a pine, his knee upon the still heaving flank of a
pricket buck, his right hand clenched upon his dripping knife,
his left flourishing a horn, which ever and anon was given to
his mouth and filled the air with its boastful notes.


" Halloo, Geordy ! you have got him fast, I see. Where are
the dogs ? "

" Gone," said Geordy.

" There s Ruler in the east what s he after ? "

" A deer," says Geordy.

" And Rouser to the south what s he after ? "

" Another deer," says Geordy.

" And Nimrod to the southwest I need not ask what he s
after, for he follows nothing but deer. Your second barrel
snapped, of course ? "

" I don t say that," says Geordy ; " I had wounded the six
last deer I d fired at, so I thought I d kill one to-day, and
while I looked to see if that was really dead the others slipped

Online LibraryMaurice G. (Maurice Garland) FultonSouthern life in southern literature; selections of representative prose and poetry → online text (page 2 of 35)