A far cry from his New York City upbringing, the Dakota Bad Lands became Theodore Roosevelt’s stomping grounds when moved to a ranch on the northern cattle plains. During this stage of his life he tracked giant grizzlies through the mountains and wrote his account of these magnificent animals in The Wilderness Hunter. Published in 1893, it is one of the most comprehensive stories of the grizzlies’ private life ever told. However, grizzlies are not the only animal Roosevalt talks about.
The following text from Roosevelt's book is a tantalising account of an encounter with a ‘beast’. A beast which has a strong odour, a ‘great’ body and which walks on 2 feet.
It was told (to me) by a grizzled, weather-beaten old mountain hunter, named Bauman, who was born and had passed all his life on the frontier. He must have believed what he said, for he could hardly repress a shudder at certain points of the tales.
When the event occurred Bauman was still a young man, and was trapping with a partner among the mountains dividing the forks of the Salmon from the head of Wisdom River. Not having had much luck, he and his partner determined to go up into a particularly wild and lonely pass through which ran a small stream said to contain many beaver. The pass had an evil reputation because the year before a solitary hunter who had wandered into it was there slain, seemingly by a wild beast, the half-eaten remains being afterwards found by some mining prospectors who had passed his camp only the night before.
The memory of this event, however, weighed very lightly with the two trappers, who were as adventurous and hardy as others of their kind... They then struck out on foot through the vast, gloomy forest, and in about 4 hours reached a little open glade where they concluded to camp, as signs of game were plenty.
There was still an hour or two of daylight left, and after building a brush lean-to and throwing down and opening their packs, they started up stream.
At dusk they again reached They were surprised to find that during their absence something, apparently a bear. had visited camp, and had rummaged about among their things, scattering the contents of their packs, and in sheer wantonness destroying their lean-to. The footprints of the beast were quite plain, but at first they paid no particular heed to them, busying themselves with rebuilding the lean-to, laying out their beds and stores, and lighting the fire.
While Bauman was making ready supper, it being already dark, his companion began to examine the tracks more closely, and soon took a brand from the fire to follow them up, where the intruder had walked along a game trail after leaving the camp. . . . Coming back to the fire, he stood by it a minute or two, peering out into the darkness, and suddenly remarked: ''Bauman, that bear has been walking on two legs." Bauman laughed at this, but his partner insisted that he was right, and upon again examining the tracks with a torch, they certainly did seem to be made by but two paws, or feet. However, it was too dark to make sure. After discussing whether the footprints could possibly be those of a human being, and coming to the conclusion that they could not be, the two men rolled up in their blankets, and went to sleep under the lean-to.
At midnight Bauman was awakened by some noise, and sat up in his blankets. As he did so his nostrils were struck by a strong, wild-beast odor, and he caught the loom of a great body in the darkness at the mouth of the lean-to. Grasping his rifle, he fired at the vague, threatening shadow, but must have missed, for immediately afterwards he heard the smashing of the underwood as the thing, whatever it was, rushed off into the impenetrable blackness of the forest and the night.
After this the two men slept but little, sitting up by the rekindled fire, but they heard nothing more. In the morning they started out to look at the few traps they had set the previous evening and put out new ones. By an unspoken agreement they kept together all day, and returned to camp towards evening.
On nearing it they saw, hardly to their astonishment, that the lean-to had been again torn down. The visitor of the preceding day had returned, and in wanton malice had tossed about their camp kit and bedding, and destroyed the shanty. The ground was marked up by its tracks, and on leaving the camp it had gone along the soft earth by the brook, where the footprints were as plain as if on snow! and, after a careful scrutiny of the trail, it certainly did seem as lf, whatever the thing was. it had walked off on but two legs.
The men, thoroughly uneasy, gathered a great heap of dead logs, and kept up a roaring fire throughout the night, one or the other sitting on guard most of the time. About midnight the thing came down through the forest opposite, across the brook, and stayed there on the hill-side for nearly an hour. They could hear the branches crackle as it moved about, and several times it uttered a harsh, grating, long-drawn moan, a peculiarly sinister sound. Yet it did not venture near the fire.
In the morning the two trappers, after discussing the strange events of the last 36 hours, decided that they would shoulder their packs and leave the valley that afternoon. . .
All the morning they kept together, picking up trap after trap, each one empty. On first leaving camp they had the disagreeable sensation of being followed. In the dense spruce thickets they occasionally heard a branch snap after they had passed ; and now and then there were slight rustling noises among the small pines to one side of them.
At noon they were back within a couple of giles of camp. In the high, bright sunlight their fears seemed absurd to the two armed men, accustomed as they were, through long years of lonely wandering in the wilderness to face every kind of danger from man, brute, or element. There were still three beaver traps to collect from a little pond in a wide ravine near by. Bauman volunteered to gather these and bring them in, while his companion went ahead to camp and made ready the packs.
Reaching the pond Bauman found 3 beavers in the traps, One of which had been pulled loose and carried into a beaver house. He took several hours in securing and preparing the beaver, and when he started homewards he marked, with some uneasiness how low the sun was getting.
At last he came to the edge of the little glade where the camp lay, and shouted as he approached it, but got no answer. The camp fire had gone out, though the thin blue smoke was still curling up wards. Near it lay the packs wrapped and arranged. At first Bauman see nobody; nor did he receive an answer to his call.
Stepping forward he again shouted, and as he did so his eye fell On the body of his friend, stretched beside the trunk of a great fallen spruce. Rushing towards it the horrified trapper found that the body was still warm, but that the neck was broken, while there were four great fang Darks in the throat.
The footprints of the unknown beast-creature, printed deep in the soft soil, told the whole story.
The unfortunate man, having finished his packing, had sat down on the spruce log with his face to the fire, and his back to the dense woods, to wait for his companion, .... It had not eaten the body, but apparently had romped and gambolled round it in uncouth, ferocious glee, occasionally rolling over and over it; and had then fled back into the soundless depths of the woods.
Bauman, utterly unnerved, and believing that the creature with which he had to deal was something either half human or half devil, some great goblin-beast, abandoned everything but his rifle and struck off a speed down the pass, not halting until he reached the beaver meadows where the hobbled ponies were still grazing. Mounting, he rode onwards through the night, until far beyond the reach of pursuit.
There are many other States in the United States that have reported giant creatures that roam about their mountain wildernesses.However, I do not have enough verified information to fully go into it at the present time. Anyway, that would be another book.
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