“The old bear made only two or three dabs at the pile when she began to suspect something was wrong, and then she sailed into it like a steam shovel. She made leaves and dirt fly so fast out between her hind legs that the cubs had to get out of the way or be buried, and the more she dug, the more excited she got. She worked over that pile and all the ground for ten feet around it until she was down to the frost, and when she finally got it through her head that the cupboard was bare, she was the most foolish-looking critter a man ever saw. She stood there blinking at the cubs, who were sniffing at the rubbish she had scattered about, and couldn’t explain to them what had become of that square meal, and I reckon the cubs had it put up that mamma was getting light-headed and having dreams. They quit prospecting and sat down and looked at her and whined, and that set her off again raking over all the leaves in the neighborhood as if she hoped to find me hiding under them. Pretty soon she struck some kind of a root that was good to eat, and she braced up and called the cubs and showed it to ’em as if that was what she had been hunting for all the time. She made more fuss over that root than there was any call for and pretended it was the greatest thing a bear ever struck in the woods, and the cubs were so glad to get anything that they allowed roots were good enough and forgot all about what she had promised them.
“If her pelt had been good and the cubs had been big enough, I reckon I’d have got even with her for caching me, but she wasn’t worth skinning and the cubs were no good for grub. It was getting late and I was tired of my tree, so I ploughed up the dirt under her nose with a load of shot and let out a yell, and she herded those cubs off into the brush and lit out for Devil’s Gulch, and I went home. That was the nearest I ever came to being eaten up by bears.”
In the big snow.
The winter of 1889-90 is memorable in California as the winter of “the big snow.” In the latter part of January the Central Pacific line over the Sierra Nevada was blockaded, and three or four passenger trains were imprisoned in the drifts for more than two weeks. Passing through the blockade and over the range afoot, I walked at times above the tops of the telegraph poles, and think it no exaggeration to estimate the depth of snow at the higher altitudes at 25 feet. Drifts in the canyons must have been more than double the depth of the snow on a level. The storm was general and the snowfall throughout the mountain region was extraordinary, not only for quantity but for rapidity. It can snow more inches to the hour in the high Sierra than feet to the week anywhere else, and the big storm of 1890 broke all previous records.