“The bear sat down and deliberately sized up the situation, and then he walked up to the tree and began striking at the trunk with his right paw. That made me laugh at first, but I was just paralyzed with amazement when I saw clean-cut chips flying at every stroke and caught a metallic gleam as his paw swung in the air. I didn’t have much time to investigate the matter because the old Grizzly was a boss chopper and my tree began to totter very soon. I had sense enough to see that if I came down with the tree on the upper side the bear would nail me with one jump, and I threw my weight on the other side so as to fall the tree into the ravine. I thought I might have the luck to land without breaking any bones, and then I’d have quite a start of the bear and perhaps be able to pick up my rifle.
“As the tree toppled over the edge of the ravine and began to fall I swung around to the upper side and braced myself for the crash. During the fall I managed to throw my legs out over a branch, and when the tree struck bottom I shot out feet foremost, sliding down through the brushy top and landing with a pretty solid jar right side up and no damage except a few bruises and scratches. The first thing I looked for was my rifle, and, luckily, it wasn’t two yards away. I grabbed it and ran up the other side of the ravine to a rocky ledge, while the Grizzly was crashing down through the brush on his side, expecting to find me under the fallen tree. Before he knew what had happened I was shooting him full of holes and he was dead in a minute.
“When I examined the dead Grizzly I found the most singular thing I ever came across. In the sole of his right forepaw was an ivory-handled bowie-knife, firmly imbedded and partly surrounded by calloused gristle as hard as bone. The handle was out of sight, but the butt of it made a knob in the heel of the bear’s foot and left a mark on the ground. Evidently he walked on that heel to keep the blade from striking stones and getting dulled. That knife accounted for all the mysteries about the white-headed Grizzly.
“What’s that? Mystery about how the knife got into his foot? Not at all; that’s simple enough. He swallowed the knife during some fight or other, and it worked around in his system and down into his foot just as a needle does in a man.”
What a bear may do under given circumstances may be guessed with reasonable certainty by one who has had experience, but it is not always safe to risk much on the accuracy of the guess. Bruin’s general nature is not to be depended upon in special cases. He has individual characteristics and eccentricities and is subject to freaks, and these variations from the line of conduct which he is expected to follow are what makes most of the trouble for people who are after his pelt. Morgan Clark, the old bear hunter of Siskiyou, never hesitates about going into a den in the winter to drive out a bear, provided the cavern is wide enough to let the bear pass him. He takes a torch in his hand and stalks boldly in, because his experience has made the proceeding seem perfectly safe.