Rube Fields wiped the perspiration from his brow with his forearm and fervently said, “Thank the Lord!”
Dumont gazed after the galloping bear and murmured, “Wellibedam!”
A providential prospect hole.
One-eyed Zeke, who hunted for a living along Owen River, in Inyo County, Cal., in the early seventies, claimed to have a method of killing bears that might be effective if a man had nerve enough to work it and a gun that never missed fire. He carried a revolver and a heavy double-barrelled shotgun, but never a rifle, and when he saw a Grizzly he said he opened on him with the six-shooter and plugged him often enough to leave the bear in no doubt as to the source of the annoyance. Standing in plain view with the heavily-loaded shotgun ready, he awaited the charge, and at close quarters turned loose both barrels into the bear’s chest.
That sounds like a plausible scheme. The heavy charges of shot at close range smash the Grizzly’s interior works in a deplorable manner and he dies right away. But only a few men have the nerve to face a big ugly bear in full charge and reserve fire until he is within two yards of the muzzle of the gun. One-eyed Zeke and a celebrated hunter of the Bad Lands are the only men I have known who professed to have acquired the habit of hunting the Grizzly in such a fashion, and the celebrated Bad Lands ranchman did his killing with a rifle and always shot for the eye, which was the more remarkable because he was very near-sighted and wore eyeglasses.
Zeke once met a bear in the mountains near Owen Lake and played his customary game, but not with complete success. By some extraordinary bad luck both cartridges in his gun had defective primers, and when he pulled the triggers he was very much pained and disappointed by the absence of the usual loud report. It was a critical moment for Zeke. It took him the thousandth part of a second to grasp the situation and spring desperately to the right. Another small fraction of a second was consumed in his unexpected descent to the bottom of an old prospect hole that was overgrown with brush and had escaped his notice.
Probably that was the only prospect hole in that part of the Sierra Nevada, and it must have been dug by some half-cracked Forty-niner like Marshall, who prospected all the way from Yuma to the Columbia. Zeke vows it was dug by Providence.