Schoolcraft's Ozark Journey

Near Cabool

Tuesday, November 17th, 1818

We have been at a loss to know what river the streams we yesterday passed are tributary. Their course shows them to belong to the Missouri, through some of its lowermost southern tributary rivers. We conclude ourselves too far south for the Gasconade, and that we have consequently fallen upon the head waters of the Little Osage. This opinion is strengthened by the distance we have travelled, and by our having previously passed what we considered as the head waters of the Gasconade. If on the Little Osage we are farther north than we wish, and, under this impression, we this morning altered our course from south-west to south-south-west, which carried us directly up die valley of the creek on which we encamped. In travelling two or three miles, however, it bent off too far west, and we again entered upon the highlands. We had not travelled far when we discovered, in a ravine below, four bears upon trees. We have not heretofore sought to go out of our way for the pur-pose of hunting, but this was directly in our course, and too fine an opportunity to exercise our skill in hunter sport to be neglected. We accordingly determined to give them battle. To prevent the effects of a fright, we tied our horse to a sapling, and putting balls on top of the charge already in our fowling-pieces, began cautiously to get within shooting distance. Unluckily we had no dog, and as the country was open, the bears soon perceived us. The only hope now was to run immediately to the foot of the trees to keep them up; but while attempting this, they began, one after the other, to come down; my companion sprained his ankle in running, and fell, while I arrived within fifty yards of the tree, and had the mortification to snap my gun at the last one, just as he had gained the foot of the tree. They fled across an adjacent ridge, and we in pursuit, but the tall grass screened them from our sight; and, after spending an hour in fruitless search, gave up the chase, returned to bring up our pack-horse, and pursued our way, considerably fatigued by an adventure, in which the bears certainly were victorious. The most serious evil, however, was to come. Pettibone had sprained his ankle, but not conscious of the hurt at first, had considerably inflamed it in the pursuit of the bear. He now began to feel its effects, and in travelling two miles farther, the pain became so severe, that he was unable to proceed, and we encamped in a valley, where we found both wood and water, at about two o'clock in the afternoon. Distance six miles.

-Henry Schoolcraft

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Funding for the Schoolcraft Journey project on Unlock the Ozarks has been provided by the Missouri Humanities Council.