GREAT BEAR HUNT. 
The good people of our usually quiet little village were thrown into a paroxysm of excitement and consternation on last Friday, about noon, by the startling intelligence that SIX full-grown BEARS had been seen crossing the Limestone Ridge, about half a mile west of the borough, making their way with all speed towards the Tuscarora mountain. Rumor, with her "thousand tongues," soon heralded this novel occurence to all quarters, and at once merchants' counters and mechanics' tools were abandoned, and shops, offices, bar-rooms and private dwellings simultaneously emptied of their occupants in the common eagerness to learn the particulars, and share in the anticipated sport of capturing these sable invaders of our peaceful territory. Then there was arming in "hot haste," and a running to and fro of old hunters and not a few darding striplings eager to "flesh their virgin swords," and cover themselves with glory and bear skins--while little urchins peered from the doorways in tearful alarm, and tender infants were instinctively pressed closer to the maternal bosom. A detachment--some on foot, some on horseback, led on by the veteran marksmen and renowned fox-hunters--was speedily equipped with staves, guns, pistols, pitch-forks, and whatever instrument of destruction could conveniently be seized, and the straggling cavalcade moved off, in double quick time, with all the "pomp and circumstance" of sylvan warfare, accompanied by a rabble of boys, and an assortment of the canine race--hounds, pointers, bull-dogs, and many a "cur of low degree."
"Tray, Blanch, and Sweetheart,
Little pups and all,"
and "anxious mothers" gazed after them with trembling solicitude till they were otu of sight, fearing their hopeful sons might be "out" in the dangerous expedition.
Well, on they went, "under the full blaze of the noon-day sun," (as Daniel Webster would say,) taking their way through the muddy lanes and across the fields, beguiling their impatience, till they reached the woods, with unblemished narrations of the moving accidents and hair-breadth 'scapes which had befallen them in bear hunts when their "old hat was new," and the "clearings" were rather scarce about these parts ; how the hair of one was transmogrified into porcupine quills by his unexpectedly encountering a black sheep by moonlight, as he was returning home from "sparking" his darlin' Sally--how another had been precipitately dragged out of a hollow stump at the tail of "mother bear" after her cubs had sucked all the buttons off his coat--how a third had taken a John Gilpin ride one dark night down a steep hill astride of one of the biggest "tarnal critters" that ever wore fur, clutching its ears all the while like grim death to a dead nigger, till they fell into Shearman's creek and were both drowned, after which he hauled the huge animal home with a four horse team ; and how others among them had performed, or heard of divers marvellous exploits of a similar character, some of which would have opened the wondering eyes of even old Munchausen himself. Their blood was now thoroughly up, and before they reached the expected scene of action, their steps had quickened to a dog trot, then fairly into a run, "best fellow foremost," through brushes and briars, over stone heaps and stumps, scrambling over fallen trees and through deep gullies--one of our quiet, snail-paced merchants actually outstripping the fleetest runner in the county, while the tardy steps of a grave Doctor (with reverence be it spoken) were converted into the most pro-di-gi-ous greyhound strides, under the galvanic influence of prospective pot luck.--When the topmost steep was gained at last, they were suddenly at "fault," for the bonny "birds" had not tarried in their flight, and after a hasty search their train could not be immediately discovered--so while the footmen dispersed in various directions in hot pursuit, the gallant horsemen (one of whom had by this time finished greasing his chops with a piece of fat meat which he snatched up as he left his half finished dinner) were put in requisition to scour the country in advance and endeavor to "head" the savage denizens of the forest before they should entirely elude their pursuers. And most gallantly was their duty performed ! They dashed off at dare-devil speed, down hill and dale,
"They stopp'd not for saw-logs, they stay'd not for stone,
They splash'd through the mud-holes where path there was none,"
in defiance of hissing geese, scared sheep and cackling hens, till they had roused the country-side for miles in every direction, bringing out hundreds of the neighboring farmers and their families, in staring wonder, to learn the cause of all this alarming commotion. Some half dozen square miles had been traversed in this manner, until their skeleton steeds were nearly spent with toil, without a glimpse of even a bear's tail, and they were slowly retracing their steps, when a loud halloo ! from a secluded strip of woods near the starting point proclaimed that the game was "treed" in a fence corner ! and the stragglers poured in, at the signal, from all quarters, in breathless haste to lend a hand in the deadly onset, or to be in at the death. "There they are !" shouted a retired dragoon from the "far west"--"there they are ! I have seen a bear before to-day ! ! there's the old one and her cubs ! but they have such devilish long faces !"--and the eye of a keep marksman was in a "fine phrenzy rolling" along the barrel of his rifle towards the hapless victims, with his finger on the fatal trigger, when suddenly a salute, like frankincese, from the smelling-bottle of a little animal more odorous than musk, met him full in the "peepers" at the same instant that a burst of uproarious laughter revealed the ludicrous fact that the six fine bears were only as many fat, innocent SWINE ! ! which had been turned out to run at large after getting so besmeared and discolored by the black mire of the sty as to be readily mistaken in the dim woods for their less harmless cousins ; and as the poor creatures stood at bay, the funny wistfulness of their upraised countenances seemed to say to the chagrined hunters, "What went ye out for to see ?" but without further ceremony they gave a unanimous snort of half-human laughter, wriggled their tails, and ran off at a full gallop!
The whole party soon sloped for home, with bespattered boots, torn breeches and empty stomachs ; their inglorious retreat being luckily covered by the gloom of approaching twilight. The next day most of them endeavored to create an impression that they were not among the humbugged--that they had not been out with the party ; but their exculpations came too late--the "cat was out of the bag," and the grave countenances of the boys and their graceful gyrations of the open hand with the thumb placed to the tip of the nose sufficiently indicated the public sentiment on that point, and expressed the [unclear] sympathy manifested for their disappointment.
We have thus imperfectly sketched an "owre true tale," and we regret that we have not time or space to do it full justice, for such things don't happen every week, and we are persuaded that many a long day will be chronicled [unclear] the past ere the stirring incidents of the great "Bloomfield Bear Hunt" [unclear] fade from remembrance.
Perry Count (Pa.) Democrat
Erin Bartels prepared this transcript.
 Though set outside the Southern Frontier, this piece provides an interesting contrast, in tone and events, to the famous "Big Bear" pieces of the Old Southwest.
|We would like to thank the staff of the Library of Virginia Archives and Special Collections, Alderman Library, and Barrett Collection for their assistance. This page contains material in the public domain and it may be reproduced in its entirety or cited for courses, scholarship, or other non-commercial uses. We ask that users cite the source and support the archives that have provided materials to the Spirit site.|