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The Bark Covered House
Chapter 21. How I Hunted and We Paid the Mortgage

THE mortgage which had hung so long over us, like a dark cloud obscuring our temporal horizon and chilling our hopes, was at last removed, May first, 1841. After the mortgage was on the place it hardly seemed to me as if it were ours. It was becoming more and more valuable all the time, and I thought it was dangerous to let the mortgage run, as the old lady might foreclose at any time and make us trouble and expense. The mortgage was like a cancer eating up our substance, gnawing day and night as it had for years. I made Lip my mind it must be paid. I knew it caused mother much trouble and, although father said very little about it, I knew that he would be over-joyed to have it settled up. I told him I thought I had better hunt during one fall and winter and that I thought I could, in that way, help him raise money to pay the mortgage. I was about twenty years old at that time and thought I had a very good rifle and knew how to use it.

I went to my friend William Beal, and told him I had concluded to hunt through the winter. I asked him if he didn't want to join with me and we would hunt together, at least some of the time. He said he would. I told him I thought we could make more money by hunting than we could in any other way as deer were worth, on an average, from two and a half to five dollars apiece at Detroit, and we could take them in very handily on the cars.

We found the deer very numerous in the town of Taylor, next south of the town of Dearborn. Sometimes we went and staved a week. We stopped nights with an old gentleman whose name was Hodge. He always appeared very glad to see us and gave us a hearty welcome. As he and his old lady (at that time) lived alone, no doubt they were glad of our company. They must have felt lonesome and they knew they would be well rewarded with venison and money for the trouble we made them. Mrs. Hodge took as much pains for us and used us as well as mother could have done. We carried our provisions there on our backs, flour, potatoes, pork and whatever we needed. We carried pork for the reason we relished it better a part of the time than we did venison. Mrs. Hodge prepared our meals at any time we wanted them. Sometimes we ate our breakfast before daylight and were a mile or two on the runway of the deer when it became light. The woods and oak openings abounded in deer and we had very good luck as a general thing. We made it a rule to stay and not go home until we had killed a load, which was not less than six. Then we went and got father's oxen and sled to go after and bring them home. After we brought them home we took the hind quarters, the hide, and sometimes the whole deer, to Detroit and sold them. In this way we got considerable money. In fact my pocketbook began to pod out a little. Of course, we saved enough, of the fore-quarters for our family use and for our old friends, Mr. and Mrs. Hodge. But we couldn't afford to let them have the saddles; we wanted them to sell as we were going in for making money.

It would be impossible for me to delineate the occurrences incident to my hunting days. The story told in full would fill a volume, but if it were not in connection with my father's family and how we got along, when I was at home with him, I should not mention it at all. As it is, I will try to describe one day's hunt after deer, which might be called a successful day, and another hunt after bears, which was not successful and one or two deer fights. My comrade and I started from father's very early one morning. A nice tracking snow, three or four inches deep, had fallen during the fore part of the night. In the morning it was warm and pleasant. When we came near the head of the windfall, we found the tracks where three large bucks had been along. It is not common that those large deer go together. They are generally scattering, one or two, or with other deer, but in this case, it seemed, three old bucks had agreed to go together. We followed them about half a mile to the west until they crossed what is now the old telegraph road in the town of Taylor, south of where Mr. Putnam lives. We thought the deer went into a large thicket, that stands there vet. We made up our minds they were lying in that thicket. William said he would go around and stand on the ridge, beyond the thicket, in a good place to see them when they were driven our. I told him I wanted him to be sure and down one, so that I could see how they looked. I stood where he left me about half an hour, to give him plenty of time to get around, then I started along slowly, on the tracks.

I followed them about ten or fifteen rods when I found, that instead of going into the thicket where we supposed, they had turned into a little thicket, near a fence and clearing that had been made at an early day. I little thought they were lying there, but sure enough, in a minute, they jumped up and away they went, one after the other, toward the big thicket. They seemed desirous of making all the sport of me they could; as they were running across a little opening they showed me their white flags. I shot very quickly at the middle one. I told him by the report of my rifle, which rang out clear on the morning air, that I wanted him to stop, and he struck his flag.

They were running from me a little diagonally, and were about twenty-five rods off, when my bullet struck his side, it being partly toward me. They ran right into the big thicket where we first supposed they lay. I loaded my rifle and went where they were running when I shot. I saw that the blood flew in small particles on the snow and I was sure he was ours. He ran for one breath, got out of my sight and fell dead, having made his last tracks, being shot through the lights.

I hurried across to my friend Beal and told him I had shot a noble buck. That he was running away from me and that I would not allow him to do so. The other two had gone out of the thicket, over the ridge, so far east that he didn't see them at all. We hurried back to where the one we had got lay, took out his entrails, climbed up a sapling, bent down the top and fastened the gambrels of the old buck to it; then sprinkled powder on his hair, so as to keep the ravens from picking him, let go the sapling and it straightened up with him so that he was out of the way of the dogs and wolves. Then we started as quickly as possible after the other two. They went a south-west direction about eighty rods, then turned south-east and went straight for the Indian hill, went over it and took their course nearly east. They had ceased to run and were walking. There was another large thicket east of us, which was about half a mile through and we thought, possibly, they might stop in that before they went through into the woods. It was agreed that I should go around, that time, to the lower end of the thicket, and stand. He was to try and drive them through if they were there. I went south to what we called the south branch of the Reed creek. It was frozen over and there were three or four inches of snow on the ice; I vent on it without making any noise. I ran down a little over half a mile very quickly; when I was below the thicket I turned north, went through the brush that grew on the bank of the creek, up to a little ridge where it was open and stopped by the side of a tree, which was about twenty or thirty rods from where I turned north.

I didn't stand there but a very short time before I heard and saw some partridges fly away, and I knew they had been disturbed by something in the thicket. Then I saw the two deer coming just as straight toward me as they could run, one right after the other. When they got within about eight or ten rods of me I had my rifle ready. They saw me and, as they went to jump sidewise, my rifle spoke to another one and the voice of it forbade him going any farther. That was the second word my rifle had spoken that morning.

The deer turned and ran in a semi-circle half round me in plain sight, then off, out of sight, over the ridge where Doctor Snow's farmhouse now stands, in the town of Taylor. In a few moments out came my comrade; I asked him, what the report of my rifle said, as it burst through the thicket by him and echoed over the Indian hill. He said he thought it spoke of luck. We followed the old buck a little ways over the ridge and came to where he had made his last jump. He was a beautiful fellow, equally as fine as the first one.

Then we thought we had done well enough for one day, we had each of us one. So we cut a wooden hook, put it into his under- jaw, both took hold and drew him up where the other one hung. We put them together and started slowly for home. We were following along an old trail and had drawn both deer about half a mile together, when we came to where five or six deer had just crossed. They were going south-east and we were going north-east. While we were looking at the tracks two men came in sight. One was Mr. Arvin Sheldon, the other Mr. Holden. We knew them very, well and knew that they were good hunters. They looked at our deer and said that we must hang them up, said they would help us. So we bent down two saplings and hung the deer Lip, side by side, then we started with them. It was early in the day, perhaps about ten o'clock. We followed the deer beyond what is now Taylor Center, and into the west woods two miles from there. Near Taylor Center, Holden left us. He thought there were too many of us together, and went off to try his luck alone and followed another flock. We found that these deer were very shy and it seemed impossible for us to get a shot at them.

After we got into the west woods we were bound to stick to the same ones. It was late in the afternoon and as we were getting so far from home, we thought we had better use a little stratagem. We would go very slowly; it was agreed that I should follow the tracks and that the other two should be governed by my movements. One was to go to my right, and keep as far off as he could and see me, through the woods; he was to keep a little ahead of me. The other was to manage in the same way at my left. When we started we were something in the shape of a letter V, only spread more. If I went fast they were to go fast and if I went slowly they were to do the same. They were to watch me and look out ahead for the deer. We traveled some little distance in this way when I saw a deer standing about thirty-five rods off. It was a long shot, but I drew up my rifle and fired. Mr. Sheldon had two dogs with him and when I shot they broke from him and ran after the deer we had been following. They went yelling after them, out of hearing. It was always my practice, after I shot, to stand in my tracks and load my rifle, keeping my eye on the place where the deer were. When I shot, my comrades started for me and soon we three friends were together. Sheldon remarked, that he guessed I hadn't hit that one. I asked him why. He said the dogs had already gone out of hearing and that if I had killed one, they would have stopped. I left the tracks and walked along in the direction of where the deer had stood, watching upon the snow and brush to see if I could see any signs where the bullet had struck a bush or twig, until I came to the place where the (leer had stood. It proved to be, not one of those we had been following, but an old buck that had just got up out of the bed where he had been lying and was standing over it when I fired. I looked and saw some short hair lying on the snow, and told Mr. Sheldon that that looked as if I had made a square shot and that the dogs had gone after the well ones we had been following, that this one was an old buck which we hadn't disturbed before. I thought perhaps he had got up to see the flock that we were following go by. We didn't follow him more than ten rods before we found where he lay last. He was a very large buck, a full mate for either of those we already had.

A little ways back we had crossed a coon's track and we knew that he had been along in the latter part of the night, as it snowed in the earlier part of the night. We thought he hadn't gone far, so we agreed that Sheldon should follow his tracks and find his tree (at that time coon skins were valuable), while we went back about a mile, to a lone settler's, by the name of Plaster, (who lived on the openings) and borrowed an ax. When we came back to the woods we were to halloo and he was to answer us. We had to do what we did very quickly as it was getting near night. When we had borrowed the ax and were nearly back to the woods again, we heard the report of Sheldon's rifle, as it rang out of the timber clear and sharp and died away in the oak openings. When we got into the woods we hallooed for him, he answered and we went to him; he had found the tree. We asked him what he had shot at, he said at a deer, but missed him. We cut down the tree and were rewarded by getting four coons. Afterward I sold the coon skins in Detroit for a dollar apiece. That Mr. Arvin Sheldon is now an old resident of the town of Taylor and lives about two miles south-west of me.

After we got the tree cut down and the coons secure, it was between sundown and dark. We were six or seven miles from home and then had to take the ax home. Late that evening, when I got back under the old paternal roof, there was one there who was very tired but the excitement of the day helped him a little. By hunting (and it was hard work for me as I made a business of it) I accumulated a considerable sum of money. Father had earned and saved some money, so that with what I had, he made out enough to pay off the mortgage to Mrs. Phlihaven and had it cancelled. Then his farm was clear. If I had not felt anxious about it myself, the joy expressed by the other members of the family, when they knew that the mortgage was paid, would have been a sufficient reward for all the labors I had performed, for all the weary walks, the running and racing done, while upon the chase, both day and night.

It is a little singular that an animal as mild and harmless as the deer ordinarily is, should when cornered or wounded have such courage that he will fight man or dog in his own defense, jumping upon them, striking with his feet. As their hoofs are sharp they cut to the quick, at the same time they are hooking with their horns. I will relate one or two incidents, one of which came under my own observation:

I was out hunting with R. Crandell. We were near the Reed creek when he shot a buck. The deer fell. Crandell thought he was sure of him; handed his rifle to me. I told him to stand still and load his gun, but he ran like an Indian; he took long steps. When he got up near, the old buck had gotten a little over the shock the bullet gave him and he got up, turned upon Crandell, raised the hair upon his back so that it stood forward. Then the scene changed; Crandell ran, and the deer ran after him. He came very near catching Crandell and must have done so if he had not dodged behind a tree, and around it he vent and the deer after him. Crandell said he called upon his legs to be true to his body then if ever; and I thought, judging from the way those members of his organism were carrying him around that tree, that they were exerting every nerve to save him. He hallooed every minute for me to shoot the deer. But the race was so amusing, I did not care to hurry having never seen such an exhibition of Crandell's speed before. (Without doubt he did his level best.) Soon, however, I thought it necessary and I shot the deer. Crandell said I had laughed enough to kill myself. He appeared to be displeased with me; said I was too slow, and might have released him quicker.

Some two or three years after this, Crandell had another hunt with a Mr. Holden, of Dearbornville, the incidents of which are given in his own words: "Being anxious for a hunt, Holden and myself started out for a deer hunt on our southern hunting ground. After traveling about three-fourths of a mile from 1)earbornville, Holden, being a little way from me, started a buck, he running directly south; I told Holden where to go on a certain road, newly cut out, and stand and I would drive the deer to him from the east. As expected, I soon started him and Holden's dog followed the deer straight to him. In about three minutes shang went Holden's gun; I ran with all my might. The dog had stopped barking and I knew the deer was ours. But, when I got to the road, I heard Holden hallooing loudly for help. The deer had jumped across the road into the old tree tops and the dog caught him. Holden saw that the deer was getting the better of the dog, laid down his gun, took out his knife and went for the deer. When he got up to the deer the deer paid all his attention to him instead of the dog. The deer had gotten Holden down between two logs and stood on him, stamping and hooking him desperately. Holden said: 'For God sake kill him or he will kill me.'

"I was so much excited I was afraid to shoot for fear of killing Holden or the dog, but I shot and the deer fell lengthwise on Holden. I rolled him off and Holden got up, all covered with blood from head to foot, with his clothes torn into shreds. He looked at himself and said despondingly, 'What a spectacle I am!' I peeled some bark, tied his rags round him, patched him up the best possible and we started for home through the woods, got as near his home as we could and not be seen, then I left him, went to his house and got him some clothes, took them back to him and helped him put them on. When clothed he went home a bruised and lacerated man."


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