Dakota Territory Times 2017 DTT 2017 - Page 11

Hand-to-hand combat with a silver tip bear Summer 2017 • Dakota Territory Times • Page 11 Editor’s Note: Clair Roadifer copied this story in 1980 at the age of 89. This was written by Fred Williams. He helped his two brothers, Henry and Richard, and his father and Lee Mills to take Lee’s brother, Anthony W. Rush Mills, out of the woods and to a doctor in Sun- dance, Wyo., after the fight with the bear. Rush Mills was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Wesley Mills, highly respected pioneers who settled five miles east of Sundance, at the base of Green Mountain early in 1881. Before Crook County was organized, it was the custom for every rancher to make a fall or early winter hunt to lay in a supply of meat for the long winter months. Since there were no game laws, he would kill as much as he wanted. No snow fell until about Dec. 20. Con- sequently, hunting had been poor, but the deer were in prime condition, having fat- tened on acorns that were plentiful that sea- son, so the Mills brothers decided to try their luck. They took their camping outfit to a point about two and one-half miles northeast of the original Williams Divide. They made camp to the east of a large oak grove near the head of a canyon. This canyon runs easterly and joins Grand Canyon. This was the only canyon from the west for a distance of several miles either way. Having no luck, Lee left Rush and the camp equipment and returned to the Mills ranch with the team, intending to return and join in the hunt with the first snowfall, which would make it possible to track game. Rush continued to hunt, but with lit- tle success. On the night of Dec. 19, snow fell to the depth of about two inches. Rush got out early and before noon had his deer dressed and hung up. He put his hunting knife back in the scabbard and started back toward camp. He had gone only a little distance, when on the turning point of rock at the base of a sandstone cliff, he found himself face to face with a bear. The bear was reared up on her hind legs waiting for whatever was ap- proaching. Rush was so close that he hardly had room to level his gun. He didn’t have time to aim. As he shot, the bear reached out and knocked the gun out of his hands. Rush fell backwards from the impact of the blow. His gun flew out of reach, down the hillside. Then the bear was on him, biting through the calf of his leg and attempting to drag him up the hillside toward the cave at the base of the cliff. Rush grasped a sapling pine and held on. The bear’s hold on his leg gave way, but be- fore Rush could make a move, the bear was on him again. This time the bear tried to get at his face. He tried to get the hunting knife, but it was under him. He got ahold of the handle with his left hand and tried to extract it, but he couldn’t get it loose. All this time the bear was struggling to get at Rush’s face. The bear bit entirely through the fleshy part of his chest just in front of the upper arm. Still, Rush hung on, desperately trying to get his hunting knife out of the scabbard. Finally the bear turned its head to one side and rolled out its tongue as in the man- ner of an overheated or tire