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Monday, April 15, 2024

Tale of Two Bear


By Dr. Curtis Varnell

Arkansas attracted a diverse and unique group of early pioneers.  A perfect example is Friedrich Morsbach, an early settler of Magazine Mountain.

Born in Prussia, Morsbach immigrated to Wisconsin to escape the endless European wars only to be drafted by the Union during the Civil War.  At 5 foot 2 inches tall, he might not have appeared a ferocious opponent but he fought and survived battles throughout Mississippi and Louisiana. 

As a reward for his service, he was given 160 acres of government land, eventually on the Northeast side of Magazine Mountain.  He and his family built a home, an orchard, a vineyard, and eked a living from the land, often subsisting on the abundant wild game found on the mountain top. 

One of the best locations to locate wild game is in the narrow defile known as Bear Gap.  One of the most rugged regions of the mountain, the gully is covered with low grasses and undergrowth and dotted with many small openings and caves.  While hunting there, Friedrich encountered large Black bear.  Throwing his rifle to his shoulder, Friedrich fired what he thought was a killing shot, only to see the animal escape and climb into an opening beneath a mossy-rock overhang.  Friedrich was sure that he had delivered a killing shot, just not sure enough to venture into the darkness of the cave without help. 

Calling his son Albert, a vigorous conversation occurred between the two.  Old Man Morsbach was sure the bear was in the cave, dead, and needed pulled out.  Albert seemed just a determined that, if his dad wanted the bear, he should go in after it himself.  Eventually, it was decided that Friedrich would drop into the darkness, place a rope around the bear’s leg, and the two of them would remove the bear.  Descending nearly straight downward, the hole eventually opens into a cave some four foot in height.  Groping in the darkness, Morsbach gabbed the hairy bear leg and looped his rope around it only to hear a sharp grunt from the animal.  All five foot two of the old soldier went into crawdad mode, heading out of the cave as fast as possible with the bear snorting and biting at his legs.

Exiting the cave with the bear in hot pursuit, Friedrich headed down the gulley and began a rapid transit up the base of a tree.   After a few minutes of snorting, the bear lost interest and returned to the cave, dragging the rope behind.  The two quickly devised a new plan; pull the bear out of the cave with the rope and Albert would dispatch it from above.  Once accomplished, the two could not find a previous bullet hole in the bear.  Friedrich was positive he had shot the bear so, once again he descended into the cave; this time with a lantern.  Sure enough, the first bear was inside and just to the right and stone-cold dead.

The Old Prussian was embarrassed to think himself so foolish as to tie a rope to a live bear.  In informed his son in broken English, Son ve vill not tell ze story to anyone, anyone!! Understand!  Typical son, the promise lasted until Albert next visited Millard, the nearest town.

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Tammy Teague
Tammy Teague
Tammy is the heart behind the brand. Her tenacity to curate authentic journalism, supported by a genuine heart is one her many wholesome qualities.
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