Skip main navigation
close
Skip main navigation

Mormon Pioneer

Overland Travel

From the Life of William B. Pace, 1850

Humor on the Plains

In the Black Hills, I was appointed hunter for the camp, and spent most of my time supplying Buffalo, and Antelope for the hungry, and had many thrilling experiences during the season, one, which I will mention. While the company was laying over Sunday in the Black Hills, Alex Sessions and myself made it up the previous night to go out and kill an antelope before breakfast. Sunday was a day of rest, when the grass was good, and the camp generally layed over and held meeting, and we should have stayed, but our boy zeal was too great, so we went off by daybreak and tramped over hill and dale until about 10 o'clock without getting even a shot at anything. At last we gave up and started for camp, Passing near some Currant brush in a ravine, we thought it probable we would find water to drink, turned in that direction and got water. On starting back I saw a fresh bear track in the sand and said to Alex: "We had better get out of here", when a large grizzley bear jumped off the cliff above us and landed within 6 feet of where we stood. Not caring for any bear meat just at that time, we took to the trail and by a stupendous effort beat him running some 50 yards. Though I had the satisfaction of punching him in the head several times, with my gun, as evidenced by the blood and hair afterwards found.

On reaching the open country Mr. Bear retreated leaving us master of the field, but two of the worst scared boys it was possible to find anywhere. I had been in many bear fights and succeeded in coming off victorious but this one, some-how we neither of us, seemed to want[.] possibly the growl which was terrible, and the manner he had of introducing himself caused us to decide rather quickly, then our legs did the rest. Well we told it in camp as a narrow escape, which was variously criticised. It is strange how brave some men are, when there is no possible danger.

One man in particular said, "if he had been there he would have taken a butcher knife and carved him up,["] but you see neither of us wanted him that bad, however I remembered this man, and a few days later the camp lay by for a general buffalo hunt, my special attention was given this man to go in my crowd and was successful. On going out we soon came on a few scattering bulls.

With mischief predominant I got them to let me go ahead when I soon wounded a bull by breaking his shoulder, and he stopped for fight, then I insisted, when the company came up, that my special friend have the honor of killing him. This was agreed to. I told him to walk up to within 20 feet of the bull and shoot him in the head. Well he got within 30 yards and drew up to shoot, when the buffalo made a lunge for him. My friend dropped his gun and took to his heels, then the crowd had the bad taste to yell: "run", "take your knife to him" etc. while the bull only made one jump and stood his ground, my friend ran 200 yards at breakneck speed without looking back. The bull was killed by one shot when the fun was over.

I mention this to show that men who are so awful brave where there is no possible danger, will not always do to tie too. Laying in all the dried buffalo meat we could haul, we moved on, with no unusual incident, arriving in Salt Lake Valley near the last of September 1850 and disbanded.

Read more of William B. Pace's trail experience.