One of the great blessings of life, whether appreciated to its fullest or not, is the desire to listen while a worldly elder relates a good story about their experiences in nature. It fascinates the mind when great adventure is related that paints pictures in the listeners mind and makes one ask himself… “Could I have done that?”

What follows was published in the January 4, 1904 edition of the “MAINE WOODS” newspaper published in Phillips, Maine. It deftly illustrates the sheer pluck and toughness found in the Maine’s woodsmen of yesteryear. As you read on, just imagine how some of these chaps might do in a season of the TV show “Survivor”, (which I think I’ve watched once). Tropical islands are for sissies compared to where these guys operated.  I would watch it, if they put those folks up around Katahdin in winter with an axe and a jack knife and stocked the Park with a hungry “Indian devil” (19th century big woods mountain lion) or two.

Enjoy the storytelling of “Mr. Wright” and be sure to get outside an make some outdoor history of your own!

Six Men Kill Bull Moose with Axes

Aroostook Farmer Treed by an Indian Devil.

Special correspondence to the MAINE WOODS

Dec. 28, 1900.

Men who travel for years and years through a wild and unbroken forest not only harden their muscles and tone up their appetites, but they also meet with adventures that sometimes are not very pleasant.

 

“In the winter of 1856-7,” said Mr. James Wright, “I was working with a lumber crew in the woods near Soper brook, which runs into Eagle lake. The State of Maine men laboring there were all stout and hearty, but that winter six of them met their match when they tried to kill a bull moose. They had been chopping near a moose yard, and the noise they made startled a bull moose from his winter quarters out into the deep snow. The men had snow-shoes and axes, and they thought they could easily get the moose, so five axes one after the other were thrown at him, and though slight wounds were inflicted, the moose held his ground and tramped round and round near the axes so that the men could not recover them. Then they tied a butcher knife to a pole and tackled the great animal, but the blade broke at the middle. One of the men had a large jackknife, and this was tied to a pole, and also broken. Then they tied the sixth ax to the pole and wounded the moose, but still he kept his ground. Then a tree was cut down in hopes that it would fall on the bull, but he dodged to one side. Finally, the moose lost considerable blood from the various cuts.

“Then, “continued Mr. Wright, “I went up to him and gave him a kick, and as he made a leap, I jumped to one side and rolled several feet down a side hill on top of the snow. But the moose was nearly used up from loss of blood, so that one of our men buckled up his courage and gave him a crack on the head that ended his days. Then we skinned him and carried what meat we wanted into our camp.”

And here is another story related by Mr. Wright which shows how dangerous it is for a tired traveler to go to sleep in the snow. Mr. Wright says that many years ago, when he was in camp near Chesuncook lake, a visitor named Ed Moore came there on some private business. In a week or two he received a letter from Oldtown saying that some of his family were sick and that his presence was desired at home. He asked Mr. Wright to go with him as a guide some fourteen miles to where a Mr. Morrissey kept a tavern.

The men started down the lake on the ice and after going about seven miles, Moore wanted to rest and as he was not used to traveling, Mr. Wright let him rest a while and then they started on. But not more than three miles more had been covered, this time on the land, when Moore said he was played out. So, he sat down on a snow-covered log, and in a minute or two was asleep. The weather was very cold, and as Mr. Wright had made two or three ineffectual attempts to arouse the man, he finally hit Moore a smart slap on the cheek. Moore started up as angry as a wolf, and tried to catch Wright, who was a great runner, and made good time on the road, hoping that the exercise would warm Moore up. It had this effect, and they soon reached the tavern where a few drinks of hot whiskey revived the men after their long tramp, though Moore was still angry because Wright had struck him in the face, but when Wright said he only hit him with the palm of the hand, and that it was very dangerous for a man to sleep in the snow Mr. Moore forgot all about, his anger and thanked Mr. Wright for his kindness. Here was a case, Mr. Wright said, where one or two hot drinks do a man good, though he did not think it would be beneficial for a man to get drunk.

Here I remarked to Mr. Wright, “You have been so much in the woods that I would like to ask if you were ever troubled by Indian devils, wild-cats or the like?”

Mr. Wright said that, except an occasional fight with a bear or a moose, he had not been troubled much by wild, animals, but that when a boy in Aroostook he had often heard his parents and neighbors tell of an adventure a new settler had with an Indian devil. It was so long ago that Mr. Wright did not remember this Aroostook farmer’s name, but he said the facts were well known in all that neighborhood. The settler had cleared part of a new farm, and one pleasant day in the fall he went into the woods to hunt up some timber, when he heard the unearthly screech of an Indian devil. He had been told about that kind of noise before, and had also heard it once, or twice, so he thought he would climb a tree. He clambered up about, fifteen or twenty feet from the ground, when the Indian devil appeared and at once climbed up after him. The settler gave him several kicks with his cowhide boots, and though the animal bit his ankle once or twice, not much damage was done, but the man kicked so hard that the devil descended to the ground where he watched the tree all night. In the morning he disappeared, and the man went home.

As the weather was warm and the Indian devil had not drawn much blood, the settler suffered no serious inconvenience, yet he had an experience that he would not care to repeat. And though some people say that a panther or a wolf will not attack a man unless wounded or in defense of its young, yet here was a case where the Indian devil made the attack without any provocation.

Besides this, the writer once heard an Adirondack hunter say that a panther followed him three or four miles one night as he was returning from a distant store, and if he had not carried a good lantern he said he had no doubt that the panther would have made an end of him. This hunter had made no attack or any pretense of an attack, yet the panther followed him for miles.                       -H. M. Coburn.


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