‘A la California. Sketch of life in the Golden state. By Col. Albert S. Evans.

From Pescadero to Santa Cruz is thirty-six miles, by the road which winds along the coast past Point Año Nuevo and Pigeon Point to the Bay of Monterey, and thence southeastward, through a rich and highly-cultivated farming region, to the old Spanish Mission on the hill, below and around which the modern town, one of the most beautiful and thriving in California, has grown up within the past fifteen years

What a glorious gallop we–Chirimoya and I–had over the clean, hard, undulating road on that autumn morning after I left Pescadero! Californians will understand me and pardon my enthusiasm, possibly sympathize with me in it; but you of the older and more staid and conventional East cannot do so, and I pass the description, as you would inevitably pass it if you came upon it in print.

Passing over a pine-clad spur of Santa Cruz mountains, which here come close down to the coast, we halted for a time to rest and look about. This is a famous place for gathering the pine-cones, with fragments of which ladies are wont to construct elaborately wrought picture.frames and other “ornamental” work, very ugly, and very effective as dust-catchers, but excellent things for presents to religiously inclined friends, who are thereby brought to a realizing appreciation of the force of the scriptural maxim, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

A hunter, who had followed a deer down from the heights above, toward the coast, but lost him, joined me as I reclined upon the warm, dry ground upon the hill-side, enjoying the delicious sense of quiet and absence of care and life’s petty annoyances which comes with solitude, mountain air, and autumn sunshine, and we swapped stories of forest and mountain life and adventure, in this and other lands, for an hour or two.

He told me with infinite gusto, and a true frontiersman’s rude but hearty appreciation of the grotesquely humorous, how a Fiend of his, who was, and is, a sort of Mr. Toots in sportsmanship and woodcraft, came down here once from San Francisco in pursuit of game, and wandering out into the woods upon this same hill, fell asleep one delicious summer afternoon beneath a shady tree. When he awake it was almost sunset, and the coolness of evening was coming on. He sat up, looked about him, rubbed his eyes, wondered like Rip Van Winkle how long he had been lying there, and how long it would take him to walk back, empty-handed as he was, to his hotel

Just then a rustling and cracking noise, from a clump of chaparral about a hundred yards away. attracted his attention. Out walked a grizzly bear, a monarch of his kind; yawned, ran his red tongue lazily over the outside of his jaw, humped his back as if to test the condition and pliability of his vertebræ, then advanced directly toward the tree under which the astonished but hardly delighted. San Franciscan sat, evidently without having noticed him anti blissfully unconscious of his presence. His grizzly majesty had hardly advanced twenty yards when a female of the same species, and but a little less in Size, followed in his wake and went through almost the same calisthenic exercises. The first bear’s appearance made the man of “Frisco” gasp for breath, the second sent the blood back to his heart in a torrent, the force of which almost caused mat organ to jump out of his breast. It never rains ?? a third bear followed the second, licked his chops, humped his back, gave a half growl, half whine of satisfaction and advanced in the same direction at a slow, shambling pace. Every word he had ever spoken in any near or remote sense disrespectful of bald-headed men flashed through our hero’s mind in an instant.

“Now I lay me down to slee–” the forward bear was already within thirty yards of him, and before the prayer could be half finished would be upon him. Something more energetic and positive had to be done immediately. Springing to his feet in frantic despair, the San Franciscan hunter threw his arms wildly aloft, and uttered one loud, long, terrific, unearthly yell, such as an able-bodied Irish banshee might have given on a particularly rough night, when a particularly bad scion of a particularly noble house was passing in his checks at the termination of a particularly long and infamous life.

The effect was instantaneous and striking. The foremost bear, startled out of his seven senses by the yell, sprang about ten feet–more or less–into the air, knocked his nearest companion off her pins as he came down, rolled over her, gathered himself up, and bolted “like forty cartloads of rock going down a chute” straight for the chaparral again, his companions following close at his heels, and never turning to see what it was which had stampeded them.

As they went bouncing and crashing away into the undergrowth, our friend, utterly oblivious from the first that he had a gun within reach of his arm, turned and ran the other way with such speed as Jackson or the Deerslayer never achieved, reaching his hotel, some miles from the spot, with his garments soaked with perspiration, hair wildly disheveled, and eyes almost bursting from their sockets, only to tell the marvelous story of his adventure to a party of practical hunters, who, with the true California instinct, scouted the entire statement as “too thin,” affirmed that there never was a bear seen within ten miles of there, hinted that he had been frightened by a drove of cattle, winding up with an intimation that he had doubtless been drinking a little too freely of late, and if he did not want to have an attack of the “jim-jams” he had better switch off right then and there, turn over a new leaf, and reform his vicious not to say criminal habits at once and forever. Adding insult to injury was literally boiled down in this case, and our hero of “the three bars,” as he was derisively termed, went to his bed that night in a frame of mind easier to be imagined than described.

Next morning a small Spanish boy–who had been posted in advance by the party–rode out on a mustang to the scene of our hero’s misadventure, brought back his gun, which was found lying on the ground just where he had left it, and on being closely questioned as to the “sign” he had seen, swore by all the saints in the calendar that there was nothing there save a few fresh hog tracks. This last straw broke the camel’s back, and our Nimrod packed his traps and started for San Francisco by the morning stage, cursing in the bitterness of his heart the whole human race, and devoutly praying that the bears which the hunters affected to disbelieve in the very existence of might catch and devour them all. It is but just to add that the bears were there, and the hunters knew it all the time. They only wanted their little joke. Everything had occurred just as he had stated it, and in the frenzy of his terror he had done the wisest thing imaginable, and taken in fact the only feasible and proper course to get himself well out of a bad scrape.

from: ‘A la California. Sketch of life in the Golden state. By Col. Albert S. Evans.

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