UNCLE BILL FAY’S CRIPPLEFOOT

Nov 19, 2013 by

M: They came after awhile… Problem that bear went to catchin’ his sheep, bear went to catchin’ his sheep and hit went all ever’where and catched ’em. And they’d set a trap, and they catched that bear in a trap one time another and cut one of its toes off, and he done got out. Well, he said that thing just uh hit it comin’ down to the spring along in the Spring and killed the sheep and then back along maybe through the last of the Summer. [finish the tea]
Well, he said they’d run that bear, dogs, and Grandpa told him, Grandpa Hammons, he said, “Now if you let that bear alone,” he said,”Uncle Bill,” he said “if you leave that bear alone,” he said,“I’ll kill that bear.” “By god,” he said, “I’m gonna kill that bear myself,” and he had an old pet yoe [ewe] and he fixed her a place right in the chimley corner to lay. You know they all lived in old log houses, a big house he had, and a big chimley to it and he fixed that yoe, he fetched her in and fixed her a place to lay right in that chimley corner there.
Said, “I’m gonna, gonna kill the bear,” he said. Er,”aint a’gonna let the bear,” he said, “catch the pet sheep.” “Why,” Grandpa says, “hit’ll come right to the house ‘n get the sheep.” “And I’ll be goddamed,” he said, “if it gets that sheep . . .” “Well,” he said,”Now watch and see if it don’t. And,” he said, “another thing about it,”he said, “without you’ve got sump’n’ to kill it,” he said, “hit’ll catch you, that’n will.” He said, “hit’ll catch you when you run out on it.” “By god I never seen the bear I’s afraid of.” “I know it,” he said, “You never. But,” he said, “you will get if you fool with it, now if you got something to kill it with.” He wasn’t afraid of it.
So he’d passed on a few nights and ‘long about midnight or a little after he heared the sheep, the old pet yoe. He heared her just uh makin’ the awfulest racket and uh bawlin’ and goin’ on and he sprung to his feet, he knowed what hit was. He sprung to his feet, he never put on his clothes ner nothin’ there ‘n’ as he went out he didn’t have the gun. But as he went out he had a double-bitted ax he said right by the door, his ax, and just as he turned the corner–and he had seven dogs, seven hounds, and they slep’ in under the floor and he said just as he turned the corner he met the bear right in the face and eyes, you see that scared it when he turned that corner and hit just r’ared on it’s hind feet and here he
come right at him, poppin’ hit’s teeth. And as he done that, they’s two of the dogs hidden in under the floor heared the tattoo of it and jumped out and went to fightin’ and he turned on the dogs, and that let him, that’s all the way he’d uh got away, hit’d killed him. When he dropped the sheep you see it turned on him.
And away he went, that he run back in to get the gun but. . . Yes he hit it with it. Yes he hit it with the ax right in the head he said. And he said it never even fazed it, never staggered it, ner . . . . Now he was a big man and he was a much of a man. They said he was. Didn’t know hardly how stout he was. And he said he hit that .. Whether he hit it best or not I expect he was scared. He hit it he said, and he said the ax bounced right back just as if he’s a’hittin, you know, a rubber tar. Yes sir he said he did. Never even, but the dogs just at that, the dogs jumped up and went to fightin you see and they jumped in behind it and went to fightin it, why . . . said hit quit with him and turned on the dogs.
D: Just two of the dogs?
M: Yes, two of the dogs and he had seven and away went the dogs, away went the dogs and the bear.
“Now” he said, “as quick as it gets daylight I’ve got another job here to do.” He said, “I’ve got another job to do,” he said. And away went the dogs and the bear out of his hearing. Damn if I’d be, it ‘uz afraid of the dogs, It ‘d been run with dogs. And away they went, so he waited till it got–broke daylight. He just made out and called them dogs out from in under the floor, and ever’ one that come out, he had one of these, they call ’em knot mauls that they rive boards with.
D: That they did what?
M: Riven Boards. I didn’t know if you ever hear’d of ’em or not.
D: No.
M: I’ve seen ’em.
D: What’s “rive boards”?
M: Why, gettin’ boards out for–to cover buildin’s and stuff. Yessir.

D: You mean makin’ boards?
M: Yessir, makin’ ’em, makin’ boards. And so, he said that he just called them dogs out and ever’ one that come to him he’d just take it by the hind legs and hold it up and just take that maul and knock their brains out. He killed ever’ one of the rest of the dogs only them two that ‘s gone and whether I, whether I…. Yes,he killed all the dogs only the two that uz gone.
Well, my daddy went back over there. He went just very often and so he went, he said, “I’ll git him.” He told him what he’d a done. He said, “I’ll git him if it takes me 10 years,” he said, “now you see if I don’t.” And he said …
D: What’d he say he killed them dogs for?
M: They wouldn’t run it. They wouldn’t fight. That’s what he killed them other ‘uns fer. Yes, they wouldn’t come out from under the floor, they ‘s scared. Afraid of the bear.
So, he said before he got to the house he went back over and he said before he got to the house he see’d a big scaffold built, fixed all up, and he said he wondered what in the name of sense that could be. Was right out he said in the field and he looked right down below the scaffold and there was a big place fenced in with rails. He said he knowed it uz some kind of idee he had about the bear. Why yes, he said he know he had some kind of a idee. Well, so he said he looked at that and he sized it up. And a thing fixed on top he said, had it just like a swivel. He said he had it built up pretty high, just like a swivel that ‘s on top. And he said he wondered then what was it that old man was a’goin’ to do.
So he had an old big gun there at the house and he called it old Speckle Belly. And it had specks of silver all over that stock. And he said hit shot good now, it uz no use to talk. That uz just as good a shootin’ gun he said as ever he shot, and he said that, uh, that old man had had it for I don’t know how long he’d had that gun. And he said it shot a big bullet too now.
And he went on to the house and he said when he, he hardly ever was in the house now. He was out all the time he said then, to his Aunt Bets when he got there. . . “Aunt Bets,” he said, “can you tell me,” he said, ‘what Uncle Bill’s got fixed up down there in that field?” “Oh yes Honey,”

she said. “That’s a scaffold he’s got fixed up down there, he’s gonna kill that bear.” “A’gonna do what?” he said. She said “he’s a’gonna kill that bear, bear that ‘s a’killing sheep.” And he said, “how’s he a’gonna kill it with that scaffold?” “Oh,” she said, “he, uh, I wish’d you could see,” she said, “what he’s, all he’s got that gun loaded with.” “What?” he says. She said “I wish’d you could see.” Why, then she told him about how much powder he’d put in behind all that stuff. Yes, I don’t know what all he had in there, pieces of arn, he said he had all, yes, like scrapplin’. All kind o’pieces of arn an’ everthing, an’d I forgit how much powder he had in behind to it there for to kill the bear and …wait for him to come in… .
“By god” he said, “I’m a’gonna get Old Cripplefoot tonight.” He called him Old Cripplefoot. “By god,” he said, “I’m a’gonna get Old Cripplefoot tonight.” “I’m gonna do what?”, he said. “Gonna get,” he said, “Old Cripplefoot tonight.” He said, “How’re ya gonna git him?” He said, “Did you not see,” he said, “my scaffold I had built down there?” He said, “I see’d something down there but I wondered,” he said, “what that was.” He said “I,” he said, “that’s what I’m a’gonna git him with.” “Well” he said, “now tell me Uncle Bill,” he said, “how’re ya gonna git him?” And then he up and told him. He told him the whole story. “Why,” he said, “that’ll tear that gun all into pieces Uncle Bill, and that’s as good a gun” he said, “as ever I shot.” And he said, “Don’t tear up that good gun.” “By god, I told you I was a killing the bear,’ he said, “now. I told you,” he said, “I’s a’killin’ him. He’s killing up the sheep,” he said, “for me, I’m,” he said, “and I’m a’killin the bear,” he said. Well he said, “I hate to see that gun ruined,” and he said, “hit might kill you.” He said, “if it blows back,” he said, “it’ll git you now. Instead of the bear,” he said,”it’ll git you.” “By god, I ain’t afraid of her,” he said. “I’ve got her fixed,” he said, ‘to pull it off till hit don’t scare me, I ain’t a bit afraid of her.” “All right,” he said.
“I want you to go,” he said, “and hold the light.” They was him and Floyd Blankenship was with my Daddy now when they went over that time. They’d went over to stay all night with him. Floyd has a long ways to walk you see and they’d went over to stay all night and he took, Floyd had went with him. “I want you,” he said, “to, I’ve got my torch and every thing fixed,” he said, “and I want you, “he said, “to go to, to light that torch,” he said, “tonight, so when I hear it in,” and he’d built that big rail pen down there and he gathered all of his sheep and put it in that pen you see. Put ‘em in that pen and thinkin’ . . . “Now by god,” he said, “when it comes to go in,” he said, “you’ll find out what I’ll do.” Well, he said, “you’ll tear the gun up,” he said. “You might not git killed but hit’ll be a accident.” He said, “hit’ll be a accident,” he said, “just as sure as hit

blows back,” he said, “you’re a killed man if it blows back next to where you at.” And he said, “besides by god I’m a’gonna, now if you don’t go,” he said, “I’m a’gonna put Bets up there. She’ll flash the light.” And he said, “I am sure not to go now, myself.” He said, “I hate for you,” he said, “to kill Aunt Bets.” “By god, hit won’t hurt her,” he said. “If it does we’ll both go together.” And so he said, he said, “just stay around here,” and he said, “it don’t come in,” he said, “till about midnight, and that’s the truth or a little after.” He said, “I know that.”
Well he said they set around and they talked and told stories and everthing else. Now directly he said it got along about midnight. He said, “you boys can go to bed,” he said. “We’ll be back after while.” He said, “you boys can go on to bed.” So he said, “it’s no use for me to go to bed because,” he said, “I won’t sleep none.” Said, “I needn’t to go to bed.” “Then by god lay down anyhow.” So he said they laid down but he said he never closed his eyes nor went to sleep and along about one o’clock he says he heared a roar.
D: Heard what?
M: Heared the gun go off. And he said you couldn’t tell it from a big dynamite, and just the same he said hit jarred the windows in the house he said just went like a big dynamite. Now he said, “get up Floyd,” and Floyd was awful slow a’movin’. He said, “get up and get your shoes on.” He said all he had to do was just to jump in his shoes he said for he, all he was a’lookin’at he said was a’studyin’ about was his Aunt Bets. Yessir. He said he didn’t much pity the old man. For you couldn’t back him shut from nothin’.
He said, “Let’s go.” And they had torches, now that’s the kind a lights they had, they’d make and get rich pine and fix some torches you see. And that’s the kind of lights they had before and he said, “get up right quick,” and he said he jumped up and just jerked the shoes on and lit the torch and they started. And he said when they went, when they got in sight of it, it uz a long way down a right smart ways from the house below the house in the field. Say well he said you could see little sparks of fire a’burning all everywhere you see where his bullets, all to pieces, yes, little blazes of fire. Now he says that old crazy thing he says I’m sure he . . . And the first one he said they come to was his Aunt Bets. She was a’laying right flat of her back. He said she’s a’layin’ right flat of her back and of course he said just quick as I got up I run just as quick as I seen her and run and grabbed her and he said, “Are you killed Aunt

Bets?” “No,” she said. “I ain’t killed but I’ll tell you,” she said, “I’m shocked pert near to death.”He said, “What? I know,” he said, “you are.” And so, he said, they got her up on her feet he said it hadn’t hurt her none. Nary said he didn’t. No. And he said they got her up on her feet and fooled around with her till she could walk.
Then she said, “Where’s Bill?” He said he wasn’t much a’lookin’ but directly he said he looked away down through the field he see’d Bill a’layin’. Yonder he laid he said. Hit his feet on down there to tell Bill. And he said of course as soon as he took a’hold of Bill he know’d he wasn’t dead, and fetched him a shake. And he said, “Are you killed?” “No,” he said, “By god, where’s the bear?” That’s the first thing he said he said. He said, “By god where’s the bear” he said. “I don’t know where the damn bear is. I ain’t a’looking for the bear,” he said. And he said “Did you find Bets?” He said, “Yes I found Bets.” And he said “Get up,” he said. “You old crazy thing you” he said. “You’ve blowed everything up,” she said. “By god,” he said, “that’s what I aimed to do. Let’s go down,” he said. He got him up. He said he took and lifted him up to his feet after he got up and it shot him that hard now. Yessir. And he said hit tore that gun. It just tore that gun all into pieces. Tore that good gun now he said that was a good ‘n. Hit just tore hit all into pieces. And had blowed that fire no wonder with the powder he put in. That’s what it ‘s bound to a’done. That’s just blowed them he said there ‘s little blazes of fire a’burnin’ all around through that field where he’d blowed it, that was in front of it you see.
Well, they went down and when they got down and looked at it he said they was a drop or two of blood. And he said he went, he called the dogs the two hounds, he got the two hounds there and he said, “he’s a layin’ right here.” “I don’t think,” he said, “he’s a’layin’ here,” he said. “I believe you‘ve under shot that bear.” He said, “I don’t know but I think,” he said, “you have under shot that bear but I believe,” he said, “that fur there is off ‘a hit’s belly and hit’s hind legs,” he said, “and I’m pretty hard to fool. I believe,” he said, “that’s what that fur there . . “.”I’ll be God damed if I wouldn’t be ashamed to tell as I know’d fur that’s on the belly from the back. Now,” he said, “I ain’t ashamed for I know it.” He said, “now you’ll see,” he said, “he’s a layin’ right . . “. “All right,” he said. “Git your dogs and we’ll see,” he said. Run back and got the dogs, called the dogs and they come. They didn’t come for he said the dogs was scared to death at that blast he’d put off down there. And the dogs come. As soon as they come why they struck the trail just as soon as they come. “Listen for him,” he said. “You’ll hear him a’fightin’, he’s a layin’ down there. Yes,”

he said. “I know he is.” Said, “you listen and see if he’s a’layin’ there,” and away went the dogs, and they listened, listened, listened.Nothin’ of the dogs, no barkin’ no nothin’.
“Now Uncle Bill,” he said, “what do you think about it now?” “Why,” he said, “it’s ontelling where that bear is.” He said, “now that moved from here.” “By god he won’t kill no more sheep will he?” “Yes,” he said, “when he gets well he will. Why,” he said, “if it’s ten years if he lives and he gets well he’ll come back and try it again that bear will.” Away went the dogs, and they went back to the house and nothin’ to the dogs. And they never come till the next morning. the dogs never.
Well, so the bear didn’t come back for a long, no wonder it didn’t. He said it didn’t come back for a long time. Well he come over to grandpa’s. Now grandpa said, “Uncle Bill,” he said “if all of you will leave that bear alone and not put no dogs on it, nor not fool at it,” he said, “I’ll, I’ll kill that bear this very fall.” He said, “Now I’ll kill it.” “I’d be a goddamed shamed” he said, “to talk that’a way but you,. ..” he said, “I’ll do her,” he said. “I know,” he said, “Uncle Jess, you’re a good bear hunter but I’ll be damed,” he said, “if you kill that bear.” And he said, “watch me and see if I don’t.” “Well I ain’t a botherin’ it,” he said, “without it comes back to the sheep.””Nobody said you need’n’t to.” He said, “you need’n’t to,” he said. “They’ve got that bear scared to death,” he said, “now and they’ll not kill it,” he said, “and they’ll not kill it with the dogs neither.” Well, so, hit’d killed I don’t know how many dogs for him. Yeah, yessir, it’d killed the dogs for him.
Well so he said that after while along the day quit and afterwhile they put out a fifty dollar reward for whoever ‘d kill that bear. They put ‘er out everyone of the farmers and all of the people that had sheep had throwed in and put out that reward for anybody that’d kill that bear.
So he never quit till he found it, he knowed the track just as quick as he’d see’d he knowed the bear’s tracks. Never one though had ever see’d the tracks of it. And along, along that fall in the first part of the fall they was plenty of beechnuts they was in patches you know how mast’ll hit in patches. He bound for the big bear was a’usin for he knew what he was seein’ Bound for his’usin’ he said. When it come to moon shine he fixed him a place, he took and trimmed the bresh off an’ ever’thing, so when the moon was a’shinin’ it’d shine right down through the timber when he come through that one place. And he said there’s a big root wall rooted up. Oh he said hit made a pile of dirt pretty near half as high

as a house and he said you could just step right in behind that root wall It’s right plumb facing where he’d come off the hill. Why he said it had a big road for it to come down there to wait. Yessir he said he had a big road that bear did for to come down there to wait and he said that’s the best place to hide that ever he see’d and so he took my daddy with him, he’s the oldest boy and he was just a boy like, and he took both guns; he took one and he give him one to pack. And he give him one of the guns to pack, and he kept the other one. He loaded them both, and so he said they went.
And they went on, and went on, oh he said it was a long ways boy. He said they traveled from before night clean till after midnight. They went, and directly they come to the place where he told him, now right here it is. And he said they went in behind that big rootball, went right in behind that big rootball he said and right there, right there now he said, “don’t you make a bit of noise whatever you do don’t whisper nor don’t say a word,” he said. “You can hear him a’comin’” he said, “when he comes down off ‘a there. He’ll come,” he said, “back tonight.” And he said, “We’ll hear him a ‘ comin’,” he said, “but it just seems like a big cow a’comin’ down off the hill.” And he said along about one o’clock along after midnight they hear’d it a’comin’. He was fixed and ready. He said he hear’d it a’comin’. He had to stand right in, right at the edge of that rootball so he could just step out one step and when he come through that open place and my daddy said hit was the smallest space the open place was, and how he hit that he said he never could ever tell. How he ever hit that bear.
And he said hit uz a small space and just along about one o’clock they heared him coming. He said he stayed hid back in behind that rootball. He said he waited till he got right there just at the shoulder through there and he fired and he said he never heared such a . . .Oh he said it made the awfullest noise ever he heared and he retched back and he give him the other gun that was loaded and went to loadin’ that and the bear went right on down the hill. He said, “I hit him,” he said. Said he “I might’a,” he said, “hit might’ a not’ve killed him,” he said. “We’ll have to light our torches and be awful careful,” he said, “he uz kill us both if he can get up But I don’t believe,” he said, “he’ll get up. I don’t think,” he said, “he’ll get up for,” he said, “I give him a pretty good shot.” And he said they started out and when they got out to where he come down off the hill there was blood, plenty of blood, and he said directly they heared him makin’ a strugglin’ noise makin’the awfullest noise and throwin’ his head just backwards and forwards and they got down there in sight of it.. They

got down there and he said it looked just like a big cow layin’ there, a big black cow, and of course they had their torches lit you see that they could see. Then, with them torches up.
And he said, “Now,” and then he shot it again . When he shot it that time he said he stood there and waited till it plumb quit ever moving, never moving its head or anything and then he got up close enough to where he could punch the gun against it. He said, “Hit’s dead.” He swore that ‘s the biggest thing you ever seen, now ain’t no use to talk. “Now,” he said, “We’ll just leave him a’layin’.” Said, “we’ll just take the guts out of him and just leave him lay here. I want Uncle Bill to come and see,” and he said they looked at the foot and there was the tore.The tore, and he swore that he said it’s teeth uz wore off till they wasn’t that long on it’s gum.Yessir boy plumb off he said pretty nearly into its gum. Said, “I want ‘a go and get Uncle Bill, we’ll take the guts out.” And now he said that’s hard to gut for uz ontelling how old it was but they took ‘em out and just left it a’layin’ right there. they took the livers out of it and left it a’layin.
Well, he said it uz daylight by the time they got home.And it’s up there in late fall. “Now in the mornin’,” he said, “whenever it gets light,” he said, “I want you to go over to Uncle Bill’s and tell him to come over. I want you children,” he said, my daddy and I believe Aunt Dice uz the two oldest uns. And they went. She went with him. And away they went. They went on over they told Uncle Bill. “Eh, hit’s not the bear. That ain’t the bear.” “Well, he said he wanted you to come over and look at it.” Said, “that’s what he told us to come tell you. Said for you to come over he wanted you to see it.” “Well I know without going,” he said, “hit ain’t the bear.” “He said he wanted you to come see it,” he said, “it’ll take us all day to go there and back.She’s a long way,” he said, “and it’ll take us all day to go.” “By god I’ll go,” he said, “if it takes me a day and night.”
And away he went. He just got ready and left everything. He went and he went on over to grandpa’s. He said, “Do you think you killed that bear?” “Why,” he said, “I’m sure I killed it,” he said. “I don’t yet believe,” he said, “it’s him.” “Now,” he said, “Uncle Bill,” he said, “I want you to go, the reason I want you to go,” he said, “I want you to be right there when that bear, when the hide’s took off of him.” He said, “I want to find some of your scrapplin’ you hit him with.” Now he said, “when you look for him and you find him,” he said, “you see if they ain’t in the hind leg. See,” he said, “when he r’ared up and see if you didn’t shoot him right in under the belly and it went in his hind leg.” “By god you’ll not find. . .” He said, “all right we’ll go and see now. This is a good opportunity. We won’t we

won’t argue,” he said, “over it.” And away they went. Some of the others went. He sent and got some of th’ other’ns. And they went, he said, and by gosh when they took the hide off him there was the big pieces of lead and them’s right in the hind leg. He asked him if he was satisfied?
D Well…!

Notes: The date of this story was probably early 1870s. Paris (b1856) would have been in his mid teenage years. 

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  1. Paul Certo

    Good yarn, Dwight. I think I enjoy good stories almost as much as good music!

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