Harry the Mountain Man – Part One
I ain’t too familiar with how to start this here off. I guess I should begin by telling ye about meself. Me name ‘s Harry, from the rough-and-tumble Green Mountains o’ Vermont. I ain’t got no proper name, ye could say, as me parents never got me one. Don’t be sorry fer me, I never needed one no how. I’m a rustic man I am, and a rustic man names himself, he does. Anyhow, I got to thinkin’ a while back that I should be layin’ down me story. I was thinkin’ I was, and a thought came to me: “those mountains yonder ain’t never gunna die, but by golly all the men I ever heard’ve sure have. One o’ these days I may come round to dying meself, and I won’t have left not a thing behind in me stead, fer folks to ‘member me by.” Now that ain’t too friendly o’ a thought, and I’ll bet ye intelligent folks have thought it once or twice yerself, most like. So here I am finally gettin round to layin’ down the tales o’ me life, so all o’ y’all can know who Harry the Mountain Man was, and that he was a real man with a life worth rememberin’.
THE TIME ME BROTHER LOST HIS ARM TO A BEAR
Livin’ in the mountains fer prac-tic-ally me whole life has resulted in many and more tales o’ adventure (and misadventure), but one o’ me most distinct memories is the time me and me brother damn near lost each other fer good out in these here yonder woods. I couldn’t a been more ‘n five or six at the time, and me poor brother musta been only about four. We was out trackin’ a bear we were, make-believe o’ course. It was a sight to behold, by golly, me and me brother out there trekkin’ around, like real hunters we were. I would hear a bear over the next hill, and we would chase over, or me brother would hear one on the other side o’ a patch o’ trees, and we would climb up a tree to catch a view, but never did we got lucky and lay eyes on one o’ those furry fellows. And let me tell ye, we knew how to climb trees. If there was such a bear to be seen from a fine sight-seeing tree, we would’ve seen it. The trick is all in pickin’ the right tree. Ye see, ye got to pick a tree good in size, and also sturdy in branches as well. If ye look ‘round the base o’ the tree and see fallen twigs er sticks er such like that, the tree isn’t too sturdy, and could be dead on the inside (like some o’ ye city folk). Also ye gotta make sure there ain’t no poison ivy er the likes, er any mal-icious critters. The next step ‘s to grab on tight to the closest branch above ye, and find a good hold fer yer feet, too. The branches ‘r always strongest where they meet the trunk, so ye gotta grab ‘em there. Last, but not least, ye gotta climb mostly with yer legs, as they don’t tire quick as yer arms. Also make sure to climb slow ‘n careful, unless yer inna race with yer brother.
Anyhow, this particular day was no different from any other, ‘cept we decided we were gunna venture over to the other side o’ the mountain. I was in the lead ‘o course, and me and me brother crept as quietly as we could to the top o’ the mountain, and then down the other side. By that time, it dawned upon us that neither o’ us knew the other side o’ the mountain too well, but that wasn’t gunna stop a couple o’ bear hunters by the likes o’ us. I meself spotted a cave as we were descendin’ down the mountainside.
“Hey brother, ye feelin’ to venture into that cave yonder and spot us a bear?”
“Only a chicken wouldn’t do that, and by golly, I ain’t no chicken!”, me brother replied.
So off he ventured, me close on his heels, hopin’ to got a peek meself, if there truly was to be a bear nestled in that there cave. And I’ll be damned if not right there in front o’ us, a bear lay sound asleep! Oh boy, how excited were we! We were real bear hunters now, me and me brother were. Now, unlike ye city boys, me and me brother carried real rifles on our make-believe hunts. So, well prepared we were to take on this thick ‘n sturdy beast. First we took a slight minute to consult on ‘r plan o’ attack.
“Okay now brother, this here be a real bear with teeth sharp as a kitchun knife, perhap’ even sharper, but lucky fer us she’s sound asleep. I’ll tell ye what: ye, being small as ye are, lay down right there, past the entrance o’ the cave. Take aim, and when I holler, ye better take a sure-fire shot right at that there sleeping bear.”
“And what fer yerself, big brother?”, replied me little brother.
“As fer me, well I’ve got this in mind: I’m gunna sneak up, just a few feet closer to that there sleepin’ bear, and take cover behind that rock yonder. When the time is right, I’ll take a sure-fire shot right towards that bear. I’ll holler so ye can shoot just about the same time as meself.”
“Boy, I couldn’t ‘ve come up with a better plan if I’d ‘ve sat here thinkin’ all day. I’ve got to hand it to ye big brother, that might be the darndest plan I ever heard in me whole entire life”, said me brother.
So right then and there, me and me brother got into position, and signaled to each other we was ready.
“FIRE!” I hollered, and by golly, those gunshots musta rev-erb-’rated somethin’ fierce, that sound was louder than a full on mud-slide. So loud it was that we got distracted from ‘r target fer a quick second, till that she-bear rose up quick and angry, and me and me brother saw our shots had not affected that beast, but in a way to make her angrier than me Pa when I drank all his bottle o’ whiskey that one time.
Oh boy, did I run fast as a cracker jack, but me poor brother was frozen in fear, standin’ shocked at the foot o’ the cave! I climbed a tree fast as lightnin’ to escape the beast, but dropped like a rock when I saw that bear race fer me poor brother. I loaded up another round real fast, but me brother continued to stand like a wood post as the bear charged him. Oh, how her mighty jaw ripped inta him! She musta been real mad to take his arm off like she did, all gory and whatnot. Real shame it was too, he’d only been in possession o’ those arms fer the precious few years he’d been livin’. I shot the beast straight in the skull just then, and that stopped her, it did. Good thing too, it was just before she got any more o’ him. Her head popped like a ripe melon, it did. I still got me a piece I have as a keepsake.
Anyhow, lucky fer me brother his shoulder muscles contracted such as to prevent too much bleedin’, and I got him to town relatively quick like. Too late to attach his arm back on, and I had forgotten that back at the cave, but the doc saved his life none-the-lesser.
He’s doin’ fine now, fer all those wonderin’, lives in the state penitentiary, but that’s another story. Maybe I’ll let it down sometime soon. Anyhow, that’s all there is to the story o’ me brother’s lost arm, but writin’ this all down has reminded me o’ another tale I love to tell…
next chapter: Harry the Mountain Man – Part Two
all chapters: Harry the Mountain Man
more by Stan Macel
photograph by Thomas Lefebvre