Three Bears at Buffalo Creek

Buckshot exploded from the muzzle of an old shotgun in a blazing inferno that launched it toward a charging bear. He was a brute, massive among even the biggest bears that roamed the timbers of the Big Woods. The load of buckshot hit him square in the chest, yet it did marginal damage and merely slowed the old bruin down. Another shot rang out, this time a 50-caliber ball that surged from a muzzle and found its way deep into the bear’s flesh. In an instant, the massive brute stopped charging, began to rise on its hind legs towering over the three hunters below, and let out a roar so monstrous that it shook the very earth the bear stood upon. The bear then fell back to all fours and looked at the hunters with menacing eyes.

The hunters could see plainly that this monster of a bear was hurt. The bear tried again to charge, but this time stumbled over its massive paws and fell to the ground. A sweeping touch of relief swept over them, but it was short-lived. Behind the beast that was struggling to raise itself off the ground appeared another bear, and it was just as large as the one they just fought.

 

The year was 1853. In the North Country wilderness, William L. Quinn was considered a man of the times. He was 26 years old and termed a “mixed-blood” — a combination of Irish and Native American ancestry. During the fall of that year, Quinn embarked on a hunting expedition into the famed Big Woods of central Minnesota. With him came a man named George LeBlanc and another unnamed person. All three were of European-Native American mixed ancestry, a common trait among Minnesotans of the time.

The hunt took the three men into the Big Woods of Minnesota, a stretch of deciduous woodlands that broke up the divide of Eastern Forests and Western Prairies. It was here that game was plentiful, abounding with beavers, otters, minks and wildfowl. In addition, there were bear, wolves and the occasional panther. The three hunters were after the deer that abounded in the thickets that outlined the Big Woods.

The little hunting party eventually found itself in the area known today as McLeod County, and made camp somewhere along the banks of Buffalo Creek. At nightfall, the three men were awakened by the sound of a bear. It was rustling through their camp looking for something to eat. The three sprang from their bedrolls and frightened the bear away, but not before it made away with some of the food they packed.

When dawn came, the three hunters went off to track the bear they encountered the night before. Eventually, they came upon him and the fight ensued. The second bear on the scene that came crashing in tried hard to inflict damage on the three hunters. Undoubtedly, they had to find a way to hold it off while reloading their weapons following the first attack.

With the fight over, the men tried to collect themselves. A few moments later, the three men heard snarling and growling coming from 50 yards away. It was yet another bear, this time a large female who was no doubt a consort of one of the large males. All three men fired at once, killing the bear before she had a chance to charge.

As we drive our busy roads and live our busy lives, it’s all too easy to forget what our world was like not so long ago. Today, where we see a sprawling city or town was once a sprawling wilderness where life could hang in the balance of one’s wits and ability. Though small portions of the land may be reminiscent of what it once was, it is a mere shell of the great wilderness that once abounded in our own backyards.

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