of us were gathering cattle north of Ceta Creek,” he began. “Paul,
my brother, was riding the hills, and drifting the cattle toward
the [Prairie Dog Town fork of the Red] river. I was working below,
and would gather the loose stuff and throw them into the main herd…farther
Christian heard his brother fire a shot about the same time he saw
a large black bear running off through the brush. He figured Paul
had only taken a pot shot at the animal for fun, and continued tending
to his business.
But when Christian returned to the herd, Paul was missing. When
his brother finally rode in, he held a squiring baby bear. Annoyed
with Jim for not checking on him after hearing the shot, Paul explained
that he had run onto a mother bear and two cubs. He decided to rope
one of the babies. Naturally, the mama bear put up a pretty good
fight until Paul’s shot ran her off with the other cub.
The ranch manager and everyone else took a shine to the cub and
collectively adopted him. The cowboys kept the bear chained to a
cottonwood tree near the camp’s rock well house.
“Blackie seemed contented enough, never wanting for food or entertainment,”
Christian continued. “The whole camp was beginning to feel very
attached to him, and then, about the third morning, we found he
Several days later, the cub showed back up content to be rechained
as long as the groceries kept coming. But after several months,
the cowboys gave the bear to the owner of their favorite watering
hole in Claude,
along the line, the bear got named Blackie. Though tame, one trait
he never overcame was occasionally slipping his chain and going
for a walkabout. His favorite home away from home was the local
hotel, where he became the nemisis of a middleaged widow named Nellie
One morning, Blackie absented himself from Scarborough’s saloon
and ambled over to the hotel. There he ran into Mrs. Weaver walking
back from the barn with a fresh pail of milk.
“This was as gratifying a breakfast as he could imagine,” Christian
said. “But on raising his nose to the bucket he found it held higher
and higher. He was not to be denied, however, and he started climbing
the indignant lady…. Needless to say, he came out victorious.”
While Blackie had a robust appetite, he also enjoyed a refreshing
dip in the rain barrel just outside the hotel’s dining room. Drinking
water was not easy to come by back then, and Blackie’s fondness
for her rain barrel infuriated Mrs. Weaver.
One day, cooking lunch for her guests, Mrs. Weaver heard water splashing
and realized Blackie in her rain barrel again. Armed with a broom,
she ran outside and flailed away at Blackie every time he raised
his head above the rim.
“After churning out most of the water,” former JA cowboy Charlie
Taul remembered, “[Blackie] darted out of the barrel and around
the [hotel], sending a spray of water in the pathway of his pursuer.
Noticing the front door ajar, he dodged in and on down the hall
through the dining room, and then out the open window…into the rain
Habits are hard to break, however, and Blackie continued to periodically
get loose for a romp around town. One time, a dog kept him on the
run so long that he died from heat exhaustion.
“His pranks were the interest of the village and countryside,” Christian
concluded, “and even the hotel manager could not help pine at his
© Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" March
28, 2012 column
Animal Tales | Texas