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101 466 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

At the tarn erf the oeatury, Jesse I>avid 
Roberts ws a small boy growing up at 
New York, ao isolated Adi- 
iity. The nearest general 

mj&pMg away, and to the 

fifty thousand acres of 

J^sse Oairid was the tifaaard son of his 
father, a Bible reader and a noted Adiron- 
dack bear trapper who could set a trap 
to ontwifc tibe wariest bear. In Bears, 
Btibie* wi & B&y* Mr. Roberts tells of his 
father's liv<dy caqpedfera^oes, aiad admits the 
fears of a small boy who was not quite 
sure that fbe bearskins in the woodshed 
would not come alive again. Tbere is the 
story erf I?atib^s first eooounter with a 
bear, when he was armed only with an 
ax; rf lie searcto or the elusive ghost 
bear; of old Yellow Tusk; aaad of Father's 
gallant dogs. Mr. Roberts tells also of 
Paibear^s unswerving devotion to God; of 
Ms admiration for tibe mighty men of the 
Bible; and of the morning prayer and 
Bible-reading which no earthly business 
Eteot eveaa tine pursuit of marauding 
bears could 

Tbis is, as well, a book about a closely 
knit family living in a small frame house 
which jet managed, like Noah's Ark, to 
accoxumodate Father and Mother and 
dyOdifos, Mr. Roberts recalls the 
of boyhood, the pleasures of fish- 
~ fee maple-sugar season, and the 
F>esnieidies of l^erbs and barks. Most 
of aM, he recalls the guidance 

on bach flap) 

AUG 71979 

Beax-s, cuiu 


and a Boy 

MtdtaU fy (jtl Watte* 







Copyright 1961 by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 

Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 61-7482 

Printed in the United States of America 
for the Publishers by the Vail-BaHou Press 



Bears in the Family - 9 
The Lure of the Adirondacks ' 21 
Father the Bear Trapper 28 
The Power of a Book 36 
This Is the Way It Was 46 
The Ghost of the Forest 54 
Father and Prince - 60 
The Big Catamount 75 
Lion, the Bear Dog - 81 
The Blizzard of '88 90 
Making Maple Sugar - 97 

Home Remedies 101 
Our New Dog Gyp - 108 
My First Testimonial - 112 
Chores and Making Money 116 
School Days and Distractions 125 
Fishing: The Favorite Pastime - 133 

Good Neighbors 142 

Bible Problems * 147 

The Lord's Prayer in a Runaway Cart - 157 

Bee Lining 160 

The Move to Chestertoton 164 

Teaching a Country School 169 

Bell Hop at Chester House 177 

OZd Mutton Glutton * 183 

Glens Falls Academy - 189 

First Steps Toward the Ministry 193 

Summer and Fall, 1905 205 

Moody Bible Institute 213 

A Sorrow 219 

A Certain Danger * 222 

Confusions and Convictions: Wesleyan 

University, 1906 
Hearts and Prizes 
TTie Best Pnse o/ AZZ - 237 
My Ftrs* Full-time Church 
Honeymoon at Pharaoh Lake 247 
T/ie SoZe of t/ie Farm 251 


ARLY one morning in the spring of 
1886, there was a loud knocking on the back door of our 
Adirondack home. A neighbor, in great excitement, ex- 
plained that during the night bears had killed several of 
his sheep. The man had come to our house because Father 
made it a part of his business to keep black bears thinned 
down to a point where sheep-raising could be made 

We lived near the head of Brant Lake and close to 
the northern boundary of Warren County, New York. 
Ours was a small valley, hemmed in by mountains and in- 
habited by a half-dozen families who made their living by 
fanning, lumbering, and keeping a few cattle and sheep. 
To the north of us lay a wilderness from which bears 
frequently came forth for an easy living. 

Urgent as our neighbor's appeal for help seemed to 
be, I recall that Father did not go to investigate the 


Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

slaughter of the sheep until, in unhurried manner, he had 
finished the morning devotion of Bible-reading and prayer. 
He knew that the marauders were by then digesting their 
food in the remote recesses of the forest, and felt that the 
most important business before the house was that of turn- 
ing our hearts and minds toward God. If the chapter for 
the day was the one that lists the names of all the fathers 
who begat and all the children who were begotten from 
Adam to Moses, I am sure that it was carefully read 
through to the end. The prayer that followed the reading 
was likewise of no brief duration. 

After completing the family worship, Father put a 
leash on our husky dog, Lion, and went off to find the 
tracks of the bears and the uneaten portions of the man- 
gled sheep. A few days later I was afraid to venture into 
our woodshed, because two large black bears were hang- 
ing up out there. Being a small boy, I was not quite sure 
that the sheep-killing monsters would remain dead. 

While the pursuit of these particular bears was a mat- 
ter of routine for Father, some of the bears that were 
caught during the period from 1865 to 1895 provided 
lively experiences. To any hunter the successful tracking 
and killing of these big bears would seem great sport, and 
there is no doubt that Father enjoyed the challenge of a 
good hunt However, to the people of our region bear 
hunting and trapping was part of the very serious busi- 
ness of survival It was vital that the small flocks of sheep 
and cattle in our valley be protected, and Father knew 
this welL 

Father came naturally to bear-trapping; you might 


Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

say that encounters with bears ran in the family. My 
Grandfather Roberts was one of old Vermont's famous trap- 
pers. Having acquired the hunter s zeal from his ancestors, 
he found exciting satisfaction in tracking bears and other 
wild animals to their lairs. He knew how to smoke bears 
out of their dens, and at times when they were slow in 
moving, he went in after them. On one occasion he even 

got up from what people thought would be his deathbed 
to pursue a big bear. 

It was unusual for a man as hardy as Grandfather 
was to take to his bed, but at this time he had good rea- 
son. Night and day for two weeks he had been caring for 
two elderly people who had been stricken with a malady 
known in those day as "black diphtheria.* Because the 
disease was so feared, it had been impossible to find any- 
one to go to the aid of these unfortunate men. On hearing 
of their plight, Grandfather, who had never been afraid of 
anything except the wrath and scorn of his wife, had 
volunteered as nurse and attendant. Taking with him a 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

few home remedies consisting of oils and herbs, he had 
gone boldly to the quarantined house and offered his 


All efforts to save the lives of the sufferers were in 
vain. The men's throats became so swollen that they could 
not take nourishment, and medicine ad not give any re- 
lief. When the men died, Grandfather prepared their 
bodies for the undertaker, assisted in their burial, and 
started for home. On the way, he realized that he was not 
feeling well Chills were causing him to tremble, his heart 
seemed to flutter at times, his throat was getting sore, and 
he felt dizzy. He thought that these symptoms were due 
to his lack of sleep and his exposure to the cold wind in 
the cemetery. As he turned down the last stretch of road 
which led to his gate, Grandmother, who was at the win- 
dow, noticed his unsteady walk and went out to meet him. 
She helped him into the house and put him to bed. 

Until long past midnight Grandmother tended her 
patient. She kept his feet warm with hot bricks, and ad- 
ministered potions of steeped herbs and barks. Finally, 
after thrashing about with alternate chills and burning 
fever, Grandfather dozed off from exhaustion. Grand- 
mother also lay down to rest, but had hardly gone to 
sleep before she was awakened by an impatient pounding 
at the door. A man's voice shouted, "I've found the tracks 
of a big bear, and need your bear dog." 

Grandfather had now been aroused from his slumber, 
and when he heard what the neighbor wanted, he called 
out, ''Wait a minute, and lH go with you." Suiting his 
actions to his words, he got up and began to put on his 
clothes. Grandmother rushed into the bedroom, but in 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 13 

spite of her entreaties and the uncomplimentary words 
that she used to try and beat him down, Grandfather per- 
sisted in dressing. 

In behalf of Grandmother, I should state that she was 
no weakling in the art of persuasion. Father often spoke 
about her great strength. He said that she could pick up 
a full barrel of cider and drink out of the bung hole. 
When an ugly ram came at her in a sheep pasture, she 
caught him by his horns, threw him to the ground, and 
pounded his head with a stone until he was ready to be- 
have more like a gentleman. Disgusted with a braggart 
who called himself the champion of Ireland, she took him 
by his coat collar and the seat of his trousers and threw 
him over a six-rail fence, humiliating him to such an ex- 
tent that he left town. It is an Indian saying that one 
should never disturb a bear in a berry patch, but when 
Grandmother found a bear eating blackberries in a patch 
where she intended to fill her pail, she drove the animal 
away and then picked the berries. Father claimed that 
she could take two ordinary men by their collars and 
bang their heads together. But Grandfather was no ordi- 
nary man, at least not when he was bent on a bear hunt. 
All that Grandmother could do, as he pulled on his cap 
and took his gun from the wall, was say, "If you are deter- 
mined to be so stupid and stubborn, one of the boys 
should follow you, just as you do the bear, and bring your 
body home when you fall dead in your tracks." 

Striving to overtake a bear was always such an ab- 
sorbing venture for Grandfather that he forgot all other 
interests; and in this case, when he saw how large the 
tracks were, he seemed to tap a reservoir of reserve 

^j Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

strength that carried him forward so rapidly that his com- 
panion had considerable difficulty keeping up with him. 
Racing through the woods, descending into deep ravines, 
and circling mountains, they trailed the bear all day. 
When darkness overtook them, they made their way to a 
barn, crawled into the hay, and waited for the morning. 

As the light of dawn enabled them to detect the bear's 
footprints, the two men pressed on. They knew that the 
bear was looking for winter quarters, and that he would 
soon find a place to his liking. By keeping old dog Ring 
on a leash and having him smell out the trail in the places 
where there was no snow, their progress was rapid. The 
freshness of the over-sized tracks, moreover, indicated that 
their quarry could not be far ahead. In the middle of the 
afternoon of that second day, as they made their way 
around an overhanging cliff, they came upon the rocky 
cavity for which they were looking. The excitement of 
the hunters was intense. Having located their game, the 
next step was to build a fire and smoke the bear out; if 
this method worked they both could fire at the bear as his 
head came into view. In case this strategy did not produce 
the desired results, Grandfather would light a torch, crawl 
into the den, and drive the occupant out. The second way 
would be a last resort, for one man with only one bullet to 
fire would give the bear a better chance to escape. 

However, the smoke proved effective. The direction 
of the wind, or a draft under the rocks, carried the smoke 
for into the hidden recesses of the cave, and the bear had 
to come out for air. As the men saw the outline of his 
feige head they took quick aim and fired. Both bullets 
lamd their mark, and the men had a f bur-hundred-pound 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 15 

bear on their hands in a place far from their homes. For- 
tunately, however, they had not dragged the bear very 
far when they came to the cabin of a wood chopper. In 
return for some bear steak, the woodsman gladly hitched 
up his horses and took the hunters and their kill back to 
Grandfather's house. 

It was after dark when Grandmother heard the voices 
of the men out in the yard. She rushed out to see if some- 
one had brought her sick husband to her, and she could 
hardly believe her eyes as she saw him carrying one end 
of the bear, while two men carried the other end. Mixing 
rebuke with affection, she exclaimed, "You dear old bear- 
crazy fool, if you ever seem to be dead, I won't call the 
undertaker until someone first pounds on our door and 
shouts, 'Bears!' Then if you don't wake up and grab your 
gun, I'll order a coffin." 

When Grandfather had finished carving out some 
large chunks of bear steak for the woodcutter and had 
returned to the kitchen to wash his hands, he turned to 
Grandmother and remarked philosophically, "Hannah, 
more people die in bed than dies out of 'em. Diseases and 
undertakers have a hard time overtaking a man when he's 
on the trail of a bear; but I'm half-starved right now, 
and your pork-and-beans smell mighty good." 

Grandfather, having outdistanced the dread disease 
which had invaded the community, continued his exciting 
life as a hunter and trapper. When, because of the ac- 
cidental discharge of a gun, he lost a leg, he hewed out a 
wooden one and kept on chasing bears. 

Over in the Green Mountains, Father's two uncles, 

16 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

Solomon and Ichabod, also wise in the ways of bears, once 
had an unexpected encounter. It happened when they 
were on a mountain, gathering balsam pitch. Ichabod had 
an ailment which was then known as lingering consump- 
tion, and the sticky liquid from balsam blisters was mixed 
with powdered alum and honey to form a cough syrup for 
him. The uncles had taken their dog Major with them, 

and, hearing him barking furiously, found him greatl> 
agitated at the mouth of a cave on the mountainside. 
Thinking that raccoon might be denning there, Uncle 
Solomon suggested trying to get one or more of them for 
Thanksgiving dinner. He volunteered to crawl into the 
opening, while his brother was to remain on guard to 
shoot the animals if they attempted to escape. Both men 
were armed with ancient flintlock shotguns which were 
loaded for partridge and other small game. 

Bears, jBi&te^ and a Boy 17 

Proceeding cautiously into the deepening gloom, Un- 
cle Solomon was startled to see two eyes which apparently 
belong-ed. to some huge animal. He leveled his gun and 
pulled th_e trigger. There was a deafening roar and a sud- 
den collision* which temporarily stunned both Uncle Solo- 
mon a.ncL Major, who had been following him. The occu- 
pant of the sleeping quarters was making for the exit 
fullspeecl. Uncle Ichabod, hearing the noise, was stooping 
down to jeer into the gloomy cavern when a large, rapidly 
moving, out-coming animal knocked him sprawling. 

When Uncle Solomon came out of the den, he was 
alarmed to find his brother in the embrace of a huge 
bear. Seizing Uncle Ichabod's gun from the ground, he 
aimed to shoot the beast through the head, but the flint, 
wet witLsiLOw, failed to give the necessary spark. Taking 
the gun by the barrel and using it as a club, he struck 
the bear with such force that the breech of the gun was 
smashed; however, the blow did little damage to the bear. 
In desper&tion, fearing that the commotion and pressure 
might eauise his brother to have another hemorrhage, 
Uncle Sol grabbed the bear by the ears and endeavored to 
pull him away from his victim. At this point, good old 
Major, emerging from the den and sensing the predica- 
ment of his masters, attacked the bear. The bear released 
the man. lie had been hugging and grappled with his new 

Fortunately, except for being quite out of breath, 
Uncle Eohabod had suffered no harm. The bear had nei- 
ther mauled him with his powerful jaws nor ripped him 
with, his olaws. Both men were, therefore, able to go to the 
rescue of their dog. The bear, not wishing to risk a fight 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

against three, decided to retreat But Major was not fin- 
ished. Catching up with the bear and biting him in the 
hinder parts, he caused him to turn about. 

At this point, so the story goes, the thought occurred 
to one of the uncles that they might be able to drive the 

bear down the mountain. Providing themselves with long, 
pointed sticks, somewhat like spears, they prodded the 
bear in the direction in which they wanted him to go. 
Tfeey were making considerable progress in the art of 
bear-driving when, as they came to a spring of water, the 
bear wallowed in, lay down, and refused to move. 

Realizing that two men and a dog could not induce 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 19 

Mr. Bruin to leave his refreshing bath, Uncle Solomon de- 
cided to go after help. He made his way to the district 
schoolhouse, rushed in as if on most urgent business, and 
requested assistance. He explained that his brother was 
in danger of being killed by a big bear. The teacher there- 
upon dismissed the older boys who, following the sugges- 
tion of Uncle Solomon, ran to their homes for guns and 

When the recruited force got back to the spring 
and found the bear still soaking himself in the water and 
mud, they fashioned their ropes into slip nooses, attached 
them to the ends of stout poles, and proceeded to prod 
and pull the reluctant animal down the slope of the moun- 
tain. It seemed that the men and boys were to have the 
distinction of escorting a wild bear about the neighbor- 
hood, but such humiliation was more than bruin could 
bear. He moved along with them until they reached an 
open field, but here he balked, and displayed an uncon- 
querable spirit of passive resistance. When it finally be- 
came clear that all the king's oxen and all the king's men 
could not get the bear going again, a well-aimed bullet, 
fired at close range, brought to an end the day's excite- 

Many years later, when Father had finished telling 
the above story to an aged Vermonter, the man replied, 
'1 was one of the boys who helped to get that bear down 
the mountain." As is so often the case with stories that 
have been passed on by word of mouth, variations are 
bound to occur. According to one version, Uncle Ichabod, 
having become exhausted by his strenuous exertion, rode 

2Q Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

the bear part of the way down from the spring to the 


Father's own first encounter with a bear occurred 
under somewhat different conditions. He had not gone 
hunting on that particular day, but, with ax in hand, was 
looking for an ash tree with just the right crook in it to 
serve as a runner for a sled. Suddenly, as he scrutinized 
various trees along his path, his attention was drawn 
toward a large dark form behind some bushes a few rods 
away. Before Father could climb a tree and seek safety, 
an angry she-bear was coming toward him at a rush. 

Father had heard from experienced guides and hun- 
ters that under such curcumstances the safest procedure 
for a man is to stand his ground. So he raised his ax to 
defend himself, and awaited the oncoming charge. The 
bear came straight toward the object of her wrath, and 
when it seemed as though one more leap would bring 
man and beast together, she stopped dead in a threatening 
crouch. As they looked each other in the eyes, Father 
dared not blink. He stared steadily at the bear and finally 
in this test of nerves the human eyes prevailed. The big 
bluffer turned and ran off just as rapidly as she had 
charged. Thus Father saved the seat of his trousers or 
more by standing firm. 


ICCORDING to the family record, 
Father was born in Danby, Vermont on January 6, 1831. 
This was during the administration of Andrew Jackson, 
and was the year that Abraham Lincoln went by boat 
down to New Orleans where he saw slavery in operation 
and began to hate it. 

Father was a twin, and was given the name Edwin, 
while his brother was called Edward. His early life was 
spent in the beautiful valley of the Green Mountains, be- 
tween Rutland and Bennington. Like the typical people 
of Vermont at that time, he attended school long enough 
to learn the rudiments of reading, writing, and arithmetic, 
although his love for hunting and fishing, together with 
the necessary work on the farm, seriously interfered with 
his education. One thing that he remembered from his fre- 
quently interrupted schooling was how to compute inter- 
est; and later on when his own children were in school, 


Bears, Bibles and a Bou 

2%, 7 J 

he told them of his success in working out a very long 
problem in compound interest. 

Perhaps his knowledge of how money could increase 
through interest helped to instill in him the habit of thrift, 
for, as Father assisted various neighboring farmers with 
their haying and wood chopping, he saved his earnings 
and deposited them in the Bennington Bank. Hence when 
the California gold rush occurred in 1849, he was not 
tempted as others around him were to disturb his steady 
habits. A bird in the hand, he thought, was worth two in 
the bush. In addition, he found plenty of adventure among 
his own mountains. 

From the mountain peaks of Vermont, Father had 
often looked toward the north and northwest where the 
rugged forest-covered Adirondacks extended as far as he 

oo ^^ 

could see. His observation, together with reports which he 

had heard, indicated that trapping, hunting, and fishing 

were much better up that way than in his own state. 

Moreover, at the age of twenty-eight he was not married, 

and was therefore free to go and come as he pleased. In 

the fall of 1859, he put his personal belongings into a pack 

basket, hung his powder horn at his side, shouldered his 

flintlock gun, and headed for the new country. Traveling 

by way of Fort Edward and Glens Falls, he proceeded 

north to the ruins of Fort William Henry near Lake 

George, where some of his ancestors had fought in earlier 

years. After a brief inspection of the old rifle pits, stone 

breastworks, and remains of the fortress, he hastened on 

to Warrensburg and then along the Schroon River to 

South Horicon, where he stopped for the night. 

Having learned at a trading post that a lumber com- 

"Bears, Bibles and a Boy 23 

pany at the head of Brant Lake was cutting off the prime- 
val pine, spruce, and hemlock trees and selling quarter 
sections of the rough land for $300.00, Father eagerly 
pushed on ten miles farther, where he bought the second 
farm beyond the head of the lake. This quiet valley, bor- 
dered on three sides by seven mountains in horseshoe 
shape, and opening at beautiful Brant Lake, was the land 
of his dreams. His one hundred and sixty acres of wood- 
land contained scores of old and young sugar maples, a 
trout stream, a waterfall, and a never-failing spring of 
pure water. Here he could build his cabin and enjoy the 
peace and riches of the wilderness. 

A half-mile up the trail James Leach, who was oper- 
ating a logging job, lived with his family. It seemed nat- 
ural that Father, in order to add to his income from 
trapping and to have a place to live while building his 
own house, should take a job with Mr. Leach. 

Until this time Father had never seriously considered 
the advantages of married life. He had not held with 
Socrates that, whether a man marries or remains a bache- 
lor, he will live to regret it. He had obviously not met the 
right young lady. But when he became acquainted with 
Ann Eliza, the oldest of the Leach girls, and saw how 
helpful she was to her mother and how kind and patient 
she was with her younger brothers and sisters, he began 
to understand how much richer life could be if he had a 
wife like her. He even confided to Ann Eliza that her 
tender and tasty baking reminded him of his mother's 
bread and cakes. 

There was no hasty courtship and marriage, for Ann 
Eliza was then only fifteen, but it generally became clear 

24 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

that wooing, as well as lumbering, was going on in that 
camp. When Father came in from the hills with his knap- 
sack bulging with partridges and other wild game, his 
pockets also contained wintergreen berries and clear nug- 
gets of spruce gum which he gave to the favored one for 
such sharing as she saw fit. He was thoughtful, too, in 
bringing wood to fill the box by the stove. For her part, 
she took pains to repeat bits of conversation which his de- 
fective hearing had missed (Father's hearing had been 
severely impaired in his childhood by scarlet fever), and 
she mended his clothes and darned his socks. 

When Ann Eliza Leach reached the age of eighteen 
and Edwin Roberts was thirty-two, they were married on 
May 10, 1863. They took a brief wedding trip by horse 
and buggy to visit the groom's relatives in Vermont, 
where the charming bride was received as a most worthy 
member of the family. 

Returning from their honeymoon, and wishing to im- 
press his bride with the importance of cooperation, the 
young husband threw one end of a rope over the roof of 
their house and instructed her to go around and pull the 
rope to the ground. Since they both pulled in opposite 
directions, nothing was accomplished. Calling a halt, 
Father made his way to his young wife's side, and showed 
her how easy it was for them to get the rope by pulling 

"What a good illustration!" she said. "And it will be 
just perfect if you always come around to pull on my side, 
as you now did.* 

Soon the young couple had to face a problem more 
serious than learning cooperation. The Civil War had 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 2 $ 

been going on for two years, and many people were so 
dissatisfied with its conduct that Draft Riots had occurred 
in New York City. Forgetting that in time of war it is 
necessary to sacrifice some things in order to avoid the 
loss of other more important things, they claimed that the 

draft was interfering with their liberty. Finally, however, 
it became clear that Lincoln's call for men must be an- 
swered, and the men of New York State responded. Father 
went to the Draft Board for his examination, expecting 
that because of his deafness he would be rejected; but 
the examiners, having waxed very zealous, and anticipat- 
ing that Father might mortgage his farm and raise the 

-j Bears, "Bibles and a Boy 

$300.00 required to engage a substitute, held him for the 


It was not an easy task for Father to return home and 
break the news. Plans to enlarge and improve their small 
house had to be abandoned, while every effort had to be 
made to raise that $300.00. There was on their farm some 
medium-sized pine and spruce which they intended to 
use for their own building needs. However, the young 
couple concluded that it would be better to sacrifice this 
lumber than to mortgage the farm. Even with this sale, 
and adding the few dollars they had in hand, they would 
not equal half their required payment to the government. 
Fortunately, another source of income would be from 
trapping. The prices offered for some kinds of raw furs 
had doubled and tripled, since many of the men who had 
previously supplied the market were now in the Army. 
It was now the fall of the year, when pelts began to grow 
prime, and Father turned to his trapping. From the tracks 
he had seen along the brooks and around the lake, it was 
evident that mink were unusually plentiful. To escape the 
deeper snows of the north, or in quest of more abundant 
food, they had moved into this sunny valley. It seemed as 
if the game was seeking the trapper, for as Father tended 
his trap line he frequently found a catch in every trap. 
By the end of the trapping season, he had sold enough of 
the soft, silky pelts to meet his draft payment. 

At the end of the Civil War, more people began to 
move into the Brant Lake region, making it a neighbor- 
hood of ten hardy families. Four families actually lived 
Jest outside the valley, but were considered part of the 
ndghborhood. The honest-sounding names in themselves 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 27 

reflected the pioneer spirit of America: Bolton (Thomas, 
Joe and Valentine), Arthur Smith, Steward Purvee, Al- 
bert Griffin, Thomas Bentley, Eleazor Davis, and Ross 
(Austin and Cassius). 

As each family owned a quarter-section of land, the 
houses were situated approximately one-half mile apart. 
A tiny schoolhouse, conveniently located to care for the 
educational needs of the children, was built on a con- 
necting crossroad near the lake. The nearest store was 
seven miles south at the outlet of the lake, while the area 
back of the surrounding mountains consisted of some fifty 
thousand acres of wilderness. 

The four families on our rocky road, though not 
blessed with so much of the morning sunshine, were more 
prolific. As though controlled by a mystic rhyme, like 
"Thrice to mine, and thrice to thine, and thrice again to 
make up nine/' there were nine children born in our tiny 
house, and nine in each of the next two houses up the 
road. The other settlers, perhaps considering the raising 
of a family a mere sideline, did not do so well. 


O SUPPORT themselves on their farms, 
the families of the Brant Lake region would usually 
buy a cow, two or three sheep, a few hens, a pig, and a 
horse or yoke of oxen. As the land was gradually cleared 
for pastures and for producing hay, the herds and flocks 
would be increased. Corn, potatoes, and other vegetables 
were raised for one's own use, although an extra supply 
of potatoes was often grown for sale to those who might 
need to buy, especially to the "cottage people" who came 
in the summer. Whenever a farmer could produce more 
butter and eggs than his own family needed, these prod- 
ucts were taken to market to be traded for other staples. 
The smaller families had the advantage in bartering, since 
they were more likely to have the surpluses. Wool from 
the sheep was sent to the mill for carding, and later spun 
into yarn on the family spinning wheel. The yarn was then 

dyed red or black, and wound into balls for knitting socks 


Bears, Bibles and a Boy 29 

and mittens for the family. The melted tallow from the 
sheep that were killed for food served for making candles. 
Gradually a flock of sheep would increase until the owner 
would have surplus wool to sell at shearing time in the 
spring of the year, and also some fatted male lambs in the 

middle of the summer. Income from surpluses was often 
needed for paying taxes, buying clothing, flour, sugar, tea, 
and similar necessities. Mortgages on farms were fre- 
quently paid off from such sources of income. It is easy 
to understand, therefore, why it was disastrous when black 
bears began to prey on a man's sheep. If the bears were 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

not killed, they might destroy an entire flock of thirty or 
forty sheep in a few weeks. 

To prevent such destruction and loss, as well as to 
earn the extra money that came with the bounty and the 
sale of the skin, Father pursued his trapping in our sec- 
tion of the Adirondacks. From 1863 to 1905 he caught one 
or more bears every year. Each spring, as soon as it was 
time for the bears to emerge from their dens, Father 
would take a day off from farm chores to look for bear 
tracks far back in the forest; and on his return home the 
first question that we asked was, "Did you see any signs?" 
We knew that he had examined old, decaying logs which 
bears tear apart for grubs and ants, and that he had ob- 
served whether or not the bulbs of the Jack-in-the-pulpits 
or wild turnips, as we called them had been dug up 
for food. These and other indications of the presence of 
bears were quickly noticed by his trained eyes. 

If you have ever sampled the fiery-tasting food which 
wild turnips furnish, you do not begrudge it to bears. And 
yet bears, big and little, fill their empty stomachs with 
these tubers as soon as they come up in the spring. When 
I was old enough to go with Father to his traps he would 
sometimes pause to point out the wilted tops from which 
the bulbs had been eaten. 

On one occasion I was greatly interested in the marks 
made by bears* teeth on a tree which leaned at a slight 
angle over a bears' runway. It appeared that all the mem- 
bers of the bear family had stood on their hind legs and 
measured their heights with teeth marks on the bark of 
the tree. There were marks made by the little bears, the 
medium-sized bears, and the big bears. 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 31 

While the business of trapping animals seems so re- 
pulsive to us that various humane laws have been passed 
to minimize suffering, there is no need for sentimental ex- 
tremes in the matter. The bears were predatory animals 
who killed the sheep without discrimination, often raid- 
ing the pastures when the ewes were heavy with their 
young, or killing the lambs cruelly and wastefully. It is 
not fair to ask, "How would you like to be caught in a 
trap." An unbalanced feeling of compassion for one ani- 
mal temporarily in discomfort should not be allowed to 
result in greater distress to other animals on which it 

Both skill and patience were required to set a bear 
trap the way Father did it. Generally he selected a trail 
where the bear would walk through a mountain pass, or 
between a tree and a large rock, and where enough earth 
could be removed so that the jaws of the trap could be on 
a level with the ground. Since animals travel stealthily, 
wishing to make as little noise as possible, two brittle 
sticks were laid across the path in a natural manner, just 
far enough apart to cause a bear to step over one of them 
onto the pan of the trap. Another dry stick supported the 
pan, and would not bend downward or break until a 
heavy weight was put upon it. This assured a catch high 
enough on the animal's leg to hold, and also prevented the 
trap from being sprung by smaller game. 

The entire space between the open jaws of the trap 
was filled in with moss and leaves. Usually Father also 
pushed ferns and Jack-in-the-pulpit plants into the earth 
around the trap in order to make the area look as natural 
as possible. Then, to deter human beings and deer from 

3 2 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

going through that particular part of the trail, he bent 
small trees across the way at the right height. Care was 
taken to leave no human odor. Even though bears have 
such a keen sense of smell that they can detect and avoid 
a poorly set trap, Father knew how to outwit them. 

Hunting bears with a gun would, on the surface, 
seem more humane than trapping them, but before 
modern repeating rifles were invented, killing bears with 
a gun was more difficult than some people might think. 
It took time to reload the old muskets; while you were 
engaged in this process, if your first shot had merely 
wounded the animal, you might be attacked and muti- 
lated, or even killed. Or the injured beast might escape, 
and perhaps die a slow death. 

When Father first began to trap bears he carried an 
old muzzle-loading gun, which was cumbersome and 
somewhat dangerous to handle. ( His father had lost a leg 
as a result of the accidental discharge of just such a mus- 
ket.) As soon as it was possible for Father to secure a 
more modern firearm, he bought a Smith and Wesson 
thirty-two caliber, fifteen-inch-barrel pistol for which he 
could secure loaded cartridges and which required only a 
few seconds for reloading. 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 33 

While this new gun was rather light for shooting such 
huge animals as bears, it had its advantages. It had the 
accuracy and velocity of a rifle combined with the con- 
venience of a pistol. If necessary, Father could use the 
gun with one hand. In addition, it could be put in a large, 
inside pocket of a coat, thus leaving one free to carry a 
fishpole, traps, and other duffle. When he did not find a 
bear in his traps, Father would line honeybees, look for 
ginseng, and fish for trout. 

Father had the good vision and quick, steady hands 
that are so essential for accurate shooting. By observing 
the dried skulls of bears which he had shot, he learned the 
vulnerable places at which to aim, and could usually dis- 
patch a bear with a single bullet. 

Killing a bear in a trap was not always as simple as it 
is to tell about it. The chain of a bear trap was not fas- 
tened to any stationary object, but to some small, tough 
tree which had been cut down and stuck lightly into the 
ground near the trap. If available, Father preferred a 
short beech tree of from three to four inches in diameter 
at the butt end. This tree served as a clog or hindrance 
which would not hold too solidly and cause the chain to 
break when a bear began his first lunging efforts to escape 
from the trap, but which would restrain him enough to 
tire him gradually. Usually as the bear dragged the clog it 
would catch on a root or tree before he moved very far; 
but sometimes both trap and clog would be dragged so 
far that a careful search had to be made for the impeded 

While searching for a bear that had dragged a trap 

34 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

away was always an exciting experience, it was even more 
exciting to find a bear unhitched, for then he might 
charge his pursuer. On one occasion Father came upon a 
large bear that had just got into his trap and was thrash- 
ing about so violently that it was impossible to stop him 
with a single shot. The bullet found its mark in the mas- 
sive, bobbing black head, but the wound did not bring 
immediate death. Instead of falling to the ground, the 
bear made a mad rush at Father, who was reloading his 
gun and, incidentally, retreating to gain time. One more 
leap and the cruel jaws and powerful claws would have 
torn human flesh as they had previously torn helpless 
sheep; but reloading this new gun took only a fraction of 
the time that was formerly required to ram powder and 
ball down the barrel of the old muzzle-loader. Father 
turned, and with hands which never trembled leveled the 
pistol and fired. This time powder scorched the coarse fur 
right between the angry-looking eyes, and another bear 
had killed his last sheep. 

I recall the first time that I accompanied Father to a 
trap that had a large bear in it. The pistol was handed to 
me for the execution. While both my older brothers were 
crack shots, I had never had much practice with a gun 
and my hands were so shaky that I continually missefc 
Father remarked that if I was going to waste ammunition 
we might have to finish the bear off with a club. Such a 
person-to-bear encounter did not appeal to me, and I 
gladly returned the gun to the one who knew how to 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 35 

handle it so much better than I did. With one bullet the 
big bear fell stone-dead. I must admit that I never again 
attempted to win the honor of becoming a great bear 


\ LTHOUGH he had lived a good moral 
life before his marriage, Father had never paid much 
attention to religion. He had heard people argue about 
the Bible, and he knew that the various denominations 
had been formed because of differences in beliefs, but 
none of these things had particularly troubled him. So 
far as he could see, he was as good as most church 
members were. Two factors delivered him from his con- 
ceit. One was the beautiful girl whom he had married, 
and the other was the Bible. It is surely not good for man 
to live alone, if he can have the love and companionship 
of a virtuous woman. Father was fortunate in his mar- 
riage, for Mother was a most wholesome Christian. She 
read her Bible daily and lived it in her gentle, unpreten- 
tious way. One day when Father went to the store for 
supplies he purchased a small, inexpensive copy of the 
Bible for his own use. He had heard of a spirited young 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 37 

evangelist named D. L. Moody who was preaching from 
the Bible to large audiences; and he knew that Abraham 
Lincoln had read the Bible, and had frequently quoted 
from it in his speeches. He decided, therefore, to examine 
the book for himself; and to be thorough about the matter, 
he began his readings at the very first chapter of Genesis. 

Not having had many grades of schooling, Father was 
a slow reader. He had to pause to grasp the meaning of 
sentences, and often halted as he attempted to pronounce 
some of the Biblical names. Mother could read much bet- 
ter, but because of Father's poor hearing it was agreed 
that he should do the reading, so that they could enjoy 
the stories together. They began at the first chapter of the 
Old Testament, and from the verse, "In the beginning, 
God created the heaven and the earth," they proceeded 
from chapter to chapter and book to book. They read one 
chapter immediately after breakfast and a second right 
after supper. 

Since Father was unusually strong, and had wrestled 
with the boys in his youth, he was especially interested 
in the stories of mighty men, men who overcame great 
difficulties. He was spellbound by the account of Noah 
who built himself an ark and outrode the flood; of Abra- 
ham who, like himself, left the land of his fathers and 
dwelt in a new country; and of Jacob who, having fled 
from his angry brother, found romance and prosperity. 
The nocturnal wrestling match between Jacob and the 
mysterious stranger was read with rapt attention. The 
trick of getting a man on your hip and throwing him was 
well known, but how could Jacob, with a hip out of joint, 

, Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

hold out until hie gained his blessing? Surely, there was a 
man of steel. 

Reading on through one fascinating story after an- 
other, and because of the way in which God related Him- 
self to all the characters and events, it became increas- 
ingly clear to Father that the Bible was no ordinary 
history or volume of literature. Moses, though powerful 
enough to knock a cruel Egyptian into perpetual uncon- 
sciousness and put to flight a band of rude shepherds 
singlehanded, was utterly unable to deliver his people 
from bondage until after he had met God at the Burning 
Bush, And there was the spellbinding story of long-haired 
Samson, who killed a lion with his hands; and, armed with 
the jawbone of an ass, slaughtered a thousand Philistines 
but finally came to a tragic end because of a broken vow. 
As the ways of God were expressed through the beau- 
tiful Psalms, the teaching of mighty prophets, and the 
matchless words of the Master, the seed found a place of 
growth in good soil. Father became an ardent lover of the 
Bible and of the God who inspired those who wrote it. 
One Sunday morning, while he was absorbed in reading 
the Sermon on the Mount, the room in which he was sit- 
ting was suddenly filled with a light more dazzling than 
that of the sun. The glow that penetrated that simple 
room with its cooking pots, water jugs, and traps hang- 
Ing on the wall could not be explained, nor did it need to 
be. From that moment on, no urgency of work on the 
farm, and no call of the forest to go after bears was ever 
permitted to interfere with Father s systematic habit of 
reading from The Book and kneeling afterward in prayer. 
Day after day, and year after year, family worship was 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy $g 

held in our home, until eventually the Bible was read 
from cover to cover thirty-five times. Father became as 
noted for his knowledge of the Bible as he was for his 
skill in catching bears. Like Nimrod of old, "He was a 
mighty hunter before the Lord/' 

Father was known also for his integrity and stability. 
In these respects, some people thought that he carried 
his rules of righteousness too far. He would never draw 
hay into the barn on Sunday, even to keep it from getting 
wet, nor would he gather sap on that day, even though 
the buckets were running over. He preferred to read his 
Bible, or to walk long miles to some church, keeping the 
Lord's Day as he felt the commandment indicated he 
should. He found special pleasure in expounding the 
scriptures to people, and when he went to market he in- 
dulged in this joy so fervently with some of his friends 
and neighbors that he often returned home long after 
dark. At times Mother worried when she had his supper 
ready and he did not get back as soon as she thought he 
should. She would open the front door, and listen for the 
familiar rumble of the heavy cart wheels on the bridges 
down the road. 

Some people who did not know the Bible very well, 
and held contrary ideas about its teachings, would get 
provoked at Father, claiming that he liked to argue. Ac- 
tually, he merely wished to explain what the debatable 
subjects meant to him. In such circumstances it is natural 
for us to behave like the Quaker and his wife who were 
having a firm discussion about a difference of opinion. 
Turning from reason to abuse, he said: "Thou art stub- 
born." She replied: "Nay, nay, but thou art stubborn. I 

JQ Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

am just strong-minded/' It has been said that the only 
people who accomplish anything are those who are cock- 
sure that they are right. To be fair, when we claim the 
right to think for ourselves, we should grant the same 
privilege to others who may think somewhat differently 
from us. 

Fathers inflexible habit of reading a full chapter 
from the Bible and following this with a substantial 
prayer of thanksgiving and supplication after breakfast, 
and again after supper, seemed at times too rigid; but it 
was probably better to keep first things first, rather than 
to become lax about them. Anyway, I never heard Mother 
complain because of the rest periods after meals, and none 
of us ever missed a train because of them. 

Some people have the mistaken idea that when a per- 
son starts to become a Christian, his future life should be 
free from trouble and trial. On the contrary, when one 
takes a firm stand for truth and righteousness in any form 
he soon finds himself enlisted in warfare against strong 
and ruthless enemies. Victories can be won only through 
conflict; character achieved by overcoming obstacles and 
learning to be kind as well as brave. It is disastrous if one 
allows himself to become discouraged by mistakes, for 
mistakes can also teach valuable lessons. Early in his new 
life Father had a severe testing which came about from 
the fact that he was so strong for a man of his size. 

It happened while he was working on a lumber job. 
Frequently, during the long winter months, the farmers 
at Brant Lake could earn many extra dollars by hitching 
up their teams and drawing logs from the rough country 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 41 

north of us. Since Father had a strong yoke of oxen and 
a sturdy sled, he sometimes engaged in logging after the 
trapping season had ended. During the first winter that he 
did this work it soon became apparent to the other team- 
sters that Father must be unusually powerful to be able 
to load up and unload the heaviest logs so easily and 
quickly. The men talked about it, just as others in haying 
time had spoken of his large forksful of hay. 

On the logging job there was a man by the name of 
Jack Turner, who was also noted for his strength, and he 
resented the praise that was going to the little man Rob- 
erts. Turner was a taller and heavier man, built like a 
halfback. Jack was known to drink a bit and when he 
drank he sometimes got in fights; and in every fight he 
was an easy winner. The more he heard about what Ed 
Roberts could do with logs, the more irked he became, 
and the more he longed for a chance to prove that he was 
still the local strong man. He was contemptuous of the 
serious young farmer with the black whiskers, and looked 
for an opportunity to put him in his place. Turner would 
block the road when he met Father, and refuse to turn 
out, even though his own sled was empty and Father had 
a heavy load of logs. And Father, who was a man of 
peace, would turn out in the deep snow to let him pass. 
A bully, of course, interprets such action as a sign of 
weakness, and continues his insulting behavior with 
greater boldness. The showdown came a few days later. 
Before telling about this, however, it might be well to 
explain just how Father came by his remarkable strength. 

Back in Vermont, Father had lived a wholesome, 
clean life. While he held no particular scruples because of 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 43 

religious convictions at this time, his observations had 
convinced him of the moral value of temperate behavior. 
He believed in the goodness of natural things, so that 
when other men drank liquor to relax after a hard day in 
the hay fields, Father drank milk. Instead of carrying a 
plug of tobacco, he carried a cake of maple sugar. In basic 
strength he took after his mother, whose extraordinary 
physical feats have been mentioned. I have heard Father 
say that he did not know what people meant when they 
spoke of being tired. He could mow and pitch hay all day, 
and still feel like Samson as he wrestled with his boyhood 
friends in the evening. Once, after he had helped a husky 
Irishman do his haying and was about to be paid for his 
labor, the man said, "Eddie, before paying a man what I 
owe him, I always lay his shoulders on the ground." 

"All right," Father replied, and squared himself for 
the encounter. When the two men had finished wrestling, 
the farmer's wife chided, "I would be ashamed to let a 
man no bigger than a sheep throw me around like that" 

At another time, when Father was attending a coun- 
try fair, he was persuaded by his friends to try wrestling 
with Hi Jinks, who was said to be the champion wrestler 
of Vermont. Father was not eager to have a bout with a 
man who was giving exhibitions of the wrestling art, but 
his friends urged him on. Three times in succession Father 
pinned the shoulders of his opponent to the ground. Hi 
Jinks was so chagrined when he got up the third time that 
he struck at Father, but the blow was deftly turned aside, 
and Jinks himself got one that knocked him flat. Father 
later said that he must have struck instinctively in self- 

*j Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

defense, for that was the only time in his life that he ever 
hit a man with his fist. 

When Father settled down to the serious work of 
clearing his land and providing for his family, he left the 
sport of wrestling to the younger generation. Only once 
did he resort to the fun that he had formerly enjoyed. 
This took place when a merchant who was expert in han- 
dling barrels of flour unexpectedly put his arms around 
Father from behind, as if to lift him, then pulled him 
down on his back and boasted, "Roberts, this is the way 
I down the boys." When my humiliated father regained 
his feet amid the laughing onlookers, he replied, "I'll show 
you how I do it." Catching the trader by the lapels of his 
coat, he gave him a quick yank forward, swung his feet 
completely over the counter, and brought his shoulders 
to the floor. 

Father's build did not make him appear very formi- 
dable. He was only five-feet-seven-inches tall, and carried 
no superflous flesh. His legs were round, small, and hard 
from climbing the mountain trails and working in the 
fields. His chest was solid and compact; his arms sinewy 
and long. Although he did not look it, his weight was close 
to one hundred and sixty pounds. It was no wonder that 
Jack Turner considered him an easy mark and itched to 
fight him. Turner heaped abuse after abuse upon him, and 
boasted to others that he would knock off Father's whisk- 
ers if he ever gave him the slightest provocation. 

Things came to a head one night when Father came 
into the lumber shanty a little late for supper. The other 
men, having satisfied their appetites, had pushed back 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 45 

their benches and begun smoking their pipes, talking and 
joking with each other. When Father had finished eating, 
he looked about for a place to sit. The only vacancy was 
next to the man who wanted to put him in his place. 
Father started for that seat but as he approached it, 
Turner sprawled out to block the way. 

This was the last straw. Without comment Father 
caught Jack Turner by his coat collar and one leg, spun 
him around and sent him sprawling and rolling across the 
floor as though he were a cull log. Quietly Father asked: 
"Do you want some more?" 

The challenge was not accepted. The men on the 
benches quickly moved aside until there was plenty of 
room for Father to sit down. After that the black-bearded, 
Bible-reading bear trapper was accorded due respect. 



N THE early days among the mountains 
the settlers found that the quickest and least expensive 
way to build a house was to make it out of logs, very 
much after the pattern of a lumber camp. The three 
houses up the road from our place were built that way; 
but Father, who knew some of the rudiments of carpen- 
try, constructed his house on more modern lines. It was 
a frame house, with upright studding to which wide pine 
boards, called sheathing, were nailed. Since commercial 
insulation material was not available, the bark from white 
birch trees was tacked on the outer surface of the sheath- 
ing, and clapboards were nailed over all. 

Following the birth of their first child, Alice May, in 
1864, a new daughter arrived in the Roberts* home about 
every two years, until by January, 1875, there were five 
little girls Alice, Anna, Antha, Cordelia, and Clara. They 
were taught to sit very still while the Bible was being 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 47 

read, and to kneel on the hard floor for the prayer that 
followed. As they grew, they helped their mother churn 
the butter, dry the dishes, and wind into balls the yarn 
that she spun for their socks and mittens. It was a special 
joy to them when they could pet a new calf, or feed a 
little lamb. The girls became greatly interested in climb- 
ing the stairs to the attic whenever their father was skin- 
ning the many fur-bearers which he had caught. Once, 

when -Cordie saw him take a new-born baby into his 
arms, she asked, "Are you going to skin it?" 

In the orchard the girls had a wee house for the tiny 
wrens who always found their way back from the south 
land after the long, cold winters. The five little girls must 
have made a pretty picture as, with red cheeks and danc- 
ing eyes, they ran about in perfect harmony with the sun- 
shine, fresh air, and blossoming trees of their mountain 

Our type of house is now called Cape Cod, the up- 

,o Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

stairs of which is often finished off for dormitory pur- 
poses. Ours was never completed, but served for sleeping 
quarters just the same. Curtains were used, instead of 
more durable material, to give privacy, but, as in the 
lumber camps, there was always room for another mat- 
tress to accommodate company or an addition to the 
family. We had one bedroom downstairs and in the living 
room there was a double bed, under which was a trundle 
bed for the youngest member of the family. 

A big chimney, made of rock from our fields and 
creek, dominated one end of the main living room. The 
huge fireplace was used for cooking and warmth, and also 
provided light and heat for the skinning and curing of 
pelts on cold winter nights. Later Father bought an iron, 
woodburning stove which made cooking much easier for 
Mother and my sisters. 

Along one wall of the big room Father hung his as- 
sortment of traps and gear, always kept in good repair 
and among our most valued possessions. His guns were 
near the door, as well as the strong leash he sometimes 
used on the dogs when he went to track a bear. There 
were pegs for our knitted caps and mittens, and for the 
warm coats lined with our own sheepskin. 

After 1875 there were four more additions to the 
Roberts household, three boys John, Ruel, and myself 
and baby sister Eliza. We three boys slept in the loft up- 
stairs, which was reached by a crude, narrow stairway 
as steep as a ladder. We had little furniture, but we had 
deep mattresses of straw or cornhusk ticking, and we 
shared an assortment of gray homespun blankets which 
Mother made from the wool of our own sheep. In a cor- 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 49 

ner of the second floor the furs, stretched on boards suit- 
able for the various sizes of the pelts, were hung to dry 
with the flesh side out. The bear skins were tacked up on 
the inside of the barn. 

Bathtubs were unknown to us, and the old galvanized 
washtub, filled with water heated on the back of the 
kitchen stove, had to serve for washing our clothes and 
those who wore them. Although some people in our area 
firmly believed that baths were a curse of the devil, our 
parents held with John Wesley that cleanliness was next 

to godliness. As it was, our baths were apt to be hasty, 
rather dampening affairs, and like most children the 
world over, we never quarreled over who was to have 
priority for a bath. 

Our house managed to shelter us all, and no one 
ever had to go to the barn to sleep on the hay. As Noah 
found room for all the animals in the ark, so our small 
house, twenty-four feet by twenty-two, stretched to ac- 
commodate eleven humans, with a place behind the stove 
for our faithful dog. 

Our farm bore distinctive marks of an interesting 
past. On four flat sections along the brook were the re- 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

mains of beaver dams. With no knowledge of conserva- 
tion, greedy trappers had exterminated all the beavers 
before Father had bought the property. Fortunately for 
all of us, the stream was full of large trout which it took 
only a few minutes to transfer from deep pools to the 
dinner table. No wonder that the Roberts boys became 
ardent and expert fishermen. 

About a quarter of a mile up the road was a crystal- 
clear spring of cold water which never diminished in vol- 
ume, but bubbled up summer and winter. Since our 
property had no underground piping, we children substi- 
tuted as carriers to bring the water to the house. We had 
small shoulder yokes which Father had fashioned for us, 
and these made it easier to balance a load and carry two 
pails at a time. The spring was near our hayfield, and a 
gourd or tin dipper was usually handy when we came to 
quench our thirst. Father taught us all at an early age 
never to drink directly from a pool or stream, in case we 
might accidentally drink up some frog's eggs or other 
foreign matter. Neighbors also came to drink at our 
spring, and to fill their jugs with this splendid water. 

A marvel which I never heard explained was the 
large number of giant maples which stood in our sugar 
grove. Many of these lordly trees were three feet in diam- 
eter, and, towering into the sky sixty feet and more, pro- 
vided favorite observation points for hawks and eagles 
who knew that we kept tasty hens and chickens. One by 
one these trees, some of them pin or curly maple, so 
desired for furniture, grew old and died. We had hun- 
dreds of regular sugar maples from ten to eighteen inches 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 51 

in diameter, but there was a missing link between these 
and the great, old trees. 

For the rugged work on his farm, such as plowing 
among rocks and roots, driving through the deep snow to 
gather sap, and drawing in wood and hay, Father pre- 
ferred oxen to horses. Yoking oxen to a sled or cart was 
less complicated, and the equipment much more eco- 
nomical to make and maintain. A farmer could build a 
sled, and nearly all of a cart, out of timber from his own 
trees. With oxen he could drive his team without reins. 

To turn a well-trained yoke of oxen to the right, the 
word "gee" was the signal, while '"haw" meant a left turn. 
"Whoa" was used to bring oxen to a stop, just as it is for 
horses. One man up our way even tried this order on his 
new Model T Ford when it headed down a bank, but in 
this case the magic word failed. 

Strangely enough, the sound "hush," which we make 
to silence noisy children, was Father's way of accelerating 
the speed of his oxen. At the Pottersville Fair, when he 
was persuaded to enter the ox race, Father took his place 
between his oxen, grasped the metal ring in the yoke, and 
said, "hush." His faithful beasts must have understood 
that they were to run like the wind, for they came in to 
win first prize. 

On stormy days, Father found plenty of work to do 
inside the house. He resoled our boots and shoes, and 
made moccasins out of sheep skins which he had had 
tanned. For his three sons and himself, he made sheep- 
skin mittens, with the wool on the outside. It was natural 
for us to think of these as boxing gloves, and we used 

-2 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

them for sparring among ourselves as well as for keeping 
our hands warm. In zero weather Father would put on 
home-knitted socks, his handmade moccasins, and then 
low rubber boots. He made his short overcoats from 
bearskins and sometimes wore a coonskin cap. This made 
for a picturesque and formidable outfit, but it was effec- 
tive against the penetrating winter blasts that seemed to 
come direct to us from the North Pole. 

Mother spun the yarn on her large wheel, and knitted 
all our socks and mittens until my sisters were old enough 
to learn how to help. Cloth for making our clothing was 
bought at the general store in Horicon. The first ready- 
made suit that I had was provided by my sisters when I 
started away to school in my teens. Otherwise, I was very 
much like the young Billy Sunday who, when told that 
he could report for work as soon as he went home and got 
his clothes, replied, "I've got 'em onl" 

The food at our house, as in other mountain com- 
munities, consisted of plain essentials bread, potatoes, 
johnnycake, pork, eggs, fish and game. Because of Father's 
skill and also the fact that my brothers were such good 
shots, we consumed more fish and game than neighboring 
families. Our sausage, made with sage which Mother 
grew in our backyard, was exceptionally tasty, and so 
were the hams which we smoked with hickory and corn- 

In addition to the everyday foods, we ate cabbage, 
carrots, turnips and squash, which would keep indefi- 
nitely through the winter months in our cold-cellar. For 
dessert we enjoyed pumpkin, apple, rhubarb and berry 
pies, and the superb wild-strawberry shortcakes in season. 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 53 

These were spread over with the berries, cream and 
grated maple sugar. Sandwiches also had the grated 
sugar between two thick slices of homemade bread. 
Brown sugar is well known as a sweetening, but grated 
maple sugar is in a class by itself, and not so well known. 
We did not have oatmeal and similar cereals in my young 
days, but breakfast often included pancakes with maple 
syrup and honey, and at times we were like the boy who 
said that he kept eating pancakes until he felt a pain 
then ate one more to make sure. This plain, country fare 
must have been healthful, for all the farmers who lived in 
our valley reached the age of fourscore years, and not one 
of them ever had an operation. 

Incidentally, I did not have my first taste of ice cream 
until I went off to school at the Glens Falls Academy. 
Not storing ice, and with no freezer, we never made ice 
cream at the farm. And I never saw a locomotive until I 
was almost grown, although from a distance of eighteen 
miles we could hear the train whistle when the wind was 
right. We were back-country people and seldom got far- 
ther away from home than the general store at the place 
now known as Brant Lake, seven miles from our house. 


THERE have been haunted houses, 
so there have been haunted hills and woodlands. Even 
our own house was at times a place of strange noises. By 
rapping on the walls, spooky squeaking and scratching 
could be produced. We knew that sometimes bats found 
shelter behind the boards and would emerge at night to 
keep the mosquito population down to a minimum. Back 
among the mountains, however, there once lived an un- 
usual creature who was entitled to serious consideration. 
From time to time on dark nights, and occasionally in the 
pale moonlight, the mysterious object became visible to 
human eyes. It even walked upright like a human being. 
One farmer, awakened by the furious barking of his 
dog, claimed that he saw among his frightened flock a 
white form several times larger than any of his sheep. 
When he took his gun and dog to investigate, the noc- 
turnal apparition vanished into the shadows of the forest. 


Bears, Bibles and a Boy 55 

Another neighbor, on hearing a commotion in his pasture, 
declared that in the fading twilight he beheld a tall, 
white-robed man walking away, carrying a sheep in his 
arms. Other men from neighboring farms had similar 
stories to tell. The rumor grew that some gigantic man, 
wrapped in a sheet, was stealing from the flocks. 

Father had been called on for help, but all he had 
been able to find were the tracks of an exceptionally large 
bear and the fragments of partially devoured sheep. The 
fact was that Father had had unusually poor luck with his 
trapping that spring. Frequently he had found his traps 
sprung or turned upside down, as if someone were play- 
ing pranks on him. He wondered who could be following 
him around in the deep recesses of the swamps and 
woods. Finally the bear-trapping season for that year had 
been terminated by the warm weather of July, when pelts 
were no longer prime. Even though the bears would have 
thick, shiny coats again in the late fall, it was not con- 
sidered wise to trap them then, when hunters would be 
wandering through the forest looking for other game. 
However, in the early winter, when fresh snows would 
again reveal the trails of animals, a rousing bear hunt was 
always eagerly anticipated. 

In late December, therefore, when the leaves had 
fallen and were covered with a few inches of soft snow, 
Father took long hikes among the mountains, looking for 
the footprints of the elusive killer. On one of these trips 
he saw large bear tracks which disappeared at the mouth 
of a cave on Hague Mountain. The bear had taken up 
winter quarters where he would slumber peacefully, un- 
less molested, until spring. As a matter of fact, the tracks 

rQ Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

suggested the possibility of two bears within the cave. 

With two brothers-in-law, Asa and Jay Leach, to 
help, Father built a smoke fire in the opening of the den. 
By waving their jackets, the men tried to force the fumes 
under the ledges into the den, but this strategy proved 
unsuccessful. The animals' sleeping quarters were either 
too far within the side of the mountain, or else the smoke 
was carried away through a vertical fissure in the protect- 
ing rock strata of the cave. Eventually, it became evident 
that a more daring procedure would be required. One of 
the men would have to crawl into the den and attempt 
to drive the occupant out. Uncle Jay, a fearless young 
man who had climbed down precipices in search of 
eagles' eggs, should have offered his services for this risky 
venture, but his courage failed him at this time. One bear, 
he thought, might not be so formidable; but if there 
should be more than one, he did not relish the task of 
incurring their ire. As a last resort, Father offered to 
undertake the dangerous business. 

Flashlights had not then been invented, and since 
no one had brought a candle or a lantern, a torch had to 
be made out of a pitch-pine knot. With this in hand, 
sputtering and smoking at the end of a long stick, Father 
proceeded into the low-vaulted cavern. Except for his 
long-bladed skinning knife, he was unarmed. His task was 
to drive the bear, or bears, into the open, so that his wait- 
ing companions could get a chance to shoot. 

His progress from the entrance to the roomy section 
of the cave was so slow that the torch had to be relighted 
and adjusted with additional pieces of white birch bark, 
and it began to appear that, unless the objective could 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 57 

soon be reached, total darkness would engulf him in this 
risky spot. Father had just lighted his last roll of bark 
and was holding it aloft for a better chance to see when 
he beheld a startling sight. Crouched in front of him, 
watching with fierce, fiery eyes, were three bears, the 
largest of which was as white as a sheep. 

Knowing that the element of surprise was his most 
effective weapon at this point, and holding his knife in 
readiness while hugging the side of the passage, Father 
waved his torch and shouted. A fight was not necessary. 
Confused by the gleaming torch and the booming voice, 
the bears rushed past their unwelcome intruder and made 
for the exit. Father turned to follow them, but since he 
was on hands and knees and the light had burned out, 
the way was slow-going. 

On reaching the light of day again, he found two 
tremendously excited and chagrined companions, but no 
dead bears. The unexpected appearance of the white 
mystery bear was enough to startle the boldest hunter, 
and did, indeed, cause the watching brothers to pause 
until the bears were well in the open. When the old 
muzzle-loading guns were finally raised for action, one 
of them misfired, and the other failed to hits its mark. 
The ghost of the mountains was still at large. 

The story the boys told of the white bear was re- 
ceived with skepticism and good-natured ridicule. Albinos 
with their pink eyes may appear in any animal family, 
but no one in that region had ever heard of a white 
member of the black bear species. It seemed extremely 
doubtful that a polar bear would stray so far from his 
icy, northern environment, and at that time there was no 

- Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

record in our area of the rare white bears that live on 
Gribble Island near British Columbia. Hence, the men 
who claimed that they had seen such a freak brought on 
themselves much banter and derision. They were advised 
not to get so much smoke in their eyes, and warned to 
hold off on drinking hard cider before another bear hunt. 
During the following spring, however, when Father's 
traps were skillfully set and baited with honey and fish, 
the white bear was caught. The laugh was now on the 
other side. People came from all around to see the white 
bearskin, and to hear Father tell the story of the "ghost 

While it may seem to us that a museum or some 
naturalist would have been eager to secure such a rare 
specimen, eighty years ago no one was sufficiently inter- 
ested to make an adequate offer for this unusual pelt 
After having it tanned, Father kept it for many years. 
Every summer, when city folk vacationed at Brant Lake, 
many of them came to our house to see the skin of the 
white bkck bear. 

I had not yet arrived in my pinkish bare skin when 
this adventure occurred, but later, when the hoary show- 
piece was stored on a shelf in our loft, I suffered many a 
fearful nightmare, due to the fact that my bed was near 
this spookish object As I slept on my straw mattress on 
the floor, the wraith would seem to come after me in hot 
pursuit In fact, at one point the dread thing did come 
alive, for bumblebees, finding their way into the attic, 
made their home in the folds of this repulsive bundle. 
Believe me when I say that I shed no tears when the 
remains of that ghastly bear were taken into the garden 

Bears, Bibles and a Bay 59 

and burned. Let me say, in concluding this story, that 
apparitions are at times difficult to dispel. A year or so 
after the white bear had been caught, Father and one of 
my older sisters both saw, high on the northern ledges 
of a mountain, a perfect duplicate of the ghost bear. This 
second one, perhaps a twin of the one that had caused all 
the excitement, was never seen again. 


BECAUSE of the danger involved in 
settling accounts with these killers of the forest, Mother 
urged Father to get a dog whom he could train to help 
him, just as his father had done back in Vermont. More- 
over, there were now little children in the family who 
would be delighted to have a puppy. So on one of his 
return trips from the Schroon Lake region, Father carried 
in his pack basket a playful, black-and-brown puppy that 
had been bred from Shepherd and other strains for a bear 
dog. His name was Prince, a worthy name for a very 
splendid dog. 

Prince grew and developed rapidly on the farm, and 
soon became helpful in going after the sheep and cattle 
when it was time to bring them from the pasture to the 
barnyard. When his master was busy with the fanning, 
Prince found plenty of diversion in stalking woodchucks 

and keeping rabbits and squirrels out of our garden. In 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 61 

the fall he was trained to hunt raccoon, a task in which 
he took great delight. Many raccoon skins were stretched 
to dry in our attic because Prince had chased these corn- 
stealing animals up trees so that they could be shot. As 
he matured he had more difficult duties to perform, and 
one of the first was in connection with an enormous bear 
whom I think of as Old Yellow Tusk. 

Farmers whose pasture lands bordered the mountains 
were distressed because their sheep were being killed or 
badly torn. Armed with their shotguns they had watched 
for the return of the killer, who always seemed to come 
around when and where he was least expected, and also 
when it was too dark to aim at him. As usual, after the 
owners of the sheep had failed to kill the bear themselves, 
they asked Father to help them. Whether he was plowing 
or planting, Father was never too busy to go after a 
destructive bear. 

Careful inspection of the gigantic tracks indicated 
that this bear must be an unusually large one, so an extra- 
strong trap was set back in the woods, where a sheep had 
been dragged and partially devoured. Even though the 
trap was carefully set under leaves and moss, with por- 
tions of the hapless sheep hung above, it remained undis- 
turbed. Evidently the wary thief considered fresh mutton 
from another pasture more exciting adventure, and less 

A trap was then set farther back in a mountain pass 
where bears were known to travel. By using two small 
sticks, Jack-in-the-pulpits and small ferns were moved 
and set in the earth between the jaws of the trap. In spite 
of this careful effort to avoid suspicion and all traces of 

62 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

human scent, the trap was found upside down and the 
tuber of the wild turnip no longer there. The bear may 
have had his toes pinched by some other trap, and was 
wise to the slightest odor of concealed iron and steel. 

Another ruse known to trappers was next used. Fish 
and honeycomb were put on branches of trees along the 
runway, first where there was no trap, and then where 
there was one. This bait was high enough to make a bear 
walk on his hind legs to reach it, and also would get his 
nose away from the scent which he feared. Success re- 
sulted from this strategy, for Old Yellow Tusk, finding a 
tasty lunch along his way, became careless. Evidently he 
did not even feel the give under his foot until the brittle 
stick which supported the pan of the trap suddenly broke 
under his weight, causing the jaws of the trap to close. 

Undoubtedly the big bear was not only painfully sur- 
prised, but also resentful at having been outwitted. When 
he had made a few attempts to free himself, only to find 
that a sturdy beech clog was slowing his movement, he 
turned to the impediment and chewed it until the chain 
slipped off the end of the clog, enabling him to make his 
way through the woods at a more rapid pace. 

A few hours later when Father arrived at the scene 
and observed how the earth and small trees had been 
torn up and the clog demolished, he was greatly excited. 
He began to follow the well-marked trail along which 
the trap had been dragged, and from previous experience 
knew that he might have to travel a long way to overtake 
the escaping animal He recalled times when he had been 
able to find the broken trap, but no bear. Presently it was 
evident that he was to have more of this same poor luck, 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 63 

for, caught on a protruding knot of a fallen tree, he came 
upon the badly twisted trap from which the strong, bony 
leg had been pulled, leaving only some black, coarse hair. 

The pursuit of this most- wanted criminal of the hills 
might have ended right there had Prince not been 
brought along for training as a bear dog. Prince was most 
eager to follow the tracks which he could smell so easily, 
and since this was good schooling for a dog his master 
decided to go on as long as daylight would permit. A few 
miles away, in a gloomy swamp of balsam and cedar 
trees, their quarry had lain down to rest. It was here that 
the pursued and the pursuers finally met. 

A low growl from Prince gave warning that Father 
should proceed with caution, with his pistol held in readi- 
ness. The situation was one of real danger, for as experi- 
enced hunters know, to stop a charging bear one needs 
to be armed with a heavy-caliber rifle, a .30-30, or .30-6. 
While I am not sure whether the pistol used on this occa- 
sion was the Smith and Wesson, or the Stevens for which 
the first had been traded, I know that the gun which 
Father used during the seventies and at the time of his 
encounter with this huge bear was a 32-caliber, single- 
shot firearm. It had a skeleton breech which could be held 
against one's shoulder, but this attachment was never 
used. Father preferred to steady the pistol with his two 
hands. However, as he made his way into the swamp he 
was holding it with one hand, and gripping Prince's leash 
with the other. 

Now, although wind from a threatening storm was 
bending the treetops, the bear must have heard Prince's 
menacing growl, for suddenly his massive head appeared 

64 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

above some bushes not more than fifty yards away. Drop- 
ping the leash, Father took quick aim and fired. The 
bullet landed a little too high on the forehead. Instead of 
penetrating the brain and paralyzing the beast, the shot 
served only to infuriate him. With a hideous snort he 
turned toward his pursuers, and because a jammed shell 
delayed the reloading of the pistol, it seemed that he 
would surely have his revenge. A small man, a tiny gun, 
and an inexperienced dog were no match for six hundred 
pounds of charging fury. 

To gain time Father started to dodge behind some 
small trees, but apparently he was too late. With menac- 
ing tusks and claws, the largest bear that he had ever 
seen was already coming down upon him. In a flash, he 
thought of his wife and children who would be waiting 


Bears, Bibles and a Boy 65 

for him to return home, and he remembered the Good 
Shepherd in whom he trusted. 

Call it a miracle, or what you will, but at this mo- 
ment Prince leaped at the bear and began to bite him in 
his hind parts. The bear's powerful paws seized the dog 
in a hug of death. Then, as one good turn deserves an- 
other, Father held the muzzle of the pistol close to the 
bear's head, just back of his ear, and a bullet went clear 
through his head, leaving him limp, and still as a fallen 

Although this initiation of Prince as a bear dog was 
a rough one, he came through it with glory, and without 
a scratch. He did have a temporary limp, but as he 
smelled the carcass of the bear while the shiny black pelt 
was being deftly removed, he quickly recovered from it, 
and was soon as spry as ever. When the heavy, fatty skin 
was at length adjusted on Father's strong shoulders, and 
man and dog turned homeward, Prince pranced about in 
great delight, as though to proclaim it a wonderful day. 

It was long after dark when Mother, who had be- 
come quite apprehensive, heard Prince scratching on the 
back door to announce the return of the hunters. Her 
fears were soon dispelled when she saw his rapturous 
excitement *as he rushed in. Presently she saw her hus- 
band emerging from the darkness, laden with a pack as 
large as those of the country peddlers, and she heard him 
announce, Tve got him!" 

Our neighbors and their sheep could once more sleep 
in peace. For years afterward on a heap of stones back 
of our house, there were two large bear skulls. The first 
had a single penetration, while the second had two, one 

QQ Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

in the forehead where it had been made a little too high 
for immediate results, the second indicating that a bullet 
had crashed all the way through both sides. As a small 
boy I often played around that stone heap and saw the 
skulls. And in a basket of souvenirs which Father kept 
on the top pantry shelf was a discolored tusk which he 
had once seen too close to his face for comfort. This 
fearsome relic, which I frequently handled as a lad, sug- 
gested the name Old Yellow Tusk. 

To provide food and clothing for his growing family, 

Father found it necessary to extend his traplines farther 

north, and to be away from home sometimes two weeks 

at a time. These trips were made in the fall and spring, 

when the weather was often cold and stormy. Father 

frequently found shelter in an abandoned shanty formerly 

used by lumbermen. When such comforts could not be 

found, he would camp in a cave on the mountain side, or 

find an overhanging ledge. With a bough bed, his skins 

to sleep on, and a glowing fire, he would be quite snug. 

Sometimes, however, he encountered dangers which 

threatened to prevent him from ever returning home 

alive. One of these, a particularly close call, occurred 

when Father fell through the ice of the Boreas River, 

where the country is mountainous and isolated. 

There had been a thaw in the early part of March, 
and so much of the snow had melted that it was a good 
time for Father to set out a line of traps far up under the 
highest peaks of the Adirondacks, near Hoffman Moun- 
tain and Mt. Marcy. Taking Prince with him, Father left 
home long before daylight, and by nine that evening he 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 67 

was at the trapping grounds. The next day he set his 
traps, cut some firewood with his hatchet, and made his 
camp as comfortable as possible. During the night, the 
weather changed to an intense cold that froze up not 
only the smaller streams but also the Boreas River. As 
is so often the case in the mountains, the sudden cold 
weather was followed by a driving snowstorm. 

As Father continued making his rounds, he saw that 
a trap he had set on a low island in a broad expanse of 
the river contained a valuable otter. There was a deep 
springhole there into which the animal had tumbled and 
drowned, all of which had been planned by the trapper 
to make sure of his catch. 

The ice appeared to provide a bridge to the island, 
so after making a careful test, Father walked over to the 
trap, secured his game, and headed back toward the 
bank. When he was in mid-stream, the shell-ice, which 
had become suspended because of the lowering of the 
river, suddenly collapsed and he was plunged into the 
rushing, icy water. 

Even on such a frigid day the situation would not 
have been desperate had it not been for the fact that the 
ice was breaking into many large cakes between which 
one could neither wade nor swim. Father well knew 
that many a man had lost his life under similar conditions 
with no one near to lend a hand. At that moment Prince, 
whose instinct had warned him not to trust the treacher- 
ous ice, realized that his master was in danger. Without 
hesitation he made his way into the swift, cold water, and 
swam through the cakes of ice. When he reached Father 
he turned, as if to offer his tail as a towline. With the big 

68 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

dag's encouragement, both man and dog fought their way 
toward shallower water. 

Buoyed up by his thick coat of hair, and propelled by 
four strong legs, Prince surged through the floating ice 
until Father was able to grasp an overhanging tree 
branch and pull himself to safety. The otter, secure in a 
knapsack, was also saved. Now the problem was to keep 
from freezing in the driving wind. As though racing for 
fun, they ran along the trail until they reached an old log 
camp where Father quickly made a warm fire. Once 
more, Father knew, Prince had been responsible for sav- 
ing his life. 

Nor were these the only times when man and dog 
cooperated with and understood each other in an almost 
mystical relationship. Once when Father had finished 
skinning a bear and was carving out some steak to take 
home, he noticed that Prince had not remained near him. 
He thought nothing of this, since he knew that the dog 
soon tired of smelling dead bear and would race through 
the woods looking for livelier game. This time Prince 
found plenty, but Father's poor hearing prevented him 
from becoming aware of what was going on until he had 
shifted his load to his back and started to make his way 
out of the woods. He had proceeded only a few hundred 
yards when he came to a spruce-covered knoll where 
there was evidence of a terrific fight between Prince and 
some bears. The ferns and small brush had been tram- 
pled, and all around were marks where huge feet had 
broken up the brown carpet of the forest. By examining 
the tracks, Father could see that two bears, a medium- 
sized one and a very large one, had ganged up on his dog. 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 69 

Knowing the courage of Prince, but also realizing that a 
full-grown bear could easily knock a dog unconscious 
with a well-aimed blow of his great paws, Father became 
alarmed. Blood had been sprinkled about, but neither 
Prince nor the bears were in sight. 

Suspecting the cause of the encounter, Father began 
to look up into the trees, and presently saw two cub bears 
hiding in the branches of a tall hemlock tree. With his 
pistol in hand, he made another search for Prince, but, 
not finding him, decided that the dog had temporarily 
driven the bears off. Turning to the hemlock, Father 
considered shooting the cubs and collecting the bounty, 
but he disliked the thought of harming such cunning 
little animals. Why not capture them alive and take them 
to his children? He could imagine how thrilled they 
would be with the baby cubs. Father happened to have 
some strong cord in his knapsack, so he left his gun and 
hatchet near the tree, climbed to the topmost branches, 
and carefully tied up first one and then the other tiny 
bear. As he reached out to them, each cub gave a little 
cry, a message of distress that listening ears were quick 
to hear. 

Father prepared to come down, but at this moment 
saw a disturbing sight. There at the foot of the tree stood 
the glowering mother bear, on her hind feet and appar- 
ently about to come up the tree after him. This prospect 
was anything but inviting, especially since Father's gun 
and ax were on the ground. It was evident to him now 
that the bears had had a strategy. They had fought with 
Prince until the cubs had a chance to get up the tree, and 
then the large male bear had lured the dog away so that 

JQ 'Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

the smaller bear could remain near her young. Possibly 
the two bears had succeeded in killing Prince or he was 
lying helpless in the brush. 

With grave concern in his heart for his faithful dog, 
and yet with a desperate hope that he was still alive and 
within the sound of his voice, Father called from the tree 

top, "Prince, Prince, come here, Prince!" Almost as 
promptly as he had come to Father s aid in the swift, ice- 
filled river, Prince responded to the summons. Though 
his shoulders and head were covered with blood, he was 
stffl fuH of fight Running toward the tree where his mas- 
ter was trapped, he sank his sharp teeth in the bears 
haunches. Surprised and angered by this rear attack, the 
bear suddenly turned away and ran for her life. 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 71 

By the time Father was able to slide down the tree 
and seize his pistol, both bear and dog had disappeared 
among the trees. For some time Father held his gun in 
readiness against the return of one or both of the bears, 
but they did not appear. Finally, adjusting on his shoul- 
ders the bearskin and meat of the animal he had previ- 
ously lolled, and holding the cubs in his arms, Father 
turned toward home. Though he looked backward fre- 
quently with concern for his dog, it was more than an 
hour before Prince came in sight, considerably bedrag- 
gled and bloodied by the conflict but still jaunty. 

It would be pleasant to be able to say that the little 
girls and the cubs lived happily together for a long time, 
but this was not the case. Bears grow up too rapidly, and 
do so much mischief that they cannot be kept as domestic 
pets. While the cubs were at first allowed to roam the 
house like puppies, they soon learned how to climb up 
on the pantry shelves looking for honey and sweets, over- 
turning the milk and upsetting everything in their way. 
At that time there was no zoo nearby to send them to, 
so the time finally came when Father had to sell them to a 
fur dealer who wanted them for his show window in 
New York City. At Father's suggestion, the dealer put 
a sign in his window which read: "Bear in mind that we 
give a fair deal.'* 

Meantime, we children did not grieve many days, for 
our mother cat brought from a secret place in the barn 
five beautiful kittens. 

Just as no hunter of bears should be without his 
reliable dog, no farm home should be without its depend- 

~2 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

able cat. To guard our supplies of flour and meal, a family 
of cats always had a welcome place in our household. Our 
cats were alert day and night to protect our food inside 
the house, and also to wage war against outside enemies. 
Rats never seemed to find their way into our valley, 
but the ever-present mice must have smelled the aroma 
of Mother's fragrant bread and considered it an invitation 
to dinner, for they were always looking for a chance to 
steal into the house. When corn began to ripen, hordes of 
chipmunks, using our rail fences as highways, emerged 
from the woods to feast on the golden kernels which we 
needed for our cornbread. No one would begrudge these 
pretty little creatures some gleanings from the harvest; 
but when, like the locusts, they kept coming to carry 
away another and another grain of corn, they needed to 
be kept in check. 

Our cats enthusiastically sympathized with our di- 
lemma and were eager to do their part, but one summer 
we had a cat who appeared for a time to be falling down 
on her job. She was nursing three baby kittens and 
needed nourishing food, but she would walk languidly 
near the fence, seemingly paying no attention to the 
saucy chipmunks which were traveling back and forth 
from our cornfield. As a small boy, I could not understand 
such negligence and apparent indifference, though the 
mystery was presently solved. 

Early one morning, when I opened the front door to 
go for a pail of water, I saw on our stone step three life- 
less chipmunks, evidently breakfast for the kittens who 
were now old enough to eat meat. It occurred to me that 
their mother, in a well-laid scheme to throw her game off 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 73 

guard, had been deliberately playing the part of a harm- 
less foe until the right time came for supplying her family 
with tasty, solid food. It was apparent, moreover, that this 
cat was not only wise in strategy, but skillful at numbers 
as well, for obviously she could count up to three. 

While Prince recovered quickly from the bruises and 
scratches which he received in his fights with bears, 
raccoons and wildcats, his great heart gradually weak- 
ened with age until it became apparent that he should 
not be taken on long dangerous hunts. To be left behind 
was difficult for him to endure or understand. When he 
was kept in the house he would stand at the door and 
tease to be let out, as if to tell his mistress that he was 
urgently needed in the forest. 

On one never-to-be-forgotten day someone opened 
the door and Prince, watching for just such an oppor- 
tunity, dashed out. He smelled the tracks that he knew 
so well and disappeared over the hill with something of 
his former speed. By exerting all the skill of his years of 
experience and training, he overtook his master far back 
in the mountains where there had once occurred a lively 
experience with a bear Prince had helped to dispatch. 
This time there was no game. Father was returning home 
after setting a bear trap. 

Prince, however, seemed to have no wish to go home. 
Even after a good rest, he walked down the trail only a 
little way, and then lay down. Father thought that the 
dog would gradually follow him out of the woods, as he 
had done on former occasions, so he went back to the 
house and ate his supper. Then, since Prince did not show 

-, Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

up, Father hastily retraced his steps back to the trap, 
where the sight that met his eyes was almost too distress- 
ing to relate, and just as difficult to explain. 

Who can tell all that goes on in a dog's brain? Did 
Prince, realizing that his end was near, wish to make sure 
that he would never again be left at home? Or, fearing 
that he might not be present to defend his master from a 
charging bear, did he determine to prevent such a cir- 
cumstance from occurring? Although he had seen traps 
set, and had been taught to avoid them, he had gone back 
to this trap and had brought both feet down hard on the 
pan. His front legs were caught and badly crushed. Per- 
haps he had brought his feet down so emphatically to tell 
Father that if they were not going to be together any 
more, all trapping should be given up. 

Heartbroken, Father knelt beside Prince and tried to 
do what he could to save the dog's life. Prince, however, 
had other plans, for he growled and snapped at the hands 
reaching down to help him. Father might have used 
chloroform in such an emergency, but it was not avail- 
able. Besides, it was too late, for suddenly the tired heart 
ceased to beat and the valiant dog obtained his wish to 
remain in the forest forever. 



OT LONG after the death of Prince, 
Father heard of some puppies over in Vermont which had 
been especially bred for bear dogs. They were a mixture 
of various strains Shepherd, Saint Bernard, Black Bull, 
and one or two others. Making a hasty trip over to the 
Green Mountains, Father returned with one of the prize 
pups in his packbasket. Our joy was unbounded when 
we saw the golden head and paws of the puppy extend- 
ing from its snug cover. We would now have a pet to 
pky with, a dog which would accompany us through the 
woods to the spring, and go with us after the cows in the 

The first task was to select a name for the new mem- 
ber of the family. Because of the long, thick fur on his 
neck and chest, we thought he resembled a lion; and so 
we called him Lion. At first, of course, he was far from 
lion-like, and really quite timid. On his first trip to see the 


76 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

cattle in the barn, Lion tumbled over backward when 
one of the oxen lowered his head and breathed on him. 
Later on, however, he grew more courageous; and once 
when he had carelessly let his tail extend between the 
boards of the pigpen so that a pig was tempted to taste 
it, Lion, in retaliation for the insult, leaped into the pen 
and nipped the pig on one of its ears. 

While Lion was still too young to go after bears, 
Father made his trips alone. On one such trip he didn't 
carry his pistol, as he had been doing some repair work 
on it; of course, that was the time when he needed it 
most, for he found a very lively and unfriendly bear in 
one of his traps. Observing that the trap and clog were 
securely hitched to some bushes, Father decided to use 
a club on the bear. He cut one which he thought would 
be the right size, approached the bear, and struck at his 
head. The bear brought up a paw and easily knocked the 
heavy stick to one side. He did the same thing again and 
again, until Father cut a lighter stick which could be 
handled with greater speed. With this he feinted once, 
then followed with a quick blow high up on the bear's 
snout. This comparatively light blow stunned the animal 
completely. When telling of this encounter later on, 
Father claimed that a bear can be knocked senseless 
just as easily as a raccoon, if the blow lands in the right 

Another exciting experience occurred when Father 
was traveling alone to one of his more remote traplines 
far up in the Adirondacks. He stopped at a log shanty 
where some woodsmen were working on a lumber job. 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 77 

They told him they had been terrified because of the 
presence of some large, unknown animal in the vicinity. 
None of them dared to go out of doors after dark, and 
they warned Father that it would be exceedingly danger- 
ous for a man with defective hearing to venture alone up 
the mountain with so small a gun. 

From what he was told about the nocturnal prowler, 
Father inferred that the animal was a lynx, a fierce mem- 
ber of the mountain lion family. In addition to the strong, 
sharp claws of a lynx which can tear a dog to shreds, it 
has an ear-splitting screech, similar to that of a woman in 
mortal terror. A man who had previously faced a charging 
bear and killed it with a single bullet described his reac- 
tion when he heard for the first time the hideous cry of a 
lynx. It happened when he was hunting deer in the Maine 
woods. The silence of the forest was suddenly rent with 
a noise so terrifying that the hair of his head actually 
stood up straight! 

The lumberjacks in this Adirondack camp had fre- 
quently been awakened from sound slumber by such 
blood-curdling cries, but it was more than the frightful 
scream that had made them afraid. As they explained to 
Father, who had planned to stop with them only one 
night, the catamount had actually pounced upon one of 
their men who had ventured out after dark, and had 
clawed him so severely that he died. They had heard that 
a lynx seldom, if ever, attacks a human being; and so 
there was much discussion as to what the daemon-spirited 
beast might be. 

The more Father heard about this beast and the way 

78 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

it often leaped upon the roof of the shanty at night, the 
more eager he became to go after it. Early the next morn- 
ing he selected two strong traps and headed for the dense 
forest of spruce and hemlock on the slopes above the 
camp. He soon saw a trail of large tracks that led upward, 
but presently he saw deer tracks which caused him to 
deviate from his main course and to proceed with stealth. 
After he had located and shot a small deer, a portion of 
which he needed for bait, Father turned back to the 
winding path and made for the rocky terrain higher up. 

After an hour's climb he came to some boulders at 
the base of a jagged cliff, where he saw feathers of par- 
tridge, fur of rabbits, and bones of deer. For all he could 
tell, fiercely-gleaming eyes might already be watching 
him from a secluded lair under the nearby ledges. Father 
decided to set his traps here. Bending down two stout 
saplings for spring poles, and securing them in an arched 
position with stakes, he fastened the chains of his traps 
to the tops of the bent trees, covered the jaws of steel, 
and hung up the bait 

Everything had to be done with care and skill. In 
fact, Father took so much time and pains that the men 
at the shanty had begun to fear for his life. Late in the 
afternoon, when dark clouds were beginning to bring on 
an early evening, they saw Father approaching the camp 
carrying some object on his shoulders. It was the hind 
quarters of the deer which he had shot earlier. Though 
pleased with the prospect of feasting on venison as a 
welcome change from pork and beans, the men good^ 
naturedly chided their guest for hunting deer instead of 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 79 

tracking down the big cat. Father replied calmly: "Let's 
wait until tomorrow, and see what happens." 

When Father went up the mountain the next day to 
inspect his traps, he approached them cautiously. He 
was not afraid, for whether traveling through the forest 
by day or by night, he was never disturbed by the 
thought that some animal might attack him. However, he 
had learned that it was wise to walk stealthily when 
nearing a trap which might have large game in it Pres- 
ently, through an opening among the branches of the 
evergreens, he saw that he had made a catch, and that 
the animal looked like a deer. There had been no sign 
of deer at the particular spot where he had set his traps, 
but if one had accidentally been caught, he knew that he 
would be teased even more than on the previous night. 
Then he saw that the creature had torn bark from trees 
and had broken limbs and branches as far as it could 
reach in every direction. A closer view revealed an extra 
large lynx, caught by a hind leg and suspended just a few 
inches above the ground. The color and markings of the 
animal, however, were different from those of any lynx 
or wildcat which Father had previously caught. Because 
of its enormous size and the fact that it had fatally at- 
tacked a man, he guessed that it might be a Canadian 
lynx, of which he had heard. There is even the possibility 
that this animal was one of the remaining pumas, or 
mountain lions, which in earlier years ranged throughout 
the forests of the northeast to Maine, spreading terror 
when seen or heard by early pioneers. 

At any rate, when the trapper returned to the lumber 

So Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

camp, tie and his huge, ugly-looking cat became the cen- 
ter of interest and respect. The men, now delivered from 
the cause of their fears, urged Father to stop over with 
them whenever he happened to be trapping in their 



rION soon became a strong, husky 
dog. He was a good farm dog, and learned to be gentle 
with the cattle and sheep as he helped to drive them 
from the pasture to the barn. He was always on the alert 
for opportunities to be of service. If Father was fishing 
the brook Lion would stand by quietly in order not to 
frighten the fish, and if a trout happened to drop off the 
hook, Lion would retrieve it before it had a chance to flop 
back into the water. However, he liked hunting best of 
all. Whenever he saw Father reach for his gun he would 
go into ecstasy. Since I was a small boy at the time, I do 
not recall much about Lion as a young dog but I have 
gathered his story from older sisters and brothers, and 
certain images of him are stamped on my mind. I can see 
him jumping up and down when the mere handling of a 
gun suggested the possibility of going after game. I re- 
member that I had to keep out of the way to avoid being 


g 2 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

knocked over. At that time I could not have been more 
than two or three years old. 

Lion grew to be a larger and stronger dog than 
Prince, and was so quick that he made short work of rac- 
coons and other small animals. When he had a chance 
to go to Father's aid at a time when a wounded bear 
was charging, he proved that he had the spirit of old 
Prince. He not only stopped the mad rush of the beast, 
but more than held his own in the fight which ensued. 

Father always taught his dogs obedience and good 
manners. He did not want them to fight like common 
curs, but on one occasion he made an exception. A man 
named Davis, who lived down on the crossroad, owned 
a dog of large size and mean disposition called Ruff. This 
ill-trained dog, if not restrained, attacked all other dogs 
that came along, and sent them on their way limping and 
bleeding. He was also very menacing to us children, 
growling and rearing up when we walked innocently 
along the road that he considered his domain. Davis 
boasted that his dog could lick anything on four legs. 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 83 

Whenever Father had Lion with him as he passed 
the Davis house, he kept the dog close to his side and 
avoided trouble. Lion himself showed no inclination to 
scrap. As a fighter against wildcats and bears, he seemed 
to consider himself above a run-in with a mere house dog. 
Davis scoffed at Father and Lion, and misinterpreted 
their behavior as cowardly. He said, "It's natural for dogs 
to bark and bite. They soon learn which one is boss, and 
after that they get along all right." Father replied, "Lion 
is still a young dog, and on my trapping trips I have to 
pass many houses where there are dogs. I don't want Lion 
fighting with every new dog he sees/' But when Davis 
added, "My husky would eat up your pampered bear- 
dog," Father yielded. He agreed to a fight but suggested 
that the dogs be separated before either one could do the 
other much damage. Davis said, "No, let them fight until 
one of them knows he's licked." 

Ruff was growling out his challenges and insults as 
Father said, "Take him, Lion." No time was lost in spar- 
ring or circling for position. Lion must have sensed all the 
crimes that had been committed against the smaller and 
weaker members of his kind, and was eager to avenge 
them. The two big dogs came together with furious im- 
pact, and the Davis dog went over backwards. As if he 
were an animal to be killed and skinned, Lion caught his 
adversary by the throat and began to shake the life out 
of him. 

The fight did not last more than a minute. Davis 
shouted to Father, "Take him off, take your dog off! He's 
killing my dog!" Father readily consented, and pulled 
Lion away. "That's enough, Lion; that's enough." 

> Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

Mr. Davis no longer had any doubt about which dog 
was the champion in that neighborhood. 

More than once Lion saved his master from being 
injured by a bear. And in the spring of the year, when 
bears prey on sheep that are bearing their young, Lion 
was a faithful guard in our pasture. He also made our 
valley so unhealthy for wildcats that they moved away. 
In fact, it was his reputation for ridding the woods of 
these marauding cats that almost cost him his life. 

Father's nephew from Vermont asked permission to 
take Lion over to his state to hunt down and drive out 
the many bobcats which were decimating the small game 
of that region. He promised to take good care of our dog 
and to bring him back to us by spring, when the bears 
would be emerging from their dens. However, circum- 
stances arose which interfered with the keeping of the 

On a long hike through crusted snow Ally, as our 
cousin was nicknamed, injured a leg so severely that soon 
after his return home he had to leave the dog with a 
friend while he went to a hospital for treatment. Mean- 
time, the friend, who was then courting a young lady, 
gave his undivided attention to her and even presumed 
to ask her to help him care for the dog. One cold, blustery 
day she ordered Lion out of the house. Quite naturally 
he refused to obey, and was given a cruel beating by the 
suitor. At the first opportunity, Lion ran away. 

A few weeks later a letter was delivered to us telling 
of the disappearance of our beloved dog. We were terri- 
bly distressed, but tried to reassure ourselves that a dog 
as smart as Lion would be able to find his way back to 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 85 

us, even though he had been transported first by foot, 
then by train, and again by foot, over a distance of more 
than seventy-five miles. To be sure, Lake George and 
Lake Champlain formed intervening barriers and the 
water at that time of the year was very cold and covered 
with ice around the shores. 

A second letter, close on the heels of the first, 
brought more disturbing information. A farmer had found 
in his pasture a dead yearling heifer which, according to 
visible tracks, had been killed and partly eaten by a large 
dog. The letter went on to say that a hunter had followed 
the large footprints of a dog in the snow and had set traps 
near a rocky den. 

It was difficult for us to believe that our Lion was the 
culprit, for he had never molested any livestock in our 
valley. On the contrary, he had frequently slept among 
our sheep. Still, he might have been driven by hunger to 
help himself to the only food available. 

Father headed immediately for Vermont. Defying a 
blinding snowstorm that overtook him on Hague Moun- 
tain, he made his way by foot to Ticonderoga and, when 
night came on, continued steadily down to Whitehall, 
across to Poultney, and then in a southerly direction to 
Dorset, Vermont At dawn he had traveled sixty-five 
miles, and had several miles to go to reach the back dis- 
trict where Lion was in jeopardy. 

When he came to the more remote houses among the 
hills, he learned that Lion had managed to escape from 
the den where the hunter had trailed him. The traps had 
been sprung, and the large one was missing. The chain 
had been broken close to the stake to which it had been 

86 Bears, Bibles and a Bay 

fastened. Tracks which the fleeing dog had made in the 
snow led to another cave farther back in the mountains. 
To make sure that his prize would not elude him again, 
the hunter had blocked the entrance to the cave and 
hurried home for help. Father was informed that four 
men had started off before daylight to do his big dog to 

The men had armed themselves with muskets, loaded 
with buckshot. They expected to smoke Lion out of the 
cave, so had taken a bag of old rags for producing smoke, 
and blankets to force the suffocating fumes into the more 
distant recesses. They were eager for sport, and for the 
fifty-dollar reward that was on Lion's head. 

In spite of their careful preparations, the plan did 
not work as well as had been anticipated. An aperture in 
the ledges produced an upward draft which carried some 
of the smoke away. Additional rags were ignited, and a 
long pole used to push them farther into the cavity. After 
a long wait the sound of a cough proved that the smoke 
was reaching its intended victim. The blankets were re- 
moved from the opening, and the men raised their guns 
to shoot. The clinking of metal on stones told them that 
the dog was coining out for air. 

At this moment Father came racing through the 
woods and ordered the men to stop. Considerably sur- 
prised at the appearance of this black-bearded stranger, 
the men looked suspicious, and annoyed at being inter- 
rupted. One of them asked Father who he was, 

Tm not surprised you don't remember me," Father 
answered. Tm Ed Roberts, son of Allen Roberts, the 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 87 

Green Mountain bear hunter some of you must recall.** 
Two of the men nodded. 

"I left these parts some twenty years ago and moved 
over to the Adirondacks where I do considerable bear 
hunting myself. This dog you plan to kill once saved me 
from an enormous bear." 

Since the heavy trap had apparently slowed Lion's 
progress in emerging from the smoke-filled cave, the men 
had to listen. 

"I got this dog from your own town, seven years ago 
when he was a pup. He's a great bear dog. He's also death 
on wildcats. In fact, it was to help clear the wildcats out 
of your county that I agreed to lend him to my nephew 
Ally. I was told that your turkeys and small game were 
being destroyed.'' 

Father told them briefly of Ally's bad luck and of the 
events leading up to Lion's misfortune. "I can't explain 
it," he added. "Lion was a sheep dog before he ever 
learned to hunt one of the best I ever had. But being 
lost and among strangers, he had to turn to hunting for 
his food. I guess it was the only thing he could do.'* 

The rough-looking woodsmen and hunters acknowl- 
edged the truth of this last remark. Reassured by their 
attention, Father continued. "Over in my neighborhood 
we're not troubled by wildcats. Lion drove them all off." 

"Come to think of it," one of the men said, "I haven't 
lost a turkey for six weeks, and I haven't heard of anyone 
else losing any either. Maybe the dog has earned his 
keep. Besides, the runt heifers he killed weren't worth 
much anyway." 

8 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

"Of course m pay for the heifers," Father said. "Tin 
a trifle short on cash right now, but I expect to sell some 
fur soon, and when the check comes I'll make things right 
with you/' 

"What about my reward?" another of the men com- 
plained. "I've spent more than a week following tracks 
and setting traps. Are you going to cheat me out of the 
money now?" 

The first man who had addressed Father was evi- 
dently the leader of the group. "The reward's off! I 
started this thing before I knew the facts. Dogs as well as 
people have a right to a fair trial. Let's help Ed Roberts 
get his dog out of that damned trap." 

A plaintive whine from the dark hole indicated that 
Lion had heard his master's voice and was calling for his 
help. It didn't take long for Father to crawl in beside his 
dog and to release Lion's badly swollen hind leg from the 
jaws of the trap. Fortunately, the leg was not broken and 
Father bound it up with rags. The party was soon on its 
way out of the rough terrain. 

Although weak from lack of food, Lion could hobble 
along down the trail. The men who had so recently been 
bent on shooting him now did what they could to make 
amends for their cruelty. They helped Lion over the hard 
places and offered him dried venison and a place by the 
fire when the group reached the mountain community. 
For the return home my cousin Ally contributed a 
wagon, heaped with straw on which Lion was content to 
rest and lick his injured paw. We children vied with one 
another to give Lion the welcome he deserved, hugging 
him and rubbing coon oil on his wounds. Lion endured 

Bears, Bibles and a Bey 89 

this attention with remarkable patience, thumping his 
great tail on the floor. Probably his best reward was pro- 
vided by Mother and my sister Cordie, who baked him 
a cornbread johnnycake with bacon drippings. 

Lion was as gentle as ever toward us children, and 
contrary to the claim that a dog who has once killed and 
tasted the warm blood of cattle can never be trusted with 
farm stock, he remained dependable in rounding up our 
cows and sheep. 

He lived on to increase his reputation as a hunting 
dog. In his older years Lion was seldom called on to 
tackle a bear, but he could still make short work of the 
largest raccoon, and he found great pleasure in stalking 
woodchucks. Because of his advancing age and a slight 
limp during the cold weather, we tried to keep him by 
the fireside as much as possible. However, if Father so 
much as got up to go outside for more firewood, Lion was 
the first at the door, eager to be tracking down the scents 
and following the wild trails that gave him such delight. 

In the summer, as he grew older, Lion used to lie on 
some hay near our barn door, where he could watch our 
comings and goings. I remember how the warm sun shone 
down on his magnificent golden coat. Then one morning 
we found him, stretched before the door he had guarded 
so faithfully and long, in his last sleep. We felt sure that 
he had slipped quietly away to join our other brave dogs. 



C/ARLY in March, 1888, when a big 
thaw indicated that winter might be breaking up, Father 
thought the weather conditions right for one more try at 
trapping fisher and marten far back among the higher 
Adirondacks. Since the maple sugar season was rapidly 
approaching, there was hardly a day to spare for such a 
trip, but Father urgently needed ready money. One of 
our oxen had broken a leg, and had had to be killed. We 
needed a new yoke of oxen to draw up the sap and to do 
the spring plowing, A man who lived a few miles away 
had a pair of three-year-old steers for sale, but they were 
so perfectly matched that he was asking one hundred 
dollars for them; and at that time one hundred dollars 
was a lot of money for us to raise. 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy gi 

So Father loaded his packbasket with traps and other 
necessities and started off for the valuable pelts. He left 
long before dawn, and by 9 P.M. reached Mt. Marcy, 
more than sixty miles from our house. There was no 
abandoned shanty in the locality for shelter, so he made 
his headquarters in a cave where he had often camped 
before. The next day he set his traps, gathered wood to 
cook his pork and beans, and brought in evergreen 

boughs for his bed. He saw numerous animal tracks and 
these made him confident and hopeful. On his first round 
to his traps he was not disappointed, and even felt that 
he might make a record catch if his luck continued. But 
suddenly the weather changed to an intense cold, and the 
furbearers, as if warned of an approaching calamity, dis- 
appeared. Father retired to his cave on Marcy, and, ac- 
cording to his custom, prepared to rest on Sunday, which 
was the next day. If, as the signs told him, a storm was 

q 2 Bears, Bibles and a Bay 

coming, he was ready for it; but instead of an ordinary 
late-winter storm, the blizzard of '88 caught him on this 
isolated, wind-swept mountain. 

Father anticipated only a few inches of snow, and 
hoped that the storm would be over by Monday morning. 
It became increasingly evident, however, that this was no 
usual fall of snow. As if in great wrath, and fighting for 
the right-of-way up and down this highest peak of the 
Adirondacks, the biting wind whistled and howled 
through the swaying trees, and tried the strength of every 
cliff. Many trees came crashing to the earth, and broken 
limbs were blown about like scraps of paper. The Bible- 
reading trapper recalled the time when the prophet Elijah 
took refuge in a cave, "and a great and strong wind rent 
the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the 
Lord." Through the night and day, and on through the 
following night and day, the fury of the storm built the 
bulwarks of snow higher and higher. 

I was five years old at the time, too young to know 
much about anxiety; but Mother, even though she real- 
ized Father's resourcefulness in taking care of himself, 
must have been tempted to worry as the terrific wind 
wrestled at our doors and windows. She knew that he 
was acquainted with caves and dens into which he might 
go for shelter, and that if it was necessary he would not 
hesitate to take over the sleeping quarters of a bear. But 
there was the danger that he would become so concerned 
for the safety of his family that he would attempt to make 
his way back home. She had heard of other strong men 
losing their lives in such a vain effort. 

We did not fear that our bread-winner would starve. 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 93 

A skillful trapper can usually provide himself with plenty 
of food in any emergency. Rabbits, raccoon, and par- 
tridges are easy to catch or shoot, and were nearly always 
available among the hills and mountains. And Father 
generally carried with him a few easily prepared food- 
stuffs such as cornmeal, beans, and salt pork. Nor did he 
have to worry lest we run out of provisions at home. With 
the barrel of flour, bag of cornmeal, potatoes in the cellar, 
and milk and butter from our cows, we were stocked al- 
most as well as a neighborhood grocery store. 

However, we were prisoners of the storm. The full 
fury of the blizzard hit the Adirondack region. The tem- 
perature went down to twenty and thirty below zero, 
felt all the more because of the high wind. The snow was 
four feet deep around our house, and back in the woods 
it was deeper still. Great drifts ten to twenty feet high 
were everywhere. Our road was impassable, and not a 
single neighbor was able to come to our house to speak a 
word of encouragement or ask after our welfare. 

Fortunately, there was wood in the shed, though it 
was covered with snow that had been driven through the 
cracks between the boards. My own task was to keep the 
woodbox full, and to make pine shavings at night with 
which to rekindle the fire in the morning. I remember 
putting sticks in the oven to warm and dry, so that we 
would be assured of a steady fire when the wood was laid 
on the glowing coals above. John and Ruel shoveled a 
path to the barn, which was more than a hundred feet 
away, fed the cattle and sheep, and milked the two 
cows. Keeping this path open was not easy, for if there is 
anything that drifting snow likes, it is filling a narrow 

gj Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

path. To get water for the stock, and for cooking and 
washing, it was necessary to bring in pails of snow to be 
melted on the stove. 

At the height of the howling wind, when our small 
house vibrated and loose clapboards rattled, it seemed to 
me that packs of wolves must be huffing and puffing to 
blow our doors down. Indeed, the fine snow found cracks 
in our loft through which it came in tiny drifts close to 
my straw mattress in the attic. I snuggled close to my 
brother John for warmth and comfort. 

When Father had prepared to take this trip, Mother 
had urged him to include snowshoes in his pack, but he 
had thought the winter was too far gone for such equip- 
ment He changed his mind when the storm continued 
through Monday, and the snow rose up to his shoulders. 
There was only one thing for him to do: he must make 
himself some snowshoes. Fortunately, he had learned how 
to weave web-like supports for both feet and hands. Cut- 
ting some flexible sapling branches, he bent them to the 
shape of snowshoes, fastened them in this form with 
copper wire (which he carried for mending traplines and 
making snares to catch rabbits), and crisscrossed them 
with strong withes. To lighten his pack, he left everything 
that he could spare in the cave, but the sub-zero weather 
had frozen his four fishers and two sable so quickly that 
he had been unable to skin them. 

As soon as the storm subsided a bit, Father put his 
heavy, awkward burden on his back, fastened his impro- 
vised snowshoes to his feet and hands, and, on all fours, 
began his descent. Down the slopes and past the flows, 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy g$ 

he made his way over gigantic drifts and treacherous 
snow pockets. As he took each laborious step, the usually 
well-loved forest seemed more like a prison of snow. 
Finally, reaching the clearings, Father saw men with 
oxen attempting to break roads from one house to an- 
other. And now, in spite of the drifting snow, he was able 
to discard his cumbersome supports. With many zigzags, 
he pushed on with more speed in an upright position. His 
large rubbers, pulled on over homemade sheepskin moc- 
casins, not only kept his feet warm but also enabled T-nrn 
to make rapid progress. 

Late in the evening of the second day after the storm 
had abated, a familiar stamping at our back door indi- 
cated that Father was trying to leave all traces of the 
great blizzard behind him. With energy that did not know 
the meaning of the word "tired," he had made his way 
over those more than sixty miles of snow-filled roads in 
record time. 

Even though I was then so young, I remember seeing 
Father standing by the kitchen stove as he pulled the ice 
from his beard, and I recall the joyous relief that filled 
our hearts. Father had not only lived through the storm, 
but also had brought back with him valuable furs which, 
later on, were sold for considerably more than was 
needed to purchase the splendidly matched yoke of oxen. 
I know also that after eating his late supper, he took his 
Bible from the shelf back of the table and read a full 
chapter from its pages. We all then kneeled for the eve- 
ning prayer. 

During the next few days a warmer south wind and 

qg Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

bright sun melted the snow and the sap began to run. 
The maple-sugar season was upon us, and the Blizzard of 
'88, for our family at least, became only a pleasantly excit- 
ing topic of conversation. 


HILE wood-chopping, fishing, skat- 
ing, and sliding down hill broke the monotony of long 
winters, the spring sugaring brought us the sweetest de- 
light. Along about the middle of March, when warmer 
sunshine encouraged the crows to return and favored the 
industry of the woodpeckers, we tapped our maples. It 
was hard work to gather enough wood to boil down a 
barrel of sap until it thickened into a gallon of syrup, and 
the task of making paths to the trees through the accumu- 
lated snows of winter and collecting the liquid from the 
buckets afforded plenty of exercise. However, the pros- 
pect of quick returns in the form of wax on snow, and the 
later pleasure of pure maple syrup for griddle cakes and 
corn bread made the labor much more exciting than 
hoeing potatoes and getting up the hay. 

I remember that a few days after the Blizzard of '88, 
when the snow had settled, I followed in Father's foot- 


g8 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

steps as with brace and bit, spouts and buckets, he tapped 
some of our big maples over on the south side of a hill. 
In our region, in spite of occasional thaws, the snow re- 
mained on the ground until mid-April. Late snows, and 
of course the Blizzard of '88, naturally made the task of 
collecting the sap more difficult, since we had to remove 
snow from each bucket and, not infrequently, ice as well. 
The sap we gathered was boiled down in milk pans on our 
range; and the syrup was as clear as crystal. 

It is a well-known fact that sap is sweeter and syrup 
of higher quality when the sun warms the maple trees 
after a hard freeze. For this reason people who know about 
sugaring prefer the products from the first run of the trees, 
instead of the sap which comes later in milder weather. I 
recall hearing it said that the deep-freeze of early March, 
1888, made for a particularly clear and tasty syrup and 
whiter cakes of sugar. 

At our house the feast of maple sweets was not one 
of short duration. The big cakes of sugar for year-round 
use were stored in a large tin trunk, in order to keep mice 
and other intruders from sampling them. Small cakes were 
laid by as candy. I have often held a stalk of rhubarb in 
one hand and a piece of maple sugar in the other, and by 
taking alternate bites of the sour and the sweet given my 
sense of taste a rare treat. The syrup for griddle cakes and 
corn bread was kept in bottles in the cool-cellar, where 
the canned berries were. 

Did you ever eat shortcake made with wild straw- 
berries, thick cream, and grated maple sugar? If you have, 
you know what I mean when I speak of Mother s baking. 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy gg 

She mixed the berries, cream, and sugar in a bowl, and 
then spread both layers of the cake with this tasty mix- 

Grated maple sugar also made a tempting filler for 
the sandwiches we took to school for lunch; and blue- 
berry pudding, sprinkled with maple sugar, was a dessert 
fit for royalty. I have imitated some of the little food 
tricks that Mother used, and have grated maple sugar 
over the oatmeal served to friends on camping trips. Of 
course, out in the open, people have keener appetites, but 
I have found that oatmeal served in this manner will call 
forth exclamations of praise. 

For a delightful variation of taste, we stirred butter- 
nut meats into thick maple syrup and made a soft-textured 
candy which no one can resist once he has tried it. 

I am not advertising for any maple products com- 
pany, but I have wondered why it is that so many people 
living in New England have never tasted maple wax on 
snow. One reason may be that the snow does not last long 
enough in the more southern sections; but if one will store 
up a gallon or two of maple syrup, and exercise the neces- 
sary self-control to keep some of it until the snows of 
January and February come, he will be well rewarded. 
The syrup must be boiled down until it begins to drip 
lazily from a spoon or ladle as it is tested by dropping a 
bit on a pan of clean, packed snow. When the syrup 
hardens into a ribbon almost as soon as it touches the cold 
snow, it is ready for eating. Pour the reddish liquid slowly 
around in circles, or in any way you wish, and then, with 
fork in hand, break it up, or wind it up, and begin to 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

enjoy the rich fruit of the maples. If you serve the treat 
to anyone with false teeth, take special pains not to have 
the syrup too thick when it is poured on the snow! We 
boys sometimes played tricks on our dog by giving him 
rather hard maple wax that stuck his teeth together. 


ROM his parents in Vermont, and 
from an aged Indian who lived on our farm for a few years 
after the Civil War, Father learned about roots, barks, and 
herbs which were supposed to be specific remedies for 
various human ailments. For a spring tonic, when sulphur 
and molasses needed to be supplemented, he concocted 
a brew of wintergreen leaves, sarsaparilla roots, cherry 
bark, boneset, and various other ingredients. Some of 
these items, such as boneset and nervine roots, made po- 
tions bitter as gall, but when sufficiently sweetened with 
maple sugar the taste was very agreeable. 

Once on a trip to a bear trap, I saw Father drop to his 
knees to dig up a mass of yellow, hairlike roots which he 
called nervine. A few weeks later a neighbor came to ask 
if we happened to have that particular medicine. He 
wanted some for his mother, who was having a nervous 
attack. I found afterwards that a cure had been effected. 


1O2 , Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

My people never made any charge for these nature 
remedies, but dispensed them freely. 

For the common cold, roots of ginseng, senega, and 
the bulbs of wild turnips (our name for Jack-in- the-pul- 
pit) were dried, ground to a powder, and mixed with 
honey. Unless plenty of honey was used, it was torture to 
take the wild turnip powder. A city man who was travel- 
ing through the woods with Father once insisted on tast- 
ing the wild turnip food, which bears eat with relish. The 
fiery smarting became so unbearable that the gentleman 
ran to a brook to rinse out his mouth. Unfortunately, 
water merely made the agony worse. When our city friend 
finally recovered, he was perfectly willing to leave all 
the Indian turnips to the bears. A lady who once took a 
tiny bite of this forest food said she felt as though her 
tongue had been split apart. 

Alive to tell the story, I, as well as all the other mem- 
bers of the Roberts family, had to take this powerful 
medicine whenever I had a cold and sore throat. At one 
time, when diphtheria was epidemic and we showed 
symptoms of catching it, we were given the ground wild 
turnip mixed with honey. In addition, we had to take 
skunk's oil, which was also rubbed on our throats. What- 
ever our illness was, we survived both that and the 

Our cellar was kept well-stocked with oils of raccoon, 
woodchuck, skunk, and bear. Aside from the potency of 
these animal oils for both internal and external use, there 
was no question about their value for softening the leather 
boots with which we were supplied every fall. When we 
walked through the snow, the leather became hard, mak- 

Bears., Bibles and a Boy 203 

ing it necessary to use a bootjack to free our feet at night, 
and to have super-human strength to get the stiff boots 
on again in the morning. The oil helped to keep the leather 

People from far and near frequently came to our 
house to obtain wild-animal oils. If they did not need 
the stuff for their personal use, they wanted it to rub on 
the joints of their lame horses, or as a sure cure for the 

heaves. A clergyman who was a bald as a plate once came 
after some bear's oil which he intended to mix with al- 
cohol to stimulate the growth of his hair. If his formula 
had produced the desired results, we might have become 
millionaires and I might have more use for a comb than 
I do now. 

There is the story of a country quack who had just 
finished his sales talk about a cure for rheumatism when 
a listener in the crowd spoke up and said that a bottle 

104 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

of the magic elixir which he had bought had not done him 
any good. The quick-witted quack replied, "I don't won- 
der at all. The chemist who mixed up that batch of medi- 
cine forgot to put bear's oil in it." As far as I remember, 
we never attempted to swallow any bear's oil, but once 
when an older sister was so choked up with bronchitis 
that she could hardly breathe, she consented to take some 
skunk's oil. This gagged her sufficiently to open her 
breathing passages, after which she willingly admitted 
her debt to the lowly skunk. 

A word should also be spoken for coon's oil, for on 
one occasion when we boys were to provide the popcorn 
for a neighborhood party, it was discovered at the last 
minute that we were short of butter. Undaunted, my 
older brother Ruel, who had recently caught two fat rac- 
coon, mixed a quantity of their oil with the popcorn, 
salted it, and carried two pails of it to the party. Every- 
one praised the popcorn as the best they had ever eaten. 
In addition to herbs, roots, barks, and oils, Father 
made a salve which won a high reputation. The main 
ingredients in this, though I do not remember the propor- 
tions, were spruce gum, resin, beeswax, and sheep tallow. 
These items were melted together on the stove, cooled, 
and made into convenient rolls for treating all our cuts 
and scratches. We also chewed the spruce gum, and 
found it a soothing relief for sore throat. 

The wintergreen leaves, which we combined with 
various barks to make our spring tonic, were chewed too. 
We boys thought of them as a substitute for chewing 
tobacco. Much later, when I spoke to a retired teacher of 
medicine about this, he told me that aspirin is derived, 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 105 

in part at least, from wintergreen leaves. I have never 
checked this, but I know that the new wintergreen plants 
were a tasty delicacy to chew and eat in the spring. 

However helpful our home remedies may have been 
for curative purposes, there were a few times when we felt 
the need of outside aid. When sister Antha was a young 
girl she had a stomach disorder which defied all of our 
therapeutic efforts. Bitter boneset tea and the syrup of 
roots and barks were administered in vain. The child lost 
her appetite, and could not retain food of the simplest 
kind. Day after day she grew steadily worse, until finally 
a doctor was called. Our parents hoped that he would be 
able to find the cause of the illness, and also a cure for 
it; but his prescriptions were no more effective than those 
Mother had been using. Baffled by the failure of his ef- 
forts, the physician asked permission to consult with a 
noted city doctor who was spending his vacation at Brant 
Lake. Hope revived as the two men stood over little 
Antha, trying to agree on the treatment of the disorder. A 
change of medicine was made, and a bottle of dark- 
colored liquid was left, with direction that a teaspoonful 
be administered every three hours. 

By this time Mother had become very tired. She 
had been caring for Antha night and day for several weeks 
and two younger daughters, Cordie and Clara, also re- 
quired attention. The older daughters, Alice and Anna, 
helped all they could during the day, and Father, who 
was busy with the crops and the haying, took his turn 
as nurse at night. The new medicine was given on sched- 
ule, and a diet of warm milk and toast was prepared as 
directed. However, the sick child could not bear the sight 

Io g Bears, Bibles and a Bay 

of food. Poor Antha, who never seemed to be robust like 
her older sisters, was now reduced to skin and bones, and 
it was pitiful to see her gradually growing weaker and 

Mother was a quiet and firm believer, but the trial 
of her faith had been long; and, in spite of prayers, she 
saw her daughter grow steadily worse. One afternoon, 
when she saw Antha's frail fingers listlessly picking at 
the bed covering a sign which she had always under- 
stood meant that death was near she sent Alice into the 
field to call Father, while she rushed to the pantry for 
the medicine. She seized the bottle of dark-colored liquid, 
poured out a partial teaspoonful, and lifting Antha's head 
up a trifle with one hand, emptied the contents of the 
spoon into her mouth. Instantly, a convulsive cough and 
cry of agony called attention to the mistake that had been 
made. Instead of the prescribed medicine, Mother had 
administered iodine. 

She could not think of any antidote for iodine poison- 
ing, but in an effort to counteract the burning in her 
child's mouth and throat, caught up a piece of apple pie 
from the table and, with a combination of persuasion and 
force, succeeded in getting it chewed and swallowed. 

When Father rushed into the house and learned what 
had happened, it seemed to him that everything was con- 
spiring against their efforts to save Antha's life. The iodine 
itself might be enough to cause death to someone so weak, 
and apple pie in a stomach which could not digest the 
simplest foods would surely be disastrous. Meantime, ex- 
hausted by the extra exertion or fainting because of the 
pain, little Antha closed her eyes and lay very still. Father 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 107 

and Mother watched at her bedside for a long time, and 
gradually it seemed to them that instead of growing 
weaker, her breathing was becoming stronger and more 
normal. And when the sleep was finished it was evident 
that Antha was much improved. Indeed, from that hour, 
her recovery was remarkable. It was as though the healing 
words had been spoken as they once had to Jairas* daugh- 
ter: "Little girl, I say unto thee, arise." 

My parents did not forget to give thanks to Him who 
had said, "Fear not, only believe," but neither did they 
write down the combination of iodine and apple pie as 
a home remedy. 




FEW months after our dog Lion had 
finished his good life, Father brought home another dog. 
This one was a black Spanish setter, and was said to be a 
thoroughbred of high value. I must admit that the little 
aristocrat looked rather woebegone when he came to live 
with us. He had been brought from New York as a pet 
for two boys who, during the summer, spent their vacation 
on an island of Brant Lake. We found out that he had 
fared poorly at their hands. The boys had tied his food on 
a float and made him swim after it. For amusement they 
fastened tin cans to his tail, and laughed at his efforts to 
free himself. 

However, the misused dog had discovered a way of 
getting even. When the family slept late in the morning, 
he nosed over the milk can on the veranda and lapped up 
the milk as it leaked out from under the tin cover. For 

thus helping himself to an early breakfast, while depriving 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy log 

the late risers of milk for their cereal and coffee, the dog 
had been named Gyp. Father made friends with Gyp and 
one day, when he was delivering brook trout, arranged 
to trade the fish for the dog. 

I still remember seeing Gyp tied to a bed to keep him 
from running away before he was accustomed to his new 
home. The bright way he had of showing his appreciation 
for the welcome we gave him in our home impressed us 
all. When Mother swept the floor, Gyp never had to be 
told to move from the place where he happened to be ly- 
ing. In order not to be in the way, he always moved to a 
section which had already been swept. 

In the winter when the cattle were likely to block the 
path on their return trip from the spring, Gyp showed 
both intelligence and leadership. A cow or ox who hap- 
pened to be leading the way would often endeavor to 
show importance or merely play a bovine prank on its 
followers by suddenly stopping and holding up the en- 
tire line. About four o'clock every afternoon, therefore, 
one of us boys went to the barn to see if the cows were 
in their stalls for the evening milking. If they were not 
there, we had to go after them. Gyp observed the way 
this chore was done, and voluntarily took over the job 
without any training from us. At just the right time in the 
afternoon he would inspect the stables; if they were 
empty, he would trot up the road, break up the traffic 
jam, and follow the herd back to the barn. 

The most brilliant act that Gyp performed occurred 
when Father was returning a male sheep which he had 
borrowed from a man who lived many miles to the north. 
While the ram was being led through a pasture where 

Bears, Bibles and a Bay 

there were other sheep, he made a sudden dash to join 
his kind, and jerked the lead rope from Father's grasp. 
All efforts to retrieve the dragging rope merely frightened 
the flock away. Without being commanded to, Gyp joined 
in the chase. In a moment he was among the sheep, scat- 
tering them in every direction. As they fled, the ram re- 
mained behind. Gyp did not touch the runaway, but kept 
dodging in front of him to impede him, so that Father 
could catch up and take the rope. 

Gyp became an excellent hunting dog, and was espe- 
cially good as a coon dog. However, unless the game ap- 
peared to be getting away, his work was mainly to tree 
the coons and it was in connection with this work that 
poor Gyp met misfortune. One night when Father was on 
a coon hunt and after several raccoons had been bagged, 
he observed what appeared to be a large coon escaping 
through the bushes. He directed the dog to go after it, 
and Gyp immediately obeyed. It was then discovered that 
the retreating creature in the underbrush was not a rac- 
coon, but an extra large hedgehog. In some way, our 
faithful dog got so close to the hedgehog's tail that he 
was struck, near his heart, with sharp, penetrating spines. 
Father and my brother Ruel, who was with him that 
night, strove to save Gyp's life. Using the light of a torch, 
they managed to find and extract many of the piercing 
quills, but some of them had broken off, or had been im- 
bedded too deeply. These quills, barbed like a fish hook, 
had a tendency to work toward the vital organs. 

Taking turns, Father and Ruel carried Gyp in their 
arms, hoping that they could get him home alive; but it 
soon became evident that he was growing weaker and 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 
weaker. When they were within a mile of our house there 
was a final faint whine of pain, and then the soft, limp 
body lay against Ruel's breast. 

As the hunters returned, the first question Mother 
asked was, "Where is Gyp?" Ruel was too overcome with 
emotion to give an answer, so Father had to relate what 
had happened. "But/' sobbed Mother, "just a few minutes 
ago I heard him scratch on the door. When I went to let 
him in he wasn't there/' I like to think that the One who 
careth for all His creatures, and notes the fall of a single 
sparrow, permitted us this sign that the life of a noble 
dog is not lost forever. 


T HAS been said that the heroes of fic- 
tion are usually the third son of their father, and that we 
do not have more heroes because we do not have more 
third sons! I was the third son of my father, and was given 
the middle name David for the shepherd boy who slew 
the giant Goliath, but I never felt very heroic. Whenever 
I went into the bear country with Father, I kept close to 
him; and while lie was hoping that we might run across 
some large animals, I was hoping that we wouldn't. It 
also gave me no pleasure to walk in solitude on dark, 
country roads at night I think that my brothers had 
built up fear in me by scaring me in various ways when I 
was too young to follow them on their longer fishing trips. 
In the fall, when it was time to turn pigs into pork, I 


Bears, Bibles and a Boy 
preferred to keep out o sight and hearing until all the 
butchering had been completed. I was seventeen before I 
axed my first chicken for dinner. On this occasion my sister 
Clara would have had to do the disagreeable job, if I had 
proved too chicken-hearted, so I became heroic for the 
moment, but not boastfully so. I did not have the same 
sentiment about fish, but I did make a practice of crack- 
ing their heads with a stick to end their flopping and gasp- 
ing for breath. 

As a child I was not very robust, and did not eat the 

kind of food to make one strong. For a long time corn 
bread and pork nauseated me. Sweetened water seemed 
more appetizing than milk. To make matters worse, I fell 
through the boards over the cow stable and hurt my head 
to such an extent that I became afflicted with seizures. I 
did not have convulsions, but I would run wildly through 
the fields in great agony. One night I was found standing 
over the pork barrel, with the butcher knife raised as if 
to stab anything that might come at me. Awakening my 
father on another occasion, I told him that a man out 
in the road had brought something for us from the store; 
and as he started to look out the window I caught him by 

H4 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

his whiskers and gave them a yank I suppose he attri- 
buted my strange behavior to some kind of nightmare. 

After a few years the seizures left me, but I still 
suffered from frequent, severe headaches. Whenever I 
went to the store, or rode any distance on the jolting cart, 
I would return home with a headache and upset stomach. 
Mother would put cold cloths on my forehead and do all 
in her power to relieve me, but it usually took two or 
three days for me to recover. Deliverance from this afflic- 
tion came to me in an unexpected manner. 

Father had to go to Chestertown, twelve miles to the 
west. Since this was a two-day trip for the oxen, I was 
invited to go for the long ride, and also to visit with an 
aunt and uncle and two cousins who lived in this village. 
Toward night a dull pain on one side of my forehead 
foretold a night of great distress. Hearing of my symptom, 
my aunt suggested that I try her remedy, which was 
pheno-caffein pills. The prescribed dose was two to three 
pills every hour until relief came, but because of my youth 
she gave me half a pill. I am pleased to report that that 
tiny bit of medicine effected a complete cure. The next 
day I bought a twenty-five-cent box of the magic pellets 
at the drug store; and from that time I never had to fear, 
or endure, another headache. Whenever I felt an attack 
of the old torment coming on, I took a nibble of my pills. 
And the best of it was that instead of becoming an addict, 
the old malady gradually left me entirely. 

It has been said that when patients recover, the 
Lord is praised; but when they die, the doctor is blamed. 
I took pains to write a letter of gratitude to the makers of 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 115 

pheno-caffein, and received in reply a free box of the 
pills. In the box I found some printed testimonials, with 
mine among them. That was the first time I had a bit o 
my writing accepted. 


ANY people think of life on a farm 
as a serene and ideal way of living, but there is another 
side to be considered. Farming is as full of cares, thorns, 
and thistles as the land which Adam tilled after he was 
driven from the Garden of Eden. There are droughts, 
blights, hail, and frosts. Weeds spring out of the soil to 
choke the tender plants, and armies of insects come to 
plunder and devour. 

Up in our rural section we learned farming the hard 
way. The plowing and harrowing was done with the oxen, 
but all the planting, hoeing and harvesting was done by 
hand. I began dropping corn and seed potatoes at an early 
age. Using a short scythe, I learned to mow while still in 
my early teens. We raked up the hay by hand, and pitched 
it onto the two-wheeled cart. The only excitement oc- 
curred when we sometimes had to hurry under a hay- 
stack to keep from getting wet during a sudden thun- 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 
derstorm. Still, we looked forward to the harvest, the 
rewarding part of fanning. The hope of extra-large pump- 
kins and big, smooth potatoes which might win a prize at 
the fair kept up our interest in the work. 

One of my most monotonous chores was churning, 
which I did with an up-and-down plunger in a tall earthen 
crock. In the cold weather there seemed to be a tribe of 
obstinate witches who kept the butter from coming. The 
only way to beat them was by following the suggestion 
of Robert Burns: '"Whether striving, suffering, or forbear- 
ing, miracles can be wrought by persevering." 

Another tiresome job was turning the grindstone. Our 
land, if not founded on a rock, was at least inlaid with 
them, and they were forever getting in the way of scythes 
and axes. I have heard that when the lady who much later 
became my wife was a little girl, she took a hammer and 
badly mutilated her father's grindstone. I had the same in- 
clination, but never had the courage to show how I felt. 
Even when one has the improved type of grindstone 
which operates by foot power, there are still difficulties. 
The lesson that it is much better to take time to sharpen 
your tools than it is to go to work with dull ones remained 
with me, and later in an essay contest on the meaning of 
education, I won first prize by illustrating with the old 

Since our wealth was our cattle and crops and the 
resources around us in the mountains and woods, ready 
cash was sometimes at a minimum* However, we never 
had to go hungry, and although our furnishings were 
modest they were adequate, and replaced when necessary. 
In fact, I recall a time when Mother called attention to 

Z1 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

the lamentable state of our silverware by placing a badly 
worn spoon at the head of the table. When Father saw 
it beside his plate, he picked up the spoon, carried it to 
the door, and threw it as far as he could. Soon after that 
he brought home a shiny set of knives, forks, and spoons. 
It was always a special occasion when Father got a 
check for his furs. He had these checks cashed at the vil- 
lage store where he had to accept a lot of change. When 
he got home, and after supper and the devotions were 
finished, he would spread his money out on the table for 
an extra counting. Father not only shared some of the 
coins with us, but liked to give Mother money for a new 
dress or bright material. 

As soon as we children were old enough, we were 
taught to earn money for ourselves; and though paper 
and magazine routes did not exist in our mountain district, 
there were some interesting substitutes. We climbed all 
the mountains that surrounded us, looking for the sweet, 
juicy blueberries which were so good for pies and pud- 
dings, and which we could also sell for ten cents a quart. 
The wider views that met our eyes as we ascended the 
several peaks were also an exhilarating reward, and as I 
looked out over the many mountains, lakes, ponds, and 
streams, I felt an urge to see the things that lay beyond 

As we traveled from one mountain ledge to another, 
we frequently saw the places where bears had been feed- 
ing on the berries, and on one trip my eldest brother and 
I disturbed a sleeping bear. As the animal stood on his 
hind legs to see who was encroaching on his wild domain, 
we came face to face. But only for a moment. Even though 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 119 

the beast had the right of possession, he seemed more than 
willing to leave. My brother hastened his departure by 
throwing a pail with such force that the bear did not turn 
out for small shrubbery, but broke bushes down in his 
straight-line rush away from us. 

Father encouraged us to plant and tend an extra 
patch of potatoes, which we could sell to earn money for 
our winter clothing. We were so far from the market that 
we never acquired much wealth for our labor. With a one- 
man saw which had been presented to me, I cut and split 
a cord of white birch wood for use in a kitchen range, 
but the man who bought it was so slow in paying that I 
had to take my pay in peanuts, on the installment plan, 
as I called at his small store. 

We three brothers imitated our father by learning to 
trap small game; and the merchant at the store once re- 
marked that if the Roberts boys needed a shirt or a pair 
of overalls, they brought in the pelt of a skunk or a mink 
to swap for the article. 

We caught and sold trout during the summer months. 
And at times we kept them alive in a pail of water to sell 
to people who had fishponds. In such cases the poor fish 
had to be caught twice. 

When I needed a Fourth Reader for the fall term of 
school, I caught over a hundred small frogs, which I sold 
to fishermen for bait. The trip to the store was a memo- 
rable one, for not only was I to have the coveted book, but 
I was to pay for it myself. This was my first step in the 
process of education, and it was a rather wobbly step for 
brother Ruel and I drove down the lake road with a very 
ancient horse and crude homemade buggy. After every 


Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

step the horse seemed to have to meditate a while before 
taking the next one, and on our return trip darkness over- 
took us. This horse evidently believed that the night was 
made for sleeping, for when we were within two miles of 
home he lay down by the side of the road and called it a 
day. Ruel and I had to walk home; but I had my book, and 
though it had been impregnated with the aroma of tobacco 
smoke from the general store, it smelled and looked good 
to me. 

I also had a brief career as a salesman at the little 
village then called Bartonville, down at the outlet of 
Brant Lake, where the general store was located. Sister 
Clara had bought some celluloid, from which she made 
some very fine napkin rings. Fastened as they were with 
pink ribbon, they had such appeal to the eyes of the ladies 
that I sold my entire stock in one day. Since I had called 
at all the houses and supplied the market, the business 
ended almost as soon as it started. 

Ginseng roots formed another source of income for 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 121 

us. This plant, so highly prized by the Chinese as a cure- 
all, grew in our woods and in many places round about. 
In a way, looking for ginseng is like prospecting for gold. 
We loved to wander through the woods, looking for the 
plant with the golden tubers. At one time ginseng was 
very abundant in the Brant Lake area, but forest fires 
had destroyed much of it by the time I came along. What 
was left, though, was all the more valuable. One pound of 
the dried, man-shaped root was worth three or four dol- 
lars, and eventually carried a much higher price. I think 
we could have become rich had we seen the possibilities 
of cultivating the plant and giving up space for it. The 
discouraging feature is that it takes about seven years for 
a seed to produce a sizable tuber. 

Once when I was with Father I gathered seed which 
I planted in our woods, but a number of years later some- 
one found it and dug it all up, without planting more seed. 
It was that attitude of grabbing all one could reach, with- 
out thinking of conservation, which helped to make gin- 
seng scarce. 

Even when he did not have a bear to skin, Father 
made his inspection trips profitable by taking time to 
search for ginseng. When he found more than he could 
dig before dark, he would sleep in the woods and finish 
the work in the morning. If it looked like rain, he would 
cut enough boughs to lean against a large fallen tree for 
shelter; and when he wanted to make a fire, he could find 
tinder in the hollow butt of such a tree. Once, when he 
was looking for a suitable place for his lodging, he noticed 
some fresh earth at the end of a tree which the wind had 
blown down, and discovered a newly-made den which a 

122, Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

bear had dug under the upturned roots. Gathering an 
armful of dry leaves to serve as clean sheets, Father en- 
joyed a good night in the bear's bedroom. Fortunately, 
the bear must have spent the night out. In the morning 
Father dug up the rest of the valuable roots and returned 
home with a big bag of them. 

I can vouch for Father's peaceful slumber in the 
forest, for one night when I was with him we slept in an 
open shanty which porcupines were gnawing to pieces. 
We had no lantern, but judging by the noises, the animals 
were converging upon us from all directions. The frogs 
were croaking in the nearby creek, owls answered one 
another from a distance, and hedgehogs kept up their 
persistent scraping on the few remaining boards of the 
shanty. I must confess to a sleepless night, but if Father 
heard these forest sounds at all, they were a soothing 
symphony which lulled him into blissful repose. 

Later a man who had come up from the city to do 
some fishing in the vicinity was camping in this same 
dilapidated shack, and had a frightening experience. He 
thought the owls were wolves coming to attack him; and 
furthermore, as he excitedly explained to Father the next 
morning, a lumberman apparently bereft of his reason had 
been driving oxen on one of the mountains during the 
night. He explained that the lumberman must have been 
skidding logs, for he continually called to his oxen: 
"Whoa, whoa-ho!" 

"I must have caught a bear," said Father. "That's the 
kind of noise they make when they're in distress/' 

The city man, fearing bears even more than phantom 
lumberjacks, remained close to his camp until he saw 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

Father returning with a bearskin on his back. With relief 
and delight he accepted Father's gift of bear steak which 
could be shared with friends who might have teased him 
if he had only an empty basket to show for the fishing trip. 

It so happened that our own property provided me 
with one more source for earning money. The brook which 
wound its way through the length of our farm was not 
only interesting because of the traces of former beaver 
dams and the pools where we caught the speckled trout, 
but also because of a peculiar rock formation. Beginning 
at a waterfall a few hundred feet back of our house, and 
turning at a right angle, the brook descended into a minia- 
ture canyon with rapids and a natural stone bridge, and 
then disappeared underground. A little farther down were 
two round, well-like openings where we could hear the 
water rushing below. We often took good-sized fish from 
this place. On the west side of the rise the stream bubbled 
forth again and flowed on toward Brant Lake. 

High on the steep hillside, above the place where the 
brook vanished, I had observed a cavity among the rocks. 
So far as I remember, no one had expressed any curiosity 
about this, and since it looked to me very much like a 
bear's den, I kept away from it until I was about thirteen 
years old. That summer a young minister who liked to 
hike and fish stopped at our house. Since there is boldness 
in numbers, I told him about the mysterious cave and we 
agreed to explore it. 

With a lantern we crawled between some narrow 
ledges, followed a downward fissure and were soon in a 
large room with stalagmites and stalactites. About two 

124 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

hundred feet from the entrance of the cave, our progress 
was blocked by a dark pond of water. 

No treasures or Indian relics were found, but later 
something of real financial value developed for me. People 
who spent their summer vacations at the lake heard about 
the cave and came to see it. I served as guide, and while 
I did not charge for my services, I nevertheless received 
many pieces of silver. With an eye for business, I put up 
a sign over our front door: CAMP CAVES. On the whole, 
I had no regrets about looking into this hole among the 


ETWEEN two trout streams which 
flow into the head of Brant Lake, and just where a second 
dead-end dirt road leads up the valley, stood our weather- 
beaten schoolhouse, a one-room structure where all grades 
were taught. Attached to one side of the building was a 
woodshed, usually well-filled with seasoned birch, beech, 
and maple. As if to protect us from the cold north and 
east winds, seven small mountains curved around in the 
shape of a horseshoe, for good luck or, as some felt, an 
oxbow to represent service. First, Second, and Third 
Brothers were on the east side, a mountain for each of the 
Roberts boys. Thunderbolt stood in the center of the 
bend, then extending around to the north were Stevenson, 
Chub-pond, and Big Hill. To the south, surrounded by 
lower hills, lay the shining water of the lake. 

If the schoolhouse had ever been painted, not a trace 
of red remained when I began to seek learning there, But 


22,6 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

reading, writing, arithmetic, spelling, geography, physiol- 
ogy, and American History were taught year after year. 
We never graduated, but kept going over the same funda- 
mentals, progressing through the First, Second, Third, and 
Fourth Reader books until we, or our parents, felt we had 
learned all there was to learn before taking up full-time 
work on the farm or in the nearby towns. 

The location of our school must have been conducive 
to learning, for though our teachers had little more educa- 
tion than that provided by a district school, there was no 
Johnny among us who was not taught to read. In my own 
case, I marvel that I absorbed from my books and the 
recitations of others the little knowledge which has re- 
mained with me from those days. At that time, we did our 
arithmetic and wrote lists of words and sentences on 
slates. We took these to the teacher for correction, after 
which the slates were cleaned for further use. At school 
the blackboards were used in the same way. Paper would 
have been too expensive. 

Our home-study work during the long winter eve- 
nings was done by the light of candles. Our parents, fearing 
that kerosene lamps might break, or explode and set the 
house on fire, were reluctant to make a change. They 
thought that candles were safer to have on the table, to 
carry upstairs when we went to bed, and to show the way 
to vegetable bins and shelves of preserves in the cellar. 
Even after my sisters brought us oil lamps from the city, 
Father preferred to read his Bible by candlelight. At times 
it was my task to help make the candles. Long cotton 
wicks, tied to small, round sticks, were inserted in hollow 
forms, and the melted fat of sheep was poured in to 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 127 

harden into what were known as tallow candles. Gas and 
electric bills were unknown on our road. 

During the spring and summer, the urge to go fishing 
seemed much stronger than the urge to learn arithmetic or 
spelling. Moreover, at times nature itself conspired against 
my education. As I looked out the schoolhouse window I 
frequently saw a fish hawk circle over the lake, make a 
sudden dive, and then, with some difficulty, bear his prize 

Further outside distraction was offered by many red- 
winged blackbirds, orioles, and scarlet tanagers which 
found the shrubbery along the swampy shore land an 
ideal feeding ground and nesting place. A major diversion 
occurred one day when all of us were permitted to go out 
in the yard to see the body of a big bear which a neighbor 
had dispatched as it was swimming across the lake. 

Recently when we asked our grandson, who had just 
begun to attend kindergarten, what he liked best about 
school, he answered, "I like the retesses." At our country 
school, we too enjoyed the recesses, when we played tag, 
three-old-cat and four-old-cat baseball. Personally, I liked 
fishing better. Playing Post Office might have been as 
interesting as fishing, but the truth was that up our way 
nobody dared to loss anybody at least not when some- 
one might be watching. 

Occupied as we were with fanning, making maple 
sugar, fishing, trapping, hunting and going to school in 
the little building which never got its red coat of paint, 
there were few dull moments in our lives at Brant Lake. 
We did take time out for jumping on the hay, climbing 

228 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

trees, playing hide-and-seek, and swimming. Our best 
place for swimming was a half-mile down the road at the 
Bentiey farm, where a sandy beach was easy on our feet, 
but there was a swimming hole in our brook which we 
made deeper and wider by means of a sod dam. It was fun 
to do this, and also to remove the obstruction afterwards 
to cause a miniature flood. 

When a fair was held at Pottersville in the fall of the 
year, we had a few rides on the merry-go-round, but for 
the most part we found riding on a load of hay or on a 
sled through the deep snow to gather sap more satisfying. 
Brother Ruel, at the age of nine, conceived the idea of 
hitching his sled to the tail of a young ox. The sudden 
acceleration and the terrific spill which resulted caused 
him to lose all confidence in this method of transporta- 
tion, and he was content to take the slower rides with the 
rest of us. 

The nearest country church was some seven miles 
distant, too far to go behind slow oxen. Father, who was 
an indefatigable walker, attended church quite often, but 
the rest of us only in the summertime when ministers 
came to our schoolhouse to hold services. During the sum- 
mer we also maintained a Sunday School, of which I was 
once appointed the superintendent at the age of twelve. 
But unless there was a Sunday School to attend, Sun- 
days seemed extra long. We all were too full of vitality to 
enjoy being quiet and sitting still. Walks along the brook 
and through the woods broke the monotony, and we were 
allowed to crack nuts and pop corn. Since Jesus and His 
disciples walked through a corn field, shucking and eating 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 129 

the kernels as they went along, it was not considered 
wrong for us to do something similar. We were grateful 
for the liberal ruling of our parents on this point. I sup- 
pose, however, that we were not behaving in an overly 
pious manner when we pretended that the exploding corn 
was ammunition in a fierce battle for our independence. I 
still recommend the use of popcorn as a safe way for small 
children to celebrate the Fourth of July. They can fire off 
these crackers and eat them, and no one is hurt. 

Checkers and dominoes were occasionally played 
during the long, winter evenings, but "Authors" was the 
only card game allowed. 

Christmas in our valley was observed with simplicity. 
In our stockings we found such articles as hickory nuts, 
candy, and a bit of money, but we felt rich nonetheless. 
After all, riches are a matter of the heart The tin elephant 
on wheels which an older sister gave me one Christmas 
pleased me as much as a new automobile did thirty years 
later. And I have a clear recollection of joyful anticipation 
when some member of the family confided to me that 
Mother had a special Christmas present for me. After 
peeking into things in vain to find it, I was not disap- 
pointed when I received a pair of bright suspenders, proof 
that I was on my way to manhood. 

A community Christmas Tree was put up in the 
schoolhouse, and the various families would bring their 
gifts. At the right moment Old Santa brought his reindeer 
to a stop outside and Austin Ross, a Civil War veteran 
with a natural Santa face, would burst into the room to 
start the festivities. A few Christmas songs would be sung 

130 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

and some of the children called on for recitations. I was 
always expected to rattle off some verses which had been 
laboriously memorized. 

Aside from the community Christmas tree, there were 
not many social events to be enjoyed in our neighborhood. 
Occasionally we had a community picnic, and with the 
coming of the summer people to Brant Lake, we were 
sometimes treated to Fourth-of-July fireworks. A man 
who owned a beautiful house on the shore of the lake 
generally invited the whole neighborhood to a lawn party, 
where paper balloons floated up toward the sky. Fire 
rockets, Roman candles, and other dazzling illuminations 
were discharged over the water. Even though we had had 
a long, hard day in the hay field, Father was always will- 
ing to hitch the oxen to our bumpy, two-wheeled hay cart 
and take us to the July Fourth celebration. 

Although very strict in his religious beliefs, Father 
was quite liberal in some ways. He not only permitted us 
to attend the county fair, where various worldly things 
were on display, but he even entered his oxen in a race 
and won first prize. Of course, I was fascinated by the 
gambling machines, and ventured a nickel, which I lost 
but I kept this secret to myself. I kept quiet also about 
some rank cigars which I won by throwing balls at a 
dodging clown's head. The punishment that I brought on 
myself by smoking the cigars was severe enough. 

When a circus which was booked for Chestertown, 
twelve miles away, gave its first performance, my older 
brother and I were there. We had obtained Father's con- 
sent on the ground that it would be educational to see 
the elephant. However, considering the side show and all, 

130 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

and some of the children called on for recitations. I was 
always expected to rattle off some verses which had been 
laboriously memorized. 

Aside from the community Christmas tree, there were 
not many social events to be enjoyed in our neighborhood. 
Occasionally we had a community picnic, and with the 
coming of the summer people to Brant Lake, we were 
sometimes treated to Fourth-of-July fireworks. A man 
who owned a beautiful house on the shore of the lake 
generally invited the whole neighborhood to a lawn party, 
where paper balloons floated up toward the sky. Fire 
rockets, Roman candles, and other dazzling illuminations 
were discharged over the water. Even though we had had 
a long, hard day in the hay field, Father was always will- 
ing to hitch the oxen to our bumpy, two-wheeled hay cart 
and take us to the July Fourth celebration. 

Although very strict in his religious beliefs, Father 
was quite liberal in some ways. He not only permitted us 
to attend the county fair, where various worldly things 
were on display, but he even entered his oxen in a race 
and won first prize. Of course, I was fascinated by the 
gambling machines, and ventured a nickel, which I lost 
but I kept this secret to myself. I kept quiet also about 
some rank cigars which I won by throwing balls at a 
dodging clown's head. The punishment that I brought on 
myself by smoking the cigars was severe enough. 

When a circus which was booked for Chestertown, 
twelve miles away, gave its first performance, my older 
brother and I were there. We had obtained Father's con- 
sent on the ground that it would be educational to see 
the elephant. However, considering the side show and all, 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

we saw a great deal more than the elephant. The ease and 
grace with which men and women, scantily dressed in 
tights, turned somersaults and performed on the trapeze, 
and the skill of the cowboys in roping cattle, put ideas in 
my head. 

On the first convenient day after returning from the 
circus, brother Ruel and I shut ourselves in the barn, piled 
up some hay, climbed up to a beam, and began our 
acrobatic training. I do not know just how Ruel came out, 
for he declined to tell. I was equally reticent about what 
happened to me in my attempt to spin around in the air. 
It may be sufficient to say the first-magnitude stars which 
I discovered as my knees collided with my forehead con- 
vinced me that swinging bars and acrobatic turns in mid- 
air might be a hard way to earn a living. 

Not to be entirely disillusioned, though, I decided to 
try my hand at the cowboy tricks. For convenient prac- 
tice just at this time, we had a sleek, black heifer. I made 
a slipknot in a rope, threw the loop at the frightened 
creature, and, after several tries, succeeded in lassoing 
her around the neck. As I held to the rope she bolted for 
her freedom, keeled over on her head, and came up with 
a broken horn. Mortified that I had marred the appear- 
ance of the beautiful young cow, and fearful of what 
Father might think of my awkward prank, all my visions 
of becoming a circus celebrity faded away. 

Lest anyone think that I lacked the perseverance 
which is essential to success, I should mention my experi- 
ence in learning to ride a bicycle. When my brother John 
rode home from Vermont on the first bicycle that we had 
seen on our rocky road, I was determined to learn to ride 

132 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

the thing. However, even though the seat was lowered as 
far down as it could be, my legs were not long enough. 
When the pedals were up I could push them down for a 
couple of inches, but then had to wait until they came up 
again. This maneuver hardly provided enough momentum 
for balancing the vehicle, but by mounting and pushing 
off from a big rock by the side of the road I could ride a 
few yards. Always, just as I would get started on a slight 
down grade, the sprocket chain, or one of the solid rubber 
tires, would come off. Without exaggeration I can say that 
I must have fallen into the dusty road a thousand times. 
Eventually, of course, I learned to balance the high and 
heavy bicycle, and experienced the thrill of triumph. 

By using foot pressure on the front tire for braking 
purposes, I coasted down the hills to school. At times the 
balky bike brought me humiliation, as when the chain 
came off the sprocket on a bridge and both boy and 
bicycle fell into the brook, but at other times I was the 
envy of my schoolmates as they ran along beside me, and 
great was my glory. 


E BOYS thought our father showed 
wisdom at its best when, on rainy days, he told us to quit 
work in the cornfield and go fishing. Rain was good for 
the crops, and the fish were easier to catch on such days. 
Even the trip through the wet brush was a reminder of 
the treat ahead, for we knew the brooks and pools where 
the best fish were likely to be, and Father had taught us 
how to catch them. 

We progressed rapidly from the twine and bent-pin 
stage to that of the stronger lines and steel hooks, and 
became ardent fishermen. We loved best to fish for the 
lusty trout In accordance with Father's instruction, we 
learned how to use long ash fishpoles, and to approach 
the pools quietly, taking care to see that we cast no re- 
flection on the water to frighten the fish. 

On rainy days it did not take us much time to get 
from the fields of growing things to our favorite brooks. 


Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

Getting our tackle together was a simple process. Hastily 
we dug angleworms, put our fish lines which were 
wound on pieces of dry corncobs in our pockets, and 
started off through the woods and over the hills. On our 
way we cut fishing rods to which we tied our lines when 
we reached the brook. Sometimes we spent an entire day 
fishing in a soaking rain, with water running down our 
backs, arms, and legs, but we always returned home with 
good strings of speckled trout and great appetities. 

As Brant Lake was only a half mile from our house, 
we also did considerable lake-fishing for pickerel, bass, 
perch, and bullheads. During the early spring, when the 
pickerel came near the shore to sun themselves, we 
speared them or shot them with a rifle. I never learned the 
art of spearing fish, but one day when the lake had 
receded, leaving a sizable pickerel in a small pool from 
which there was no escape, I thought I would have a 
chance to try my luck. At that moment the poor fish, 
frightened at my approach, made a dash for freedom and 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 135 

came to a flopping stop on dry ground, several feet from 
die water. Not having the heart to impale the fish in his 
position of disadvantage, I picked it up and carried it 
home intact. So far as I know, this was a new method of 
landing fish. 

During the long winter months we added to our food 
supply by fishing through the ice. This was not all fun, 
for we frequently had to cut holes through ice that was 
from eighteen inches to two feet thick. It was no boy's 
job to make eight or more such holes, but for some reason 
we put more zest into that kind of work than we usually 
did in chopping wood. When the holes were ready we 
used a small hook to catch perch which, in turn, we put 
on a larger hook for pickerel bait. We then continued 
fishing through the same holes. After all the lines had 
been set, it "was interesting to watch the various flags 
as they moved, now slightly as the perch slowly swam 
about, and now more actively when the pickerel came 
near to frighten them. While the average weight of the 
pickerel was from two to three pounds, we were sure 
that there were much larger ones to be caught. 

I was ten years old when I did my first fishing through 
the ice. My brother Ruel was eager to try out some new 
tackle that he had bought Although he could see that I 
was anxious to go with him he did not offer to take me, 
thinking me too young to begin ice-fishing. In addition 
he had succeeded in getting some minnows, which were 
thought to be irresistible bait, and he didn't want to share 
them with his inexperienced kid brother. 

However, luck was with me on this particular mild 
Monday. Monday was the day when Mother did her wash- 

136 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

ing, and it was Ruel's job to get the water from the brook. 
He was in such a hurry to get his lines set that he offered 
to give me three of his smallest bait fish and let me go 
with him if I would do his work for him. The offer was 
accepted, and the tubs were filled in record time. 

Some time previously, in anticipation of this happy 
event, I had tied together several short pieces to make 
myself a line long enough for the deep-water angling. To 
this I had fastened a three-way hook, and so was ready 
to take my share of the big ones as soon as the weather 
got warmer. 

When I reached the lake I selected a spot quite a 
distance from the favorite location, which was already 
occupied by Ruel's six strong lines. I hacked a hole 
through the thick ice, put a minnow on my hook, and 
waited for a hungry fish to bite. Since my patience was 
not quickly rewarded, I walked over to see Ruel. He was 
not having much luck. 

On my return to my improvised tip-up I found all 
the slack line pulled into the water. The stick to which 
the end of the line had been fastened was drawn across 
the hole. When I took hold of the line and felt the heavy 
weight on it, my excitement was unbounded. But I was 
afraid that some parts of the knotted string might break 
with the stress and, moreover, since I felt no lively jerks, 
it was possible that I might have only weeds on my hook. 
I kept hauling in and finally a big mottled head came up 
through the rather small opening, and I had my fish safely 
out on the ice. Loud shouts of triumph brought my 
brother to me at top speed. Ruel could hardly believe his 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 137 

eyes, for there before us lay a pickerel perhaps more 
technically a pike exactly three feet long. 

At my age, I was not tall enough to keep my fish's tail 
from dragging on the snow, but I insisted nevertheless on 
carrying him all the way back to our house. Pride must 
have gleamed on me like the morning sun when I held 
my catch up to be admired and announced, "Look, I 
caught myself a fish." 

Some four miles over the mountains to the north of 
our house lay an enchanted kke, named after and pro- 
nounced like the Pharaoh of ancient Egypt. Perhaps the 
mountain, towering beside it somewhat in the shape of a 
pyramid, suggested the name. Many exciting encounters 
with bears occurred under the cliffs of Pharaoh Moun- 
tain and its companion to the east, Old Treadway. How- 
ever, we Roberts boys were mainly interested in the excel- 
lent trout of this deep, cool, secluded, and picturesque 
body of water. Here in this two-mile-long and mile-wide 
lake were the kind of fish that we liked best, and, in addi- 
tion, they were usually larger in size and of superior, 
pink-meated color. 

One man whom we knew claimed to Lave taken a 
five-pound brookie there one windy day, and, occasion- 
ally, others of two and three pounds. Father was a worthy 
follower of Izaak Walton in fishing brooks, but he had 
never learned how to catch trout in Pharaoh Lake. Many 
times when I went to a bear trap with him, we spent a 
few hours trolling there, but never caught a single fish. 
My older brothers had no better luck. Although Mother 

i^S Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

would ask us to bring her some of these special trout, we 
could never seem to get them to bite. Such a situation for 
otherwise respectable anglers had to be changed. 

I had no difficulty in persuading a relative to join 
me on a camping trip one summer during which we 
hoped to discover the secret of catching those coveted 
fish. Loading our bicycles with such supplies as we could 
carry, and also afford, we pedaled to the head of Brant 
Lake. Then, pushing and pulling the bicycles over the 
rocky remains of an old logging road, we traveled another 
five miles to the outlet of Pharaoh. At this point we took a 
boat, for which we had made arrangement, and rowed 
another mile up the creek to an ideal camping place called 
Watch Rock. 

After supper we expected to lie down to pleasant 
slumber on the sturdy and unyielding primeval mattresses, 
but sleep did not come easily. In order to eliminate weight 
we had brought only thin cotton blankets, which were 
easily penetrated by the crisp mountain air. The only way 
to endure the discomfort was to get up and keep the fire 
going. Imitating the Indians, we made a small fire and 
hovered near it, catching short naps between the shivers. 
Up with the sun, we went forth to attempt what so 
few people had been able to accomplish. At first, with not 
another person in sight, we trolled around the shores and 
out in the middle of the lake, but caught nothing but 
sunfish. Eventually we saw another camper, a sun-tanned 
and wrinkled Irishman who explained to us that he had 
come out to get a fish or two for his dinner. Mr. McGuire, 
for this was his name, was not very talkative, and ap- 
parently not anxious to reveal any tricks that he knew 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 139 

about catching fish; and when we inquired about the trail 
up the mountain where we might get some blueberries, 
he was equally vague. He said, *Tve been up, and taken 
others up, but I never go in the same place once." 

As we were watching the veteran fisherman we saw 
him drop his oars suddenly, seize his fishpole, and give a 
long, swift pull on it. Having set the hook, he pulled in 
his line carefully by hand, and at the side of his boat used 
a net to take in a sizable trout. We saw also that he had a 
heavier sinker than we had brought with our tackle, which 
indicated that he had been trolling his bait down in deep, 
cool water. 

It didn't take us long to remedy our failure to fish 
farther below the surface. Down by the outlet of the lake, 
we found some big nails which we used instead of lead. 
Luck began to come our way. We caught three trout for 
supper. The next day we knded five, and the following 
day, eight. Mr. McGuire, not ready to give us too much 
credit, explained our success with these words: "Some- 
times the trout like nails better than they do lead." Un- 
daunted by this dour appraisal, we came back on sub- 
sequent trips with plenty of lead sinkers, and have been 
catching our full share of these wonderful fish ever since. 
The sheer joy of camping under the pines and among 
the cedars of any one of the three islands of Pharaoh 
was a good vacation in itself. The work of building or re- 
pairing the fireplace, finding and arranging flat stones for 
tables and seats, and gathering wood, both for cooking 
and for a campfire in the evening, was more like play than 

In the earlier days, pine stumps stood everywhere, like 

140 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

gravestones in a cemetery, reminding one of the great 
trees which had once crashed to the earth. The stumps 
themselves were no dwarfs, but two and three feet in 
diameter and some of them five feet high, having been 
cut down by men who stood on deep packed snow. These 
remnants of forest giants, with roots clinging to stones 
and ledges like the tentacles of a huge octopus, made ex- 
cellent firewood. To entertain friends on a dark evening 
cheered by such a fire, and then serve an early breakfast 
of trout, griddlecakes and maple syrup, was an experience 
long and pleasantly remembered. 

If I seem to be approaching fantasy in calling this 
lake with the ancient Egyptian name "enchanted," I will 
mention an unusual phenomenon in justification. It oc- 
curred on an afternoon when I was fishing with a friend 
who had never been to Pharaoh before, and who doubted 
that we could catch anything. But the wind was just right, 
and our luck the best that I had ever known. We pulled 
in trout as if they were on a waiting list. 

Presently, coming down from the north, a thin column 
of rain appeared, and then another from the east. As 
I heard the sound of raindrops on the trees, I began row- 
ing toward our tent on Little Island. I hoped that the 
steady west wind, which was bending the sheets of rain 
backward, might prevail and keep us from getting wet. 
However, the roar of the approaching storm encouraged 
me to quicken my speed. It was fortunate that I did this, 
for as we reached shelter the currents of air which had 
been coming from three directions converged on the lake 
and gave us an exhibition of something which I had never 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 141 

seen before and have not seen since The Dance of the 

In a space about the size of a merry-go-round, liquid 
sprays rose and fell and revolved rapidly in a mad pursuit 
of each other. The fantastic dance lasted no more than half 
a minute, but in this short time the water was churned 
into foamy waves which expanded in widening circles to 
cover all the lake and wash all the shores. I do not know 
how our old flat boat would have stood up against the 
freakish wind and waves, and was satisfied to watch the 
show which nature provided for us from a safe observa* 
tion point. 



HE Good Neighbor policy was in full 
operation up our way seventy-five years ago. When new 
comforters were to be made for winter use, the ladies 
came together to sit and sew and talk around the quilting 
frames. Now and then someone would take out her snuff 
box. Conversations covered such important matters as the 
number of jars of blueberries, blackberries, and other pre- 
serves put up for winter use. Ideas were exchanged about 
the making of mince pies, sausage meat, and the smoking 
of hams. As the womenfolk of that day did not see each 
other as frequently as they might now, there was much 
friendly curiosity concerning household matters and neigh- 
borly doings. 

Of course, when children were not around the ladies 
spoke in low voices of the stork and when he might be 
making his next trip to our valley, but keen little ears often 
heard what was said. Doctors were never called on for 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 143 

their skill in directing baby traffic, for local midwives were 
more than willing to help each other. Sometimes the quiet 
of the night would be disturbed by the rapid steps of a 
horse and the rattle of a buggy past our door; and the next 
day we would learn of a new occupant for the old wooden 
cradle. To the credit of the midwives, it should be 
recorded that the thirty-three tiny tots who came to live 
in the four houses on what was erroneously called a "dead- 
end" road were all born healthy and husky. The mothers 
fared just as well. 

Back in those days men helped one another put up 
the framework of their buildings; and the cooperative ef- 
forts, called <c bees," led to such a friendly spirit that the 
hard lifting and pulling went easily. Trees that had been 
cut down and hewed into long, heavy beams and girders 
were matched together with amazing skill. And the work 
of the women, in providing a feast, fully matched the 
feats of the men. The oven-baked pork and beans, chicken 
and berry pies, honey and maple syrup afforded a banquet 
that supported both muscle and morale. Bill Bentley, who 
was present when our barn took form, confessed to me 
seventy years afterward that he ate so much honey and 
bear meat on that occasion that he had to get down on 
the ground and roll to ease his stomach. 

With the nearest grocery store seven miles away, it 
was not uncommon for a family to run out of sugar, salt, 
spices, flour, or tea just as unexpected company came. 
However, it was quite in order to send one of the children 
to the next house, which might be a half-mile away, to 

Holding firmly that unless our righteousness exceeds 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

that of the Pharisees we will in no wise enter the King- 
dom of Heaven, Father believed that good works should 
accompany faith. He shared his animal oils and other 
home remedies with anyone in need without charge. If 
anyone happened to be seen going by our house at meal- 
time, Father would hail him to come in and eat with us. 
Some wives might have been annoyed at Father's hos- 
pitality, for at times there was considerably less than five 
loaves and two fishes to share. However, Mother always 
did her part. Canned preserves, honey, and maple sweets 
could be brought from the pantry at a moment's notice, 
and thus she performed her own miracle of multiplying 
food for hungry mouths. From experience, Father had 
learned to have confidence in the ability of the Lord and 
Mother to provide in times of necessity. 

On one occasion, when our supper had long been 
finished, a man and his son arrived from Vermont to go 
on a bear hunt with Father. Mother cheerfully prepared 
a late supper for the two visitors, while Father enter- 
tained them with stories of his experiences. Though I had 
heard these stories many times, my ears were as attentive 
as those of the elderly visitor, who expressed his interest 
by frequently saying, "I swan," and "I want tToiow," in a 
low increduous voice. Within a few days the father and 
son from Vermont were able to return home with substan- 
tial proof that they had been with a skillful hunter, for 
Father helped them bag a big black bear. 

During the summer many vacationists came to our 
house to see the white bear skin and to hear bear stories. 
Father not only obliged but also talked to them about the 
Bible and the love of God. As proof of his friendliness, he 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 145 

made it a practice to offer his guests honey or pieces of 
maple sugar. 

Father's good will and sense of brotherhood went 
even further. A man who was addicted to strong drink 
came to live on a farm that adjoined ours, and when an 
infant child died in his home, he asked Father to conduct 
a funeral service since there were no regular preachers 

close by. A few days later, the bereaved man visited us 
to talk about heaven. He was always eager to converse 
on religious themes after he had been drinking. His idea 
was that the hayfields in heaven would be so free from 
stones that one could mow all day without dulling one's 
scythe. He also visualized acres of corn and potatoes so 
clear of weeds and pests that fanners could sit in the 
shade all day and watch things grow. He was sure, too, 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

that there would be no more debts and taxes. Because of 
his drinking and lazy attitudes, this man was no credit to 
the community, but when he became ill Father and a 
group of neighbors saw to it that he had enough to eat, 
and cut up a big pile of wood for him. 

Some years later, when I was camping with my 
family at Pharaoh Lake, a Mr. Bixbie, who frequently 
came over from Lake George to fish for the Pharaoh trout, 
rowed over to our island to leave us some extra treats and 
supplies, as was the custom when anyone was going out. 
As we talked he said that he remembered my father very 
well. He explained that once when the Bixbie family was 
spending a vacation at Pharaoh, they had forgotten to 
include potatoes with their supplies. Father, who hap- 
pened to hear of this, walked the ten miles, coming and 
going, over the rugged mountain trail to bring back a 
peck of potatoes. It was one of Father's typical acts of 
kindness, and it was good to know that it had been so well 


OME of our teachers endeavored to 
teach us a few songs, but beyond being able to repeat the 
words in a singsong fashion, I am sure that none of us 
became musical. The only time that we heard an organ 
was when someone brought one from the village for the 
funeral service of an outstanding person. For a long time 
I associated all organ music with funerals, and the louder 
it was the more mournful it sounded to me. To be sure, 
we children owned a few mouth organs among us, but 
we did not know how to play them; we merely used them 
when we felt like making some extra noise. 

Mother sang at times, as she did her work about the 
house, and I thought her voice was beautiful; but I was 
told that the^ only time Father was ever heard to break 
forth in song was when his firstxson was born. At that time 
someone overheard him trying to sing "Happy Day.** 
I must havesHinherited my musical disability from my 

1^8 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

father, for notes and tunes have no meaning for me. To 
overcome this lack, I once visited a teacher of singing 
who, after trying me out on a few notes and finding that 
I did not have the slightest conception of tone, gave me 
up as impossible. I must have been in the class with 
Adam, of whom Mark Twain has Eve reflect: "It is not 
because of his singing that I love him, for when he sings 
it sours the milk." 

Although weak in music, and with no library within 
many miles of us, we did have the Bible, Pilgrim's Prog- 
ress, The Green Mountain Boys, Twenty Thousand 
Leagues Under the Sea, Memoirs of General Grant, and 
the two volumes by Stanley, How I Found Livingstone 
and In Darkest Africa. As a gift from sister Anna, The 
Christian Herald came to our house every week from the 
early nineties on. 

As soon as I was able to read well enough, Mother 
encouraged me to read aloud the sermons by the famous 
Doctor Tahnadge. Undoubtedly it was these sermons, and 
an occasional one by D. L. Moody, that first gave me the 
idea of becoming a minister. So deeply was I impressed by 
one sermon that I went out into the pasture and endeavored 
to reproduce it. Selecting a rocky ledge for my pulpit, and 
the cattle and sheep for my congregation, I announced 
the text, "Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs or 
thistles?'' and proceeded to emphasize the main thoughts 
of this challenging theme. No converts resulted, but I be- 
came more fully convinced that the good fruit of the 
Bible proves this book to be God's special message to 

As stated before, with two chapters a day for our 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

instruction and inspiration, we lived with the Bible. In- 
deed, it was not Father's fault if we did not meditate upon 
its precepts day and night, and make it a light to our 
pathway. From the time we were old enough to sit in 
chairs we were taught to remain quiet while the sacred 
book was being read. Likewise, after the readings, we 
were trained to ignore the rough knots in the hard spruce 
floor as we kneeled during the lengthy prayers. Even if 
Father returned from his trapping after we had all retired 
for the night, he never failed to read and pray aloud be- 
fore going to bed. When urgent tasks had to be attended 
to in the morning, we got up earlier than usual, so that 
there would be plenty of time for our devotions. In this 
methodical manner, we proceeded from Genesis to Revela- 
tion, from the Garden of Eden and the sin of man to the 
vision of the glorious city of God. 

Not considering it sufficient that we listen to Father s 
slow reading and frequent comments, we were encou- 
raged to read the Holy Book for ourselves. As soon as we 
were able to read, we were presented with small, fine- 
print Bibles, which we read from cover to cover. As for 
myself, I think that I read my black-bound, pink-edged 
pages from beginning to end at least twice. While it was 
tedious to pronounce some of the longer words and to 
blaze a trail through lengthy chronology, I came to think 
of the experience as a trip through a desert in which I 
found occasional oases with bright springs of water and 
fruitful trees. Eventually, of course, I came to the richer 
portions which were like promised lands flowing with 
milk and honey; and I enjoyed them all the more because 
of the contrasts. 

150 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

Father believed that the Bible is like a road map, 
revealing God's will for our future, and that not a single 
Bible prophecy will fail. Before the First World War, it 
was comfortable to believe that the human race was mak- 
ing progress toward a goal of peace and good will. At a 
church service, when an earnest young pastor explained 
that God had things working so well in the world that 
miracles are no longer needed, Father did not agree with 
such optimistic predictions. He expected the terrible wars 
which have been fought in recent years, and his grounds 
were the words of St. Paul to Timothy: "This know also, 
that in the last days perilous times shall come. . . . evil 
men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving 
and being deceived." 

At the same time that he predicted the destruction 
which hangs over us today, Father held that God's people 
should not be anxious or fearful, for the Psalmist has said: 
"Fret not thyself because of evil-doers, neither be thou 
envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall 
soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green 
herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell 
in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.'* 

Years ago Father predicted that men would learn to 
fly. He based his convictions on the words of Isaiah: 
**Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as doves to their 

He had read also from the Prophet Nahum: 'The 
chariots shall rage in the streets, they shall jostle one 
against another in the broad ways: they shall seem like 
torches, they shall run like the lightnings," and he be- 
lieved this passage foretold the invention of the auto- 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy j^i 

mobile, with its marvelous speed and gleaming headlights. 
Father had no prejudice about riding in an auto; and 
though he had done most of his riding behind oxen, he 
showed no fear when we once rode quite rapidly in a 
Model T Ford over a bumpy road to catch a train. 

Although I never heard my parents express a single 
doubt about the authority of the Bible, the existence of 
God, and everlasting life in heaven, I wondered about the 
how and why of all things. One morning, after hearing 
the story of creation read to us, I asked, "Who made 
God?" When it was explained that God is "from everlast- 
ing to everlasting,'' I found this difficult to comprehend. 
I knew that we planted seed to raise our corn and pota- 
toes, but I could not see how anything could grow when 
there was no one to plant the seed. It occurred to me, 
though, that some things such as fungi, which I had seen 
growing on decaying trees, seemed to spring forth of 
their own accord, so I reasoned that God might have come 
into being in a similar way. I did not at that time consider 
the mystery of the trees themselves. 

At a later date I inquired about the origin of the 
devil, who has made such a havoc in the home and church 
and state. I was told that once upon a time, when the 
angels were free to do good or evil, some of them rebelled 
against God, and their leader became the archenemy of 
God and man. Knowing that my father caught destructive 
bears, I wanted to know why God did not catch the devil 
and put an end to his evil doings. My father replied that 
since man was created in the image of God with freedom 
to choose obedience or disobedience, good or evil it was 
his work to cooperate with God until every enemy has 

152 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

been cast out and destroyed. Not being able to realize 
fully the value of struggle, I was skeptical of the idea that 
it is for our own best interest to have the devil around to 
tempt and trip us at every turn. The age-old, baffling 
problem of evil was not easily solved for me, but it made 
me think. 

The Bible not only raises many questions about the 
universe, life, death, eternity, and God, but it also sug- 
gests how those questions can be answered. It teaches us 
to study, to seek, to practice, and to persevere until we 
know the truth and the freedom which the truth brings. 
Moreover, it gives us certain rules, such as the Golden 
Rule and the Ten Commandments, to guide us along the 
way. When we encounter people who do not see eye-to- 
eye with us, we are not to beat out their brains, but, real- 
izing that there may be a few beams in our own eyes, aim 
to be of greater service to one another by a kindly ex- 
change of thoughts. There is a real point to the story of 
the Negro clergyman who, when asked to explain the 
difference between the cherubim and seraphim which 
he had so eloquently mentioned in his sermon, paused 
only a moment to collect his wits, and then replied, 
"There was a difference between them but they made it 

If there are two sides to all questions, I had a chance 
to hear them presented when neighbors and friends en- 
gaged in spirited Biblical discussions at our house. When- 
ever the exchanges of ideas in our home threatened to 
become like the wind-swept sea of Galilee, Mother Tiad a 
way of bringing peace and calm to the troubled waters. 
By serving her famous golden-crusted rolls and a dish of 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 153 

fragrant honey, she could turn a tense situation into a 
feast of happy harmony. The resulting fellowship made 
it easy for all to agree that, "By this shall all men know 
that ye are my disciplies, if ye have love one for another." 

After hearing the Bible read so regularly, and as I 
began reading it for myself, I was impressed with the 
idea that I ought to take my stand as a Christian, but it 
was no easy task for me to do this. I was at times on the 
verge of making a prayer immediately after Father con- 
cluded his very comprehensive morning prayer; but, con- 
scious of the presence of my older brothers who did not 
pray, I always lost my courage. On my way to the hay 
field one morning, I confessed to Father that I should like 
to be a Christian. He quoted me the words of Jesus, "Be- 
lieve that ye receive, and ye shall have." However, as 
simple as the way of faith should be to us, it seemed 
baffling to me. Father was undoubtedly acting on the 
principle that the best way to teach someone to swim is 
to throw him into deep water where he will have to swim 
or sink. There may be something to this theory, but when 
someone tried it with me I came near drowning, and re- 
mained fearful of deep water. I had to learn to swim grad- 
ually in shallow water. The way of faith also had to be 
grasped by me in low speed. My experience was also 
much like that of Bunyan's pilgrim who found the way to 
Mt Zion beset with miry sloughs, steep hills, dark valleys, 
doubting castles, and a host of hostile forces. 

My older sisters claimed that it was easy for me to 
be good, but they did not know my heart. I had a temper, 
and a rebellious spirit. A stone on which I stubbed my toe 

154 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

as a bare-footed boy often got a bang from another stone, 
and I recall a time when I was bringing a pail of water 
from the brook and a bar in the gate through which I 
had to pass fell upon me. Setting down the heavy pail, I 
gave the bar a beating before lifting it back in place. 

I was furious at my two older brothers when they 
told me that I was too young to go fishing with them. As 
may be expected, my greatest friction was with my 
brother Ruel, who was nearly three years older. He was 

more robust and stronger, and liked to lord it over me. 
When I retaliated in any way, I came out less than second 
best. I admit that my feelings were riled the most when I 
received a switching which, as I saw it, should have been 
given to Ruel, who had irritated me to the point of blows. 
In spite of my fiery nature, I did not fight with our 
neighbors' children, except on one occasion. This occurred 
when I found a clump of large blueberries on a mountain 
peak where the picking was usually poor. An older boy, 
seeing my good luck, took his hat and began to beat the 

Bears, Bibles and a Bay 155 

bushes before my face. Being far from perfect, such a 
spirit of indignation arose in me that I reached for sticks 
and stones to help me defend my property. The older boy 
retreated and we soon forgot the incident and remained 
friends. However, I saw the need for greater self-control. 

At the times when I had to be punished, I would go 
out of the house, put my head against the clapboards, and 
say all manner of bad words against everybody. Once I 
was so angry that I took the hatchet and started to chop 
down the house. My bare legs got another switching for 
that folly. In school I committed my share of misde- 
meanors. Instead of studying geography one afternoon, I 
used a long pliable root to snare the feet of an older boy 
who sat in front of me, and thus prevented him from 
going to class. That prank didn't turn out to be as funny 
as I thought it would be, since we were both brought up 
before the class and given a good shaking. 

In addition, as if the poison of the old Adam within 
us did not furnish us enough resistance against character 
formation, there was one boy at school more advanced 
than the rest of us in knowledge of the facts of life and 
their fascinating possibilities. Naturally he was eager to 
impart his information, and eventually the stories passed 
down the line to the younger boys. While no male in our 
family was influenced to engage in undue indiscretions, 
the teachings of Jesus about the wickedness of carnal 
thoughts convinced us that we needed more than fig 
leaves to hide our hearts from the eyes of God. 

And I shall never forget the time when Father found 
me back of the hog pen, playing housekeeping with a girl. 
We had marked off on the ground an imaginary building, 

156 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

and were just about to retire for the night when Father 
came upon us with his ox whip in hand. Perhaps fearing 
that we might be tempted to carry our idea of housekeep- 
ing too far, he put an end to it altogether. 

So far as my temper was concerned, the Bible read- 
ing of Father, with such verses as, "He that is slow to 
anger is better than the irughty . . ." and "Let not the 
sun go down upon your wrath/' were bound to sink into 
my mind and heart, and bring forth good fruit in the 
place of thistles and thorns. 

It was undoubtedly this home teaching which later 
led me to write a verse for two old friends who, while 
they had long been companions, often argued violently 
when they played cards or pool or golf. Frequently they 
would hurl insults at each other until these incidents 
began to mar their friendship. I wrote: 

Tempers and tongues, like prancing steeds, 
Were meant to serve your daily needs. 
The Golden Rule will help you find 
A kindly way to speak your mind. 

One of these friends admired the verse so much that 
he had an enlarged copy hung in his game room. When 
he met his chum again for a game of cards, he said, "I 
think we should be a little more courteous to each other 
than we have been." I trust that I myself have made some 
progress in practicing what I preach. 


URING my thirteenth year I experi- 
enced a shake-up which I must relate. My brother John 
and I had finished our day's work at a back-lot meadow, 
had hitched the oxen to the two-wheeled cart, and were 
headed for home and a warm supper. As John stopped 
to close a gate behind us, the creaking of rusty hinges 
must have frightened the team, for suddenly the usually 
placid animals broke into a wild run. I was sitting on the 
right, front end of the rickety hay rack, and just behind 
me on the loose floorboards were our scythes, rakes, and 
pitchforks. The start was so quick and the speed so rapid 
that the only thing I could >do was hang on for dear life. 
The road over which the heavy cart began to bump 
and bounce had been washed out by rains, until only 
cobblestones andlioles remained. Consequently, the jolt- 
ing seemed sufficient to shake the rings from Saturn. To 
make matters worse, the poor apology for a road led 


158 Bears, Bibles and a Bay 

down a steep grade and along the brink of a deep ravine. 
Realizing the danger of my situation, I did what so many 
people do under similar circumstances. I turned toward 
God for help. I knew of no prayer for such a predicament 
as mine, but I had been taught the two prayers, "Now I 
lay me down to sleep," and "Our Father which art in 
heaven." As it was no time to think of sleeping, I began 
to repeat the prayer which our Lord taught his disciples 
on the Mount. 

While I am not positive of the manner of my praying, 
I presume that I spoke aloud, as was the custom in our 
home. In the language of the Psalmist, "I cried unto the 
Lord in my distress/' Regardless of my uncomfortable 
seat, I said, "Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed 
be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in 
earth, as it is in heaven." 

As I think back now, it is clear that the various sec- 
tions of the petition were much more appropriate than 
anything that I might have been able to conjure out of my 
own limited vocabulary. The Divine Kingdom is one of 
peace and joy, and I was desperately in need of just that. 
Perhaps, too, it is God's will that we be shaken out of our 
complacency, and made to realize our need of help from 
above. "Give us this day our daily bread," was timely, for 
I was hungry and growing more so every second; and 
"Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" was 
appropriate, for it is a law of heaven that to be forgiven, 
we must forgive. "And lead us not into temptation, but 
deliver us from evil" was fitting, for though I was not on 
the verge of breaking any of the Ten Commandments at 
the time, there was the danger of breaking my neck had I 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 159 

yielded to the temptation to get off the bounding cart. 
Certainly I needed to be delivered from the evil of a 
broken skull. 

In fact, as I rode on, I was aware that there were 
special dangers down the road. Just ahead there was a 
sharp turn to the right, then another to the left across a 
rickety log bridge. In a sort of snap~the-whip fashion, I 
negotiated the first corner without a tip-over, though all 
the floorboards and haying implements were shaken off, 
leaving me only a three-inch-in-diameter crosspole of the 
hayrack to sit on. Although in this position I was de- 
cidedly more uncomfortable than when kneeling on our 
hard floor, I finished the entire prayer: "Tor thine is the 
kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen." 
Miraculous as it may seem, at the word "Amen' * the oxen 
stopped. Perhaps they had heard Father finish his prayers 
and knew it was time for a pause, or else they had seen 
an angel before them. At any rate, I had a chance to dis- 
mount from my perilous perch. Then the bovine racers 
started on again. 

Now, I am aware that prayers should not be rattled 
off in a hurried manner, and probably few prayers have 
been accompanied with as much rattle as was mine dur- 
ing that wild ride. The result, however, was very satisfac- 
tory. The runaway team was presently intercepted by a 
neighbor who had heard the commotion of iron wheels 
bumping over stones, and my only misfortune was the 
need of a cushion for my fundament when I sat down. 


TIMES bees, bears, and Bibles all 
had a place in our activities in a single day. Father had 
brought honeybees from Vermont, and had kept increas- 
ing the number of his hives until he had from fifteen to 
twenty in our orchard. He was skillful in hiving them 
when they swarmed, but sometimes a swarm would es- 
cape into the woods. Eventually, as new colonies were 
produced by those which had found homes in hollow 
trees, there were bee-trees to be found all about us, some 
near and others very distant. 

Father became expert in lining and finding bee-trees. 
On his trips to inspect his bear traps he carried his bee- 
box with him, and was on the alert for honeybees gather- 
ing their golden store from the wild flowers. After he had 
captured a bee in one section of his box, Father could 
draw a slide which would admit the apis to a glass-covered 
space in which some honey was stored. The bee, en- 
tranced by his rich find, would forget his fright and load 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 161 

up with all he could carry. The little box would be taken 
to some open space, and the glass cover slowly withdrawn 
so that the worker could fly home to his queen. To find 
direction, the bee had to circle around a few times before 
heading for its secret tree. With keen eyesight, Father 
would watch the take-off, and then try to follow the gen- 
eral course of the bee. 

To judge the distance of a tree, one good way was to 
put honey where the bees could return for more. If the 
released bee was prompt in returning for another cargo, it 
was proof that he did not have to fly very far. Another 
method was to watch the route the bee took, then capture 
him again and. carry him some distance to the right or to 
the left of the main line, releasing him from the new 
position. This procedure often provided a crossline which 
indicated the general location of the tree. Of course, if the 
bee-tree happened to be far away, or if bees from other 
trees were in the vicinity, the bee-hunter sometimes had a 
difficult task in locating his prize. 

There was one swarm of Italian bees which eluded 
Father and other bee-hunters for several years. The fact 
that these bees seemed to be very numerous and remark- 
ably industrious indicated that the swarm was a large one, 
and one with a rich store of honey for the lucky man who 
could find it. Consequently, there was keen competition 
in the search. Bees were caught and released from many 
different angles, and sharp human eyes peered into hun- 
dreds of trees, but no one was able to get a crossline on 
those bees, or to see them going in and out of any hole 
or crack in a tree. It was evident, moreover, that they had 
come from a long distance for their free honey. 

162 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

The bears, however, had better luck. They either 
smelled honey, or heard the buzzing of bees in a large, 
dead basswood tree far away from the paths of men. They 
had found that by standing on their hind legs and reach- 
ing a paw through an aperture in the hollow tree they 

could claw out bits of the delectable sweets. The stings 
they received as penalty for the thievery did not deter 
them from beating a path to that particular tree. 

Father was more fortunate than the other bee-hunters 
for, in his search for ginseng, he came across the bear trail 
which led to the honey tree. In fact, judging from the 
fresh large and small tracks around the old tree, it was 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 163 

apparent that a mother bear had recently been pawing 
out a tasty treat for her cubs. 

After Father had cut down that large shell of a tree, 
he found so much honey inside that he and my two broth- 
ers had to make several trips to bring it all back home. 
I was old enough to go with them on the last day, and I 
remember how tired I got, going and coming, and how 
the angry bees chased and stung me. Yet it was like a 
holiday to leave the haying and hoeing for the excursion 
into the forest And we were well-paid for our efforts, for 
we got over three hundred pounds of strained honey from 
that tree. Father spoke of the Land of Canaan which 
once flowed with milk and honey; and, because of the 
part that bears had played in making a trail to the tree, he 
reminded us of Samson's riddle: "Out of the eater came 
forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness.' 7 



REALIZING that the educational op- 
portunities were very limited in our town, Father fre- 
quently spoke of selling our farm and moving to some 
locality which had better schools. However, habit and the 
lure of our environment kept us where we were; and the 
routine of farming, fishing, trapping, and making maple 
sugar went on year after year. At one time we heard of a 
man who might pay as much as eight hundred dollars for 
our property, but this prospect faded away. Instead of 
seeing gold in our hills, he evidently saw only stones and 
hard work. 

When my older sisters had gone as far as they could 
in our country school, they secured jobs as waitresses in 
hotels on Brant Lake and Schroon Lake during the sum- 
mer months. Later they got more permanent positions as 
maids and housekeepers. Alice, the oldest girl, taught 

school for a few years, and then married at the age of 


Bears, Bibles and a Boy 165 

twenty-six. Anna, who was two years younger, married a 
skillful young tanner. In order to get Father's consent to 
the marriage, Anna's fiance, Anthony Schneider, had to 
promise not to drink intoxicating liquors or use tobacco. 
Later on this son-in-law and Father became great hunting 
and fishing pals. As my two brothers grew up, they also 
became more proficient at fishing and hunting; and I kept 
at their heels. 

Following a natural urge to become a trapper I set a 
few traps, and succeeded in catching a small number o 
muskrats, mink, a raccoon, a fox, and a skunk. I did not 
like the task of killing animals in traps, and felt a special 
pity for the poor skunk, which I finally had to drown in 
order to keep myself from being unpleasantly perfumed. 

The ability to handle a gun never became a fine art 
with me. Our old muzzle-loading shotgun kicked so mul- 
ishly that it made me somewhat fearful of all guns. Using 
Father's famous pistol, I once shot at a deer which was 
standing a short distance from me, but my aim was evi- 
dently extremely poor and I missed. The only game that I 
succeeded in killing with a gun was one muskrat, and a 
partridge which obligingly refused to fly out of my path. 
A little later on, when I was firing at a red squirrel, the 
gun backfired on me, blackening my face with powder 
and making my ears ring for days. This experience caused 
me to lose all enthusiasm for wandering through the 
woods with a gun in my hands. 

With the coming of spring, it was always difficult for 
me to sit studiously and contentedly in a schoolroom. The 
thought of the sweet maple-sugar season and the wind- 
ing trout streams pulled me as persistently as the moon 

166 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

pulls the ocean water. However, as I grew older it was 
necessary to find employment beyond the pleasures of 
fishing, and so the summer I was sixteen I took a job as 
handyman at the Palisade Hotel. Such tasks as filling the 
woodbox, washing dishes, sweeping floors, and running 
errands were assigned to me. Not wanting to continue 
along these lines for the rest of my life, I began to think 
at this time of what my vocation should be, and decided 
that if I studied bookkeeping I might be able to get a job 
in some village store. In the fall I returned to our little 
district school once more, and began to work out lessons 
in assets, liabilities, profit and loss. My program of train- 
ing, however, was destined to come to a sad end. 

On a dark day in late October of 1898 someone came 
to the school to tell my younger sister Eliza and me that 
our mother had suddenly become critically ill, and that 
we should come home at once. Since Mother had pre- 
pared our breakfast and put up our lunch a few hours 
before, we were entirely unprepared for the distressing 
message about her; and to find her helpless and in great 
pain from a severe stroke was heartrending to us. 

Until this tune a physician had been called to our 
house only once, when Antha was so desperately sick. For 
all of our various illnesses, we had used oils, roots, barks 
and herbs, but now these were no help. We called a doc- 
tor from Chestertown, but in those horse-and-buggy days 
it took a long time for him to drive the twelve miles to 
our place. When he finally arrived, we watched silently 
and hopefully as he stirred his mysterious drops of liquid 
in a glass of water. A few days later another doctor from 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 167 

fifty miles away came to make a diagnosis and prescribe 
treatment. But our beloved mother was seriously stricken, 
and day after day seemed to lie on the very brink of 
eternity. In fact, one Sunday morning Father woke us to 
say that she was dying. This information was so disturb- 
ing to me that I rushed out of the house and down the 

The road past our house was a lonesome one on a 
Sunday. At the gloomiest place, where a dismal swamp 
was on one side and a protruding ledge on the other, I 
paced anxiously back and forth and prayed. I recalled a 
wonderful moment in my life when I had called Mother 
the most beautiful woman in the world; and I remem- 
bered an occasion when my oldest brother had spoken 
sharply to Mother, causing her to weep. Her tears had 
touched his heart more than any form of punishment 

After quite a time my depression was completely 
removed, as though unseen hands had taken it from me. 
When I got back to the house, good news awaited me. 
Mother was very much better. 

When she had recovered sufficiently from her stroke 
to be moved, my three older, unmarried sisters persuaded 
Father that a house with modern conveniences, and near 
a doctor, should be found. We decided on Chestertown, 
which was only twelve miles away, and which had a good 
school that Eliza and I could attend. Ruel chose to remain 
at the farm and to trap with Father, at least until the farm 
might be sold for a fair price. 

Mother had a sister living in Chestertown, and since 
our married sister Alice lived only five miles to the east 

i68 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

and not far from Brant Lake, we would all be quite near 
to each other. Therefore, a kind of second home was 

Cordie soon secured a good position as cook at the 
Chester House, while Antha became housekeeper for a 
merchant and his invalid wife. Clara became our home- 
maker. Eliza and I helped about the house as much as we 
could, and one of my jobs was to milk and care for the 
cow which Father had given us. 

The school at Chestertown was not functioning at 
that time as a high school, though it did offer some of 
the more advanced subjects, such as civics, physical 
geography, and rhetoric. Starting in at the second half 
of the school year, I began to pursue those subjects. I 
was a slow student, but had a fairly good memory. I 
concentrated on the Constitution of the United States 
until I could recite it word for word. 

I remember that there was quite an attractive girl in 
my classes, and one day I must have been admiring her 
quite openly as she returned to her seat after a recitation. 
She saw me and rewarded me with a wink that set my 
heart fluttering. Later on in the year I invited her to be 
my partner at a skating party; and I held her hands- 
through mittens of course as we circled about on the 
pond. Though I was then seventeen, I was too bashful 
and country-green to even think of a goodnight kiss. 

170 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

qualify as a third-grade district schoolteacher, and a 
notice was mailed to me during the summer stating that 
I was "entitled/* The next step was to find a school which 
had not yet hired a teacher for the fall term. I heard of 
two such schools, one in Grassville, and the other in 
Hayesburgh. As might be guessed from the names, these 
towns were in the hayseed belt. I had some misgivings 
about my acceptability to any trustee who had authority 
to engage a teacher, for I looked very boyish and would 
not reach the required age of eighteen until the twenty- 
fifth of November. I had begun to shave, however, so I 
neglected my sparse growth of hairs for a number of days, 
thinking that the slightest sign of a beard might make me 
look more impressive. Luck was with me, and I was hired 
for the Hayesburgh district at seven dollars per week, 
with no board provided. 

I was quite elated at the thought of becoming a 
schoolmaster, although my spirits were somewhat damp- 
ened when I heard that the former teacher had found the 
school so unruly that she had had to resign before finish- 
ing her term. It seemed that there were big boys in the 
district who were hard to handle. 

The school was six long miles from the village, so I 
bought a bicycle for the trips back and forth. This exer- 
cise cleared my brain after a day of teaching all of the 
fundamentals in Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Spelling, 
History, English Grammar, Geography, and Physiology, 
but the pedaling was not so pleasant on rainy days or 
when a flat tire made it necessary for me to walk a good 
part of those six miles. The one reward along the way was 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 171 

a magnificent view of the higher Adirondack Mountains 
to the north. 

When I had organized my pupils into classes I found 
them easy to manage, and could not understand why my 
predecessor had considered the Hayesburgh District diffi- 
cult. I heard, however, that certain older boys and young 
men of the neighborhood were apt to visit the school and 
disrupt all order and discipline. They especially enjoyed 
teasing the girls and diverting their attention from stud- 
ies. The ringleader of the gang was a strapping fellow 
who owned two pairs of boxing gloves and considered 
himself champion of the community. 

Soon after the school term had started the gang put 
in an appearance, and, as might be expected, I was in- 
vited outside by the ringleader. As it was close to the 
noon hour, we went out into the yard to settle matters. I 
thought that first I would test his strength, and suggested 
that we try some athletic stunts which I knew. Standing 
face to face, we both gripped a broom handle and 
brought it down between us to see in whose hands it 
would turn. My hands held. We then sat on the ground 
with the soles of our shoes together, grasped the broom- 
stick and each endeavored to pull the other up. My 
opponent had to come up each time. We wrestled Indian 
fashion, lying on our backs, with our heads in opposite 
directions and our right arms locked. We raised our right 
legs, hooked them together and endeavored to flip each 
other over backwards. I won this bout also. 

After the preliminaries, we donned the gloves for the 
big feature. Although I had never had on a pair of real 

172 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

boxing gloves, Ruel and I, using the sheepskin mittens 
Father made us, had frequently fought in the barn for the 
"championship of the world." My heavier brother was 
John L. Sullivan, while I was Jim Corbett. I knew nothing 
of their sparring tactics, but had heard of Corbett's clever 
footwork; and my own feet, as a result of mountain climb- 
ing and crossing streams by jumping from stone to stone, 
had become quite dependable. 

My new challenger, who was heavier than I was and 
sturdily built, was clearly eager to prove his superiority 
and to humiliate me before my pupils. Aware that my 
peace and security as a schoolmaster were at stake, I 
determined to do my best and to do it as quickly as pos- 
sible. Yet apart from a source of strength which I may 
have inherited from Ethan Allen of the Green Mountain 
Boys, I can hardly account for what took place. We had 
been sparring only a short time when a shout rose from 
the ring of pupils around us: "The teacher has knocked 
him down!" 

To this day I am not sure whether my blow did the 
trick or whether my opponent meerly slipped and fell, 
since no blood was shed. In any case the fight was ended 
and the gloves were never brought to the school again. 
My status as teacher and disciplinarian was established 
once and for all. 

A few weeks later a much more serious situation 
arose. Some of the children came running to the school 
to say that an enraged man had chased them and threat- 
ened them with a pitchfork. Upon inquiring, I learned 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 173 

that the man was a hermit named Tom Cardie who lived 
in a crude shack down in the valley. Ordinarily he was 
peaceful enough, but recently he had lost some hens, and 
had surmised that the cattle belonging to the parents of 
my pupils were responsible. Hence when he saw the chil- 
dren taking a short cut to school along the edge of his 
swamp, he went after them. 

Further inquiry about Tom Cardie revealed a strange 
story. Earlier in his life Tom had worked at a lumber 
camp. At that time he was a big, blustery young fellow, 
fond of teasing and practical jokes. One afternoon, after 
the day's work had been finished, the men found that 
they were out of tobacco. It was a long way out to a store. 
Someone bet a pound of tobacco that no one had the 
courage to go out of the woods so kte in the afternoon 
and return after dark. Tom Cardie bragged that he was 
not afraid of any man or of the devil, and he volunteered 
to go after the tobacco. 

On his way back through the lonely woods he heard 
the howl of a wolf. This was answered by a second howl 
coming from the opposite side of the trail. Then more 
howls indicated that a whole pack of wolves was closing 
in on him. Hard-hearted, courageous Tom began to run 
for his life. The shanty was only a mile or so ahead, and 
he hoped that he could make it before the wolves could 
reach him; but he had already caught a glimpse of a large 
gray form at his right, and, he could hear a chorus of 
howls just behind. A bad fall on the rough trail brought 
him to the brink of despair, and lie expected at any mo- 
ment that the hungry beasts would pounce upon him. 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 
However, for some reason the wolves seemed to be play- 
ing with him, as a cat plays with a mouse, for no attack 

The package of tobacco had slipped from Tom's 
grasp when he stumbled to the earth, but he made no 
effort to feel around in the darkness for it. Regaining his 
feet, Cardie raced for the safety of the camp. Now it ap- 
peared that he might be saved, for he could see a faint 
light and the dark shape of a building. In a moment he 
was at the door. He threw his weight against it so vio- 
lently that the wooden latch broke in fragments, causing 
him to crash headlong onto the floor. "Wolves! Wolves!" 
he cried. 

The shanty was empty, but Tom heard voices out- 
side and presently the lumberjacks themselves appeared, 
laughing hilariously. Gradually it became clear to Tom 
Cardie that the pursuing wolves were only a hoax. Think- 
ing to give Tom a bit of his own medicine, his friends had 
enjoyed an evening of fun, but it proved to be costly to 
their victim. From then on, the wild stare in Tom's eyes 
indicated that something had gone wrong in his head. 
Some twist that could not be repaired. 

When I heard the story of Tom Cardie, who was 
now a lonely old man, living in a swamp and harboring 
a grudge against my pupils, I realized that I should take 
steps to prevent further incidents. It seemed to me that 
some animal, such as a skunk or a raccoon, had carried 
away the man's hens, and I decided to utilize my knowl- 
edge of trapping to solve the problem. The next day, 
having brought from home a steel trap, I ventured down 
to see the recluse. 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

When I explained to Tom that I had come to help 
him, he appeared cooperative and took me to the place 
where his hens had their roost. He pointed out feathers 
on the ground and the tracks of cattle. The latter seemed 
to him to prove that cows had been responsible for the 
missing members of his flock. I suggested that some pred- 
atory animal might have taken his hens, and said that I 
would look around for proof. A pile of stumps near a little 
brook held the evidence for which I was looking. There 
was a hole under the decaying stumps, and in it lay the 
partly-eaten body of a chicken. Fastening the remaining 
portion of the chicken into some roots in the upper part 
of the cavity, I set the trap underneath and scattered 
dead grass and leaves over the shiny steel jaws and 
spring. Then I asked Cardie to look at the trap in the 
morning, and to kill whatever animal might be in it. He 
replied that he would use his ax to chop in pieces any- 
thing that might be caught I tried to persuade him to be 
content with merely beating the animal on the head until 
it became lifeless. 

The following day, as I approached the schoolhouse, 
I saw some boys out in the road holding up a large, dark 
mink. Early that morning the neighborhood had been 
awakened by the loud shouts of old Tom Cardie. When 
the boys went down to his house to learn the cause of the 
disturbance they had found the animal and the trap in 
the yard, and the house quiet Tom, having discovered 
the animal, must have vented his wrath and gone back to 
bed to sleep in peace. 

Since I had caught the mink on his property, we sold 
the pelt and bought some supplies for Tom. He seemed 

176 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

to understand that our intentions were good, for lie never 
chased or threatened any of the pupils after that day. 

For the remainder of the school year, things went 
smoothly and I was known as a schoolmaster who could 
not only defend himself, but also the pupils under his 


I FTER teaching school for a year, I was 
determined to give myself a better education. Often I 
had looked off from mountain summits and felt a yearn- 
ing to visit places which were beyond our narrow valley; 
and now the way began to open for me. My sister Antha, 
whose life may have been saved by the dose of iodine 
given by mistake, had become housekeeper for an invalid 
lady in Glens Falls. She generously offered to pay the 
tuition for me at the Glens Falls Academy. Although no 
one else had ever gone from our community to a higher 
institution of learning, I was eager to take the bold step, 
and in order to earn further money took a job as bellboy 
at the Chester House during the summer months. 

My wages at Chester House amounted to only two 
dollars and fifty cents a week, plus my food and such tips 
as I might receive. The work afforded an opportunity to 
meet many different types of people, but some of the 


178 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

tasks were most monotonous. For instance, when guests 
were resting in the afternoon, I was sent to a tiny room 
behind the kitchen where I peeled potatoes. Such em- 
ployment tends to make a person more stupid than our 
Maker intended anyone to be, but if we will find and 
use them there are always ways to counteract the mo- 
notony of a dull job. While peeling potatoes I studied the 
catechism of the Presbyterian Church, and won a Bible 
for correctly answering all the questions at one sitting. 
Another of my tasks at the Chester House was to fill 
bottles from barrels of whiskey stored in the basement. 
The process was simple. One end of a long rubber tube 
was inserted into the bung hole of the barrel, and I held 
the other end between my teeth. By sucking on the tube, 
the liquor soon came to my lips. Then, holding the tube 
with thumb and fingers, I inserted the end into one of the 
glass containers and let the liquor flow into the bottle. By 
pinching the tube and again releasing the flow into other 
bottles, I soon had as many quarts or pints as were 

As for myself, I did not care for the taste of beer and 
stronger drinks, so stuck to grape juice, sometimes con- 
cocting my own highballs by mixing grape juice with 
gingerale, lemon and honey. We had been taught at home 
not to drink intoxicating liquors, and I also remembered 
the words of Abraham Lincoln when a friend advised 
him to take whiskey to prevent seasickness on a voyage 
which he anticipated. "No," said Lincoln, "I have seen too 
many people seasick on land from taking that remedy/' 
On occasion I would accompany one of the hotel 
guests on a day's fishing trip. Once a gentleman named 

"Bears, Bibles and a Boy 179 

Mueller asked the proprietor of the hotel where he could 
go to catch trout, and was told that if anyone could find 
trout that late in the season, I was the person. It was no 
hardship for me to be given the day off to go fishing. 
With a horse and buggy we drove twelve miles to the 
head of Brant Lake, then two miles more up the rutty, 
stony road toward Pharaoh Lake. Hitching the mare to a 
tree, we walked a half-mile through a jungle of alders to 
a large, deep pool where, from boyhood experience, I 
knew that the trout lived when the brook got warm and 
shallow in August. 

It was easy to stand in one spot on the bank and 
catch those hungry fish, enough of them so that when we 
put them in a dishpan back at the hotel everyone was 
astonished at our catch. Ordinarily, for my duties of 
brushing off dust, carrying bags, and taking drinks to 
rooms, I would receive ten or twenty-five cents as a tip 
and perhaps fifty cents when a guest checked out of his 
room. In appreciation of my guidance in fishing matters, 
however, this Mr. Mueller gave me five dollars when he 
left Chester House, a tidy sum for a bellhop who was 
saving for a higher education. 

While working at this summer resort, I also had the 
opportunity to learn something about the teachings of 
Christian Science. The proprietor's wife at Chester House 
was the Reader for a group of people in Chestertown, 
and chose me to pass the plate for the offering. Thus I 
heard of a new way to solve the problem of evil, which 
had always baffled me. In brief the theory is that God 
is good, and that out of His infinite wisdom and goodness 
He has created all things perfect, and therefore the idea 

iSo Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

of evil cannot have a place in the world. Sin, evil, and the 
devil are nothing but illusions, or Adam-dreams of mortal 

Having acquired some interest in logic, I wanted to 
know how these illusions and Adam-dreams had ever 
found a place in the perfect world. I had had some bad 
dreams and nightmares in my boyhood days, which had 
seemed very real to me and were most distressing. Why 
did these happen to me, if there was no evil spirit causing 
them? If illusions cause all the disagreeable events which 
we know as wars, murders and other cruelties, we have 
the same problem in eradicating illusions that we do in 
fighting these things under the name of realities. No one 
could tell me how these illusions can exist in a creation 
in which the All-good and the infinite and perfect mind 
is everything. 

Although the problem of evil was not solved for me 
by the logic of Christian Science, I could see the great 
value of trying to fill our minds and hearts so full of God's 
love that we can "overcome evil with good/' as St. Paul 
taught. And it is good to know that there are people who 
have achieved so much happiness and health by thinking 
and speaking only kind thoughts. 

A less sublime incident occurred one day when I 
was sweeping the hotel veranda. Suddenly I heard excited 
voices, and as I paused in my sweeping I saw a crowd of 
children following a strange-looking man. Long, dark 
whiskers sloped forward from his chin, and a worn fire- 
man's hat was pulled low on his forehead. His coat was a 
potato sack, with slits for his head and arms. His trousers 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 181 

had been patched with so many dirty, frayed rags that 
they looked like a badly worn carpet In place of shoes, 
the hermit had tied various colored pieces of cloth around 
his feet to form huge, unshapely moccasins. Over his 
shoulder he carried a parcel, tied to a stick. As we learned 
later, this was old Holden Brace, coining to the store to 
buy supplies. 

Such an unusual sight naturally was the cause of 
much curiosity. A group of guests from the hotel gathered 
by the side of the road, and some of the more forward 
men engaged the strangely attired man in conversation. 
They asked permission to take his picture, and clicked 
their cameras while old Mr. Brace explained that he hap- 
pened to be wearing his old clothes. One man offered him 
a drink from the bar, but this the hermit refused as dan- 
gerous and sinful. And at this point he proceeded to ex- 
hort us on how to live in peace and happiness. He said 
that the devil is constantly trying to get the best of 
people, and that the majority of folks become careless 
and let the arch enemy get them down. He asserted that 
if he were to put on boots, devils and witches would tor- 
ment him. His main point was that if we want to keep out 
of Satan's power, we must be honest honest with God, 
and honest with one another. 

When one of the listeners ventured to say, "You seem 
to know a lot about the devil, Mr. Brace. You must meet 
him often," he replied, "Yes, I met the devil once when I 
lived on Hague Mountain. It was just at the close of day, 
when I was crossing a narrow bridge, and the devil was 
attempting to cross from the opposite direction at the 
same time/* 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 
"How did you know it was the devil?" 
"Because," answered the ragged preacher, "one of 
his feet was twice as big as the other, and he hissed like 
a cat. When I stepped to one side to let the fellow pass, 
he jumped on my back. I pulled him off but he sprang at 
me again. Then I became impatient and threw him onto 
the bridge so hard that he bounced right up into the air 
and disappeared. Yes/' he concluded, "we must get the 
best of the devil, or he will get the best of us." 

It may have been that Holden Brace's appearance 
alone was enough to scare the devil, but in any event he 
had found his own way of illustrating the words of the 
apostle James: "Resist the devil and he will flee from 


URING this same summer we made 
the acquaintance of Mr. Mutton Glutton, a large bear 
who was attempting to add to his enormous weight by 
feasting on sheep. Father had been aware of the presence 
of this veteran marauder among the mountains, and had 
carefully set his traps, but seldom in his experience had 
he known of a bear who was so trap-shy. All through the 
spring and early summer, as long as bear pelts remained 
prime and shiny, strong traps had been set in vain in 
various locations just over the Essex County line, where 
a bounty was paid on every dead bear. It was Father's 
practice, in order to receive the fullest remuneration for 
his efforts, to set his traps at a time when skins were at 
their best, and also in a county that paid a bounty, Dur- 


184 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

ing the early days of July he would take up his traps and 
wait for the next trapping season. So generally the bears 
had a summer holiday. 

The particular bear whom I have called Mutton 
Glutton was quick to make the most of his holiday. He 
waxed very bold, and made increasingly frequent visits 
to pastures near our Brant Lake farm until it became clear 
that, unless he was apprehended, he would completely 

destroy at least two flocks of sheep. At first he had been 
content to select tender lamb for his supper once or twice 
a month and then go back to his Indian turnips, ants, 
grubs, and wild berries, but he gradually developed a 
ravenous appetite for mutton. Aware that men were 
watching for him, he outwitted them by alternating be- 
tween two pastures, and by making occasional raids on 
more remote flocks of sheep. 

Albert Griffin and Arthur Smith were the men whose 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 185 

flocks suffered the greatest depletion. Their combined 
losses totalled eighteen sheep. Arthur carried on a good 
business in the summer peddling veal, lamb, and blue- 
berries, and because of Mutton Glutton he decided to 
add bear meat to his list. Seeking both revenge and re- 
muneration, he began to do some trapping on his own 
account. However, he was not a skillful trapper, and it 
was a very wise old bear he was trying to capture, so his 
chances were slim. When Smith inspected his trap, he 
would find it sprung and thrown into a brush pile; and 
when, with rifle in hand, he waited at night for the thief 
to show up, the darkness always prevented accurate 
shooting. Finally, in desperation, he came to my father 
and Ruel for help, and offered them permission to trap 
on his land. 

Since it was now early August, Father felt he could 
not be interested in the pursuit of elusive Mr. Mutton 
Glutton. Not only would it be a waste of time, he thought, 
to try to trick the bear into a trap, but it would also spoil 
his chances of catching Mutton Glutton the next spring 
over the line in Essex County. Furthermore, Father never 
put out bear traps near pastures and houses where cattle, 
dogs, or people might be caught. In fact, it used to be 
said jokingly that, before catching bears, Ed Roberts 
drove them from Warren County over into Essex where a 
bounty was offered. In any case, Father refused Arthur 
Smith's offer. 

However, brother Ruel, who had attended many 
bear traps with Father and who was becoming quite a 
successful trapper himself, decided that he should re- 
spond to the farmer's appeal for help. He conceived a 

i86 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

plan by which he believed that he could outwit the wily 
bear. Taking the remains of the last sheep which had 
been killed, he fastened them among the lower limbs of 
a yellow birch tree, and set his trap directly beneath. 
Imitating Father's methods, he had first carefully re- 
moved enough sod and earth to let the trap set level. 
Some wisps of swamp hay were lying on the ground and 
he carefully lifted one of them with a pitchfork and put 
it down over the trap and coiled log-chain which was 
fastened to the tree. It seemed to him that the odor of 
musty hay might prevent the bear from smelling the trap. 
Then, too, he hoped that the bear's interest in the uneaten 
portion of the sheep would persuade him to take the last 
few steps on his hind legs, and so divert his keen nose 
from the trap. A half -grown lamb was also tied to a stake 
nearby, so that the bleating would throw the thief off 
guard. Soon after sundown, six men with loaded rifles hid 
in Arthur Smith's barn and waited for the approach of 
their hoped-for culprit 

Mutton Glutton always seemed to plan his visits at 
a time of night when men could not easily see the sights 
on their guns, and his behavior on that night was no 
exception. Dusk deepened into darkness, and the watch- 
ers began to fear that there would be no entertainment 
for their party. Suddenly one of the men moved and 
pointed toward a deeper blotch of darkness which was 
slowly moving toward the trap. By this time the fright- 
ened lamb was pulling at its rope and bleating. The black 
form paused for a moment, then stood up like a man and 
headed for the birch tree. There was a thud as the jaws 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 187 

of the trap closed together, and then the night air was 
filled with frightful howls. 

Even in the daytime, a trapper runs the risk of being 
mauled when he comes upon a bear that has just been 
caught in a trap, but it is even more dangerous to ap- 
proach such an animal after dark. Realizing that the bear 
might make a rush at them, the men emerged cautiously 
from the barn. However, as they neared the birch tree, 
they saw no sign of the bear. The thirty-foot chain had 
made it possible for him to plunge into the thick foliage 
of the swamp. Approaching the dense bushes, some of the 
men began to fire their guns at random, hoping that a few 
of their bullets might hit their mark. In their approach, 
they had forgotten that the great length of the chain 
would give the bear enough fredom to make a long 
charge. Suddenly he did this very thing, causing the men 
to bump against each other in the darkness as they hastily 
retreated. One man jumped into a watering trough; and 
another, younger man, unnerved by the bear's fearful 
snort, ran into the barn and climbed up into the haymow. 
Meantime, my brother turned at just the right moment, 
placed the muzzle of his rifle on the big dark head, and 

Because of all the sheep on which Mr. Mutton Glut- 
ton had feasted, he weighed nearly five hundred pounds. 
His pelt was shiny, but so far from prime that it sold for 
only five dollars. An inspection of his feet revealed the 
reason for his hatred of traps, for three toes were missing 
from a front paw. Perhaps it was the maimed paw which 
had led the greedy eater to turn to the farmers for re- 

i88 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

venge and an easy living. Anyway, there is much retali- 
ation in the world, and Arthur Smith realized a consider- 
able amount of money by selling bear meat to his 
customers. Most important of all, the remaining sheep 
could graze in safety on their mountain pastures. 


N SEPTEMBER of 1900 I tied my few 
belongings to my bicycle and headed for Glens Falls 
Academy, some twenty-seven miles away. Aware that the 
small amount of money that I had been able to save 
would not last for many weeks, I was determined to 
finance my education by finding odd jobs after school. 
For one who had never been more than twelve miles from 
home, the arrival at Glens Falls seemed to leave the old 
farm a long way behind. 

Nevertheless a kind Providence was with me, and I 
was fortunate in still having members of my family 
around me. There was Antha, and presently Cordie came 
to join us. She had gained valuable experience as a cook 
in Chestertown, and now started a home bakery in Glens 
Falls. Then, unexpectedly, a few weeks after school had 
started, my other sisters and brothers moved with Mother 


igo Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

from Chestertown to Glens Falls, and again we could 
make a home together. 

There is not much to report about that first year at 
the Academy, though I must have absorbed some of the 
knowledge to which I was exposed. I do recall that in the 
study of physiology I learned that "sneezing" is the 
spasmodic contraction of the diaphragm caused by the 
irritation of the olfactory nerve. Until that time I had 
been able to do the trick as well as anybody, but it was 
enlightening to know the why and how of it. One other 
fragment of information which remains with me is that 
the average person needs from seven to seven and one- 
half hours of sleep at night; some require eight hours, 
children ought to have nine, and fools ten. So, except for 
rare occasions, I have aimed to limit the length of my 

Education did not come easily to me. I found Latin 
and Algebra quite difficult, although I learned to tackle 
the more difficult mathematical problems by myself and 
eventually became a star pupil in the latter branch of 
learning. Greek, which I studied during my second year, 
helped to round out a heavy schedule. When our class 
came to the period of Ancient History which dealt with 
the Hebrews, the teacher was quite amazed at my ready 
and accurate information. Other students who had had 
the advantage of Sunday School and regular church at- 
tendance did not begin to have the knowledge of the 
Bible that I had gained from our home reading. I cer- 
tainly never made the mistake of the youth who, on re- 
turning home from church, informed his parents that the 
minister's text was "Hold a grater to Solomon's ear," a 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

very mutilated form of "Behold, a greater than Solomon 
is here," or of the student who defined "Republican" as 
a "notorious sinner mentioned in the New Testament" 

My knowledge of the Bible also stood me in good 
stead during my sophomore year, when I participated in 
a school debate. The question for debate was: "Resolved, 
that the blessings of peace are greater than the blessings 
of war." The Master of the Academy, who was debating 
on the affirmative side, maintained that heaven is the 
place of perfect peace. In rebuttal I picked up the school 
Bible, turned to the Book of Revelation, and read the 

passage: "And there was war in heaven: Michael and his 
angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought 
and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place 
found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was 
cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, 
which deceiveth the whole world." I made the point that, 
according to the Bible, war was necessary to establish the 
heavenly peace. Later at a banquet at which I was asked 
to speak, the master of the school mentioned the debate 
and the way in which he had gone into heaven itself to 
fortify his arguments, and how I had followed him into 
the sacred stronghold and had thrown him out. 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 
In addition to the opportunity for getting a better 
education at the Academy, there were other advantages 
which, had not been available to me up among the moun- 
tains. I joined a company of boys who were taught mili- 
tary drills, became a member of the local Y.M.C.A., and 
played right guard on the school football team. As for my 
social life, some of the girls looked amazingly alluring, 
but my bashfulness kept me from mingling with them. 
I did get up courage to walk home with one charming 
blonde just once in four years. 


T WAS toward the end of my sophomore 
year at the Glens Falls Academy that I took my first long 
step toward the ministry. Also at this time the idea of 
going to college began to stir in my mind. Over the years 
I had read the Christian Herald sermons to Mother, and 
I had frequently felt the urge to become a preacher. So I 
bought a few books on theology, and after studying them 
passed an examination which entitled me to serve as an 
"exhorter." One of the questions that I had to answer was, 
"How do you account for the good people who do not 
happen to be church members?" I remembered reading 
the words of Henry Ward Beecher and replied that some 
of the gospel seed has got out of the church windows and 
brought forth splendid fruit The broad-minded, scholarly 
clergyman before whom I appeared was so pleased with 
this answer that he gave me a high mark. 

I gave a talk at a small church at Sanford Ridge in 


194 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

Glens Falls, and by passing another examination advanced 
to die status of a Local Preacher. This qualified me to be 
appointed as pastor of some church which did not have 
the services of a fully ordained Methodist minister. Such 
an opening became available at Bolton Landing, a village 
of a few hundred inhabitants on beautiful Lake George. 
The church at Bolton Landing was in its infancy, the 
edifice itself being incomplete and the work at a standstill. 
The few members were discouraged, and the elderly 
clergyman who had been preaching to them had given up 
in despair. There was no parsonage, and no regular salary. 
Moreover, the church was part of a circuit, there being 
two other church buildings several miles apart. In addi- 
tion to the two services morning and evening at the 
central building in Bolton Landing, the pastor was ex- 
pected to preach on alternate Sunday afternoons at one 
of the other churches. Of course, calling on the sick, and 
visiting among the parishioners was standard practice for 
any minister. And since there was no janitor, I was to 
perform the chores of sweeping and dusting the building, 
kindling the fire in cold weather, and cleaning and lighting 
the kerosene lamps. 

During the week I attended the Academy, with a full 
schedule of subjects in the College Preparatory course 
English, history, third-year Latin, and second-year Greek. 
On weekends the trip from Glens Falls to Bolton Landing 
took at least an hour and a half each way, depending upon 
the weather. Traveling first by trolley, the nine-mile trip 
to Lake George Village a town formerly called Caldwell 
was only about thirty minutes. As I passed Bloody 
Pond, so named because of the dead and wounded who 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 195 

fell there during the French and Indian War, and con- 
tinued past Fort William Henry, I could imagine the bitter 
historical events which had occurred there little more than 
a century before. 

From Lake George Village to Bolton Landing there 
was no fine, paved road as there is today, but the trip 
along one of America's most beautiful lakes never became 
monotonous. Whether in the heat of summer, or when the 
thermometer registered thirty below zero early Monday 
mornings, nature's unfolding combination of islands, 
mountains, and trees moved me to praise and adoration. 

This part of the trip wound back and forth along an 
old dirt road, and was made by stage. The stage driver, 
James L. Maranville of Bolton, who carried mail and pas- 
sengers back and forth, matched the scenery in interest 
and entertainment. Always cheerful, with ruddy face and 
such robust stamina that he did not need to wear gloves 
even on the coldest days, he seemed born for his work. 

Often I would be the only passenger, coming in on 
Friday evening and returning to school early Monday 
morning, and I would ride beside Mr. Maranville bundled 
up in warm robes. On one such day, he asked for my opin- 
ion on the Bible passage: "As a man thinketh in his heart, 
so is he." After some brief general comments, I turned the 
text back to him, asking for his own point of view. 

He replied: "Well, I believe it means that when a 
man thinks wrong, he is wrong: and when he thinks right, 
he is right. This is something a person can feel in his own 

It seemed to me that this small-town philosopher had 
gone to the heart of the matter. 

ig6 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

From the very beginning, the friendly observations 
and companionship of this good man helped to steady me, 
for I approached my first ministerial post with fear and 
trembling, and with mixed thoughts at the prospect of 
facing an unknown group. While it was with great joy 
that my parents learned of my becoming a preacher, my 
own misgivings must have been apparent when I stood 

in the pulpit at the age of eighteen to expound the scrip- 
tures to my first congregation of three people. 

I was encouraged, however, as gradually more and 
more came to hear the <e boy preacher" until there was 
a time when latecomers had to stand. Since I Was not tak- 
ing any theological courses at the Academy to aid me 
in the preparation of sermons, I used the Bible stories for 
my themes. Illustrations from great books such as Ivan- 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 197 

hoe, A Tale of Two Cities, and Silas Marner were used 
to strengthen my messages, which were always delivered 
without notes. 

On Friday evenings I opened the church, did the 
sweeping and dusting, started the furnace if the weather 
was cold, saw that the hymn books were in each pew, 
and lighted the lamps for choir practice. When rehearsal 
was over, I put out the lights and locked the door. 

For these various services I received no fixed salary, 
but all the plate offerings came to me, and they were al- 
most entirely in small coins. I was able to appreciate the 
story about the Quarter which refused to speak to the 
Penny. The humble Penny rebuked the shiny snob, say- 
ing: "So you think you are quite important well, I am 
found at church much more often than you!" 

Nevertheless, I was grateful for all the pennies, 
nickels, and dimes which came to me to help pay for my 
clothes and books. The pennies gave me a special purpose, 
for Mother had a large piggy-bank which I kept well 

As good as it is to have plenty of money for the neces- 
sities and luxuries of life, it is better to have friends. A 
small village is an excellent place for forming such rela- 
tionships. Some of the good friends made at Bolton Land- 
ing are still friends today. Among them is the family 
of Bert Lamb, whose children also became members of my 
church. These people were not summer visitors, who 
opened their cottages only for the vacation months, but 
were of the hardy group of natives who lived at Bolton 
Landing all year round. Through a home-study course, 

198 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

Bert bettered his position until he eventually owned a 
store of his own, became supervisor of his town and 
sheriff of the county. 

As he prospered, Bert Lamb bought a big sawmill on 
the bay behind Green Island where he and his sons and 
helpers floated the big logs down from Tongue Mountain 
and various places around the lake to be cut up into rough 
lumber for summer camps. Since the Lambs owned quite 
a bit of property, they built cottages along the shore which 
rented to the summer people, but during the long winters 
when the lake sometimes froze solid to a thickness of two 
feet, they sawed the ice and stored it in a big barn for 
sale during the summer months. 

From the tiny settlement of Bolton Landing, Bert 
Lamb sent his three children to college. His older son, 
Wallace, now Superintendent of Schools at Hicksville, 
Long Island, has written an interesting history of Lake 
George, and another of New York State. 

Success frequently creates difficulties, and I began to 
encounter them. For one thing, there was trouble about 
the choir. All seemed to be going well until one of the 
women prominent in the church confided to me that a 
woman who operated a saloon in the village was one of 
our volunteer singers. I was advised to let the offending 
person know that her services were no longer desired. 
When I appeared reluctant to do such a discourteous 
thing, it was further suggested that I should refuse to 
shake hands with the obnoxious party. 

Recalling the passage in the New Testament in which 
Jesus replies to the self-righteous Pharisees by saying, 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 199 

"They that are whole need not a physician; but they that 
are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to 
repentance/* it was clear to me that I should welcome all 
who came to church and invite them to come often. As 
questionable as it might look to have a saloon keeper 
singing in the choir, I did not think it wise to attempt a 
separation of the sheep from the goats, not, at least, until 
all had had a chance to hear the gospel. 

My unwillingness to follow the equivalent* of official 
orders placed me in a particularly difficult situation, for 
the offended church leader had been providing me with 
free room and board on the weekends. Moreover, there 
was the possibility that she would report my conduct to 
the higher church officials of the district, have me removed 
from my appointment, and thus give me a bad name at 
the very outset of my career. 

As was my habit, I prayed for guidance in this mat- 
ter, and on my return to Glens Falls on Monday morning, 
I talked the problem over with Mother. She advised me 
to be kind and patient with both the sinners and the 
saints, explaining that some well-meaning people are 
handicapped with mental and moral twists about which 
we know so little that we should be slow to judge them. 
It would be better, she said, to combine firmness with 
gentleness, and to trust the Lord. Her advice proved to be 
absolutely right, for when I went back to my pastorate 
at the end of the academy week, I heard some splendid 

Of her own accord, the kdy saloon keeper had given 
up her business and established a meat market instead. As 

200 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

time went on, I am happy to say that the erstwhile objec- 
tionable person became the choir leader, President of the 
Ladies' Aid, and a pillar of the church. 

I continued supplying the little church at Bolton 
Landing during my junior and senior years at the Acad- 
emy, and the offerings enabled me to keep going finan- 
cially. While church affairs were now progressing well, 
I was headed for more trouble. It came about in this way. 
As has been mentioned, on Friday nights I began my 
chores of readying the church for Sunday service. On the 
night that my new problem arose, I had turned out the 
lights after choir rehearsal, checked the windows and 
doors, and was walking away from the building when I 
saw the young lady organist standing alone by the side of 
the street. 

Though shy and inexperienced, there was sufficient 
chivalry in me so that I asked her if I could accompany 
her up the long, lonesome, unlighted road to her home. 
The offer was accepted and this small incident afforded 
me the satisfaction which is always one's own reward for 
a courteous act 

However, as soon as I returned to my room, the 
woman with whom I was boarding at the time came to 
tell me that she knew exactly where I had been, and that 
if I ever repeated such an incident I would not be wel- 
come at her house. What a rebuff to a bashful young 
man who had, for the second time in his life, mustered 
sufficient courage to walk home with a charming girl. 

After some deliberation, I sought and found a new 
place to stay during the weekends. The change proved 
to be a good one, for congregations increased. People who 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 201 

had never been known to go to church came out to hear 
the way I preached, to join in our gospel singing, and to 
cooperate for the growth of the church. There were even 
some remarkable changes in the lives of some people 
whom I endeavored to help. 

An old fisherman who was noted for being a hard- 
hearted infidel used to talk with me about fishing. Later 
on when he became ill I called at his home to inquire 
about his health and to ask if I could do anything for him. 
When I suggested that we read a passage from the Bible, 
he became very bitter in his denunciation of the scrip- 
tures and of the church. While this visit was not particu- 
larly successful, on my next call I began to read to him 
from Pilgrims Progress. We proceeded from the flight 
from the City of Destruction, through the Slough of Des- 
pond, and had come to the miracle of the cross, at the 
sight of which the heavy burden fell from Christian's 
back. Unexpectedly I was interrupted by an exclamation 
from my listener. "By jolly," he said, "that's good!" The 
next day, my fisherman-friend was eager to kneel in prayer 
with me, and I saw tears on his coarse, weather-beaten 
face. A few days later he told me that he had seen the 
Lord Jesus enter his room and sit on the edge of the bed. 

Another elderly man, known for his atheism, gam- 
bling, and drunkenness, openly rebuffed me when I first 
met him. I had prayed for the power to help such men, 
and was disappointed because I had not felt divine energy 
guiding me. However, I found that simple acts of friendli- 
ness and kindness seemed to be charged with dynamic 
influence. I recalled the way in which Jesus asked the 
Samaritan woman at Jacob's Well for a drink of water, 

2O2 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

and, overcoming all prejudice, custom, and social barriers, 
had made her his messenger to her people. I tried a simi- 
lar approach on the old gambler, who had never been seen 
in church. One day when I was to be late in returning to 
Bolton Landing, I asked him to look after the fire so that 
the church would be warm. This simple request took hold 
of his heart, and soon there was a new worshipper in one 
of our pews. 

As if attending the Academy during the week, pre- 
paring my sermons, doing the janitor work and calling on 
the sick were not enough to keep me occupied, I estab- 
lished a preaching appointment in a farm house, far back 
from the village. On Friday evenings people would come 
from all directions to fill the house and to listen to the 
messages that I brought them. They even put on an old- 
fashioned donation supper to show their appreciation of 
my efforts and to fill my pockets with bills and change. 

In addition to preaching and the other pastoral 
duties, it fell to me to raise money to complete the church 
edifice. The building needed lath and plaster, new pews 
and altar rail, the completion of the belfry, and various 
other improvements. During the summer vacations, there- 
fore, I called on the prosperous summer visitors in the 
vicinity and solicited donations. Of course, I found some 
people who gave quite generously, while others, reputed 
to be worth millions, explained that they were barely 
surviving. All this was good experience for me, and pre- 
pared me for three larger building projects kter on in my 
ministry. I can vividly recall going to see one wealthy man 
for a donation to our building fund, and finding him quite 
under the influence of liquor. He dismissed me abruptly 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 203 

but, for some reason that I cannot explain, I returned to 
see him the next morning. As he saw me at the end of his 
large veranda, he began to apologize and invited me to sit 
down. He then proceeded to give me a lecture on the vari- 
ous creeds. As he saw it, the main point of difference be- 
tween some denominations concerned the horns of the 
devil. Many people were sure that the devil had horns, 
while others held that he was a mulley. The man did not 
give me a chance to talk, but when he had finished his 
speech, he asked, "How much do you want?" When he had 
written out his check, he told me of a friend who "has 
lots more money than me," and suggested that I call on 

Of course, I went to see the friend. This man listened 
to my appeal, and then said, "It's the same old story, isn't 
it?" Perhaps he had been warned about my persistence, 
and wanted to test me; in any case he said nothing fur- 
ther, but began to read his mail. I sat down near him, and 
began making some notes for my next sermon. Even after 
the man had gone into another room, I kept at my notes. 
Finally he returned and placed a fifty-dollar bfll in my 
hand. Thus I found that it paid to wait expectantly. 

Another of my activities involved the closing of sa- 
loons in our village. I had noticed the frequency of 
drunkenness, especially among the older men, and I dis- 
covered that there was such a thing as local-option, which 
provided that the people could vote on the question of 
licensing saloons. I drew up a petition for such a vote, but 
was told that it would be hopeless. And hopeless it 
seemed, since I was in school when the ballots were cast, 
and could not help influence voters. However, the vote 

204 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

was against the saloons by a large majority. I learned that 
certain men who were supposed to be on the wet side had 
worked hard among their friends to clean up the town. 
The enemy was divided, and defeated. An influential man 
who was rather intemperate himself declared that he was 
with me because, as he put it, "The stuff they sell in the 
saloons kills at ten rods." 


\ FTER graduating from the Academy 
in 1905, 1 decided to remain at Bolton Landing for another 
year, so that I could try to complete the church building. 
Pews were installed, a new furnace and windows bought, 
and the walls finished. 

During the summer of that year, I enjoyed the fellow- 
ship of a theological student who was caring for the local 
Baptist church. While he was an ardent advocate of bap- 
tism by immersion, and I was serving a church in which 
sprinkling prevailed, we got along perfectly on both land 
and sea. In fact, one evening when the boat that we were 
rowing sprang a leak and began to 01 with water, my 
friend readily admitted that too much liquid slowed up 
transportation. Strangely enough, one elderly member of 
his church and one of mine resented our friendliness. 
They thought that we should be fighting over our credal 
differences. To add emphasis to their convictions, my 
friend's disgruntled church member began to attend my 


206 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

church, while my sour saint went to his services. Accept- 
ing the exchange agreeably, my Baptist companion re- 
marked hopefully, "It usually does cabbage heads good to 
transplant them." 

For recreation, I frequently took an hour or so off 
to go fishing. Since I was usually rewarded with brook 
trout, or pickerel from Lake George, I soon established a 
reputation as a fisherman. Some people who did not know 
the art of fishing even suggested that the minister prob- 
ably prayed for the fish to bite. 

Such an explanation seemed more plausible than ever 
when I announced that I planned to go out into the deeper 
water for the coveted and more elusive lake trout. I had 
bought a long and strong linen line and gang of hooks, but 
had little knowledge of the lake, and no whitefish, which 
are the natural food for this particular trout. The only 
lure that I had been able to get was artificial. Realizing, 
however, that luck seldom comes to people who don't try, 
I selected a mild morning and ventured forth. 

A skilled fisherman, who had been out since day- 
break reported that the fish were not striking and he was 
giving up. He had one badly mangled whitefish, which he 
gave to me. So, in spite of the fact that the other fisher- 
men were having no luck and condemned the water as 
being too calm, I decided to make the best of that warm, 
sunny day. 

Even if the fish are not cooperative, a beautiful lake 
affords other rewards to those who look for them. I 
rowed in wide circles, just off the point of Tongue Moun- 
tain, and pleasing scenes of quietness and strength met my 
eyes in every direction. There were the Narrows, leading 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 207 

up through numerous little islands toward Paradise Bay 
and Black Mountain; there was spacious Northwest Bay, 
bordered with wooded hills and rounded mountains; to 
the west were Crown and Green and Dome Islands; and, 
toward the south, pointing to historic Fort William Henry, 
ten miles of silvery water, with more islands, hills, and 
protecting mountains. The tender green of the trees gave 
a fitting touch of life and beauty, as if all was united in 
silent praise of the Creator. 

I was drinking my fill of this panorama when my 
bamboo pole began to bend as though I had hooked a 
submerged snag. Then, just as I was checking my speed 
to avoid breaking the line, several rapid, violent tugs 
caused the rod to thrash the water. 

Aware that I had hooked a big one, I endeavored to 
play him carefully. In spite of all I could do, the tip of 
my pole kept churning the surface of the lake. My heart 
was beating rapidly. I knew that this was the largest and 
most stubborn fish that had ever honored me with a nod, 
and I was afraid that he might get away. Every time that 
I attempted to reel in a bit of line, counter-pulls thwarted 
my efforts. Eventually, of course, the fish tired and con- 
sented to be brought near the surface, but he did not give 
up easily. Several times when it seemed that he was com- 
ing into view, he turned and fought his way back to the 
bottom, more than one hundred feet down. Fortunately, 
my hooks were so firmly imbedded in the mouth of my 
fish that he could not break away. I must have had "be- 
ginner's luck," for I landed the prize trout of the day, a 
specimen weighing nearly ten pounds. 

As proof that good fortune can happen more than 

208 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

once, I was favored again a few days later. At my request 
two ladies, one an adjutant and the other a lieutenant 
from the Salvation Army in Glens Falls, came to speak 
and sing in my church. An offering was taken for the 
Army; and, to show further appreciation for their services, 
I invited the two ladies to go for a ride on the lake. 
I suggested that we take fishlines with us, but the lieu- 
tenant was not enthusiastic, explaining, 'I'm a Jonah to 
any fishing party. I never catch anything except weeds 
and rocks." Nevertheless, the lines and some borrowed 
bait were put in the boat. 

We set out on a placid morning, another of those days 
when the old fishermen considered the water too calm 
for strikes. However, recalling my former experience, I 
headed for the place where I had found my hungry fish. 
Soon, in a voice that matched the tranquil water, the 
lieutenant said, "I think I had a bite." 

I glanced at her slender rod and saw that the line 
had become detached from the reel and was in danger 
of being lost. Backing quickly with one oar, I grasped the 
line, handed it to the lady, and remarked that since the 
tackle had been borrowed, we were lucky in saving it. 
She replied, "I don't feel anything on it now. Perhaps it 
was one of my usual weeds." However, the line appeared 
to me to be drawing a bit heavily. I thought that she 
might possibly have a small fish, and instructed her to pull 
in carefully, and to let the line back through her fingers 
in a taut manner if she felt any hard pull. 

Holding the gaff-hook in readiness, I looked down 
into the transparent water and saw a large trout swimming 
along as if he were following the bait. Indeed, as we dis- 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 209 

covered a few seconds later, he was hooked only by the 
skin of his teeth. Possibly, in an effort to accommodate 
the charming lady, he was graciously consenting to be led 
like a lamb to the slaughter. I was not an expert with the 
big hook, and merely frightened the fish on my first at- 
tempt to take him into the boat. Fortunately the lieuten- 
ant proved to be adept in following orders. Standing up 
in the boat, she let out line and pulled it back again until 
I was able to make effective use of the gaff. 

When we had our beautiful seven-and-one-half 
pound trout safely in the boat, the serene lieutenant, in- 
stead of boasting of her catch, voiced her gratitude by 
saying, "The Lord has sent us a fish/* Aware that the 
weather was supposed to be unfavorable, and that other 
fishermen were not doing very well on that day, I fully 
agreed with her sentiment. 

In the fall of that same year, 1905, 1 went back to my 
home community to conduct a preaching mission for a 
week in the weathered schoolhouse at Brant Lake. As 
assistant I took with me the noted cowboy Broncho Char- 
lie Miller, who had recently been converted by the Salva- 
tion Army in Glens Falls. Broncho Charlie, champion 
broncho buster of the West, had been one of the celeb- 
rities in Buffalo Bill's famous circus, traveling to Europe 
and performing before royalty. He once showed me a 
picture of Queen Victoria which she had autographed 
for him. 

After the Wild West show was no more, Broncho 
Charlie had operated a riding stable in Glens Falls. At a 
Salvation Army street meeting he heard the young officers 
singing and preaching, and followed them to their hall, 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 
where he accepted their invitation to become a Christian. 
As further proof of his conversion, he often joined the 
Army circle on the streets and gave his testimony. 

Having heard of the conversion, and knowing that 
Broncho Charlie might need encouragement in his new 
life, I had made it a point to visit him from time to time. 
It was in this endeavor that I got him first to come up to 
Bolton Landing where he did some skillful riding and 
roping tricks in the street in front of the church and 

later to accompany me to Brant Lake. At Brant Lake 
Broncho Charlie's role was to tell of his life in the West, 
and of his experiences in Buffalo Bill's circus, while I was 
to do the preaching. From the start, our evangelistic team, 
which also included Father, awakened the people of the 
neighborhood, drew them to our meetings, and moved 
many of them to take a more positive stand for Chris- 

There was one man, however, who held back. His 
name was Bill Bentley, and with a voice which rever- 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

berated from one side of the valley to the other, he was 
forever invoking the damnation of heaven on his poky 
old oxen and on every stone that stopped his plow or 
dulled his scythe. On one occasion, as he was emitting an 
irreverent torrent of words at his oxen, the curse had back- 
fired on him. A piece of the whip with which he was em- 
phasizing his maledictions broke off, flew back, and 
blinded one of his eyes for life. An atheist who lived at 
the lake during the summers took great delight in getting 
Bill Bentley to work for him, so that he could hear Bill 
swear. The violent oaths seemed to afford this man sar- 
donic pleasure, and to confirm his lack of faith. During 
the plowing, hoeing and haying seasons, therefore, our 
valley was filled with Bill's rasping, echoing curses. It was 
as if Satan, in a great rage against the piety of my parents, 
had gone into open competition with them. 

And yet this farmer with the unruly tongue was good 
to his family and kind to his neighbors. He let us borrow 
his boat whenever we wanted to fish on the lake, and he 
allowed us to change our clothes in his wagon house when 
we went swimming from his sandy beach. Possibly his 
profanity was only a bad habit, and Bill may have been 
like the man who once said to his minister, "Dominie, I 
am not so wicked after all. 1 swear and you pray, but 
neither of us mean anything by it." 

Well, on the last evening of our meetings in the tiny 
schoolhouse the man who was so loud and so fluent in his 
use of sacrilegious words stood up and declared that he 
wished to be counted on the Lord's side. Since I had to 
leave the community the next day and go back to my 
church at Bolton Landing, I had no immediate op- 

12 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

portunity to check on the lasting quality of this evange- 
listic mission in the land of my boyhood, but I got a report 
during the following summer. The spirit of blasphemy 
had been decisively cast out. No one had heard a single 
oath proceed from the mouth of our last convert. Bill 
himself told me why he had been so reluctant to yield to 
the Christian invitation. He explained, "I had a rocky plot 
of ground to plow, and expected that I would swear a 
thousand times while doing it. But, strange as it may seem, 
I plowed that rough area without having the least inclina- 
tion to curse a single stone/' 


THIS time I became more and 
more convinced that I should continue my education to- 
ward the ministry. I considered various schools and col- 
leges, but it did not seem possible that I could assume the 
financial burden of a regular four-year college course. I 
had heard of the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago which 
appealed to me because I understood that it was unde- 
nominational and offered courses that within two years 
might enable a student to become a Bible teacher, min- 
ister, song leader or missionary. Stories I had heard of the 
sincerity and magnetism of D. L. Moody, who had left his 
career as a shoe salesman to become one of the foremost 
evangelists of his time, also led me to think that the in- 
stitution named for him might be just what I needed. 

Moody's example appealed to me particularly, for 
while he did not have a formal, theological training, he 
devoted himself to reading the Bible and had known re- 


214 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

markable success in his Sunday School classes. When a 
critic once called attention to his mistakes in English, 
Moody frankly admitted his lack of education, but said: 
"With such English as I can use, I am trying to do my 
best to serve God." He then asked, "What are you doing 
with your English?" 

My train trip to Chicago to attend the Institute for 
the spring term of 1906 was quite uneventful. It was 
mostly a night ride, during which I slept in my seat as 
much as I could. Although I was eager for the new ex- 
perience, as I got nearly a thousand miles from home I 
began to wonder if I would ever get back. I had never 
been more than fifty miles from home before. 

When I arrived at the Bible Institute, I looked for- 
ward to a hearty welcome, such as the spirit of Moody 
would lead one to expect, but the mere routine enroll- 
ment and assignment to a room and classes was somewhat 
disappointing. However, the practical training in the 
Pacific Garden Mission, where Billy Sunday had been 
converted, and the street meetings were interesting and 
helpful. We went into the slums and saloon districts, 
where songs were sung and short sermons or messages 
were delivered. The members of a gospel team would 
then engage the listeners in personal conversation, inviting 
and urging them to become Christians. Questions were 
answered, and free booklets and tracts distributed. Stress 
was always laid on the teachings of the Bible. We all be- 
lieved that "The word is the sword of the Spirit," and 
this conviction brought repentance to many. 

In missions like the Pacific Garden, sermons and testi- 
monials were delivered by carefully chosen speakers, after 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 215 

which the procedure was very much like that of the street 
meetings. I recall talking to a young man who evidently 
had never had much religious training or opportunity to 
know the Bible. When I read him the words from Saint 
John: "But as many as received Him, to them gave He 
power to become the sons of God, even to them that be- 
lieve on His name," he eagerly took the little book in his 
hands so that he could read the verse for himself. 

I shall never forget an evening when I was assigned 
to keep the boys quiet outside a mission for children. 
I had just told a bear story when the leader of the meet- 
ing asked me to come inside and "say a few words." To 
our surprise, the boisterous boys all followed me into the 
building, and sat perfectly still while I spoke to them. 
The only disturbance occurred when a woman who had 
been standing on the sidewalk suddenly came into the 
room, fell on her knees, and confessed her sins. As proof 

216 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

of her conversion, she left with us a bottle which she had 
evidently intended to take to a saloon for a refill. 

During my sojourn in Chicago I paid a visit to Zion 
City, which had been made famous by the preaching and 
praying of Alexander Dowie. I remember that there was 
a sign on the outskirts of the town forbidding smoking. I 
was especially interested in seeing the large tabernacle 
where the crowds came to seek healing. Behind the plat- 
form I saw crutches, braces, and body supports, once worn 
by cripples but now discarded, bearing testimony to the 
miracles claimed to have been performed. I also saw a box 
of Smith Brothers' Cough Drops solidly nailed to the wall. 
Since I was interested in learning how to preach 
good sermons, I attended various churches, and on one 
Sunday it was my privilege to worship at a church where 
Dr. Frank W. Gunsaulus, a distinguished pulpit orator 
and writer was preaching. He took for his theme the verse 
in St. John: "Now in the place where He was crucified 
there was a garden/' We were reminded of the lessons 
from seeds and growing things, a timely thought for it 
was then the Easter season. It was suggested that every- 
one should have a garden, even if only six inches square. 
Mr. Gunsaulus advised us to consider the Mies and trees 
more carefully, but he rebuked people who drove rapidly 
through the country and thought that they were "com- 
muning with nature." He asked, referring to the high 
speed of travel, "What would you think of a young man 
who claimed to be courting a lady at the rate of thirty 
miles an hour?" 

As I see it now, it was not the plan of Providence for 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 217 

me to remain at the Moody Bible Institute. I was a coun- 
try-bred boy, and did not like the congestion and smoke 
of Chicago. My happiest moments were when I could 
leave the turbulent city and go to Lincoln Park, where I 
could study in the open air and occasionally watch the 
antics of sea lions and polar bears. Possibly I was 
merely homesick, but eventually a foolish fear caused me 
to decide to leave Chicago. It was the practice of Dr. 
Towner, the teacher of music, to pick students at random 
and send them up on the platform to lead the class in 
singing. If a student protested that he was not musical, 
Dr. Towner would maintain that this made the exercise 
all the more fun. I was well aware of my musical disability, 
and the very idea of this form of merriment was too great 
a misery for me. My first thought was to avoid the danger 
of wrecking all tuneful harmony, and my own nervous 
system as well. So although I had enrolled at the school 
for the spring term, I cancelled my registration and left 
before it was half-finished. Some of the spirit of the school 
remained with me, however, and for that I am grateful. 

On my last day in Chicago I visited Montgomery and 
Ward's big store and bought a small revolver which I 
thought might be of use in killing bears. I went to the top 
of the observation tower to feel the strong wind and to 
get a last look at the city of which I really knew so little. 
The following day I took my departure. 

After a boat ride through Lake Erie and a stopover at 
Niagara Falls, I went by train to Albany and north to 
Glens Falls. It was a great joy to see Mother again, and 
the good brothers and sisters who had found steady em- 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 
ployment in this beautiful city on the Hudson, But after 
a few days, knowing that Father would be expecting me 
at Brant Lake, I fastened a few necessities to my bicycle 
and pedaled over the dusty road toward the scenes of 
my boyhood. 


ATHER and I were the only ones at 
the little farm that spring. He had been unable to sell the 
place, but was still hopeful that we would eventually get 
a fair price. Although we missed the bustle around the 
house of earlier days, it was good for the two of us to be 
together. We enjoyed watching the new beauty of spring 
come to the valley, and we were easy companions, both 
at work and when we relaxed. 

When the trout fishing season opened on May i, we 
decided to try our luck in a brushy brook called Desolate. 
It was a warm sunny day, and anglers* luck was with me, 
for I caught the largest fish, a beauty weighing well over 
a pound. However, Father soon took the lead and caught 
the most fish. As we were returning home with our catch, 
and had reached the very place where I had prayed so 
fervently when Mother was ill, a neighbor came along the 

220 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

road to meet us. He brought the sad news that Mother 
was dead. 

Some people might call it mere coincidence that this 
communication was given us at this particular bend of 
the road, but to me it seemed as though an unseen force 
was saying, "Seven years ago, when you prayed here, 
your prayer was heard and answered. Now your mother's 
work is done, and she has gone to the Better Land." 

When Father and I reached Glens Falls we learned 
that on her last day, toward evening, Mother had asked 
one of my sisters to go to the post office to get my weekly 
letter, which she always eagerly awaited. But the post 
office was closed, so she said, "111 get it in the morning." 
That night she died quietly in her sleep. 

After the funeral, Father and I went back to the 
little weather-beaten house where Mother had come as a 
young bride forty-three years before. As I looked around 
me, I found it almost impossible to adjust to the thought 
that she had gone forever from this earth. It did not seem 
reasonable that the house in which she had lived, the roses 
which she had set out by the stone wall in the front yard, 
and the clump of lilacs up on the hill should outlast the 
one who had cared for them for so many years. Even 
the ledge of rocks, the large trees and the surrounding 
mountains seemed to taunt me with the truth that they 
were more enduring than the one who had loved us so 
tenderly and faithfully. 

Of course, I remembered the divine promise about 
the spirit that goes to God, but my faith was put to a 
severe test. Did I really believe what I hoped for, 'and 
what I professed to believe? In the darkness of the night 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 221 

I would sometimes awake from sleep with a fear that 
death might be like an endless night and that the survival 
of my mother's soul somewhere in the universe was a 
theory too good to be true. I would be so depressed that 
I could not lie in bed, but presently I found relief for my 
troubled mind. As I went to the window and looked up 
at the stars, their shining splendor seemed to assure me 
that I had all the reason in the world for believing in im- 
mortality. They gave me the same confident answer each 

When I was a very small boy the stars had fascinated 
me. They did not seem to be so very far up in the sky, 
but only just above the roof of our house. One evening 
when they were shining brightly I went out back of the 
shed, took down Father's long ash fishpole, and attempted 
to knock down a few stars, Now, twenty years later, the 
same kindly stars beamed down on me, and I was gkd 
that I had not disturbed them from their moorings. 


N OUR common sorrow, Father and I 
found comfort in the words of the Great Book. Like a 
faithful priest in his own home, Father never failed to 
read a full chapter from the Bible every morning, and 
another in the evening. There were other activities, too, 
which helped to heal us. We fished, set and tended bear 
traps, and found a bee tree with good honey in it. 

Since the season for bear trapping was drawing to a 
close, and the bears had somehow avoided being caught, 
Father went off early one afternoon to spring his trap. 
When he had not returned for the trout supper that I had 
prepared, nor at nine o'clock when the overcast sky turned 
to intense darkness, I began to worry. I knew that Father 

Bears, Bibles and a Bay 

had a way of reading the contours of the mountains and 
the familiar ground over which he had traveled so many 
times; but I recalled the stories of his narrow escapes from 
wounded bears, and knew also that he was no longer as 
agile as he had been, and that he was alone. It was so 
dark that I could not see even the dusty gray road which 
wound close to the house. Time and again I opened the 
front door so that light from our dim kerosene lamp might 
guide him. Under such circumstances time moved slowly, 
but at about eleven o'clock the sound of Father's foot- 
steps put an end to my fears. His exultant voice greeted 
me with the words, "I've got one." 

The prize was a large female bear which he had 
found dead in his trap, apparently killed by another ani- 
mal. Father had flayed the bear, folded the pelt to his 
shoulders, and started back without incident toward the 
mountain pass and home. Now as he told me the story, 
Father realized that he had left his pistol behind him on a 
log near the trap. It was not until the next day, when he 
went back for the pistol and to reset his trap, that he 
realized the experience of the day before could have 
ended quite differently for him. 

Large tracks near the trap and through the mountain 
pass indicated that Father had been watched and fol- 
lowed. Evidently the huge mate hacl paced angrily back 
and forth out of sight while Father was busily engaged in 
skinning the pelt from the dead bear. While black bears 
are generally afraid of human beings, and are quick to 
ran off at the sound of a hunter's footsteps, this big *nale 
apparently was not inclined to flee. Perhaps an instinctive 
loyalty to his mate kept him near, even though he did not 

224 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

have the courage to defend her. Some trappers have re- 
ported hearing a bear sob, much like a person; and Father 
often said that one bear which he had shot made a noise 
that sounded like "Oh, dear/* But in our valley there was 
not much sentiment for bears that killed our sheep in the 
darkness, and certainly not a great deal of sympathy for 

an old male who pretended affection for his mate at one 
period of the year, only to kill her cubs later on. 

It seemed as though this cautious male must have 
followed Father's burdened figure for quite some distance, 
but had never found the right moment for attack. Father 
later learned from some vacationers that the fearful noises 
of some animal had kept them awake all night. In fact, a 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 225 

lady from the city was so frightened by the dreadful 
sounds that she lost no time in leaving the cottage where 
she was being entertained. She was sure that the moun- 
tains were haunted- 


NTIL this time I had no conception 
of what a college was like. As I have mentioned, no one 
from our section of the Adirondacks had ventured forth 
even for a highschool education, to say nothing of going 
to college. However, the urge to seek higher education 
had been growing stronger and stronger within me, and 
I was fortunate in receiving enthusiastic support from 
two clergymen, George C. Douglass and C. O. Judkins. 
When I mentioned to George Douglass that the financial 
problems seemed almost insurmountable, he told me how 
he had worked his way through college. He said also that 
his financial resources had been so limited that once when 
he received a letter from his mother warning him to 
watch out for pickpockets, he had had to borrow a postage 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 227 

stamp to mail his reply. C. O. Judkins, the builder of a 
splendid church in Glens Falls, gave me further reassur- 
ance, and even suggested two people who might be will- 
ing to lend me money for college expenses. Greatly en- 
couraged by the advice of these two men, I decided upon 
Wesleyan University, in Middletown, Connecticut, rea- 
soning in my heart that the best way to accomplish any- 
thing worthwhile is to begin doing something about it. 

In September of 1906, with less than one hundred 
dollars in my pocket, I started for Wesleyan. Since I had 
had four years of Latin and three of Greek, plus a diploma 
from the Glens Falls Academy and another from the 
Regents of New York State, I was accepted as a student 
without examination. This was fortunate for me, for I was 
a rather slow learner and because of my ministerial work 
had never had enough time to get my translations of 
Caesar, Cicero, Virgil, Xenophon and Homer in accurate 
classical form. I felt rather shaky in these subjects and 
could sympathize with the student who, having heard 
that pure Attic Greek might be the language of heaven, 
wrote the lines: 

What to me will heaven be? What its joy? 
If I should flunk in Attic when a boy? 

As matters turned out, I never failed to pass the 
periodic tests in both Latin and Greek, but it must have 
been evident to my instructors that I was not a star of the 
first magnitude in linguistics. An English professor of 
mine, after saying some encouraging things about one of 
my compositions, once remarked, "By the way, Mr. Rob- 
erts, some people spell differently from you." My Greek 

228 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

and Latin professors at Wesleyan, when they saw my 
handling of tenses, datives, and accusatives in these highly 
developed languages, might have been provoked to a 
similar criticism. I was aware, however, that my failings 
were not due entirely to stupidity, but were partly the 
fault of a system of education that did not take into con- 
sideration the unfortunate fact that self-supporting stu- 
dents often have little time for their studies. 

During my senior year, when I had more hours for 
study, I took Hebrew. I began by learning the alphabet 
forward and backward, and pursued vocabulary and 
grammar with the same thoroughness. As a result, my 
midyear mark in that subject was 99%. Doubtless I spelled 
some word a little differently. 

Considering the way in which I had been brought up 
on the Bible it will not seem strange when I say that I 
experienced my greatest mental upheaval at Wesleyan in 
the realm of faith, especially when I began to study the 
subjects of biology and evolution. While the assignment 
of dissecting a tail-less frog for the sake of science sheds 
some light on why we think of these jumpers as "brother 
frogs," I was not fascinated with the theory which pur- 
ported that amoeba begat tadpole, which begat monkey, 
which begat anthropoid ape, which begat missing-link, 
which begat man. I had always been led to believe that 
God had made all things very much as they now appear, 
and that he had done so in a relatively short period of 
time. Fortunately for me, the distinguished Professor 
Conn, under whom I studied biology and evolution, was 
a devout and religious man. He held thoroughly to the 
evolutionary process of creation, but he also believed 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 229 

that this apparently slow and gradual method of natural 
selection was God's way of working. It was reassuring to 
know that a great scholar did not try to eliminate God 
from the universe but, rather, saw Him working in it and 
through it at all times. 

Our instructors were men of deep learning, always 
patient and inspiring, but also gifted with keen humor. 
Once when Professor Conn was asked at the bank whether 
he would like his money in new bills, the authority on 
germs replied, "I am not afraid of old money bacteria 
can't live on my salary." 

This same professor also revealed to us that one of the 
most logical places to dig for earthworms is in a spinster's 
garden, for birds devour worms, cats scare the birds away, 
and old maids generally keep cats. At the same time my 
study of biology taught me to realize the worth of angle- 
worms as soil-builders. I had known from experience their 
value in catching fish, but I learned that from sand and 
decaying vegetable matter these underground workers 
make humus, so essential for growing prize crops. 

Because we were eager to solve the baffling problems 
of philosophy and religion, a group of students, including 
myself, formed what we called a Quest Club. We met 
regularly to discuss such questions as the Idea of the 
Trinity, the Resurrection, and the cussedness of Evil. The 
heads of the various departments at Wesleyan often gave 
short talks at these meetings. 

Caleb T. Winchester, our teacher of literature, sug- 
gested that we read Dr. Eleanor Rowland's The Right to 
Believe. I followed the recommendation, and was richly 
rewarded. Dr. Rowland contends that if we want a God, we 

230 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

have as much, right to believe in Him as others have to 
take sides with the "no-God." People who think it is more 
intellectual to doubt God's reality are like a man who 
leans over backward in an effort to stand up straight. 

As a further bulwark, I recalled the teachings of the 
Bible, and was able to rise above all dark dreams of doubt. 
The Book of my parents, the starry sky above, and the joy 
of Christian experience all seemed to bear witness to the 
virtue of faith. So it was that instead of losing my faith 
as a result of my courses in science and philosophy, my 
convictions concerning the great teachings of Christianity 
became more firmly grounded than ever before. In short, 
my feelings toward those who spoke against the Bible 
were similar to those of Mark Twain when he was asked 
to buy a ticket to hear Robert Ingersoll lecture on "Some 
Mistakes of Moses." The noted humorist said that he 
wouldn't pay ten cents to hear Ingersoll lecture on the 
mistakes of Moses, but he would be willing to pay ten 
dollars to hear Moses lecture on the mistakes of Bob 

At the same time that I was broadening my horizons 
through the meetings of the Quest Club, I was also gaining 
valuable practical experience by earning money to help 
pay college bills. A sales manager for a publishing com- 
pany trained me to go from house to house selling books. 
The effort was glamorized as a part of The Purity Move- 
ment, and great pains were taken to show me the best 
way to get a hearing. When housewives saw my sample 
book and assumed a negative attitude, I was to create a 
friendly atmosphere by explaining that I wished to talk 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 231 

to them about the Self and Sex Crusade. Not surprisingly, 
doors were opened wide when I used this approach, and 
I was rewarded with many sales of What Young People, 
Married Couples, and Older Folks Ought to Know. 


IT THE end of my freshman year in 
college, I was given a summer appointment to preach in 
a little church back in the foothills of the Adirondacks. 
I boarded at a hotel which gave me low rates, with the 
understanding that I was to help make the social life of 
the guests, most of whom were women, as pleasant as 
possible. In this rather agreeable assignment I had an 
opportunity to fill in some gaps in my education. I dis- 
covered that it would require the wisdom of a Solomon 
and the diplomacy of a Benjamin Franklin to divide my 
attention among the ladies successfully, so that no one 
would feel slighted. The problem became more involved 
when an extremely attractive young lady came to spend 
her vacation at the cottage next to mine. She had a new 
canoe, and needed a man to help her paddle it and to 
show her how to fish. Her uncle, who brought her to the 
hotel, had confided to me that if any man hoped to sue- 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

ceed in winning his niece, he would have to go after her 
like "a thousand of brick." With three years more of col- 
lege ahead of me, and with other considerations that 
tended to make me cautious, I hardly felt like going after 
anyone in the overwhelming manner that "a thousand of 
brick" might imply, but I did like to go canoeing with 
this particular girl, whose name was Laura. 

Our acquaintance was progressing very well when 
Laura decided to spend a fortnight with her father. On 
the very day that she left the hotel, three nurses arrived 
at the lake for their vacation. One of them, a pretty 
blonde named Ruth, was upset because her trunk had 
been left behind at the station, some twelve miles away. 
Obviously, it fell to me to pacify the young lady* I sug- 
gested that the three girls take a boatride with me and 
forget the delayed baggage until the stage could bring it 
the next day. The plan worked perfectly, and everybody 
seemed happy. Ruth was so pleased with the boatride 
that she wanted to go with me again and learn how to 
catch pickerel, which we did the next day. When we re- 
turned for dinner some of the guests, in a fun-loving 
mood, greeted us with rice and old shoes. 

We laughed at this prank, but a few days later my 
name was again linked with that of the blonde nurse. A 
number of the younger people were gathering to go to a 
country dance, and I moved about among them, saying 
pleasant things and attempting to be social, just as I was 
expected to be. When I happened to say to Ruth, "Be 
sure to come home early/' she replied, "I will, if youTl 
come after me." I pretended to play her game and offered 
to meet her, but named such an early hour that I felt sure 

234 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

she would back down. However, to my surprise, she 
agreed. As I tried to crawl out of a situation which I 
feared might lead to another reception with rice, she 
smiled and said, "Are you a quitter?'' So of course I met 
her and brought her safely back to the hotel. Someone 
saw us together when we returned, and since topics of 
conversation are limited at such a resort, this bit of gossip 
was soon passed along. 

Meanwhile, I had received a letter from Laura saying 
that she and her father were on an estate where she had a 
boat and an entire lake to herself. She called attention to 
the stunning moon, and asked, "What is the good of it 
all without a man to row me?" 

By the time Laura returned to the lake Ruth had left, 
and I was sure that all the excitement about our fancied 
romance had died down. I was entirely mistaken. Laura's 
first question was about my doings while she was away. 
She listened to my rather lengthy effort to explain away 
the gossip she had heard, and then fixing me with a glance 
of final judgment said, "Mr. Roberts, you have certainly 
learned the game." 

Dejected by such an appraisal, but not entirely with- 
out hope, I recalled the lines: "There is something about 
a woman I could never understand, And my knowledge 
goes as far as any scholar's in the land." I must admit, 
though, that if I had any conceit about my wisdom con- 
cerning feminine matters, I lost it at that time. 

The shy country boy who had been called a "quitter" 
by one girl and a wolf who had "learned the game" by 
another got safely back to college in September. My 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

sophomore year proved to be a good one. With Greek, 
Latin, mathematics, physics, and chemistry no longer 
required, I was able to turn to literature, psychology, 
philosophy, and public-speaking, which I felt had more 
bearing on my chosen career. I became a member of the 
Sophomore debating team, which defeated the Freshmen, 
and so was encouraged to enter the trials for the Inter- 
collegiate contest, but the upperclassmen were too ex- 
perienced for me. 

Each year the college held a prize debate for all 
classes, and I managed to secure third place on one of the 
teams. Because of the reputation of the juniors and sen- 
iors, I worked hard and was able to carry off half the 
prize. A junior took the other half, while the over-con- 
fident seniors were disappointed. 

A little later in the year, I was selected as one of the 
competitors in the Annual Oratorical Contest. Since I had 
had an impediment in my speech in grade-school days, I 
applied myself to acquiring a better speaking voice, and 
zealously practiced such exercises as "She sells sea shells/* 
"A big black bug bit a big black bear," and that other 
tongue-twister which goes as follows: "If Theophilus 
Thistle, the successful thistle-sifter, in sifting a sieve full 
of unsifted thistles, thrust three thousand thistles through 
the thick of his thumb, see that thou, in sifting a sieve full 
of unsifted thistles, thrust not three thousand thistles 
through the thick of thy thumb. Success to the successful 

This last must have done the trick, for while I was 
training for the big elocutionary event our instructor no- 
ticed my improvement and remarked, "Mr. Roberts, while 

236 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

you speak more rapidly than the other men do, your words 
are so distinct that you do not need to slow down/* In 
any event, diligence was the mother of good luck, and 
my efforts were rewarded with the fifty-dollar first prize. 

Needless to say, when Father heard of my success 
in oratory, he was more elated than he would have been 
if he had just caught the largest sheep-killing bear in the 


S GOOD as it was to win a couple of 
prizes, this same year held even better things in store for 
me. A church in nearby Wethersfield, Connecticut, which 
had been served by a senior, was soon to have a vacancy. 
I became a candidate for the position, and was fortunate 
enough to be selected. Beginning in April, I had to pre- 
pare two sermons a week, but the church was only ten 
miles from Wesleyan and I could easily travel back and 
forth by trolley. The weekly addition to my income was a 
great boon, and well worth the extra effort. 

At the very beginning of my ministerial activities a 
reception was held to say farewell to the young pastor 
who was leaving the church and to welcome me as his 
successor. I saw among the guests a young lady whom I 
hoped I would see again, and later in the evening my 
predecessor introduced us. He told me that she was a 
member of another church and came to this one only in 


238 Bears., Bibles and a Boy 

the evening, when her own church did not have services. 
However, she frequently sang in our choir and sometimes 
substituted as organist My friend praised her character 
and charm and mentioned that if he had not already been 
committed to a young lady, he would have chosen this 

Her name was Jeanie Holmes, and she was twenty- 
three years old. I learned that she was a teacher in a local 
school. Previously, when she was only twenty, she had 
undertaken the difficult task of instructing and disciplin- 
ing some fifty County Home pupils, most of them under- 
privileged children from disrupted families. She had 
taught all grades. On the opening day of school the super- 
intendent had presented her with a whip and had ex- 
plained that she was not to count on him for any assist- 
ance in governing the ill-mannered students, some of 
whom were taller and bigger than their teacher. He 
added, "If you can't handle them, I'll get someone who 
can/' A less resolute person might have lost heart but 
Jeanie, who was a doughty Scot, replied, "Don't worry, 
I'll never call on you." 

In a short time the boys and girls in Jeanie's school 
became as orderly as a company of soldiers. She had to 
use the whip at first on some of the larger boys, but firm- 
ness coupled with kindness soon won their respect. Dur- 
ing recesses she played games with them in the yard, 
and she taught them to sing. Many visitors came to hear 
the singing, and farmers made it a habit to rest their 
horses outside the school building and listen. 

I was able to see Jeanie Holmes again after our first 
meeting, even sooner than I had hoped. It was the custom 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 239 

for the members of my church to billet the young minis- 
ters in various homes from Saturday to Monday. On one 
weekend, when it was not convenient for a certain couple 
to take me into their house, the Holmes house was sug- 
gested. Even though they were not affiliated with our 
church, their hospitality was well known. After that first 
pleasant weekend with the Holmes family, it was some- 

thing more than appreciation and pastoral interest which 
led me back to see them quite frequently. 

As our friendship deepened I was able to conquer 
some of my former shyness with the ladies. I offered Jean 
the gold medal which had been awarded me for being 
on the college debating team, and she consented to wear 
it on a chain about her neck. Our courtship continued, 
and the anticipation of seeing Jean every weekend added 
greatly to my enthusiasm for traveling back and forth 
to Wethersfield to minister to the little Methodist church 

240 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

there. Jeanie also visited me at Wesleyan. When I first 
invited her for a Commons Club party, an elderly lady 
whom I knew offered to let Jean stay at her home during 
the weekend festivities. Along with the offer of hospitality, 
my elderly friend cautioned me against losing my heart 
to the first girl I invited to a college party. A few days 
later, after she had met Jeanie, my friend had quite dif- 
ferent advice. She said, "Mr. Roberts, if you ever get a 
chance to marry Jeanie Holmes, and don't do it, I'll lose 
all my respect for you." These were, as a matter of fact, 
exactly my own sentiments. 

However, as so often happens, when we would like 
to go up and possess the Promised Land at once, obstacles 
like the Walls of Jericho block our way. In my case, I had 
two more years of college to finish, and after that there 
was an obligation to my unmarried sisters who had pro- 
vided a home for me in Glens Falls. To make matters 
more difficult, during the second semester of my senior 
year I had a severe attack of blood poisoning and was con- 
fined to the hospital for ten weeks. A cheering note during 
this period was provided by my Chemistry professor, who 
visited me and made the undoubtedly true prediction: 
"You will feel a lot better when you get over it." Gradu- 
ally my health improved so that I was able to study in bed, 
and since a member of my class let me copy his notes 
from the lectures, I passed my final examination and 
graduated with better than average grades. 


FTER graduation I applied for a 
church and full-time pastoral work. Returning to Troy 
Conference, where I had the credentials of a Local 
Preacher, I was sent to a tiny Methodist church at Berlin, 
New York, a place strategically situated, as I thought, 
between Jeanie in Connecticut, my sisters at Glens Falls 
and Father at Brant Lake. 

As a lover of mountains, I was delighted to be among 
the Berkshires where the white birch trees grow on the 
higher slopes and large fields of gladioli beautify the val- 
ley. More than this, though, I was eager for the challenge 
of Christian service, and hopeful that in due time I might 
bring Jean to the parsonage as my wife. The salary was 
six hundred dollars a year not a very large amount for 
clothing, food, fuel, books, and the repayment of a college 
loan. The parsonage was provided, however, and I had 
a place to keep thirty hens, so had eggs to eat, to trade 
for groceries, and to share with others. And the people of 


Bears, Bibles and a Boy 
Berlin responded to my efforts in increasing numbers. Not 
only did the stalwart saints take on a more hopeful spirit, 
but also many people who had not been in the habit of 
church attendance began to come. 

Following my previous experience, I went after some 
of the "lost sheep." Although our town had voted against 
selling intoxicating drink, there was a house across the 
valley called "The Crow's Nest," where liquor was il- 
legally sold. Attempts had been made to secure evidence 
of the sale of liquor, but so far it had been impossible to 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 243 

obtain the necessary proof. In addition, there was a 
rumor in the community that any stranger who might be 
caught spying around "The Crow's Nest" would be met 
with hot lead. 

I learned that a woman was in charge of "The Crow's 
Nest" and that her husband was ill. Believing that I might 
turn man's extremity into God's opportunity, I decided to 
include this house among my sick calls, and chose an early 
afternoon for my visit. 

It was with some apprehension that I walked up the 
hill to "The Crow's Nest" and knocked. Almost immedi- 
ately the door opened, revealing a woman with such 
stringy, unkempt hair that she reminded me of Medusa, 
whose fearful countenance turned men to stone. Intro- 
ducing myself as the new minister, I explained that I had 
heard of her husband's illness and had come to ask if there 
was any way I could help. 

Suddenly the hard, scowling face became wet with 
tears. "You are the first decent person to come to my house 
in years," she said. 

From his bed in an adjoining room, the husband 
called out to me, and as I talked to him it was clear that 
sickness and unemployment had been instrumental in 
leading these two into their illegal dealings. Both husband 
and wife seemed ready to lead better lives and from 
then on they really did. While the man remained an invalid 
and so could not take a job, his wife secured employment 
in a shirt factory, and began to attend church. For a young 
minister it had been a good day's work to accomplish what 
was done without law and without trouble and I felt 
that the experience had clearly demonstrated the saying, 

244 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

"Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence 
or learning/' 

Over the years I had become increasingly concerned 
about Father who, though over eighty, clung to the farm 
which had been his earthly home for more than half a 
century. Sisters Clara and Antha took turns keeping house 
for him, and he frequently visited his eldest daughter, 
Alice, whose home was only a few miles from Brant 
Lake. During part of my first winter in Berlin he came to 

be with me; but as spring approached, he responded to 
the call of the Brant Lake country where he could gather 
sweet sap from his maples and do some late-season trap- 
ping and fishing. 

At times brother Ruel, who followed in Father s foot- 
steps as a hunter, spent long periods with him during 
which they hunted along the familiar trails. Later on Ruel 
joined the Marines and was sent to the Canal Zone, where 
he found excitement now and then in connection with 
the capture of wild animals. On one occasion he tracked 
down and killed two pumas which were preying on small 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 245 

goats and cattle, and another time he captured two bear 
cubs which became company mascots and were named 
for Theodore Roosevelt and his daughter Alice, who were 
inspecting the Canal at that time. 

After his return to the States, Ruel settled in Glens 
Falls, bought some swampy land which no one else 
wanted, cut out the alders, and made the land into a fertile 
garden. Having discovered that the wetness of the ground 
was caused by a cool spring of water which came from 
under a high bank, he dug ditches and a series of pools 
in which he raised a surprisingly large number of trout. 
And since he was so near to Lake George and other bodies 
of water, he furnished bait for fishermen. 

In time of drouth, when other gardens suffered for 
the lack of moisture, Ruel had prize crops of radishes, let- 
tuce, parsley, carrots, and corn. He sold fresh vegetables 
to the markets, and people who came for fish bait often 
bought the vegetables right from the garden. 

When the gardening season was over, Ruel turned to 
hunting and trapping. He drove a Ford car, and was able 
to spread his traps over a wide area, adding many hun- 
dreds of dollars to his yearly income. As a guide for deer- 
hunting, he was also in great demand. 

Ruel did not attempt to trap bears, but he did track 
down and kill a sixty-nine pound lynx which had fright- 
ened some hunters out of the woods. Best of all, he be- 
came enthusiastic about the conservation of wild life, and 
wrote articles on ways and means for preserving our fish 
and game. 

It was natural for members of the family to move to 
Glens Falls, our nearest city, for there were more oppor- 

246 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

tunities for year-round work there. My brother John be- 
came a carpenter and builder, married and had a family 
who often visited Father at Brant Lake, but no one could 
persuade Father to move from his stronghold among the 
hills before it could be sold. 


EANTIME, all was going wefl with 
my little church, and in May of 1910 I was successful in 
persuading Jeanie Holmes to become my wife. We were 
married in a double-ring ceremony at Wethersfield, and 
I added force to the vow "And with my worldly goods I 
thee endow" by giving her twenty-five gold pieces as a 
wedding gift. 

On my small salary it was not possible to plan the 
traditional wedding trip to Niagara Falls, but I thought I 
knew of an even better place for a honeymoon. So after 
a few weeks at Berlin, Jeanie and I headed north toward 
Glens Falls, Brant Lake, and Pharaoh Lake. We were to 
spend a few days with Father at the old farm, and I had 
engaged my convert and friend, Bill Bentley, to meet 
our boat at Hague, on Lake George, and to convey us by 
horse and wagon over the ten miles of mountain road to 
Brant Lake. Bill was not only prompt and accommodating, 


248 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

but also displayed no trace of his former rough talk. When 
he had got us safely over the winding, bumpy road, and 
had had a chance to size up my attractive bride, he ex- 
tended his welcome by saying, "When you git time, come 
down to see us, and bring your worman with you." 

For several days we lived in a small umbrella-tent on 
the old farm, where sister Clara was keeping house for 
Father. Then, with Clara, my nephew Frank Schneider, 
and his sister Josephine, we set out over the road to 
Pharaoh Lake. Burdened as we were with supplies, the 
journey seemed longer than the five miles from Warren 
County over into Essex, but we finally reached the Lake 
and rowed to Little Island, where we set up our tent. 

This particular camping site was a favorite of mine, 
for it was partially shaded by a dozen pine and cedar 
trees, and afforded a splendid view of the lake and the 
encircling mountains. Situated as it is on state land, with 
free camping privileges, I often spoke of the place as our 
million-dollar estate. For a young bride who had never 
experienced roughing it, the strenuous hike into the rug- 
ged, mountainous park, and the hard mattress of solid 
earth for her bed provided Jeanie with a fitting initiation 
into the Roberts family. Moreover, the weather for the 
first night of our camping trip was far from cooperative. 
As if conspiring against us, the heavens let loose torrents 
of rain. The wind blew the humid sprays through the 
tent flap, soaking Jeanie's feet, and rivulets pouring down 
the sides of the canvas formed pools under us. 

The next night we camped on an island with better 
drainage facilities, and found for our inexperienced 
camper a bed of boughs and moss which a former camper 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 249 

must have carefully made to provide some measure of 
comfort. These sleeping quarters only made matters worse, 
however, for the bed proved to be infested with lice, 
which quickly found a new habitation in Jeanie's dark 
brown hair. With such an initiation, one would not have 
blamed her for never wanting to see the woods again. But 
Jeanie learned to fish so well that she sometimes caught 
more than anyone else, and eventually became as eager as 
I was to turn back to the wildwood every summer. 
There is an old rhyme that goes: 

When the wind is in the east 

It's good for neither man nor beast; 

When it's in the south, 

It blows the hook into the fish's mouth; 

But when it is in the west, 

It is at its best. 

How true this poem is I do not know, but I do know 
that in order to be successful one must fish in the right 
places, at the right depth, at the right speed, with the 
right lure, at the right time of day, and with the right 
muscular reaction. People who are slow in learning the 
fine arts of angling spend a vacation at Pharaoh Lake 
and go away believing that there are no trout to be 
caught. I remember a Labor Day afternoon when my 
wife and I had just landed a speckled beauty and some 
fishermen with flashing rods came by and called out: 
"That must be the last one in the lake." Since we had been 
out from early morning, and since we were not at that 
time limited as to number of fish by law, we were able to 

250 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

reply: "That's all right, we've brought in twenty others 


Even now this secluded place has not been overtaken 
by the inroads of civilization, and the trout have not been 
all caught out. Larger lake trout are caught in Lake 
George, but the Pharaoh trout are of superior quality. 

252 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

Meantime, without consulting me or anyone else in 
the family and evidently thinking that my college educa- 
tion and ministerial experience qualified me to handle 
real estate on earth as well as to preach about it in heaven, 
Father had deeded the farm to me. Soon a letter came to 
me, asking what I would take for this property. Because 
I cherished a desire to keep the weather-worn house and 
surrounding woodland for a summer camp, at least so 
long as Father might live, I set the selling figure at five 
thousand dollars. By return mail a check came to bind 
the bargain. Five thousand dollars seemed like a lot of 
money for the buildings and rocky land, and some of our 
neighbors thought I had asked too much, but eventually 
the other farms sold for good prices too. Thus our prece- 
dent proved to be of benefit to all inhabitants of the 

The sale of the farm enabled another wish of mine 
to come true, for, with Father's ready consent, part of the 
money was given to my brother John, so that he could 
build a house in Glens Falls where my unmarried sisters 
could live and make a home for Father during his remain- 
ing days. 

For Father, who had loved to walk in the forest and 
among the hills, life in the city was not ideal, but there 
were compensations. Seven of his children, and a number 
of grandchildren, now resided in Glens Falls. Even though 
his trapping days were ended, he still had the pleasure 
of reading the Bible and of telling stories to attentive 
young listeners. One little girl, the daughter of a neigh- 
bor, told her parents enthusiastically that she had met a 
fine old man with a long white beard. "He told us chil- 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 253 

dren how the bears live way up back of the mountains, 
and he talked to us about the Bible and the love of God." 

I was very grateful for the way everything had 
turned out for my family, and for the part that I had been 
able to take in helping them. However, we were soon to 
face another sadness. 

Only a few months after Father had put his Bible, 

pistol, and clothes in a bundle and slowly walked away 
from his Brant Lake farm, I received a telegram that he 
had suffered a serious stroke. When I reached Glens Falk 
I found him partially paralyzed, but his mind was dear 
and his voice unaffected. As he saw me enter his room, 

he said: 

"Well, Jesse, I'm going home. I know it, and I have 
known it for a long time/' He told me he was happy and 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 
asked me to read to him from his Bible. I opened to some 
of the passages which he especially liked, and read: 

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: 
He leadeth me beside the still waters, 
He restoreth my soul. 


My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, 
and they follow me: and I give unto them 
eternal life; and they shall never perish. 

Proving that the same words which had sustained 
him throughout his life gave strength in the valley of the 
shadow of death, Father responded with a fervent 

Ten days later, realizing that he was steadily grow- 
ing weaker, Father expressed a desire to have strong 
hands hold his own. One son took his right hand, another 
his left. After a few moments of tenseness as if, like 
Samson of old, he was tearing up the bonds of earth that 
imprisoned him, Father relaxed and his spirit returned to 
Him who gave it. 

Later, as all nine of us children gathered in the 
cemetery, we could see the Adirondacks to the north, and, 
across the plain, the Green Mountains from which Father 
had come over a half-century before. We listened to the 
comforting words of St. Paul which Father had read to 
us so many times, and which he had requested for this 

Bears, Bibles and a Boy 255 

For I am persuaded, that neither death, 
nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, 
nor powers, nor things present, nor things to 
come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other 
creature, shall be able to separate us from 
the love of God. . . . 

As I finish this book, I have a letter from a friend at 
Brant Lake saying that the leaves of the trees up around 
my boyhood home are more beautiful this year than ever. 
Perhaps this is because the place is being written about, 
and is smiling in the pleasure of being introduced to the 
public. I can see it all vividly through the eyes of my 
memory, though there is present also a lonesome feeling, 

256 Bears, Bibles and a Boy 

because my people are not there, nor even the house 
which was once so full of life. 

Still, as good deeds never die, so do kind souls live 
on beyond their graves, continuing to bless all who knew 
them. Grateful to the God-loving parents who, through 
the power of the Book they read in the back country, 
bequeathed to their children a rich heritage of faith, 
hope, and courage, I dedicate what I have written to the 
memory of Ann Eliza and Edwin Roberts, my mother 
and my father. 

(Continued from front flgp) 

and patience of his parents, and the words 
of wisdom which encouraged him to seek 
a higher education and devote his adult 
life to the ministry. 

When he finished this book, Mr. Roberts 
wrote: "A friend from Brant Lake has 
recently said tkt the leaves of the trees 
up around my boyhood home are more 
beautiful this year than ever. Perhaps this 
is because the place is being written 
about, and is smiling in the pleasure of 
being introduced to the public/ 9 Readers 
too will be warmed by the sincerity and 
natural humor of these affectionate mem- 
ories, in this troubled time, Bears, Bibks 
and a Boy sounds a refreshing note, and 
readers of all ages will respond to the 
words of the author, who has truly found 
serenity in the love of fellow men, of 
nature, and of his God. 


Jesse David Roberts was born in 1882 
at Brant Lake, Warren County, New York, 
a r ci p-ew up among the mountains of the 
b;ck country. After graduating from 
We* it T an University at Middletown, Con- 
nect re h^ was pastor of churches at 
Bed t . \a\\ York, and at South Meriden, 
mi(:;rl ard Milford in Connecticut 
n *.u( i S Kith Meriden, he took post- 
cm! uf .- u rk at Wesleyan in social psy- 
choit.^; i (I the philosophy of religion. 
He has also sentd for eight years in the 
Home Study Department of Columbia 

Bears, Bibks ami a Boy is Mr. Roberts' 
first book, although he has written articles 
for various church papers. Having retired 
from the ministry, he now lives with his 
wife in Milford,