From: Liver Eating Johnston meets Uno the Bear
Chapter 15 The Show
Uno the Bear licked his face as he turned around. Uno had gotten out in the night, wandered off and knowing in the morning he would be fed came back for breakfast running into Johnson who had just come off a mid-nighter stumbling for the outhouse.
Liver Eating Johnson was a big man, but the bear knocked him down like a snapping twig. Around the camp there were bets instantly that Johnson would bite the bear first. Johnson pushed Uno’s slobbering countenance off to one side—there were a flurry of bets on which had the worst breath—and tried to roll out from under. The bear was too big, too strong and hugged Johnson closer….
“Aarrrggg,”, Johnson managed to muster before his voice was lost in the slathering jaws.
That bear, honest to God and man, loved Johnson. There was not a thing he could do about it. It sat on him and started licking away.
The Indians had named Johnson Big Bear and the clan collectively knew that Uno and the Liver Eater were brothers. General Miles had once said that Johnson was one of the hairiest men he had ever seen. The whole troupe took it as a sign. Uno and Johnson were as close friends as any. Most figured Johnson just didn’t want to show it.
“Get this gol danged thing off me!” He was just warming up and the livestock were beginning to rouse from the clamor and want of a belly full.
The wild west show was playing in Janesville, Wisconsin that weekend before packing up on the train for Chicago for the 4th of July. Yesterday there were 6000 in attendance at the Driving Park on the edge of town and today the crowd would run that and then some. At 25 and 50 cents a head it would be a tidy sum. Every man jack was ready to move on especially Hardwick since he had dallied too long in town with the property owner’s wife the night they pulled in.
“Dam-n-Tar-,” was all he could muster as the bear drooled and slurped his way across Johnson’s face. The gravel on that dusty flat was digging in his backside.
“Git that trainer over t’har for I limber up my gun!” was all he could muster as he fumbled around in his faded red long johns, looking for that skinny kid that took care of the beat and pushing himself away from the slobbering snout of the bear. He wondered why the bear hadn’t taken a bite out of him, since he would bite anyone except his owner Sullivan. He kept one eye on Uno and was looking for an avenue out. He tried to roll. The bear simply shifted his ample haunch and resumed licking.
“Thet damned Sullivan is feeding this thing too much. Like to crush me”, Johnson managed to get a leg out.
The bear started growling. Two of the ropers and some of the crew were coming to help.
Chapter 16, The Show goes on…..
During yesterday’s performance only 2 of the cowboys were hurt, and the shots fired into the glass balls, coins, cards and hats hit nary a window in town. Nor any body, so, all in all, it was a good day. There was a good night’s meal at the mess and plenty to drink at the scout’s tent. The Crow simmered down with a little drum beating and some squalling after managing to snag a bucket of fire water behind the tent. Hardwick and the cowboys were busy with their own cups.
Johnson didn’t have a start on a morning’s pleasure.
“War’s thet bar!” he hollered. Most everyone ducked or ran. He was a surly being and a beast when aroused.
Johnston had made it though yesterday’s rescue sequence and the Deadwood stage Indian fight. He jumped off a couple of horses and was unscathed through the buffalo stampede. He then had to look out for the bear Uno.
If Sullivan let his bear loose too soon it would head right for the Liver Eater and sit on him. That would ruin the entire show.
There was always a mad scramble of betting and getting well out of the way. A five hundred pound bear that bites is a respected bear. The natives knew enough to climb up on the back of the stands.
Now this morning brought a joy that someone else was the misfortunate and money could be made.
Review by Dorman Nelson July 5, 2009
CROW KILLER by Raymond Thorp and Robert Bunker
Interesting to note that Crow Killer was written in 1956 and first published in 1957. Despite the cruel depictions of battle, attitudes and man vrs man and nature; Bunker actually wrote nurturing prose about the Native Americans in Other Men's Skies and other publications.
Raymond Thorp was the mover and shaker in getting information and tracking down individuals involved in the Liver Eating Johnson saga. (He wrote about Black Widows and Jim Bowie's knife, as well.) There are pictures of him with Johnston's National Cemetery Stone in Sawtelle, California, of some of his weapons and areas in the Johnson arena while rambling after the real man. He spent a lot of time talking to veterans of the plains and mountains, many of them coming to Pasedena pastures to graze in arthritic old age. (Hard to move around in the cold crippled up.) Del Gue was the one fella I could never find any historic facts about. Not even his name is mentioned anywhere. Others are looking as well.
White-eyed Anderson was another frontiersman. He was there, bunked and trapped with Johnston for a time and is now buried in California at Forest Lawn.
Robert Bunker was the actual writer; fleshing out the information that Thorp gave him. (I was fortunate to speak to and write him about this book over the years. Both have joined Johnston in eternal rest.) Together the authors have created a moving piece of folklore laced with truth about the frontier and this one man who was known to many in his time. Not mentioned is Johnston's considerable time as a whiskey peddler in Canada out of Fort Benton and his time with an 1884 wild west show along with Crow Indians, Calamity Jane, Curley, Hardwick, LeForge and many others.
He did not have a beef with the Crow. Oh, but he enjoyed beef livers with them at least once by some accounts....during the agency slaughter. It was the Sioux that was stirring the warpath soup. Johnston earned his moniker against them, shot them, poisoned them and generally distrusted them. He got along with the Crow. So here is the subplot of Crow Killer and the movie Jeremiah Johnson that was made in 1972. The Crow were after him.
The book was supposed to be a history. It is, but it is one of tall tales. In that, I would explain that after a day's work one would be laying or sitting by a good fire, full of buffalo rib and berries and perhaps a jigger of whiskey, enjoying a smoke or chew while each good-natured comrade is telling how it was and how it had been...Perhaps the best new book on this subject would be Dr. Dennis John McLelland's The Avenging Fury of the Plains John "Liver Eating" Johnston in that he debunks (sorry Robert) Crow Killer and explains the real man and times.
Johnston has been my research subject since I saw his cabin at Red lodge, Montana in 1969. (See www.johnlivereatingjohnston.com) I have heard all the tales of men in their cups, men on the range, men of boast, men of action and quite a few gals therein while traipsing the historical trails in search of Crow Killer. One such tale in the book has to do with the frozen leg escape, which is a good grisly one, but was actually done by one Boone Helm. Imagine my surprise to get a call from one of his direct descendants to add to my knowledge of the rowdy Helm brothers!
What I would direct readers to enjoy is the fable, the boast, the roar and chest-thumping of men who in reality had not much to do but survive and hold on to memories as they got feeble and needed an outlet for that mental energy pent up inside from those long ago hair raising exploits. It was not an easy life, conquering the west. And many did not get to rest out in pleasant climes like California, having an arrow, bullet, blizzard, bear, fallen boulder or lack of food make their day end--sometimes not very quickly.
Crow Killer is a good book to flavor that time, feel the hone of a blade, duck from a loud crack or wang of a bow string, smell the campfire, enjoy a good buffalo rib (online, if you want) and get some knowledge of survival and how those folks got along with their neighbors. Crow Killer must be on it’s twenty-ninth printing by now—if not it will be.