Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Voice From The Past: Part 1

Merry Christmas to all and blessings from the Mansfield’s. I have just experienced a great moment in my life and want to share. It is one of those special unexpected moments that catches you by surprise. I was doing some cleaning-up in our garage to make room for odds and ends that we have acquired since the last time we cleaned and organized. On the top shelf of our storage area there were some boxes that I thought I could do without. There was one I knew contained some old books that came from my grandmother’s house in Glendale Arizona. I placed the boxes on the top shelf maybe four or five years ago.

Here I was again at a point that I needed space, and figured if I had not looked at the items in the plastic box in more than four years then I probably did not need them. I pulled the boxes down and began going through them there were some very old and rare books that I decided to keep and some not so rare that I put in the thrift store pile. My first surprise came when I found an old field and stream magazine at the bottom of the container. It was from 1935. I picked it up, thumbed through it and found two folded, typed, pieces of paper. I opened the paper and began to read. It was an article on how to build a better fly box. I had my finger in the place where the paper had been, and noticed the title of the article near where my finger was. It was the title of the article on the piece I held in my hand.  I discovered that the article in the 1935 issue of field and stream was written by my grandfather. I was very please and surprised to find out that my grandfather wrote magazine articles, well at least one and it was published.

I never knew my grandfather, and he never knew I existed either. My mother was pregnant with me and mom and dad were on the way from Blythe Ca. to Glendale Arizona to tell him, but before they arrived he slipped into a comma and never regained consciousness. I have always been curious about him. He was an avid fly fisherman and loved to hunt. My dad had many different things that Granddad had made and spoke very highly of him. The closest thing to meeting him was in 1973. I attended a short term bible school in Oregon, and met a couple who worked with my grandfather in the post office in Glendale AZ. He had some very nice things to say about him, and it brought me closer to the man who was just a name.

I dug a little deeper and below the magazine was an old, thin, cardboard box that contained a bunch of hand typed paper. One bundle was tied together with what looked to be thin strips of leather. I could tell right away that it was written by my grandfather. The date was October 1930. Below that and centered was the title, “A Hunting Trip in Northern Arizona” and below that it read “By A.M. Mansfield.” His name was Amzi Merit Mansfield He was born in 1887. I read the first few pages and knew that I needed to share this with my family. I do not know if anyone else will be as excited as I am but I want to share.

There are two very big surprises contained in the story that I do not want to give away. One has to do with something that was at my grandmother’s house for years but I never knew how it came to be there. The other has to do with something that was at our house for years.  This short story clears up all of the mystery.  I am going to post in two segments because it is long. This story is for anyone who loves hunting and is curious about life in 1930 in Arizona. It is a true account of hunting, and killing game.   

There are many other very interesting things about my grandfather, which I may write about later, but for now enjoy this true life adventure of rugged men who loved the outdoors.

October 1930

A Hunting Trip in Northern Arizona

By A.M. Mansfield

A few years ago certain sections of a large game reserve in northern Arizona, known as the Kaibab Forest, were opened to hunters for a limited time each season. The deer family in this reserve had multiplied until their members had exceeded the food supply and after a few dry seasons a great many died from starvation during the long winter months.

Five or six years ago an attempt was made to round up and drive a portion of the deer across the Grand Canyon to other ranges not so well stocked. A Los Angeles man named McCormack, contracted to deliver several thousand deer south of the Grand Canyon at so much per head.

Accompanied by Zane Grey as publicity agent McCormack moved in with his movie cowboys and the drive started. At this time it was learned that wild deer differed from range cattle in the respect that they refused to be herded. They had ideas of their own as to where they were going and proceeded to go there despite the efforts of the L.A. cowpunchers. A severe snow storm broke over the region and the drive ended in a complete failure which was attributed to the storm. However, old time cattle men in that section maintain that, “Storm or no storm it just couldn’t be did”.

A year or so later the game commission created an open season which permitted each licensed hunter to bag two deer, one of which must be a doe. Since the first open season hunters have brought out approximately five thousand deer each fall, and now it is estimated that there are between thirty thousand and thirty five thousand deer in the forest and all in fine shape due to lesser numbers and consequently better feed conditions.

Ever since the first open season a number of friends and myself had talked of taking a hunting trip to this region but nothing definite was planned until the summer if 1929. Unfortunately, my vacation was wished on me in August and therefore when October came around the rest of the party (six in number) went without me. They returned with six or seven deer, but only one buck in the bunch.

They were very enthusiastic about the trip and the hunting conditions and planned to go back again in 1930. During the summer, the coming hunt was talked over frequently and on the morning of October fifth. We were lined up and ready to set out in a one and a half ton Chevy truck.

The party consisted of A.L. Brewster (father), Harold and Cecil Brewster (sons), Ed Smith (uncle) and myself. Mr. Smith furnished the truck and the rest of us split gas, oil, food, etc. We left Glendale at 7:00 A.M. and camped that night near Cameron, two hundred and seventy five miles from home. The roads were fine to Cameron but rough and slow from there on to our destination. After an early start Monday morning we passed through much barren volcanic country, along the edge of the Petrified Forest, through Indian villages and trading ports, then along the southeast side of the upper end of the Grand Canyon to the new Grand Canyon Bridge.

We stopped and inspected the bridge then continued south-westward near the river for several miles then north-westward across House Rock Valley. The road soon turned west and then the big climb into the Kaibab Forest began. The first grade, called House Rock hill, was a bear, almost straight up and surfaced with boulders the size of water buckets. After thirteen miles of this road we came out on the main north and south highway coming down from Utah to the Grand Canyon Hotel on the north rim. This highway runs along the crest if the Kaibab refuge, and is an excellent road.

We turned along this road and eventually went off the north west corner of the mountains and then about four miles from Fredonia (and eight miles from the Utah state line) we turned south along a government trail for fifteen miles to Ryan, a hunters checking station, which we reached about sun down. At this checking station our guns were sealed by the Forest Ranger, licenses inspected by game warden and then assigned to the pine flats hunting camp, eighteen miles farther up in the forest. There were three hunting camps on this side (west) of the mountains: Moquitch, Four Miles, Pine Flats, twelve miles, and Big Saddle, twenty one miles from Ryan. We selected Pine Flats after the Ranger told us that there were fewer hunting parties there than at the other two camps. After completing the arrangements at the checking station, we continued on and reached Pine flats at 7:30 P.M. Monday.

We unloaded our bedrolls, built a fire on the ground, got some bacon, eggs, and coffee going and then went over to the rangers and wardens office and had the seals removed from our rifles so we could get an early start the next morning.

Just a word about our firearms: A.L. carried a 250-3000 Savage lever action; Harold had a 30-06 Winchester lever action; Cecil was armed with a 30 Remington slide action, While Mr. Smith packed a 30-40 remodeled Krag. As usual, I carried my old 35 Remington, and still believe there is no better all-around deer gun. It is light and fast and has sufficient power for anything I ever expect to hunt.

There were horses and guides to be had but we preferred to hike around and locate deer ourselves the first day, and then if no good heads showed up we would engage horses and get farther back in the mountain. After a few hours’ sleep and an early breakfast we all set out at daylight to see what we could find.

After climbing up a winding trail to the top of a timbered mesa we could overlook a part of the surrounding country. Toward the north were lofty snowcapped mountains about fifty miles away in Utah, and to the west we could see the brightly colored wall along Kanab Creek about twenty miles distant. We knew that there was a highway east and north of us and not over twenty-five miles away, therefore there was not much danger of getting lost for any length of time.

Due to the fact that Mr. S. was quite deaf, somewhat lame and not an experienced deer hunter, he was ready to shoot any deer that showed its self, while the rest of us planned to pass up does and small bucks during the first day or two and try for large heads.

On the way up the trail we jumped two or three does but before we could get Mr. Smith’s attention, they ran out of sight. A short time later, while following along the top of a pine timbered ridge (or mesa) we spotted a small doe standing in an opening about one hundred and fifty yards away. We got Mr. S. lined up and he fired three times before the doe decided to leave.

A little later a small buck jumped out and Harold took a crack at him as he dashed away through the timber but without results. We came upon a water hole about two miles out and here the party split up. Not caring to take a very long hike the first day out, I stayed with Mr. S. while the rest went deeper into the forest.

While Mr. S. and I were sitting on a log, I heard something and upon looking in the direction of the noise I spotted two does trotting towards us. I tried to get Mr. S. turned around but in doing so the does saw us and wheeled around and galloped off through the brush. Before Mr. S. could get in action. We continued on and saw several more does but Mr. S. did not get a shot at any of them.

Swinging around in a wide circle we reached camp around 2:00pm, after covering about eight miles. We cooked a large kettle of Mulligan stew and a pot of coffee. After eating what we could, we put the rest near the fire to keep warm for the rest of the party upon their return. They arrived just before dark and reported seeing many does and killed and hung up three, but saw no bucks.

During the evening we called on several other parties in the camp and their experience verified the reports we had already heard, that is: there having no snow or heavy frosts high up in the mountains, the big wily old timers were still up there and would remain until driven down by deep snow and lack of food later in the season.

There were about a dozen deer hanging up around the camp, one large buck, several small bucks, and the rest were does.

Late that evening we rounded up a guide and engaged four horses for 7:00am. The horse wrangler established what was called the “fly camp” which consisted of a corral, horses, saddles, etc. This camp was about twelve miles from our main camp by the highway and about six miles by trail over the mountains. Due to a shortage of horses at the fly camp, the guide, Harold, and Cecil took six more over the trail from the main camp, while Mr. B. and I drove around in the truck. We arrived at the fly camp and waited at least an hour before the others showed up. Cecil had shot a spike buck on the way and they had to dress it out and tie it on one of the horses, hence the delay.

This was to be my first experience on horseback and I had no idea what I was in for, but before the day was over I found out!

We were soon ready for the trail and set out up the canyon, the cowboy guide leading the way. I soon became accustomed to the rolling gate of the horse and thought that this was a very comfortable war to hunt; but more later.

A short distance up the canyon the guide turned off the trail and started up the point of a high ridge, so steep and rough that it looked almost impossible for a man on foot to get to the top. By scrambling up at an angle, first one way and then another, the horses managed to make the grade and eventually we reached the top. Here we found that these ridges (or mesas) were flat on top varying from three hundred yards in width and ascended at an easy grade back to the top of the range of mountains. Large pone timber covered this section with an occasional thicket of aspen and other brush scattered about. On the whole it was fairly open timber and usually one could see quite a distance in every direction.

The hunting now started in earnest, and the cowboy followed along the center of the mesa while the rest spread out about fifty yards apart, two on either side of the guide. Almost at once we began to see game in bunches of two or more, but in each case they proved to be all does. It was the custom that when one sighted deer to hop off, leave the horse and proceed forward on foot. Upon seeing one rider dismount, the rest would do likewise and so proceed in skirmish formation until the game was either killed or run out of the vicinity. In the meantime the guide would gather up the horses and follow along after the hunters: then when the excitement was over the horses were right at hand to remount.

On one occasion we were riding along in a bunch due to a narrow spot on the mesa, when a herd of deer jumped out of the brush just over the bank about fifty feet away. The deer ran along the side of the ridge and the other boys scrambled off and got over to the edge in time to get in a couple of snap shots but without result. At the time. I was just to the rear of the rest and I also scrambled off and had just run in among the other horses when the bunch of deer, led by a large buck crossed over the ridge about seventy five yards away, offering me a fine running shot. It was a temptation to cut loose but I held my fire rather that to have four or five scared broncs trying to climb on the back of my neck.

We continued on until about 1:00pm, and then stopped for lunch. At this time it occurred to me that riding a horse was not exactly the most comfortable way to spend a forenoon, in fact, it had become decidedly painful. My keens protested violently whenever I tried to bend them and the saddle had developed into an instrument of torture.

After finishing our lunch we went down off the north side of the mesa, across to canyon and then climbed to the top of the next ridge and followed that one back toward the corral. We planned to break camp the next morning (Thursday) therefore I intended to get my two deer on the way back, regardless of sex or size.

Late in the afternoon we jumped a bunch of three or four does, and one especially big doe stopped broadside to me about 75 yards away. I tumbled off the horse and dropped to one knee and cracked down on her shoulder. At the shot she wheeled around and galloped out of sight over the brink of the mesa without showing any indication of having been hit. I rode over to the place where she stood when I fired but found no blood signs, so came to the conclusion that I had missed, and rode on.

Mr. B. was riding near the edge and somewhat to the rear, and as he came up to the place where the doe went over the rim and let out a yell. I hurried back and found him following a blood trail over the rim. I took up the trail and found pieces of lung and etc. scattered about and finally came upon the doe about a hundred yards from where I shot her. The guide came tearing down off the top and when he saw the doe he remarked it was the largest deer without horns that he had ever seen.

 The other boys climbed back on top and continued on, while the cowboy and I dressed out and loaded the doe on my horse. Now that I had my horse loaded I had to proceed on foot and lead him. We also climbed back on the ridge and followed along a dim trail and shortly came upon a hat belonging to one of the other boys. It was on the ground and held down with a long stick which pointed to the left of the course the trail was leading. I picked up the hat and walked along in the direction the stick pointed and soon found the rest of the party dressing out a two-point buck of medium size.

It seems that Cecil saw the buck and was drawing a fine bead on its shoulder when a rifle cracked some distance back of him and the buck dropped. Mr. B. stated later that when he saw Cecil on his Knee aiming at something, he looked ahead and saw the buck so he threw his Savage to his shoulder, took a quick aim and thus beat Cecil to the shot.

It was about sun down when we got going again, and each step was becoming more and more painful to me. Harold said he wanted to hunt on the way in and asked me to ride his horse. I strongly suspect that he did this to get me off my feet and invented the desire to hunt as an excuse. However, I was perfectly willing to take him up on his proposition, and thus we proceeded.


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