THE CHAMPION KICKER
How Honest Jack Ormiston Booted the Bear.
A MAN OF INFINITE RESOURCE.
It’s a Cold Day When You Corner the Old Woodsman — On One Cold Day He Warmed His Feet by Burning Kerosene In His Boots.
Jack Ormiston of the Adirondacks has had some queer experiences in the woods. He has been eaten up by a bear, he has floated around on Cranberry lake astride a log for hours with the cakes of ice making hash of his legs. He has been lost, frozen, shot, and has fallen down embankments times without number and he lives to tell the tale.
Some time since Jack got to yarning it in camp to some impressionable young tenderfeet, and this is his story as they repeat it:
“You’ve heered some of the fellers say, hain’t you, how I kotched that old bear last fall?” asked Jack.
We assured him that we never had, and it was not strictly true, because he had told us a dozen or more times before.
“Waal, you must know where Tully pond is,” continued Jack. “Blessed if I don’t kotch a bear mighty queer there last fall. Jim Hodge give me a lift on the job, I must say, but that ain’t the point. Fact is, the great pint wuz the toe end of these boots. I was comin down this way along the trail when I heered a rustling overhead in a tall pine. Golly, when I looked up kinder quick sideways, for I feered somethin wuz goin to drop, I see a mighty big bear comin along on one of the limbs toward the trunk.
“He started to come down the trunk back end first, winking at me. My gun wuz over at camp. I didn’t have a thing with me, and Jim wuz half a mile back on the trail. That bear I could see had a mighty fine hide that would bring me somethin like $30 with the bounty. I didn’t care to have him run away, nor did I want to shake hands with him and pass the time of day with him till Jim come along and put him to sleep with a bullet. I didn’t make up my mind none too soon. The bear warn’t half way down the tree when I rushed at him, not knowin what I would do to own that hide and capture the bounty. I looked around fer a club, but none come in sight, so when I got to the foot of the tree there warn’t nothin but one thing to do. I just hauled off and kicked that bear.
“It wuz the first experimentin of the kind I ever heared of, and by gosh it beat arything I ever see. The bear clawed hard inter the bark and snapped at me. He was easin up a bit with his nails when I swun him another and another. I yelled for Jim and swung again. I yelled six times, kickin between every yell. Then Jim answered, and I kept up yellin and kickin first with one boot and then the other. The bear didn’t drop an inch. Just as he eased up a little bit I swung again. Gosh, it seemed as if Jim was takin his time comin along that trail. Just as I swung the forty-ninth kick Jim come in sight. I dropped flat on my back. Jim popped one inter the bear, and it flopped over onter me. Jim wuz the most surprised man you ever see. It wuz two hours before I could prove to him that I wuz tellin the truth about the bear.”
Then Jack piled another log on the fire and started in on a new tale.
“This spring I come near bein done fer,” he said. “Kerosene kept me in pickle long enough to get near a fire, and then I wuz all right again.”
We wanted to know if kerosene oil wasn’t a new beverage for him.
“No, I didn’t drink none.” he continued. “I started to cross Brandy brook on a log. I wanted to cut off a three mile walk around by the trail. The water wuz high, and there wuz a strong current runnin out inter the lake. This log was about a foot and a half through. I rolled it off into the stream. I tucked my breeches in my boots and straddled the log. I hadn’t kicked a dozen strokes before I got out inter the swift water, and then I could see I wuz in fer it. I kicked to back up again to the shore, but it wuz no use, so I let it go. It came on dark, and my feet began to freeze. My old boots had been well greased, but the water dripped in at the tops and soaked my stockin’s.
“I tried kickin harder to keep my blood stirred up. I drifted over toward Bear mountain and knew that if the wind kept up I would land somewhere before midnight. Just as I wuz gettin almighty froze I thought of a bottle of kerosene I had to oil my gun. You can bet I wuz wishin it wuz somethin more cheerin than kerosene oil. A little alkehal and sugar at that time would ‘a’ slipped down inter them boots from the inside and melted them frozen toes, but there warn’t nuthin but kerosene. I poured it half and half inter each boot, and I know it helped to make me easy fer a time. But by and by it seemed to me the oil must be freezin too. It wuz lucky I had my old matchbox along in my vest pocket, high and dry, fer then the idea struck me that if I lit a match and sent it down inter the oil it would warm things up some. There warn’t much else to do or think erbout. I wuz makin fer Bear Mountain island slow, but steady. If I didn’t get there till midnight, my feet would both be froze off, so I made up my mind to try the matches. Lucky fer me, my boots had wide tops, so I could sent the lit match down to the bottom, where it ‘ud do the most good. Well, sir, the first match in the right boot did the trick fine. It took fire and thawed things out quicker’n I thought. Blisters raised all over, and when it got scalded all comfortably I wriggled around and put out the fire. Then I tried it on the left foot, and it worked just as well. There wuz enough matches left to start a fire on the island when I drifted in there toward 12 o’clock.”
The Steubenville Herald (Steubenville, Ohio) Nov 21, 1896