The last thing in life one wants to do is scare a bear with cubs. Worse still a grizzly bear, when alone, in a remote and hostile part of South Dakota. When the bear charges there is little left to do but rollover, play dead and await your fate. Well, unless your name is Hugh Glass.
Glass was a trapper in the 1800's and was attacked while scouting game for his expedition in Grand-River (presently Perkins Country). The story goes that before Glass could fire his rifle the bear was upon him, he drew his knife and fought the animal as it clawed him, ripping at his flesh and shredding his body.
Two fellow trappers ran to his aid and finished off the bear before attending to the mortally wounded Glass. When the expedition leader Andrew Henry arrived he found Glass unconscious. He had been ripped apart, had a broken leg, and gashes so deep that his ribs were exposed. There was no doubt he was a goner. Andrews asked for men to stay with Glass as he passed, and to give him a proper burial. Thomas Fitzpatrick and Jim Bridger volunteered to stay with him and bury the done-for mountain man when the time came. According to the men, after waiting some days they were disturbed by hostile Indians; panicking they grabbed Glass' rifle and equipment and ran for their lives. Glass was alone.
He lay there unconscious but not yet dead. After some time he began to stir and eventually regained consciousness. He was 200 miles from the nearest settlement of Fort Kiowa on the Missouri River. Furious at being left, the thought of revenge spurred him into action and he began his long crawl into American folklore. He set his own leg and tied his bearskin shroud around his exposed wounds. He lay across rotten logs to allow maggots to eat the dead flesh from his injuries, thus preventing them from going gangrenous. Fearing hostile natives he journeyed inland, crawling for six weeks, and surviving on berries, roots and scraps of meat stolen from startled wolves.
With aid from friendly natives and the help of a crude raft he built himself, Glass made it to Fort Kiowa alive and began his long recuperation. He eventually tracked down Fitzpatrick and Bridger but spared both their lives. He did however, reclaim his rifle and returned to the wilderness as a trapper and fur trader. Glass died in the winter of 1833 on the Yellowstone River during an attack by the Arikara.
This is just an incredible story! There has been so much written about this man in the form of both fact and fiction, and it is hard to separate the truth from the legend. Either way this is a great tale of pioneering America and legends they bore. There is now a monument to Glass at the site of the bear attack on the southern shore of Shadehill Reservoir, on the forks of the Grand River. If you ever get chance to visit doff your cap to Old Glass for me.