Bio: Dart, Frank (1918)

Contact:  Lani Bartelt

Surnames: Dart

----Sources: Republican and Press Neillsville, Wis. June 20,1918

Frank Dart the Hermit Hunter

Crane, Mont. June 11,1918

Dear Sir and Friend: - I had a copy of your paper sent me recently in which was an account of the death of F.E. Dart, the hermit in the town of Sherwood.

Mr. Dart was a very interesting man to me, and I am herewith enclosing a brief account of what I know of him in his home life.

I do not know whether your patrons would be interested in this, a true narrative, or not, but if you think they would you are welcome to print it.

yours truly, Myron Pickering

My first acquaintance with F.Dart was when a lad of about fifteen years and shortly thereafter I had the thrilling experience of spending a month with him trapping and handling bear.

Altho this was my first acquaintance, for many years the name of the hermit hunter and trapper had been a familiar one.

At the time mentioned, I was escorted to his lodge by a neighbor, who had learned the way to his headquarters. They were located at the head of a small meadow creek with pine and hardwood growing so thickly on either side that they nearly shaded the little opening where the buildings were located. I well remember the peculiar sensations that the many sounds of the animals, birds, and falling acorns gave me when rising at daybreak on those September mornings to take care of the horses and bears and get ready for an early start on the five miles of traps I usually watched.

Three miles in the opposite direction Mr. Dart attended them. There were 45 traps on the line.

I believe that was an unusally good season, as we caught about a dozen bear.  Quite an exciting experience it was too.

One of my first lessons was helping to cage a large bear which had the proverbial she-bear beat to a frazzle. My part in this first experience was to take care of the tools and accessories and be ready to assist in case of need or accident. Mr. Dart did the tethering of the trap chain and dropping of the iron cage over the bear. This by the way was done by standing the cage up on end, with the open bottom facing the bear and then hitching the cage nearer and nearer until it could be dropped over her, and then to hold it down until she quit fighting, after which the bottom board could be slid in and the trap released. Well, in this case the clamps which were to release the trap were left in my possession to be produced at the proper moment; but with the excitement of seeing her caged and helping to hold the cage down while she struggled to throw it off. I lost all trace of the clamps which I had laid down - "somewhere." And then came an excitement of another nature for Mr. Dart's persuasive language so impressed me that I never lost them again, and to this day I believe the lesson of that moment has not entirely left me.

After this adventure I had several experiences with the wild black bears that gave me a lasting memory of those few weeks spent with Mr. Dart.

On one occasion I discovered a trap with the twenty-five foot sapling used for a log long gone.  The trail led straight into a dense thicket of saplings, blackberry briars, and windfall timber, thru which I followed it at least a half mile, expecting all the time to hear the rattle of the claim or other noise that usually accompanies such a circumstance; but nothing of the kind happened, for, as I opened an especially thick bunch of brush, imagine my surprise to find myself facing a four hundred pound bruin, almost within striking distance of my face. To add to my discomfort I saw the chain almost free from the clog - so near so, at least, that another good strong lunge would undoubtedly freed him. But evidently he was as scared as I, for he allowed me to quietly back out of reach and I hastened to report to Mr. Dart. An hour later, he, with some long sharp stakes crept close enough to the bear to stake the ring of the chain to the ground, after which we proceeded to the caging process.

Another time, after the traps had all been cared for, we went up to the short end of the trap line to extend the trail making room for a few more traps. After working until evening we had started for camp when I, hearing a sound much like a cow bellowing, and remarked to Mr. Dart on the strange circumstance of a cow so far from civilization. Stopping to listen, he informed me it was not a cow but a bear experiencing the first pangs of the jaws of the seventeen pound trap. We proceeded at once to a quicker pace and were not long in coming up to the perpetrator of the unearthly bellows in the person of a cub bear about six or eight months old; and altho I was never permitted to carry my rifle with me, on this occasion Mr. Dart had his and gave it to me to hold off the old she-bear who threatened us from the brush nearby while he caged the cub. My feeling at the time made me think that the bear used poor judgment in failing to attack.

This was not the only occasion when I heard the voice of the bear; for when a new recruit was added to the bear pen there was always the night of the fiercest howling and wailing. It is said the panther imitates the the wail of the woman; but such a wail is only a side issue with the bear; for he has a thousand other wails that the lost souls of Hades might be proud to imitate.

The last day of my stay with Mr. Dart it happened that one of his bears died and he asked my assistance investigating the circumstances.

The place where the bear were kept was a large log enclosure with log covering and a partition of logs making two parts with a slide door between, and the dead bear was in the back compartment which had no exit from the outside. After an assurance that all the live bear were in the other part and the door closed by his request I held a lamp in thru a feed hole that he might look down thru a crack from above to see the dead bear. While holding the lamp I felt something cold touch my arm and not knowing what it was, peeked into the opening only to discover the brown nose of a bear on my arm. To say the lamp was removed abruptly is saying it easy. Mr. Dart had overlooked one bear, and she was not the kind that scared at a light either.

Penned up bear very quickly come to their appetite and are fully as voracious as hogs. We fed them corn in individual troughs made to slide in from the outside like a common dresser drawer. They very soon learned by the sound when the feed was thrown in and would suddenly grasp the end of the trough and impatiently jerk it and go after its contents.

They naturally display their pugilistic tendencies by striking viciously at anyone who ventured to near the cage or peep holes in the pen. Before I learned this I got a shirt sleeve torn and four deep claw marks on my arm. They strike so quickly that it is practically impossible to dodge. I often wondered that no one was seriously injured at that peep hole in the pen where visitors often looked at them.

While there I helped Mr. Dart fight a forest fire and save from ashes about a section of virgin timber by fighting three days and two nights almost without sleep or rest.  This ground became the resort of a great deal of game for whose protection Mr. Dart incurred the enmity of the greater sporting element of the community.

Mr. Dart was honest to the cent. I had reason to believe his money was buried in the woods near his home.

Taking everything into consideration, I can remember no month of my life more profitably spent than the one with the trapper and hunter, Frank Dart.



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