This article involved my grandfather Tildon Wheeler, his brother Archie Wheeler, and their father, N. S. Wheeler and other well-known men in the Sparksville Community around the turn of the last century, ca 1905.
Near Sparksville - Citizens Thoroughly Aroused Over Strange Noise,
Join in a Wild Chase After a Boy With Tin Cup.
Sparksville, Ky., April 3, (ca 1905)
A few days ago, Mr. Dallas Morrison, a young merchant of this place, while examining a peanut box, found a small instrument made of a small tin cup with a rawhide stretched over one end to which a string was fastened. He also found a little stick covered with rosin. While alone, Mr. Morrison found that the little machine produced a very peculiar sound. He stuffed it down into his pocket contenting himself with the thought that he had found the very thing he needed. After supper Mr. Morrison put on his hat and walked down into a deep hollow below a steep bluff, known as Matthew Sparks spring bluff. He began to operate the little machine in a systematic way.
Grant Collins and Tilden Wheeler were the first to hear the noise. They ran down the hill a short distance and stopped. Mr. Collins began to call his old dog, Joe, when the poor fellow had been dead for two weeks. Tilden began calling his father, saying "Oh pap, come here quick and see if you know what it is." His father went in and rush by Mr. W. L. Gadberry’s and called for his gun and Mr. Gadberry told him that he did not propose to give up all the protection he had in case of serious trouble like this. Mr. Gadberry is reported to have been heard about 10 o’clock still nailing up his door.
Poor Archie Wheeler walked out to the yard gate upon his crutch and cane and he too, heard the ferocious beast. (Mr. Morrison and his tin cup) He turned and went toward the house at a rapid gate, making from three to six steps with his well foot; to one with his crutch. When he reach the house he asked his mother in breathless tones, "Where is that butcher knife?" By this time several of the boys had gathered at the top of the bluff, but nobody had a gun or a dog, so they began to yell for Mr. W. R. Janes to come and join the chase.
Pretty soon Mr. Janes was heard coming with an empty gun in one hand and his hat in the other, saying "Here Ring" "Here Ring" When he reached the spot his dog began trailing something and Mr. Janes exclaimed. "Boys, watch my dog: he smells a strange trail." He also remarked "Now boys lets watch and not let it get hold of us and tear us up. It is a Otter." "No" said Grant Collins, "it’s a Bear. Listen it walks as heavy as a cow." "Yes" said Tilden Wheeler. "It just makes my hair stand right up." Mr. John Preston had rode up to Mr. Janes’ and he too, heard the strange noise and said, "Yes it’s a Bear, and I left my wife at home by her lone self." He went in a lone gallop back to his dear companion. Mr. Morrison came quietly back and placed himself behind W. L. Gadberry’s store house, close to where the boys had congregated to talk the chase over. He found the boys so well excited he thought he would try them another hitch, so he went out into the Columbia and Burksville road above Mr. Wheelers barn and started toward the Antioch church, making the same queer noise with the tin cup. Again the boys started after him whooping and yelling. Tilden Wheeler voice was herd above the rest, saying, "It's an Otter and I'm going to have its hide."
The family of J. F. Gilpin was alarmed by the noise and Mrs. Gilpin told Jim to go and see what it meant. "Yes wife," said Jim, "I will go if you will go in front and carry the lantern and a club." So in this way they started to investigate the matter, joined by Mr. Frank Curry. Mr. John M. Rowe a well known citizen of Rowetown, was visiting his son-in-law, L. Akin, and they heard the boys yelling and hissing the dogs. Thinking probably they were after a mad dog, they too started "sniping" but they did not get far, because Mr. Morrison had almost run himself down by this time and had put the tin cup in his pocket and was walking back down the road whistling the good old tune, "Am I a Soldier of the Cross?" A. T. Coomer is reported to have sat out on top of a high gate post almost all night with a shot gun in his hand. Some of the boys got a little mad at Mr. Morrison at first, but they are all in good humor now and they have a good time joking each other about the Bear hunt.
Note:This clipping was sent to me by Mrs. Margie Coffey, with note: "1905 Spectator Newspaper."
Col. Carlis B. Wilson