Jedediah and Old Ephraim

In a brushy river bottom, while the trappers were leading their horses in single file, a grizzly charged into the line and lumbered toward the front. Jedediah Smith challenged the bear. By the time they drove the bear off smith was sprawled on the ground bleeding. Clyman, the second in command, checked the Capitan over. Old Ephraim (mountain man name for a Grizzly Bear) had broken several of his ribs. He had gotten Jedediah’s head into his mouth. The left eye was gashed. His skull near the crown was stripped bare. The right ear was hanging by a thread. Everyone stood around and wondered what to do. Clyman asked Smith what should be done. The captain said, “One or two go for water. Get a needle and thread and sew up the wounds around my head.

Clyman figured that if Smith, bleeding profusely, had enough gumption to give instructions, then he had enough to stitch him up. He floundered and fretted, Smith coaching him all the way. Finally he managed to sew the edges of the wounds back together except for the severed ear. He said he couldn’t do anything about it. “Stitch it together some way”, said Smith. Clyman looked, hesitated, and began to poke the needle through the various edges and pull the thread tight enough that flesh would touch flesh.

Smith crawled on his horse and rode a mile to water, and then let the men install him in the only tent. In ten days he was ready to ride. The scarred ear, the missing eyebrow, and the scalp scars would clearly stay with him the rest of his life.

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