A Hunters' bivouac under the shadows of a Mississippian forest, in a
spot where the trees stand unthinned by the axe of the woodman.
It is upon the Arkansas side of the great river, not far from the town
of Helena, and in the direction of Little Rock, the capital of that
The scene is a small glade, surrounded by tall cottonwood trees, one of
which on each side, conspicuously "blazed," indicates a "trace" of
travel. It is that leading from Helena to a settlement on the forks of
the White River and Cache.
The time is a quarter of a century ago, when this district of country
contained a heterogeneous population, comprising some of the wildest and
wickedest spirits to be found in all the length and breadth of the
backwoods border. It was then the chosen home for men of fallen
fortunes, lawyers and land speculators, slave-traders and swindlers,
hunters, who lived by the pursuit of game, and sportsmen, whose game was
cards, and whose quarry consisted of such dissolute cotton planters as,
forsaking their homes in Mississippi and Tennessee, had re-established
themselves on the fertile bottoms of the Saint Francis, the White and
A glance at the individuals comprising the bivouac in question forbids
the supposition that they belong to any of the above. There are six of
them; all are boys, the oldest not over twenty, while the youngest may
be under sixteen. And though at the same glance you are satisfied that
they are but amateur hunters, the game they have succeeded in bringing
down shows them gifted not only with skill but courage in the chase.
The carcase of a large bear lies beside them on the sward, his skin
hanging from a tree, while several steaks cut from his fat rump, and
impaled upon sapling spits, sing pleasantly over the camp fire, sending
a savoury odour far into the forest around.