Hunting with Elisha Wallen

Jadon Gibson

Elisha Wallen was an early long hunter in southwest Virginia and the tri-state area of Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. He was one of the first white men to explore the western wilderness as the area, and points farther west, were called in the mid to late 1700’s. This story is based on Wallen’s conversations with others in that era.

He told about a November hunt in which he fought a large buck for his life, when it rushed him, before he had time to raise his rifle. “I knew the bucks were wild at that time of year because of mating season,” Wallen later opined. “But I’d never seen one, or heard of one, acting that crazy.”

“I swung around but didn’t have time to aim or even raise my rifle,” Wallen said. “I tried to step from the buck’s path but his horn struck me in the back, knocking me aside. I felt pain and the wetness of blood but jumped back to my feet ‘cause he was starting another charge.

“I got off a shot as he was a’charging. It slowed him down but he kept coming. He seemed to come slower so he could change course if I stepped one way or the other. I knew I wouldn’t have time to reload so I stepped to one side and swung my rifle and hit him hard on his snout with the stock of my rifle. He was stunned – just standing there making a strange noise and watching me.”

Wallen swung again with all his might, breaking both the buck’s jaw and his rifle stock. He instinctively reached for his knife while rushing to grab the addled buck. He cut the large animal’s throat as it bucked to rid itself of Wallen. Blood from the buck spewed and mixed with Wallen’s own from his back wound.

After a short time, that seemed much longer to Elisha Wallen, the buck fell to its knees and then onto its side before dying.

Early Americans lived in a narrow range up and down the eastern seaboard for over two centuries. Eventually many courageous long-hunters such as Eisha Wallen entered the wilderness and hunted for furs which they brought back and traded for other needs. They were called long-hunters because they often hunted for many months before returning.

Wallen cleaned himself and tended to his flesh wound as best he could, Wallen skinned the buck. He then returned to his camp on the side of Wallen’s Ridge which now bears his name. Wallen and his kin used several variations in the spelling of their name including Wallen, Wallin, Walling and Walden, etc. The large skin was the first one on this trip and Wallen recalled hoping no others would be as difficult. The following day he cooked and ate some of the meat from the buck. Otherwise he rested except for making a new stock for his rifle.

Wallen’s camp was near a spring which flowed into what is now Wallen’s Creek. He had dammed the creek and placed his skins in the pool for soaking.

The following morning he was up looking for early feeding deer. During the afternoon the deer rested so Wallen searched for signs where they may be found later in the day when they would again feed. He found a grouping of oak trees and saw deer signs where they had been feeding on acorns. He found a secluded grove of small trees nearby and waited.

He watched and listened to squirrels as they had territorial squabbles over the cache of acorns, then he heard the arrival of several deer. He looked up and saw ten or so, picked one out and carefully aimed.

After felling the deer, Wallen methodically reloaded his rifle, pulled back on the hammer and aimed true at another doe before firing. It too, fell dead. Two of the deer remained and were curious, going over to nuzzle the dead doe.

Wallen said later that he felt the rifle shots were new to the deer and they, not seeing him well hid in the thicket, were not alarmed sufficiently to run. He continued to reload and fire until five animals lay dead. (Times were much different then. There was an abundance of animals and the human population was scarce on the borderland. Such a practice is unlawful today.)

He took his knife and slit the deer from neck to tail. He circled around the neck and at the top of each leg. The muzzles and shanks were trimmed off and, clutching the skin with one hand, he cut and pulled the skin loose from the meat. Wallen ate a piece of raw liver as he cut the doe’s stomach to look for madstones which sometimes occurred in deer’s stomachs. In that era madstones were used to draw poison out of bites from rabid animals. Woodsmen always carried them for emergencies and bartered additional ones for their other needs.

Wallen was famished when he arrived back at his Wallen Ridge camp. He placed the skins in the pool for soaking and then sat down to eat a stew which had been slowly cooking since noon. He also inspected the strips of meat, or jerky as it was called, which had smoked over the fire and ashes. He would take several strips of this jerky on hunting forays over the next several days.

Wallen then began the slow arduous task of scraping the hides. He knew he couldn’t afford getting too far behind because the new hunt had already netted six hides. He then sharpened his knife and also gave his gun a going-over.

In a few hours the does would be out for early morning feeding. He would be waiting. copyright Jadon Gibson 2018

Editor’s note: Gibson is a freelance writing are both historical and nostalgic in nature and can be read regularly at bereaonline.com.
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A Voice for God – A voice for good

My good Lord in Heaven has been so good to me.

Over eons of time many families have been separate never to see each other again. The last two centuries brought innovations that allow individuals to remain in close contact even though they may be thousands of miles apart.

I have a brother in Mississippi and a sister in Michigan and both called recently. I had two major surgeries in the last five months and they were checking on my recovery. My son living near Virginia Beach called a week ago. They had potential bad weather coming and Robert and Ruth checked to see if they could stay with us a few days if they were forced to evacuate. Of course we would have loved it even with Robert’s three Great Danes. Luckily for them they missed out on most of the storm however.

Earlier this year my son-in-law and family, six altogether, avoided the bad weather inundating Florida by staying with us.

My great-grandparents had 12 kids. Most of them remained in the area but some left for one reason or another. One of his sons in particular went months without sending as much as a postcard. After a lengthy time great-grandpa Gibson had someone write a letter to his long-lost son saying that he had died. Well… a week or so later the absentee son showed up at the family mountain cabin in Hancock County, Tennessee where they lived.

He was greatly surprised to learn that his Dad, the elder Mr. Gibson, was still alive. That reminds me of my son in California who is seldom in touch although he does have a kind heart.

My good Lord in Heaven has been so good to me. I want to encourage youngsters to remain in contact with their parents and siblings. I’ve heard several times “be good to your mother as she is the only one you have.” That can be said for fathers too. Your mother and father are likely the best friends you will ever have.

Some young people think little about it as they feel they have all the time in the world to get back to their parents. Unfortunately, too often, time is running out for the parents back at home.

My good Lord in Heaven has been so good to me allowing me to stay in close contact with my father until he died soon after his retirement. My mother lived on until age 86. Stay in close contact with your Mother and Dad. You’ll miss them and mourn their passing when they are gone.

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