I recently referenced a Wise County incident involving a bear. After the column was published, I noted that this story was worthy of more attention and detail.
Here’s more information regarding the Wise County bear:
- Young Truitt Hodges Jr. (age 16) and his father, Truitt Hodges Sr., were working on the farm one day when Truitt’s grandfather, Thomas, drove up in a panic. He said he’d just seen a bear!Junior and Senior were skeptical. After quite a long discussion, they (Jr. and Sr.) were still unconvinced that Grandpa had seen a bear. They decided to leave it at that. (“Let’s just not talk about this any more. Maybe Grandpa’s just confused.”)
- Not many days afterward, Loyd Jackson’s father, Loyd Jackson Sr., saw the bear on his place. He rubbed his eyes and re-focused to make sure he was seeing a bear in the pasture with his cows.He had no gun, so he went to find a friend. Waymon Pannell had a gun, came to the Jackson place and shot the bear.
Word spread that a bear had been shot at the Jacksons, and people came from far and near to see the dead animal on display in the bed of Mr. Jackson’s pickup. Newspapers from Fort Worth and Dallas came to cover the story. Nobody in Wise County had heard the term in 1957, but “traffic jams” were created by the hubbub.
- Much speculation was offered about how the bear got to Wise County, Texas. Some say the bear escaped from a circus train on its way through Decatur. Others say it was a pet that got too big to handle, prompting the owners to release the animal.One speculation is that the bear was owned by a rodeo clown in the Fort Worth area and escaped on the way to (or from) a rodeo. It’s difficult to find an old-time Wise County resident who doesn’t remember the bear.
Let’s return to Grandpa Hodges. How do you think he felt when he saw what he saw, then came to the people (his son and his son’s son) who had always believed everything he had ever told them?
After he got the news of the bear killin’, he rushed out to the farm and instructed “Senior” and “Junior” to get in his pickup. He had something to show them! They countered with, “We’re mighty busy here on the place. We don’t have time right now.”
After some discussion/coercion, the three men drove to the Jackson place to see the bear and hear the story of the one-sided shootout. By the time they arrived, Pannell had skinned the bear and was trimming off bear meat for the passersby.
Ross Mueller chose not to eat the stuff. His son Bart ate a man-sized portion of bear meat at the ripe old age of 6 years.
Moral to the story is this: When Grandpa tells a whopper, you’d better act like you believe it even if you don’t. He might be right.
Gerre Joiner is a semi-retired church musician and has lived in Decatur since 1999.