Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mister Bear

A group of Mormon pioneers had left Utah to go to Tuba, Arizona to settle there. Seth Tanner was riding ahead of the wagon train. They had come through Kanab, Utah, and were now in the Kaibab forest. He was riding a young mule. There were five Navajo Indians watching him.

He could see a cedar limb hanging out in the way where he wanted the wagons to go. He rode his mule close to the limb, put his arm around the limb and took hold of the horn of the saddle and gouged the spurs into the mule. The mule went ahead with all his strength, the limb did not break even after his front legs came up in the air. Tanner then backed the mule up and got a fresh hold on the limb with hand on the saddle horn. Then he gouged the mule again with his spurs, this time the limb broke.

The Navajos exclaimed in astonishment "Aye Yeh"[.] Then the chief got off his horse signaled to the others to do the same, he walked over to Tanner's side, took hold of his strong arms and felt the rippling muscles and said, "Haustien, Shush!"* In English Mr. Bear! Or strong as a bear. His sons were known as Shush Yazzie, or young bears.

Father said that he was known all over the Navajo reservation as Haustien Shush. And the story of his breaking the cedar limb in the Kaibab forest was also known.

*In the three accounts of the story, the Navajo phrase is written as Hosteen Shush, Hostiin Shush, and Haustien Shush.

Story told to Maurice J. Tanner, great grandson of Seth B. Tanner, by Martin D. Bushman, of Snowflake, Arizona in 1973. As found in George S. Tanner, John Tanner and His Family: A History-Biography of John Tanner of Lake George, New York, Born August 15, 1778, Hopkinton, Rhode Island, Died April 13, 1850, at South Cottonwood, Utah. [Salt Lake City]: John Tanner Family Association, 1974.

Picture of Seth Tanner from www.allhikers.com/Allhikers/History/Historical-Figures/Seth-Tanner.htm, attributed to the Grand Canyon National Park Museum Collection. Picture of the Kaibab Forest from www.flickr.com/photos/dani0010/1807607712/.

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