“The Pokegama Bear was a real animal character in Itasca County’s earliest logging days. Until the last drive had floated southward to the waiting Twin City mills no lumberjack could be found who was not familiar with its demise. Frank Hasty recorded the actual event in verse and almost at once musically-inclined woodsman extemporized an air to which it could be sung. In one season it took its place in the saga of the pine and was being recited, sung, hummed, and whistled with varying degrees of fidelity throughout the broad scope of forest operations. Mr. Hasty, himself a lumberjack, had the satisfaction of hearing his composition crooned and bellowed as persistently as the modern popular song on the radio.
In the fall of 1874 Michael McAlpine had come forth to work at F. P. Clark’s camp on Knowlton’s (Black’s) Arm of Pokegama Lake. Hasty and two other men had accompanied him, the quartet accomplishing the last stage of the journey, from Aitkin, afoot.
A Lumberjack named Morris O’Hearn was loading teams for the crew, and one bitter cold day O’Hearn decided that a fire wouldn’t be amiss. Taking his axe, he approached a big hallow pine stub intending to split off some kindling-wood, but at the first stroke there was a frantic scrambling inside and he stepped hastily back. With disconcerting suddenness a huge bear came tearing out of a hole in the trunk. Blinking in the unaccustomed light, he gave one loud nose-clearing ‘whoosh!’ and O’Hearn dropped his axe and departed. The distance between the two widened rapidly as the bear took to the timber in the opposite direction.
Hasty and a man named Quinn gave chase, yelling at the top of their lungs and throwing their axes after the frightened animal. This completed Bruin’s panic and he broke into the logging road where the footing was better. There he straightened out to do some real running. McAlpine, working near the road just ahead, took in the situation at a glance. Stepping quietly behind a big tree, he raised his axe in readiness and waited. Bruin went down under one clean blow, as he passed McAlpine’s hiding-place.
In those days bear oil was prized more highly than the skin or meat, so the carcass was taken to camp to be “tried out” on Sunday morning. While this process was going on, McAlpine and Hasty left camp for a time to search for axe-handle timber; they returned to discover that they had lost their share of the oil. The men present had bottled the last drop as it came from the kettles, and all they gave the actual killer of the bear was a hoarse laugh. Hasty retired to the bunk-house in disgust, but emerged later with a poem which showed that he harbored no ill-will.”
– page 43