Fred Fritz and the Grizzly

Fred Fritz Jr

The days of marauding bands of Apache were gone but life was still not easy working cattle in the rough mountainous ranges along the Blue River.  Beef-killing bears were still numerous.  One day in 1888 Fritz came across one of his range cows that been freshly killed by a grizzly.  The bear charged and he jerked his pistol and fired, hitting it in the jaw.  The grizzly then raked its four-inch claws down the length of Fritz’s body ripping off his clothing, including his leather chaps.  The cowman fired off four more shots point blank but this only made the bear even more furious.  Then he dropped to the ground and lay still.  The bear backed off but each time Fritz tried to get up the animal charged again.  “He chawed on one end for a while and then he turned me around and chawed on t’other end,” he said later.

Fighting for his life, Fritz pounded on the bear with the butt of his empty pistol until it broke.  Then he pulled out his pocket knife and stabbed it until the blade snapped.  He even pulled some kitchen matches out of his pocket and tried to set the grizzly on fire and still the bear kept mauling him.

The struggle finally ended when a relative arrived with a rifle and shot the bear.  It took seven bullets to bring it down.  Fritz lived another 18 years but never fully recovered from the attack.

His son, Fred Fritz Jr., born in 1895 and a cattleman all his life, shared this story with me several years ago. He took over the ranch on the Blue River after his father died in 1916. Fred was President of the Arizona Cattle Growers Association. He also served in the Arizona Legislature as both Speaker of the House and President of the Senate.

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