The Story of OLD TWO TOES
by Jim Wetzel
Grand Mesa was a primary recreation destination for our early pioneers, and has remained so through the years. Many Delta citizens had a get-a-way cabin somewhere on the mesa, and, though it might take a day to get there, they would spend days and weeks enjoying the fishing and hunting while there. The Grand Mesa area had been a prime source of food (hunting) when the Ute Indians were still in this area before 1881.No hunting story was repeated in Delta more than the story of “Old Two Toes, or sometimes referred to as “Old Club Foot.”
Old Two Toes is pictured with E.M. Getts in front of his store on Main Street.
For more than a decade, a large bear had been seen on occasion on Grand Mesa, and it was long suspected of killing many cattle over the years. In 1890, the bear was caught in a trap, and lost three toes on his right foot in the adventure when he escaped from the trap. From then on, he was identified as “Old Two Toes”, and he was easily identified by his tracks around slain and partially eaten cattle. He preferred his meat “fresh”, and would not go back to a previous kill. Angered cattlemen put up a $500 bounty for the removal of “Old Two Toes.”
In late October, 1902, a small hunting party happened to be on Grand Mesa, and 61 year old Franklin Manges, a novice hunter, decided to tag along. Manges decided to stay in their camp as the others went looking for game. After a while, Franklin took his Winchester .30-30 and left camp for a look around, thinking he might scare up a deer for sport.
As he was walking along, he heard a loud “woof” behind him, and looking around, saw an immense bear approaching him. Standing perfectly still, the bear left him alone, but when it was about 60 feet away, Manges fired and wounded it, and it ran off. He tracked the bear for several miles, and as he was crossing a stream, the bear stood up on his hind feet about seventy-five feet from him.
Franklin Manges, the man who shot and killed Old Two Toes.
He shot it once and broke it’s shoulder and then gave it one more, at which it retreated into the brush. As Manges circled around some willows, the bear emerged from about fifty feet away and charged him. “Then he commenced to shoot pretty fast”, according to the original story version, and the bear sank to the ground. A total of eleven shots had hit the bear.
Thinking he had killed the bear, and because he was getting hungry, he returned to camp for dinner and told his companions about the incident. When the group went back to where the bear was downed, it was not there. They followed it’s tracks for about a hundred yards before they spotted it near a thicket. Manges placed a twelfth shot just below it’s ear and finally completed the job.
“Old Two Toes” was reported to have weighed about 1,600 pounds. The hide was 8 feet 4 inches in length. Of the twelve shots that penetrated the hide, only two penetrated the fat layer under it. Is it any wonder that a bear of this size survived as long as it did? Experienced bear hunters were afraid of it! Franklin Manges was quite inexperienced, and didn’t know any better. Had it not been for his cool demeanor under pressure, he might not have survived either.
The bear hide was placed on exhibit in a Delta store window for some time, and was also taken to the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1903 and admired by thousands. Franklin Manges had secured his place in Delta’s history. Today, the “Old Two Toes” hide is with family descendants of Franklin Manges in Pennsylvania.
About ten years ago, I received an email from such a descendant and it included several photographs of the hide as it was currently displayed in his home. “Old Two Toes” seems to have survived total anonymity and, though the hide has deteriorated some over the years, it is still around to remind the descendants of Franklin Manges of his contribution to our local history.
Photographed about ten years ago, the hide of Old Two Toes clearly shows the remaining two “toes”, having lost the other three while escaping from a bear trap.