WOLVES AND OTHER FOREST SCENES
By S. C. Turnbo
The Risley boys, Silas and Mich, sons of Bert and Jane (Sinkler) Risley,
were born near Theadocia, Ozark County, Mo., the former in 1847 and the
latter in 1852. Their grandfather, Silas Risley, located in Ozark County
when their father was only 2 years old. He emigrated from North Carolina
here. Among some of their hunting experiences they tell the following.
"I have heard of deer running some distance after being shot through
the heart. I had an experience of that sort myself once," said Uncle
Silas. "It was a 5 pointed buck and after I had shot it, the deer ran
about 500 yards and I found it dead. While I was dressing it I found the
ball had passed through the body of the heart. I never saw but one pair
of bucks locked by the horns. This was on Lower Turkey Creek in 1865. Both
deer were dead and in an advanced state of decomposition. One had 5 points
and the other 6 points on the beams of their horns. I recollect while hunting
on this same stream one day in 1866 I killed two deer at one shot at the
Mud Springs. They were a buck and doe and were standing 15 feet apart on
a line from where I shot. One deer fell on its tracks, the other ran 100
yards before it fell.
"The prettiest sight I ever saw of the wild beast kind was 100 deer
in the Peter Cave hollow that mouths into Little North Fork from the west
side. Though they were not bunched close together but were near enough together
for me to have a fine view of them. Out of that whole bunch I only saved
one of them. The others soon ran out of my sight.
"I saw a black deer once on Little North Fork, not exactly a coal
black, but rather inclined to a brown color. There was snow on the ground
and I followed the animal all day trying to get a shot at it but it would
not allow me to get close enough to it. This deer must have been traveling
or others would probably have seen it too. It was a nice looking deer and
I wanted to capture it very bad but good luck was against me.
"Many years ago when wild turkeys were numerous, hunters would build pens in the fields and bait with corn; hundreds of wild turkey have been captured this way. I remember constructing a pen once on our old farm near where Theadocia is now and in a few days I caught 11 grown turkeys in it at one time. I crawled into the pen by way of the trench and with a stout stick I enjoyed much fun breaking their necks with the sticks. You talk about a mess of wild turkeywe ate turkey until we were tired of it. This catch was the largest one on Little North Fork as far as I know."
The following is given by Mich Risley. "At a certain place two large bucks were known to feed. They were shy and no one so far had shot at either one. One day I went to their feeding grounds to hunt for them. After arriving in the locality where they were usually seen I saw a buck lying down on a low ledge of rocks. He was in the edge of a thick growth of Shawnee haw bushes. The buck was apparently asleep. After creeping up in close rifle range I took steady aim at him and thought, "You are mine, old fellow!" But I was mistaken for at the report of the gun he flounced up and was gone out of my eight in less time than I can tell it. I walked to the ledge where he had been lying to hunt for blood stains on the rocks and was astonished at another big buck which sprang up out of the thicket of Shawnee bushes in two feet of where the other buck had lay. As it rose up it struck its hip against me. No doubt the animal was in a deep sleep and the report of my gun did not awaken it. The buck did some fast running getting away from there and I felt just like a little boy does when he lets a pretty bird go.
"One day while I was hunting in the John Morris hollow that runs
into Big Creek I saw a deer running back and forth and leaping on something.
Just before it would make its spring it would halt a moment and close its
feet together. After alighting it would spring about 10 feet away. At first
I supposed it was killing a fawn and I imagined why it wanted to do so.
After awhile it quit and walked away a few yards and stopped. I shot at
it, but as the animal ran off I guessed I missed it. When I approached the
spot where it had been acting so queer a dead rattlesnake lay on the ground
instead of a dead fawn. It was nearly 3 ½ feet long and the deer
had out it almost to pieces with its hoofs.
"I saw a rattlesnake charm a small bird on Pond Fork. The little
bird was in great trouble and hopped from limb to limb on a bush and chirped
in sharp notes. This was at a spring about ¾ of a mile above the
mouth of the creek. The serpent lay in a half coil with its head elevated
3 or 4 inches high. I was interested enough to watch the bird and snakes
actions. The little bird kept getting closer to the reptiles mouth
until it was near enough for the snake to catch it in its mouth and the
bird ceased its noise. I now snatched up a stick and struck the rattler
to save the bird, but too late, the little songster was dead. The snake
measured 2 ½ feet in length.
"I killed a buck once that weighed 146 lbs. after it was dressed.
We called it the John Brown deer because it had been seen on a few occasions
in Browns field. Others had tried to kill it but failed. I killed
it ½ mile west of the mouth of Pond Fork.
"One evening when I was a little fellow my parents sent me out to
drive the milk cows home. I found them ½ mile from the house. While
I was behind them driving them along toward the house I saw a bunch of wild
animals which I took to be wolves and I hid behind a tree. But perceiving
that they were not trying to catch me I looked from behind the tree and
saw they were deer and my scare disappeared. I knew how to count one hundred
and I had heard hunters tell about counting the number of deer that they
had met in the woods and I counted these and found there were 42 of them.
Then I hallooed at the deer and away the entire bunch went running out of
my view. While we lived on Little North Fork near Theadocia mother sent
me to the spring one day for water. Our water vessels and washtubs were
made of cedar by the resident Coopers. We called our water vessels pails
or piggins. Mothers those days did not tell their children 40 times to get
them to obey or go along and do what they had told the child to do. One
bidding was enough. So when mother said, "Mich, go to the spring and
bring a pail of water," I went and I was not all day about it either.
So on that occasion when mother started me to the spring I called a spotted
fice we called Drum and I was soon at the spring. Before dipping my pail
into the water the little dog acted strange. It would catch hold of my pant
legs and growl. I first thought It had suddenly gone mad but my mind was
changed on looking below the spring where I saw a panther coming slowly
toward me. At sight of it I was terrified but I thought it beat not to run.
It continued to advance until it was near the spring, then it stopped and
drew its long tail under its body and sat down like a dog and raised its
upper lip and showed its ugly teeth. I was now overcome with fear and my
body and limbs shook like a leaf. My teeth chattered like I had an attack
of ague. But the little dog was brave for about the moment I had given up
for lost, the fice rushed forward barking furiously. This frightened the
panther and it darted away, leaping several feet at each bound. The fice
pursued and it and the panther soon passed from view over a glade. This
broke the charm as far as I was concerned, but in my hurry to get back to
the house I forgot to take a pail of water."
We will now return to Uncle Silas and let him relate a wolf story. "If you remember," said he, "there is a small stream that flows into Little North Fork from the west side known as Lower Turkey Creek. This one and Upper Turkey Creek take their names from the many flocks of wild turkeys found here by the early hunters. Lower Turkey Creek was my main hunting ground. This small valley is thickly settled, especially where the Protem and Lutie road crossed, where we find several small but well cultivated farms. Late one day in 1866 when wild beasts were the only inhabitants here I came upon a dead deer. The sun was just setting. The deer had recently been killed by wild beasts and part of it had been devoured. While I was examining the carcass of the deer I heard something growl nearby. On looking up I was almost frozen with terror at seeing a dozen wolves standing in the grass a few yards away. They certainly had been lying down when I approached the dead deer or I would have seen them. Though bad scared, but I managed to keep my presence of mind. I was afraid to try to climb a tree for fear they might catch me before I could get out of their reach. Leveling the rifle at one I pulled the trigger but all the effect of the shot I could discern was that the entire pack went to howling without moving off their tracks. After reloading the rifle I fired a second shot with no better result. I repeated the shots until I had sent 7 balls at them. This exhausted my supply of bullets. I was attacked with something worse than buck ague and no doubt every ball I fired at the wolves went wide of the mark. Though the wolves were standing near me and howled all the time I was shooting at them but they had not made an attempt to approach me until now when they commenced to threaten me. My position was grave for I expected them to dart at me any moment. Though I had shot away all my bullets but I thought of a substitute for a bullet and after pouring a big charge of powder into my gun I pushed the gunstick down on the powder and let it remain in the gun and aimed at a large gray wolf that appeared more bold than the others. At the report of the gun the wolf leaped several feet high and after alighting it jumped around and round as if suffering with pain. I knew I had hit it and rejoiced that I had hurt it enough to frighten it as bad as it and its companions had scared me. But the wounded wolf seemed to irritate the others and their attitudes were more threatening. Then all at once I was inspired with the thought of getting away from there and I put my thoughts into action and how I did run. It was now growing dusky but I was able to see objects some distance off. When I ran about 50 yards I imagined that the wolves were following at my heels; I stopped and wheeled about to defend myself but the space behind me that I thought was filled by wolves was blank. Looking back where I had left the wolves I saw them all. They were not pursuing me. This gave me hope and I put about 2 miles between me and the dead deer before I stopped. When I arrived home that night and lay down I dreamed of wolves until daybreak. I did not venture back until after 4 days and discovered the gray wolf lying dead in 200 yards of where it stood when I shot at it. The gun stick had passed through its body. The scene of this is at the head of this valley at the foot of Washington Bald Hill which divides the source of Lower Turkey Creek and some of the prongs of Pond Fork and Big Creek."
Here is a story about a night attack from wolves that Silas Risley and his brother Mich both tell and each one vouches for the truth of the narrative. But we will let Uncle Silass way of relating do for both. "John Bias had felled a bee tree in Peter Cave hollow and after taking the honey out he saved the swarms of bees in a gum which he had carried there for the purpose. The gum was placed on a flat rock. In the latter part of the summer me and Mich bought the gum from Bias and one night we went into the hollow to bring it home. We took one horse along which was a gray one I had bought from Newt Turnbo. The horse had never been known to carry double and one of us had to walk. It was dark when we arrived at the gum and we waited longer until we believed all the bees had returned into the gum from their busy days work. Then after wrapping the gum with a cloth to prevent the bees from escaping I mounted the horse and Mich lifted up the gum and I took it and placed it before me. But I found we had got ready to start too early for at this juncture I heard newly arrived bees buzzing around the horse and before I could rein him forward out of the way of the bees one stung him and the horse went to bucking and I dropped the gum on the stones and it burst open. Oh my, what buzzing of bees followed. I spurred the horse out of the way of the mad swarm in a rush. When at a safe distance the horse quieted down and I dismounted and hitched him and after waiting awhile for the bees to settle I and Mich went back to the gum and ate part of the honey. It was so dark that we could only feel for the honey and we got our hands stung by the bees. While we were in the midst of the beast and enjoying ourselves in the dark we were interrupted by wolves that had approached in 30 yards of us on the opposite side from where the horse was hitched. We both rose to our feet at once and ran to the horse. I reached him first and without taking time to untie the halter I cut it in twain with my knife and sprang into the saddle. I had no thought of leaving Mich to be eaten up but close contact with danger spurred me with the idea that I would run out and Mich could climb a tree. But before I had time to start Mich reached me and to my utter dismay he sprang up on the horse behind me. The wolves divided. We heard part of them cutting all sorts of didoes at the gum and part of them ran to us and surrounded the horse which was kicking and plunging to rid himself of Mich. I expected him to throw both of us off right among the wolves. Mich yelled, "Let us stay with the horse," and we stayed. The animal after bucking hard for two minutes or more and finding he was compelled to carry double started on a fast run toward home. It was a miracle how we escaped from being knocked off him by the limbs of trees. The horse did not slacken his speed until he reached the yard fence. After sunrise next morning we went back to see after the bees but they were gone. The wolves had devoured what honey we had left the night previous. Mich said he never could understand how he managed to leap up on the horse behind me and managed to stay there. That nights adventure among the wolves broke that horse to carry double, and he never refused to carry two at a time afterward."
Springfield-Greene County Library