CARRYING A DEAD PANTHER TO FORSYTH ON A MULE
By S. C. Turnbo
The pioneer hunters never forgot their most interesting experience in
Mr. A. Brown or Uncle Auss as he is commonly known and who has been postmaster
at Peel, Marion County, Ark., for many years, relates some items of the
pioneer days of White River.
"In the olden time," said he, "it was very common to fire
hunt for deer of nights during "mossing" time. I well recollect
of nine deer being slain one night in 1844 and also how two panthers were
killed during the early days of Taney County and I will give the stories
as I remember them.
"When I was only three years old or in 1838 my parents came to Taney
County, Mo., and located on Bee Creek just above the mouth. I was born April
23, 1835. You can see by this that my parents were among the early settlers.
Father died in the southeast part of Missouri in 1845.
"What I tell you may not be very interesting to some people nowadays
because there is no big game and people have almost quit talking about hunting
except for squirrels, possums, coons and skunks and such like. One afternoon
in the month of August, 1844, my father and two other men pushed their dugout
canoe a few miles above the mouth of Bee Creek, and after night while floating
down the river with a bright light in the bow of the canoe they shot and
killed nine deer. When they had killed a deer, they would remove the entrails
and sink the carcass in the river by weighting with chunk rocks or gravel,
and proceed on down the river. The big torch which was produced by burning
pine knots and pine splinters cast a light sufficient to see several deer
along each shore, but those they shot were feeding on the moss in the water.
The following day they pushed the craft back up the river, collecting their
game then to save hides and hams if they needed the latter for meat. They
found all where they sank them except the first one killed; this one was
missing. It had been pulled from the water and dragged away. There was a
plain trail, and the men followed it for half a mile, where it led into
the face of a bluff, and there they discovered a panther lying on a low
ledge of rock. It did not seem to be the least alarmed. The hunters kept
approaching it until in close range and still it appeared to be not a bit
afraid. The three men now stopped and father fired his trusty rifle. At
the report the long ugly creature sprang up several feet above the ledge
and alighted on the ground below the ledge and leaped the second time, and
after rolling down the face of the bluff a few yards it died. The carcass
of the deer was found within 15 feet of where the panther was lying; the
beast had covered it with leaves and was guarding it. More than likely the
animal was nearby when the deer was killed and soon after the hunters had
passed on down it had approached the edge of the water and waded in and
pulled the dead deer to the gravel bar and after appeasing its appetite
on fresh venison, dragged the remainder into the bluff as related.
"Now I will tell you a little of my own experience," said Mr.
Brown. "One day when I was a young man I mounted a mule and with dog
and gun I rode into the Layton Pineries some 12 miles south of Forsyth.
I enjoyed the sport of hunting and hoped I would meet something worth shooting
at. My hopes were more than realized as the sequel will show. As I rode
through the tall pine trees, the dog struck a hot trail of some animal,
and after a short but lively chase, he treed it. I urged my mule along as
fast as he would go, for I was convinced the game was worth capturing. The
mule, like most mules, was quite stubborn and did not want to be hurried
and had rather jump over the fence into some mans corn field than
be bossed by a man; but finally after threshing him lively with a stout
switch I got him into a gallop and after considerable trouble in preventing
my gun from being knocked out of my hands by the limbs and trees I was soon
approaching near where the dog was stationed. I slowed up and directly the
mule came to a standstill. Then I cast my eyes toward the top of a tall
pine tree that the dog was barking up and saw a monstrous panther. I never
had killed a panther, and now was my chance. Hunters, like everyone else
pursuing a certain occupation, desire to do something elevating and now
was my opportunity to be elevated in my mind as a hunter. Dismounting I
made the mule secure to a sapling, and after a critical examination of my
rifle I nerved myself and ventured slowly to within 30 paces of the tree.
The animal looked fierce and angry and grew restless at my intrusion. I
was careful to take accurate aim with my gun, pulled the trigger and sent
a leaden messenger into the tree to invite him to the ground. After the
report of the shot had died away and the smoke cleared, I saw it totter,
then reel over, and as it swung off the limb it turned its hold loose and
come tumbling down and struck the ground with great force. A slight quiver
of the body and legs showed that my shot was well directed. It needed no
second shot for it soon made its last gasp for breath. As it lay stretched
broadside with the blood flowing from the bullet hole I viewed it with pride.
The dog was as well pleased as I was. We were both highly elated for we
had something to brag on. I measured the panther and found that it was nine
feet long. I was so well pleased that I wanted to take it to Forsyth to
prove to the world my skill as a slayer of wild animals, but I doubted the
docility of my mule in carrying it; but the animal proved all right. But
I had a hard lift in placing it across my mules back. I succeeded
in scrambling up behind the dead panther and went on. The trip to town was
found to be no easy task, but I would much rather try to carry a dead panther
than a live one. The river was low, and after fording it I rode into the
village and dumped the dead panther on the street in front of John Vances
store. It soon attracted the attention of a large crowd who happened to
be in town that day, and several of the old timers told interesting stories
about panther and other big game and refreshed each others minds until
everybody in town was ready to give in his experience as a hunter. I was
congratulated on my skill in killing one panther at least. After the men
had run out of hunting stories I gave a man a half dollar in silver to remove
the hide, then it was stuffed and Mr. Vance gave me permission to place
it in a crouching position in the second story of his store house where
it remained for several weeks."
More sketches given by Mr. Brown are told in other stories.
Springfield-Greene County Library