TWO CHILDREN KILL A PANTHER BUT THOUGHT IT WAS A WOLF
By S. C. Turnbo
The following account of an old time incident was given by John C. Rose,
formerly of near Gaither Post Office, Boone County, Ark., but now of Harrison,
the County Seat of Boone.
"Many years ago when our family lived in the state of Tennessee,
a man named Bob Justus lived a neighbor to us. In 1850 this man moved from
Tennessee and settled on Long Creek in Carroll County, Ark. He lived on
the west side of the creek at the mouth of a small stream called Dry Creek.
But after residing here six years, removed to Howell County, Mo., where
his mind became deranged and he was sent to the insane asylum at Jefferson
City where he died in 1858.
"Justus was a farmer as well as an experienced hunter.
His main hunting ground while living on Long Creek was among the hills of this stream and the rough hills and hollows of Bear Creek where bear, deer and wild turkeys were abundant as well as panthers and wolves.
"One day in 1851, while hunting on Bear Creek, he went up a narrow
rugged gorge-like form of a branch of that stream, called Barren Fork, where
it is said the sun is seen only once a day and that is at twelve oclock.
As he passed on up this hollow he discovered 3 or 4 acres of fertile bottom
land which he determined to clear up and put in cultivation. What his motive
was in having a small field so far from his residence on Long Creek was
known only to himself. Unless he thought he could collect deer pelts and
furs while he was clearing the land and live among the big and little game
while he was cultivating it. When he was ready to put in the crop of corn,
the land did not require a fence, for settlers stock had not yet invaded
"Mr. Justus cultivated the land two or three years but the crops
never benefited him any for as soon as the corn had matured, deer visited
the clearing and destroyed it every year.
"In the late spring of 1852, after Justus planted the little field
in corn and beans and returned home, he sent two of his children there to
cut out the bushes with hoes. The children were a boy and girl named Ives
and Mary. The boy was 11 years old and the girl was younger. These children
being reared in a wild country were used to wild ways and did not fear wild
animals and were not afraid to go anywhere they knew; and had been to Barren
Fork with their father several times and Mr. Justus did not feel uneasy
in sending them. They were to camp there one night and finished the job
of work by noon the following day and return the same evening. Taking plenty
of jerked venison and bread and a rifle and dogs for protection against
wild beasts, they set out afoot. It was a long walk for children but they
were accustomed to that sort of travel and arrived in the Bear Creek hills
all right. Just before they reached the clearing the dogs sprang at some
wild animal in the high grass and, after a short and lively chase, ran it
into a cave. The children being much interested dropped their hoes and provisions,
went to see what the dogs were after. Finding that it had gone into the
cave, they sent the dogs in to bring it out. The dogs were well trained
and needed no second order, and dashed into the opening. Soon after the
dogs entered the cave, the children heard them attack something and a fierce
fight went on a short time, when the dogs came rushing out. The children
tried to persuade them to go in again but they seemed cowed and refused
to obey. The boy grew impatient and threatened to kill the dogs for not
going back for he wanted to know what sort of an animal was in the cave,
and was furious because the dogs refused to go back, but without putting
his threat into execution. He made up his mind to go in the cave himself
and bring the beast out. Requesting his little sister to stay with the "trifling
dogs" on the outside, he put down the rifle and began crawling into
the opening. He had not got far on the inside before he heard some animal
approach with loud coarse growls. He stopped and with a long keep butcher
knife held in his right hand, intended to kill it when he got in reach,
but the beast was too quick for him. For with a sudden bound the great long
beast struck against the boy and knocked him over before he had time to
strike a blow with the knife. The animal rushed over the prostrate boy and
darted out and the brave dogs dashed at it and hurried it up a tree which
stood in a few yards of the cave. Fortunately the boy was not seriously
injured by the rough encounter and crawled back out of the cave more angry
and wiser in some things than when he went in. When he looked up into the
tree where the ugly creature lay crouched on a big limb, he remarked to
the little girl that it was "the biggest wolf he ever saw." Then
he picked up the gun and after taking accurate aim, pulled the trigger.
As the report echoed against the steep hillsides the "wolf" fell
and lay dead surrounded by the dogs ready for the attack if it gave evidence
of the least sign of life. It was a yellow colored animal with a long tail.
Its body including the tail was about the length of a ten foot fence rail,
and the boy was highly elated about killing such an enormous "wolf";
and was not a bit irritated at the dogs now for not going back into the
cave. After half an hours examination of the dead animal they left
it where it fell and went on to work and were unmolested during the night,
and returned home in the evening of the next day as Mr. Justus had told
them to do, and it did not take the boy long to tell his father about the
wolf going up the tree and that he could prove it by his little sister Mary.
Mr. Justus informed him that it was not a wolf, for those animals could
not climb trees. Being convinced that the children had killed an animal
of some importance, he on the following morning early mounted a horse and
taking the boy up behind him he visited the cave to ascertain the identity
of the beast. He supposed that it might be a wild cat or a catamount and
was more than surprised to find that it was a large panther. The old hunter
congratulated the boy and girl on their skill as hunters."
The writer will add here that this feat performed by these children shows that some youngsters at least, were as fearless when encountering wild beasts as many of the famed bear hunters.
Springfield-Greene County Library