OTHER PANTHER STORIES
By S. C. Turnbo
Charles Turley, or "Wid" they call him, is a son of "Dine"
Turley who once owned a little corn mill on Brattons Spring Creek in the
latter 50s. The Turleys were early settlers in Ozark County, Mo. "Wid"
was born on Brattons Spring Creek in 1848. His father died a few years ago
and is buried in the graveyard at the mouth of Brattons Spring Creek. "Wid"
says that his father settled the Jack Ellison farm on Brattons Spring Creek
and that his grandfather settled the Carroll Johnson place. His grandfather
also rests in the same graveyard where Dine Turley lies. "Wid"
Turley began hunting when he was very young. "One day," said he,
"when I was only eight years old, I went out alone to hunt an hour
or so. I had no dog but I carried my fathers rifle. I went up the
creek from the house and when near the big spring known then as the Bratton
Spring I saw the glimpse of two animals that I at first through were deer,
but when I got a better view of them they proved to be two panthers. They
were ten feet apart and either one was not over 15 paces from me. I stood
and viewed them both as they stood and looked at me. I did not offer to
shoot at one of them for fear I would wound it only and they would both
attack me. Neither one threatened to attack me except that they both glared
at me a short while. Then both animals walked slowly up the hillside and
passed from my view. As soon as they were out of my sight I turned and started
to the house and I was not long in getting there either."
Here is a story of a man killing a young panther with one blow of his
clenched hand which was told by Mrs. Dorah Ross, daughter of Billy James,"In
1860," said she, "a few families came from Tennessee and located
in our neighborhood where we lived on East Sugar Loaf Creek in what is now
Boone Co., Ark. Among the number were Ellis Wright, Jeff Phelps and Alexander
(Doe) James. The latter was a brother of my father. The newcomers had come
from an old settled country where game of all kinds were scarce and they
wanted to enjoy themselves hunting and so the second night after their arrival
on Sugar Loaf Creek they went on a big coon hunt. As the forest here was
strange to them my father went with them to prevent them from getting bewildered.
The hunters went up on head of south fork of Sugar Loaf Creek where the
dogs struck the trail of some animal that did not act like a coon. But the
men all thought it was a coon. After the dogs chased it about 100 yards
it climbed a tree. The hunters hurried to where the dogs were barking up
the tree and saw the outlines of the game lying on a limb of the tree. But
owing to the darkness they were unable to make out for certain what it was.
But anyway they pronounced it a "Whaling" big coon. Uncle "Doc"
James was so enthusiastic that he wanted to climb the tree and make it jump
out. He sat down and pulled off his boots to ascend the tree, but some of
the other men objected and he did not climb the tree. Jeff Phelps now picked
up a rock to throw at it to try to knock it out, but Ellis Wright says,
"No. Jeff, let me shoot it." And did shoot at it, but missed the
object. While the others were joking Wright for his bad aim they noticed
that the anima1 was growing restless and moved about on the limb. Phelps
still held the rock and was standing with it in his left hand watching the
creatures movements, when unexpectedly it sprang down at him. As he
saw the dim form flying toward him he clenched his right hand and struck
it a hard blow on its breast as it got in reach of him. The beast fell to
the ground at his feet. The man struck with such power that the shock of
it nearly threw him down. The animal lay still. Phelps, after recovering
himself, was amazed and says, "Ill be dadslapped If I didnt
kill It." They encouraged the dogs, but they were slow in taking hold
of it. When they did it was found that it was dead. Then the men examined
the dead beast the best they could in the dark and found that it was not
a coon but a young panther. They carried it home and examined it closely
for a bullet mark but none was found. Jeff Phelps had killed it with one
blow with his clenched hand."
Mrs. Celia Clark, daughter of Arch Tabor, now the widow of the famous
hunter Bill Clark, gives a sketch of dogs chasing a panther in the hills
on Big Creek. In describing it she says, "When I was a little girl,
father and most of our relatives were living on Big Creek in what is now
Taney County, Mo. One night while the moon was shining brilliant a panther
killed a fine sow which belonged to old Uncle Isaac Tabor. He came for father
and they mounted the horses and soon collected together a few other men
and several dogs. The dogs chased the animal the entire night. The most
interesting part of that nights hunt after the ferocious beast was
that it gained so much time and distance on the dogs and men that it killed
three more hogs before daybreak. The men said they saw the panther several
times during the chase and found that it was an unusually large one. About
sunrise it left the Big Creek settlement and went to Little North Fork where
it escaped. The four hogs it killed that night it had taken out the entrails.
This is a strange story to tell the present generation." said Mrs.
Clark, "but it is true."
It is well known in pioneer days how hunters would call up turkey and
deer and shoot them, but it was not common for a hunter to decoy a panther
up to him and kill it. But I have one account of this kind which I give
here. Mr. Asa Dutton who came to Christian County, Mo., from Tippecanoe
County, Indiana, is the man that told the story to me. He has also hunted
a great deal in Taney Co., Mo., and Marion County, Ark. Mr. Dutton said
that "before I tell you the panther story I will tell you a big buck
tale. One day while I was hunting on Barbers Creek which flows into Swan
Creek I shot and killed two bucks that were standing in a few feet of each
other, but I did not kill them both at one shot, for it took two bullets
to kill them. The deer were exceedingly large ones and very fat. After removing
their hides and entrails and cutting off their heads and severing their
legs at the knees one weighed 156 lbs. and the other 157. One of them carried
14 points of horns and the other 15. Talk about bucks," said Mr. Dutton
"these were fine ones. I killed them In 1872."
In telling the panther story, Mr. Dutton said that the incident occurred
in Christian County. "While I was living on Swan Creek," said
he, "a settler of the name of Bill Whitehead hauled a load of lumber
to Springfield and while on his way back home he bought the hind quarters
of a beef and started home with it on the running gears of his wagon. On
arriving where the town of Chadwick now stands Mr. Whitehead was almost
dumbfounded to see a panther leap upon the beef from behind the wagon and
attempt to take it off of the wagon. But the beef was tied there and the
animal was foiled. The mule team took fright and plunged forward at a rapid
gait and the panther leaped back to the ground. The mules ran some distance
along the road before Mr. Whitehead was able to check their speed. The panther
pursued the wagon uttering a loud cry at short intervals which accelerated
the speed of the mules. Whitehead was as bad scared as his team and when
the mules were not running too rapid he made no effort to hold them back.
After the panther followed the wagon to the ridge at the head of Ballons
Creek it stopped. I forgot to mention that it was after nightfall when the
panther attacked the beef but the weather was clear with a full moon. I
saw Whitehead a few minutes after he arrived home. The man was excited,
but he made out to tell me about his adventure with the beast and where
it had left him. I informed him that I was going to try to kill it that
night. He replied, "You had better not hunt for the beast, for it might
kill you first." I owned a fine double barrelled shotgun and after
loading each barrel with 25 no. 8 buckshot I took the gun and a well trained
dog named Frank and started for the spot where the settler said he last
saw the panther. Arriving at the place I was determined not to be caught
napping. I stopped at the side of the Forsyth and Springfield road. The
night was brilliantly lit up by the moon. I stood in the road with the trusty
dog standing by me and listened several minutes. But the night seemed as
still as death. The shadow of the trees looked lonely and I felt somewhat
nervous. I believed the panther was not far off and I wished now that it
might be a hundred miles away. I was thinking of going back home without
hunting for it, but I had told Whitehead that I was going to try to kill
it and I concluded not to back out. Then I screamed out in imitation to
the cry of a panther. To my dismay I heard an answering cry which I knew
was the scream of a panther. I felt in dark spots all over, but there was
no going back now. I made the dog lie down and I held my shotgun ready and
answered the beast and the panther replied again. It was coming nearer.
I felt for my hunting knife. It was safe and I could reach for it in an
instant if I needed it. I kept repeating the cry and the panther did likewise.
The animal advanced slowly toward me. Its cry was louder and much nearer.
I could feel cold chills pass up and down my spinal column. A clammy sweat
broke out over my body. The dog showed indications of restlessness and wanted
to be somewhere else, but I succeeded in keeping him quiet. Nearer and nearer
the ferocious beast approached. Its terrible screams sounded louder and
fiercer. Very soon after this I saw it creeping along toward me and I ceased
my part of the noise. I concluded it best now not to get scared and got
my nervous system steady for work. I made no attempt to shoot at it until
it was in 20 steps of where I was standing in the road. Here it stopped,
and while it seemed to be reconnoitering me I took aim at it with my gun
and pulled the trigger of one barrel. A great report sounded out and the
smoke from the explosion of the powder obscured my view of the beast for
a few seconds, but when it cleared away I could see that the form of the
animal had sank down and was still. I waited a while before I ventured up
to it, and found that it was dead. I felt more than glad that my shot proved
to be a success. The panther was a female and measured just an inch over
nine feet in length. Though I had succeeded in calling this one up and killing
it, but I thought it best to not make a practice of calling any more panthers
to me for the fun of shooting at them. But in the case mentioned I received
good pay for my trouble and risk for I went back the following morning after
killing the panther and removed its hide and had it well stuffed and carried
it to Springfield and sold it for seven dollars."
July 8, 1902.
Springfield-Greene County Library