THREE PANTHER STORIES
By S. C. Turnbo

There are a number of people of Taney County, Mo., who remember Esquire Tom Tabor. He located in 1835 on the right hand prong of Big Creek at a fine flowing spring of water, Before the war he served several years as Justice of the Peace in Big Creek township. Uncle Tom has been dead many years. The farm he settled is known now as the Isaac Tabor land. On the morning of the 14th of July, 1867, when the great freshet in Big Creek occurred, the water swept clean over Uncle Tom’s farm and washed his crop away. Uncle Tom said he was angry enough then to whip somebody. "But this great rise is God’s work," said he, "and who will I whip." A long time before this remarkable rise in Big Creek occurred Mr. Tabor went out one day to hunt his horses which were running on the ranges between the forks of the creek. "Part of the forest had been swept over by forest fires a few days previous. As I went on west from my house and after getting on the dividing ridge between the two creeks, I noticed a panther to my left going northward. I had neither dog nor gun. I would have run but I was afraid it might pursue and catch me; so I concluded it was best to try to bluff it. So I broke off a stout club from a dead tree top and walked on. The panther kept advancing; by some cause the beast did not appear to notice me, but I kept an eye on it all the same. As we approached nearer each other I saw that it was very thin in order and weak. This encouraged me and I thought now I would beat it to death with the club. Neither I or the panther stopped until we met at a tree. Here we both halted and I saw it was in no shape to give a scared fellow much of a fight. About the time it stopped I struck it on the back with my club. The blow stunned the animal slightly and it growled, I would have hit it the second time but I broke my club and I shied off to a tree and you ought to have seen me go up it. Getting up to a convenient limb I seated myself and looked down to see what the panther was doing. I had knocked it down but it was getting on its feet again. Then it lay down, but soon got up and started off. But after going a few yards it stopped and came to the foot of the tree I was up and lay down a few minutes, then got up again and started as if intending to leave. But came back the second time and lay down at the foot of the tree. Then it looked up at me, and acted as if it wanted to come up the tree to see me. I did not feel like it was welcome to come, but finally after tantalizing and threatening me a while it got up and went off down the slope of a hill where the woods were not burned over, and I saw it catch a rabbit which had jumped up out of the grass. While the beast was devouring the rabbit I slid down the tree and ran to Jim Tabor’s and I and him went back with dogs and gun. It was gone but the dogs soon trailed it up and killed it. The animal must have been suffering with some sort of disease for it was almost in a starved condition and too weak to catch large game. Though the beast was not able to do me injury yet I never did appreciate meeting a panther, whether it was fat or lean," said Uncle Tom.

The following account was given me by John C. Rose.

"Mr. Bird Edmonson was coon hunting one morning before day on the west prong of Crooked or in the hills near this stream, and while passing along the dogs encountered an animal and put it up a tree. Edmonson thought it was a wild cat or catamount, but when he approached the tree the dogs were barking up he perceived that it was something else. But it was too dark to identify it. But after watching it move about on the limbs of the tree a while in a threatening manner he believed that it was a large panther. Having no gun and remembering the old adage, "a hint to the wise is sufficient, he left the tree on quick time and went to where a settler lived of the name of Trice and they both rode back to the tree with gun and more dogs; but when they arrived the panther and dogs were all gone. It was now daylight and the men rode a large circle and the dogs struck the panther’s trail and after following it some distance it went up a tree again, When the two men got in close rifle range Edmonson shot the panther with Trice’s rifle. The animal fell to the ground. But it was wounded only and made fight with Trice’s dogs which was lively while it lasted. When the dogs closed around the wounded animal it caught one of the dogs and was about to kill it. Trice had iron stirrups to his saddle and having no other weapon besides the unloaded gun Trice ran to where his horse was hitched and unbuckled the stirrup leathers and came running back and struck the panther on the head with the stirrup and stunned it so that it released the dog and the other dogs soon overpowered and killed it. This was election day and the two men decided to take the dead panther to Walnut Grove church house where the electors of the township met to cast their votes. They wanted to show the animal to the people. The panther was too ill convenient to carry on a horse and the men procured a wagon and team and hauled it to the church house. It proved to be a considerable show to those who had never seen a panther before. Hugh A. Dinsmore, our present representative in Congress, was there that day and he asked permission for one of the panther’s claws to keep as a relic and some of the men cut one off for him."

The old timers of Taney County, Mo., that are living remember Dr. A. S. Layton of Forsyth. Layton built a saw mill in an early day in the pineries 12 miles south of Forsyth. This mill supplied a large scope of country with lumber. Dave McCord in referring to this mill said that it received a large custom and that he has known lumber from this mill to be hauled as far as Warsaw in Benton County, Mo. Uncle Dave said that he has seen as many as twenty wagons standing at this mill waiting for their turn to load. The heaviest trade was soon after crops were laid by when it seemed that everybody came to the saw mill for a load of lumber. "You talk about a man handling gold and silver," continued Uncle Dave, "it seemed like Layton coined it at this mill and did as far as selling lumber for the yellow and bright metal was concerned."

"Dr. Layton had his ups and downs with the wild beasts as well as others. One day he went into a cave where he thought a bear was. He was armed with a shotgun and pistol and with a bright torch. He went into the cave to slay bruin, but there was not a bear to be found in there; but he met a panther instead, which threatened to attack him, and while it was crouching and growling to spring at him he quickly leveled his shotgun toward it and fired one barrel then the other at it. The animal was not killed, but was desperately wounded. Before the panther recovered from the shock of receiving the contents of both barrels of the shotgun he shot it again with his pistol and the beast sank down and soon died. The animal was 9 feet in length and the doctor had hard work while dragging it out of the cave. After removing its hide he cut off the panther’s forepaws and carried the hide and paws to Forsyth. Layton and others stuffed the hide until it resembled a live panther. With the permission of John P. Vance they placed the stuffed hide in his wareroom which was attached to his storehouse. The men so shaped the stuffed hide that when anyone stepped into the wareroom it looked like it was going to spring on them. The fun-loving settlers saw a great deal of sport when they persuaded a fellow that knew nothing of the stuffed hide in there to go in and see some of Vance’s wares, but when he would catch sight of the stuffed hide he would hustle out of there. One day Isaac Essex put a stop to the fun in quick order. Essex after coming into town began drinking very freely. He kept pouring whiskey down his throat until he did not know the difference between a stuffed panther hide and a real live panther. After a while Essex got very noisy and went into Vance’s store. Vance and others invited him into the wareroom pretending to want to sell him something. The drunk man was willing to go into the room and promising to buy anything shown him. The man was staggering like a horse with the blind staggers when he entered the room. He did not notice the stuffed hide until the men got him in close contact with it, when they all wheeled and ran out of the room yelling as they went out, "Look out, Essex, there is a panther ready to jump on you." But Essex was too full of liquor to be afraid and turning he caught sight of the stuffed hide and thinking It was a real panther he snatched his hunting knife from the scabbard and rushed up to the hide and never stopped until he cut it to pieces with the knife before he recognized the mistake. The other fellows were beat worse than Essex was, for it put an end to anymore fun out of the hide."

This was written several years ago.

August 16, 1907

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