A HARD STRUGGLE WITH A PANTHER
By S. C. Turnbo
Every pioneer in northwest Arkansas has heard of Sammy Hudson. Many knew
him personally, as he was a noted hunter and a prominent citizen of Newton
County, Arkansas. Hudson was a remarkable bee hunter and always had on hand
an abundance of wild honey for home use. After the close of the Civil War
he became much interested in bee keeping and owned a large number of beehives,
and has been known to have as much as 800 pounds of honey on hand at a time.
He lived eight miles above Jasper, the county seat, and was one of the earliest
settlers on Little Buffalo Creek.
In 1854 he was attacked by a panther, the awful scars of which combat he carried to his grave. In the year named, accompanied by Johnnie, his little five year old boy, he went into the forest to cut a bee tree. Hudson carried his axe, butcher knife and a large bucket. Arriving at the tree the old hunter soon felled it, and after chopping off a block in order to reach the honey, his attention was called to a loud coarse growl on a steep hillside nearby. There crouched on the ground was a large panther seemingly in an awful rage. It had apparently seen an enemy or was looking for one. Hudson had neither dog nor gun. Picking up a stone he hurled it at the beast. The missile struck the ground a few yards above the furious animal. The stone rolled down toward it and the beast caught it in its mouth. This seemed to increase its rage. It dropped the stone, and with a dreadful growl it sprang along the hillside toward the hunter. A big log lay between the beast and Hudson, with the top end down the hill. The large end was within 20 feet of the stump of the bee tree. The panther ran along on top of the log, and when it reached the end, it gave a long leap toward the frightened man, who now realized that a battle was to be fought. Hudson braced himself to resist it. The terrible creature sprang forward and when within a few feet the hunter hurled his axe at it, but missed. As the ferocious animal reached him, Hudson raised his left hand and arm to protect his breast and face. As he did so the panther caught his arm in its mouth, when the terrible struggle began. The beast held fast and commenced to lacerate his flesh with its long, sharp claws. The man was dealing heavy blows with his clenched right hand. His clothing was torn in shreds, streams of blood flowed freely from great wounds inflicted by the animals claws. The struggling man and desperate panther were red with human blood, Hudson was rapidly losing strength, yet he did not lose courage or presence of mind. The little boy stood within a few feet of the battle, being too young to realize the perilous position his father was in, and looked on as an idle spectator. As the combat continued the little fellow called out, Daddy, do you think you can whip it?", and the father was too busy to reply. Dark thoughts rose before the man, as he realized that if the panther gained the battle it would destroy the child. This gave him renewed energy. The man fought with desperation to save the life of his child as well as his own life. The boy supposed it was a fight as if between man and man. The butcher knife was on the ground nearby the boy. Presently the little fellow seemed to realize that the beast would kill his father and he cried out, "Daddy, do you want your knife? The despairing man heard him and replied, "Yes, quick." The boy advanced boldly and handed the knife to his father, who in turn thrust the keen blade in the panthers body. Withdrawing it, he again sank the bloody knife into the body of the beast and turned the blade in the wound. Then he swooned and fell from exhaustion; but the knife had done its work well, for as Hudson fell the panther reeled and fell dead on top of him. After a short time the weak man managed to crawl from under his victim, and drag himself away from the bloody scene, and with the aid of his little boy he struggled to get home. As his life blood was ebbing away his little boy covered some of the wounds with mud. It was many days before he was able to hunt bee trees. Ugly scare were left on his head, face, breast and arms. Hudson was quite popular with the settlers before the incident, but now they loved him the more, and thought him worthy of a place in the legislature, and he was elected to represent them in that capacity. When he arrived at the capitol the members of the assembly were eager to shake hands with the man who had killed a panther in a combat. Hudson engaged in the mercantile business a few years later. A part of his goods were hauled from Springfield, Mo. One day while in the town named, a lot of young fellows who had heard of his combat, collected around him and asked more questions than he desired to answer. Finally he told them, "Yes, he was the man who killed the panther and I can whip the whole crowd of you fellows." The youngsters saw fight in his eyes and immediately apologized. As pioneers pass the spot where the struggle for life transpired, they are occasionally heard to say, "There is where Hudson fought so desperately to save the life of himself and little boy."
Springfield-Greene County Library