The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

The following short stories are given to show the experience of settlers with panther while the ferocious beasts were creeping on them.

John Ross furnished the writer with this story. "William Allbright and a nephew of Allbright’s of the name of Tom Officer, the latter of which was a lad of a boy, while hunting one day on Terrapin Creek, a tributary of Long Creek In Carroll County, Arkansas, came to a large boulder. Allbright passed around on one side of it and the boy on the other. Just before they met on the opposite side of the rock from where they parted the boy cried out, "Uncle Billy, something is trying to catch me." Allbright turning around saw his nephew walking around toward him with an enormous panther following just behind him in a creeping and crouching manner for a spring on the boy. Allbright lost no time in aiming his rifle at the beast and shot it down."

Marion Woods, son of James M. and Mary (Robertson) Wood, says he was born in Madison County, Ark., in June, 1860, and lived there until he was 15 years old and then came to East Sugar Loaf Creek in Boone County. Mr. Woods says that while he was quite a youngster he and his uncle Jim Robertson went one day toward Eagle River to fish with bank hooks. Mr. Robertson also took his rifle along. Arriving at the river they took a position on a large rock which hung over the water. A big log lay on the hillside above them. The tree had fallen toward the rock and the top end lay in a few feet of it. "While we were waiting for a nibble from a fish, I heard a slight noise. Looking up toward the log I beheld a large animal crawling toward us on the log. I whispered, "Look yonder, uncle, what is that?" Robertson turned his head toward the log and replied, "It’s a panther. You be quiet and I’ll shoot it." The animal was now in 30 feet of us. Uncle Jim did not rise to his feet, but after picking up his rifle turned and faced the panther, which kept creeping along slowly toward us. When my uncle fired the great long beast tumbled off the log and after quivering a few moments lay still. Our love for the sport of fishing was now cooled and we soon vacated the rock."

The following narrative was given me by Captain A. S. Wood of Bingdon Springs, Marion County, Ark., and shows the dangers and risks hunters underwent while North Arkansas was infested with panther. Capt. Wood relates an account of an exciting adventure of Steve Treat who then lived in Madison County, Ark. Berry Treat, his brother, lived on Buffalo. Steve was a robust, healthy man and a ravenous eater. He appeared to be always hungry. "A few years after the occurrence I am going to relate to you." said Capt. Wood, "he removed to Crooked Creek seven miles below Yellville. While living here he went to Yellville one day and purchased a side of bacon and started home with it. But it is told that he got so hungry before he reached home that he stopped and devoured the entire side of bacon before appeasing his appetite. But whether this is correct or not I am not going to say, but I was told it was true. When he lived in Madison County, he went to Buffalo on a visit to see his brother, Berry Treat. While there he would hunt during the day and remain overnight at his brother’s house. Steve delighted to hunt and lost no time killing all the game he could. He possessed a peculiar homemade instrument that he used in calling up deer. He had made it of wood and a piece of tin and called it his "blater" because the noise made on it resembled the bleating of a fawn so close that an expert hunter could hardly distinguish it from the bleating of a real fawn. One day while he was rambling around in the creek bottom in searching game he sat down on the end of a log to rest. He had failed to find anything worth shooting. He had no dog with him and depended on his eyes, ears and "blater" to discover game. He was tired and he wanted to rest his weary self on the log and blate for a deer with his "blater". So after seating himself on the log he applied the device to his mouth and began calling for a deer. He blew on it several minutes but not a deer responded. He went on blowing his "blater". stopping at short intervals to watch and listen for the approach of game, but he could not see nor hear any coming, This was strange for he knew the valley of Buffalo River was overrun with deer. As he went on bleating and listening he heard a slight noise nearby. At this a delightful thought struck him, for he supposed it was a doe coming on the hunt for her fawn, but when he turned his head to see the deer. he was startled at the sight of a panther crouched on the other end of the log swaying its tail and crawling toward him. The hunter dropped his "blater" instantly and quickly turned the muzzle of his rifle toward the stealthy form of the panther and aimed at its head and pulled the trigger. A sharp report rang out and a leaden ball, buried itself between the eyes, crushing the skull and bursting both eyeballs out and the huge panther rolled off the log to the ground and died without a struggle. The dreaded animal was just in the act of springing on him when he fired at it, but the fatal bullet from the unerring rifle put an end to its career."

"A number of years,ago" . remarked Peter Baughman, "there was a pond of water on Sugar Orchard in Boone Co. Ark, known among the hunters as "Big Pond". During the settlement of Crooked Creek, this pond was a conspicuous place for deer. I was told by those who were here before my arrival here in 1840 that numbers of deer were shot at this locality. One day in the month of August, 1843, I and my father went to the vicinity of this pond on a camp hunt. Sugar Orchard Creek looked wild then. Tall grass, lots of deer, numbers of bee trees, bear, panther and wolves. The first night out a panther cried out every now and then close to our camping place. It screamed until nearly the break of day when it left. I heard it scream while it was passing over a low hill. Then it quit hallooing. We ate breakfast about sunrise. While partaking of our forest fare the subject of the panther was discussed between me and father, who jokingly remarked that it was not a panther we heard, "but a catamount, wild cat, or more than likely it was a night hawk," said he, but I knew better and so did he. Soon after sunrise we left camp in opposite directions on our day’s hunt. Being a little nettled at father’s remark about what we heard that night I went in the direction I heard the panther leave that morning. But I walked very slow and cautious and kept a close lookout for the beast. After I had got over the hill just mentioned I saw the glimpse of something in the grass that I took for a fawn. I stopped and looked around for the doe but she was nowhere in sight. Then I looked again toward the spot where I supposed the little deer was, but it was gone, and I began to search around for it. While I was occupied at this I was startled by a strange noise behind me. Wheeling around to ascertain the cause I was confronted by a panther crouching for a spring at me in 12 feet of where I stood. There was no time for debating and leveling my gun at it as soon as possible I fired on it. An instant later the great beast sprang at me and struck the ground at my feet. The horrifying looking creature frightened me terrible and without the least hesitation I turned and fled like a scared buck. I imagined the panther was pursuing me, I could feel the hair of my head standing out straight. Cold perspiration broke out all over my body, but this did not prevent me from running. I yelled for father as I ran. I took no time to look back but went on running and hallooing. I have no idea how far I would have run, but I halted when I came near running over my father who had heard me raise my voice so loud after I had shot and was approaching to find out what was the matter with me. Meeting my father brought me back to my right mind and as soon as I could catch my breath, I told him about my narrow escape from the panther and we both went back to the place where I had shot at it. The animal had disappeared. but father put his dog on its trail which lead off in an opposite direction from which I had run. The grass was stained with blood which proved that the panther was bad disabled by my bullet. The dog after following it a mile or more overhauled it, but before we could reach them the panther whipped the dog and he left the beast and came meeting us badly used up and blood was trickling from his wounds. We went on to where the dog and panther had fought. The grass was trampled down and sprinkled with blood. We followed on after the panther by its blood to a big hollow log where we found two young panther lying in a bed in the log and killed them. We turned back here without going any further on the old one’s trail. But a few days after this while Luke Marlor was hunting in this same locality he found a dead panther lying near the log where we captured the little panthers. Mr. Marlor said it had been shot and we supposed it was the same one I had shot and wounded."

July 10, l902

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