A NIGHT ALARM
By S. C. Turnbo
In relating reminiscences of the early days of Washington County, Arkansas, Mr. Johua Baker said that as late as 1840 bands of Indians over run the country while on their hunting tours or traveling from one camp to another. There were the Ridge Party and Ross Party who were hostile to each other and the members of either side had but small respect for the whites and we were in danger of being massacred. Consequently we were all afraid of them when they showed indications of going on the war path. Sometimes the Indians were the source of frightful stories when there was no occasion for it. But never the less the rumors would create excitement and confusion among the whites and the result was a precipitate flight to the deep gulches in the mountains. There is a place called Paw Paw Cave which our family fled to when Indian excitement ran high. This cave was considered a safe refuge, at least it presented evidence of giving us some show to protect ourselves from the wrath of the red skins should they attempt to attack us. I recollect that in the late fall of 1840 a big Indian scare got up among the white people and a number of them went into the mountains with their families. My parents sought the Paw Paw Cave as usual. This time Ned Talkington and his family and John Strickland and his family went with us into the cave. There were 8 of the Talkington children and two that belonged to Mr. Strickland and his wife, we also had 3 dogs with us. We children were not allowed to make any loud noise. The dogs were kept in camp and we were not allowed to light a fire only for cooking purposes, and we suffered with cold. We children that were old enough to realize the danger confronting us obeyed the orders issued by the old folks in a strict manner. We remained in this camp 3 days and nights. There was one incident that occurred while we were in camp in this cave that is still fresh in my mind. One night my father and Mr. Talkington and Mr. Strickland and my brother Russell Baker who was 6 years older than I rode out to Cane Hill 8 miles distant from camp to reconnoitre and obtain information of the hostility of the Indians. They left my brother Calvin to guard the stock and to be on the look out for the approach of Indians. Late in the night our camp was aroused by the fierce screams of a panther which had ventured up in 100 yards of camp. I was only 4 years old and I well remember that the noise of the animal made me shiver like water frogs coming out of cold water and crawling up my back. The panther gave vent to several cries before it quieted down and went off and it was now that I felt more afraid of it than I was of the Indians. Later on in the night while the men were on their return back to camp and while they were riding over a narrow trail in single file in 300 yards of camp. Mr. Talkington who was in front noticed the form of an animal stop just a few yards in advance of him that blocked his way. He stopped and the others closed up one after another behind him. Though it was dark yet the man took aim at the bulk of the beast with his gun and fired and it bounded away. We all heard the report of the gun in camp and Mr. Talkingtons wife thinking it was Indians approaching and attacking camp took fright and ran off and hid herself in a dark recess of the cave. The report of the gun seared us all but when the men got into camp we quieted down except Talkingtons wife and she was gone. My father and mother and Mr. Strickland and his wife, my two brothers Russell and Calvin and Mr. Talkington hurried out to hunt for her. The man called his wife repeatedly. She was in hearing distance but she was afraid to answer. Really she did not recognize his voice; thinking it was Indians but after a long search in the dark she was discovered and after hard persuasion she agreed to return back to the camp but she did not recover from the shook for 3 days. On the following morning after sun rise the men went to where Mr. Talkington shot at the beast and discovered its tracks which belonged to a panther. They found blood sprinkled on the ground in spots which indicated that the shot from Talkingtons gun had wounded it and with the help of the dogs they followed it up and killed it. The panther was a male and a very large one. The beast had only got a few hundred yards from where it was wounded. By this time the Indian scare proved to be a false alarm and we all went back home that day carrying the dead panther with us."
Springfield-Greene County Library