SAVED BY AN OTTER HIDE
By S. C. Turnbo
The following war time incident was written at Harrison, Ark, by B. M. (Ben) Estes March 23, 1907 and forwarded by mail to the author at Pontiac, Mo. Mr. Estes was a Confederate soldier and stuck to the end of the terrible conflict. The author was well acquainted with him in war days and knew him to be an upright honorable man. Here is what Mr. Estes said in his letter.
"When the war between the states closed Capt. W. A. (Bill) Greaver had charge of the cover line of the Trans-Mississippi department from the Mississippi River to headquarters at Shreveport. We belonged to Gen. W. L. Cabells Brigad and I was in command of one section of this line and was boarding with a man of the name of Nathan Bussey nine miles south east of Eldorado Union County, Ark. near the Louisiana State line. I was a member of Capt. Greavers company and he proved to be an excellent officer, a brave soldier and always kind and considerate with his men. The Confederate Army was surrendering and we knew the existence of the southern Confederacy was nearing to an end and some of us felt a little stubborn about giving up the contest, or go to Mexico rather than give up to the enemy. Among those that decided to go to Mexico was Capt. Greaver, but his hot was nearly worn out and he aid not like to travel to that far off country hatless. There was a maker of hats lived near the Captains boarding place but he had no material to make hats with but Greaver heard of a man on Smack Overts Creek 35 miles north west who was the owner of a fine otter hide that would make a nice hat and the officer ask me if I would go and buy it for him which I promised to do. So early on the following morning I saddled my broncho and took my departure for the resident of the man with the otter hide. I made it through all right and found the man at home and bought the hide from him for $2.50 in gold. I was very tired but I concluded to go on my way back a few miles before I stopped to rest and when I had rode near 5 miles I stopped at a planters house and ask permission to remain overnight which was granted. The mans name was Bob Goodman and he owned a fine farm and plenty of good horses and mules to run it. He had several hired hands on the farm and it took quite a while for them to care for and feed all the stock on the place. Then supper was announced, and as I was very hungry I did my share at the table which was loaded with good eatables and then after a sociable chat we all retired for the night. Nothing disturbed my slumbers until on the following morning just before the break of day when I was aroused by a hard pounding on the door of my room accompanied by excited voices which was spoken in an angry tone, "Get up you trifling scoundrel and dont delay time either". I felt like I was almost thunderstruck. I was certainly astonished at such harsh language and ask what was the matter and the men hooted at me. "Yes" says one of them., "I would ask whats the matter. You open this door and well soon inform whats the matter." I says "Gentlemen I cannot understand what you mean and I want an explanation." "oh no, of course you dont understand the meaning of this uproar. You are as innocent as a little babe, of course you are. You open this door and dont fool about it a moment." And I opened the door and several men came swarming into the room. Says one "We will refresh your memory. Of course you will plead not guilty to the stealing of every hoof of our horses and mules on this farm." To which I replied, "Men has your stock been stolen", and another one answered "Of course it is and you know all about it you rascal for you put up here just before night so that you would have time to spy out the horses mules bridles and saddles and then pretend like you know nothing about the wholesale stealing that went on here last night." I says "Gentlemen I am innocent of the charge." "You need not tell us that for there is no truth in what you say. Why did you not show them your horse and saddle with the rest?" Then I ask "Is my horse left?" "Yes", say they. "Your horse is left and it seems strange to us that all the horses on this place would be stolen and yours left untouched which convinces us of your guilt." I saw that they were greatly angered against me without a cause for I knew nothing about the stolen property. I realized that my life was in danger from mob violence, and I says "Men just hold a minute and I will convince you of your error and of my innocence", and they promised to do so. I says "Go and look on the back part of my saddle where there is a package tied with a rope. Undo it and you will find an otter hide. I have been to a mans house on Smack Overt Creek some 5 miles from here and bought the hide for my captain who is boarding with Uncle Josh Tatum south of Hill Borrough in this (Union) County. I am boarding with Nathan Bussey, do you know them." And Goodman said, "yes, we know both parties" and he continued "Boys, go and undo the package and if you find the hide as he represents, bring it here". Two or three of the men started immediately and in a few minutes they returned with the otter hide. They were now convinced that I had told them the truth about the otter hide but they wanted me to explain how it was that the theives took every horse and mule except mine and I offered it in this way. "The party who did the stealing must have been concealed and watching the lot and saw me put up here and seeing I had on a gray uniform knew I was a Confederate officer and thought it best to leave my horse and equipments alone." To this Mr. Goodman said, "I guess you are right, but my boy you was in a close place, a good rope was in reach and your neck was in imment danger of being stretched but I am perfectly satisfied with your explanation and that you are innocent of the charge. I beg your pardon", which I most heartily granted. I took the otter hide on and arriving at Captain Greavers Boarding House I handed it to him and he had his hat made. Shortly after this the war was ended and we were all at Liberty to disband and John S. Cowdrey of Yellville, A. G. Cravens and myself started for our homes in Marion County Ark. over 300 miles away without one cent of money in our pockets."
Springfield-Greene County Library