By S. C. Turnbo
Among our collection of hunting stories is a few that relates to the shooting of stock through mistake for deer and which gives some idea of a hunters imagination at times when he thought he was shooting at a deer when it was something else.
"Gum" Smith a prominent preacher of the general Baptist people and who came to Taney County, Mo. and settled a few years on Cedar Creek and afterward purchased the old Josiah Bone land on Elbow Creek is a native of Floyed County Indiana where he was born in 1845. Mr. Smith hunted game as well as preaching to his people and relates a few interesting stories of forest scenes in Taney County. While hunting one day he through mistake killed some stock instead of deer which cost him a sum of money. In giving an account of the accident Mr. Smith said, "I bought me a bran new Winchester rifle of 48 caliber and started out to experiment among the game on Cedar Creek which puts into the White River a mile or more below the mouth of Beaver. I was afoot and was accompanied by a dog which I took along with me to catch wounded deer if I needed him. There was snow on the north hill sides and in the deep hollows. The south hill sides and the ridges were bare of snow. I went along very slow in order not to frighten the game for I was anxious to try my new gun. Directly I seen two deer and shot one of them down and shot at the other deer while it was running and knocked it down but it got up again and ran beyond my view. I let the dead deer lay where it fell and followed the trail of the crippled one, the trail of which lead into a steep hollow where there was plenty of snow. Here the wounded deer fell in company with 4 larger deer and they all went down the hollow together a quarter of a mile or more when they left the hollow and passed up a breshy hill side that sloped toward the south where there was no snow. Here I had to depend on the dog to trail them but I could see their tracks in places where they had went over soft ground. While I was watching closely ahead of me for the deer I noticed what I was sure in my own mind was a buck standing in the bresh. I could see a part of its body through an opening in the under growth. I stopped and after examining its position I took aim at it with my Winchester and fired. The imaginary buck did not move but a second shot put a move on it for at the report of the gun I was amazed at seeing a yearling mule leap up and kick vigorously then it brayed and started to run and while grunting very loud fell dead in 20 yards of where I had shot it. You talk about a hunter feeling in spots all over. It was myself. I had shot somebodys mule. After my worst feelings had somewhat subsided I went to the dead beast to find out if possible who it belonged to then I would go and tell the owner what I had done. It took me only a few moments to learn whose property it was for it proved to be Mr. L. A. Davises who was a neighbor of mine. Right then was the time to go tell him and own up to it. Not wait until Davis or some other man found the dead mule and then confess it. And I started off toward Davises house. As I went on up the hill a few paces I seen a few horses further up the hill. Among them was a gray mare which also belonged to Mr. Davis This mare was walking a circle at a rapid gait with her nose to the ground. Her body and legs were jerking and trembling. She was acting very strange. I looked back down the hill and found that she was nearly on a line with the mule where I had shot from, then an awful suspicion overwhelmed me. I had shot this mare also. Ah such an unlucky man I am I thought but let come what may I will act in an honorable way about it. I will go tell Davis about my shooting and killing his stock if it takes all I have got of this worlds goods to pay for it. I stood and watched the wounded mare until I was convinced that she would die. I made no effort to do anything to relieve her suffering for it was useless. Very soon she quit going in a circle and went straight forward and I followed her near four hundred yards when she fell and was dead in a few minutes. I went on to Davises and broke the news to him as gentle as I could and he informed me that the death of his mare and mule would cost me $150 which I paid without a murmur. My new Winchester rifle and the days hunt cost me dearly but I learned an important lesson from it and that was when I went out into the forest to hunt I never aimed my gun at anything and pulled the trigger until I knew to a certainty what I was shooting at.
Springfield-Greene County Library