The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

One of the old time hunters of Boone and Marion Counties, Ark., and Taney County, Mo., was Nathan (N.W.) Tyler who came with his parents, Joseph and Annie (McCallester) Tyler to Crooked Creek in 1851 where they lived for a short time where the present town of Harrison now is. Mr. Tyler was born in Henderson County, Tenn., October 3, 1839, and was 12 years old when he first saw Arkansas. His father was killed at Jonesborough, Ark., during the war and is buried there. His mother died at the age of 88 years and is buried at Powel, Ark., on Crooked Creek. Uncle "Nate" has also gone beyond the great dark valley of death. He died suddenly while hauling coal to the wild cat mines on Jimmies Creek on the 4th of June, 1898. The old hunter’s body was given burial in the Arch Anderson graveyard near Dodd City, Ark. He had lived in the Ozarks 47 years, 40 of which he had devoted to hunting game. In referring to his experience in killing game he said that just after the close of the war, "we were all very hungry and to appease my appetite I shouldered my gun and lived in the forest part of the time. I soon killed 13 deer and found 18 bee trees. At another time or in the fall of 1867 after the people had raised plenty to eat I killed 22 fat gobblers. I remember being on Sugar Orchard Creek one day calling turkey and saw two gobblers coming toward me. When they got in short rifle range one was just behind the other and I shot and killed them both.

"I killed a buck in the pineries that was a monster. I shot him near where Dodd City is now located. I took the hams of this deer home and weighed them and they both tipped the scales at 42 pounds. I killed a gobbler on Gaither Mountain once that weighed 32 lbs. before it was dressed. The fattest deer I ever killed was one moonlit night while I was out coon hunting. It was a doe and the fat on her brisket was an inch thick. This was the only deer I ever killed in the forest by moonlight. The luckiest time I ever had killing deer was on head of Bear Creek where one day in 1858 I killed 5 deer at 7 shots. There were 4 does and a buck. I shot them all from the same tree and they all fell in a few yards of each other. I had a job on my hands removing the hides and after dressing them I hung them on limbs of trees up and went home for help to carry them home. I never saw but 28 deer in one bunch. I and Harve Robertson saw them on Gaither Mountain. They were traveling In single file. The nearest I came to seeing two bucks looked together by their horns was two skeletons of bucks locked by their horns that I found one day on White Oak Creek, a tributary stream of Crooked Creek. After a short examination of the horns I broke off a prong of one beam and took the horns apart. These antlered monarchs had fought their last fight several months before. As you are hunting for strange and peculiar happenings among hunters I have a little item to tell you in that line," said Mr. Tyler. "One day a long time ago while I was hunting on Crooked Creek I shot a deer and it ran. I put the dog after it and he pursued it 2 ½ miles to a hole of water in the creek where the dog caught and killed it. While dressing the deer I found that the bullet had passed through the body of the heart. Just think of it, a deer living long enough to run the distance I have mentioned with a large hole tore through its heart. The richest bee tree I ever struck," continued Mr. Tyler. "I found it on Crooked Creek in a large post oak tree. The honeycomb had a strange shape. There were 8 rows of comb 12 feet in length with narrow allies or spaces between the rows. These passageways seemed to have been formed by the bees to pass to and fro. There were several people present when I felled the tree. Among them were my mother, my brother Daniel and his wife, and my sister Barbary Tyler, and Matilda Tyler, wife of my brother Thomas Tyler. After our party ate all the honey we wanted we filled the following named vessels with rich honeycomb: one 3 gallon churn, one bushel washtub, two wooden water buckets, and one cedar pail; and we were compelled to leave a gallon or more at the tree for the want of another vessel to put it in. We did not strain the honey. One day while hunting on Elbow Creek I was attacked by an angry catamount. I and John Mosely, Joel Childress and a man of the name of Reid were on a camp hunt on that stream. A snow fell one night while we were there and next morning we all started out to hunt, each man going his way. I had not got far from camp when I heard an eagle among a bunch of turkeys. I approached the flock and shot one of the turkeys. Besides my rifle I had a Colt navy revolver with me. A moment or so after I shot the turkey I heard footsteps in the snow just behind me, but I thought it was my dog until I turned to look and beheld a catamount had walked up in a few yards of me. When I turned my face toward it the enraged creature sprang at me and I knocked it down with my gun and it rose and came at me again. But with a second blow with my gun I sent it reeling backward. I had yelled in terror for my dog from the time I saw the cat and when I struck it the second time with my gun the dog dashed up. Mr. Catamount now got in a hurry to leave and darted away with the dog in close pursuit. It was the prettiest race a scared hunter ever witnessed. The cat was in earnest about getting away from there. The dog did its best running to catch it, but the cat outraced him and escaped into a cave about 300 yards from where the beast attacked me. The beast had frightened me so bad when it leaped at me that I never thought of my pistol. That night when we all had gathered back at camp I told my companions that I had just as well throw my pistol away for I could not think to use it when I needed it."

Mr. Tyler tells of two rough experiences he had with a wolf, but was never attacked by a pack of them. Up near the head of Sugar Orchard Creek where the road that leads from Lead Hill to Harrison strikes this stream is situated the town of Keener. About ¼ mile below the town is a strong bubbling spring of cold water which flows out from under a ledge of rock. This noted water is sometimes called the Cave Spring. On the side of the hill above this spring is an opening in the ground which presents an interesting feature. "One day in the early part of April, 1861," said Mr. Tyler, "I took a position behind a log which lay near this spring to call up a gobbler. I had called a half an hour or more without getting a response from a turkey, but something else came in the shape of a big black wolf. The animal was in 15 feet of me, before I knew of its approach. You ought to have seen me bounce up on my feet with gun in hand. I thought at first that it was going to run, but it changed its mind and turned broadside to me and looked me straight in the face. Quickly aiming my gun at it I shot the wolf through the body. It fell as if dead and I congratulated myself that I had escaped a tussle with it, but I was elated too soon, for Mr. Wolf got up and after staggering around a few seconds seemed to recover its equilibrium and with a fierce savage look and a growl it darted at me. Of course I turned to give it room and being in a hurry I fell sprawling over the log and the angry beast leaped over the log at me. I was so terrified that I did not take time to rise on my feet but ran on my hands and feet. The wolf followed and snapped at me in a vigorous way, but did not take hold of me. While on my hasty retreat I noticed a tree leaning against another tree that I could easily climb, and I made for it. When I got to it I went up it as fast as a coon could go. Getting up high enough to be safe from the wolf I stopped and looked down at my enemy and he was standing looking up at me, and I saw the blood dripping from the bullet wound. The wolf stood still for about 10 minutes when it seemed to grow sick and turned around and went away. Some several minutes after it disappeared from view I descended the tree and recovered my gun which in the excitement of the moment I had left at the log. After reloading the gun, I followed the trail of the wolf by the bloodstains on the leaves and ground. After the animal went near a half a mile it entered a cave but I did not thirst after the wolf’s blood strong enough to go in and hunt for it, for the cave appeared to be too small for us both and I did not call anymore turkeys that day either. But," continues Mr. Tyler, "I got in contact with a wolf one day a year before this that I did not come off so easily. I was living away down on Sugar Orchard Creek at the time of its occurrence. One day while I was a short distance from the house I heard my little bunch of hogs rallying and very soon one commenced squealing. Without taking time to run to the house to get my gun, I rushed on to see what had hold of the hog and found that it was a gray wolf. I ran up close to the beast to scare it off of the hog. It released the hog, but to my dismay it uttered a ferocious growl and darted at me. I halted instantly and raised my left arm to protect my breast and with clenched right hand I struck it a terrific blow, but I never staggered it. The enraged beast caught my left arm with its teeth. I was thunderstruck with terror for when I was rushing up toward it I had no thought the beast would attack me. When the wolf grabbed my arm I used my strength for all it was worth and fought with a desperation. I hallooed, kicked it and struck it hard blows with my clenched hand, but the animal was not scared, but I did not feel that way. It seemed like though my strength was increasing in power and to my joy I soon perceived that the fight was going in my favor, and I renewed my energies and finally kicked the wolf headlong down a steep bank. This gave me a chance to run and I put in railroad time. I used a great deal more activity on the retreat than I did on the charge, but before I reached the house I was madder than I was scared. Running into the house I snatched the rifle from the rack and ran back to the scene of mine and the wolf’s acquaintance, but the animal was gone. The wolf taught me a lesson and you must not blame me for retreating so rapidly from the black wolf that attacked me at the Cave Spring a year afterward," said Mr. Tyler.

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