The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

One of the most amusing accounts of an experience with wolves is the following, the story of which was furnished me by an old settler of Ozark County, Mo., who has been dead a number of years. This old pioneer said that it was true and that the incident occurred when wolves were more plentiful in southern Missouri than people. He said that a man of the name of Owen Kersey lived on the opposite side of Little North Fork from the mouth of Otter Creek which empties Into Little North Fork three miles above the present town of Thornfield, Mr. Kersey’s wife was a tall, slender woman and very active and was not so easy excited as her husband was. At least she was able to control her presence of mind while Kersey would entirely lose himself in a close place. One day soon after they had settled on their claim, they had an experience with some wolves that was so amusing and ended so funny that Owen Kersey’s wife grew weary in telling the story of it so often and laughed about it until she said her sides ached. "Here is the way it occurred," said the old timer. "Kersey owned one horse which he plowed and went to mill on. When he was not using the horse he would put a bell on him and turn him out on the range until he needed him. As the wild pasture was so fine on Otter Creek, Kersey would keep the horse on this stream where along the main creek the horse made his grazing grounds. One day in the spring of 1849 after the timber had donned its summer dress Owen needed the horse to lay off corn rows with to plant his crop and he and wife went up Otter Creek to hunt for him. The man had no gun but they took their dog along for company. The tender grass was fine and nutritious and as the horse had been out several days he was getting fat and sleek. People did not break their ground then unless it was a new clearing and Kersey’s land was second year’s and the man did not need the horse until he wanted to go to mill or lay off corn ground and for this reason the horse had been allowed to run out a long time on the range, and Owen Kersey and his wife rejoiced that their horse was good and stout to pull the plow along in the rooty land and that his provender was no expense to them. The couple were glad they possessed a little home in the Ozark hills where they could breathe the balmy air and drink of the cool bubbling water and kill the fat bucks and big turkey gobblers. They were enjoying themselves among the beautiful hills, dales and clear running streams. As they passed on up the creek the dog appeared to enjoy himself too by running and playing ahead of them. When the man and his wife got in hearing of the horse bell the dog was one hundred and fifty yards in advance of them. They caught a glimpse of him every now and then as he trotted through the pretty green grass. The man was in no hurry and he and wife walked on slowly toward where the horse was feeding. Just at this moment they heard the dog yelping in distress. Stopping to ascertain the cause of their dog’s trouble, they saw the dog running toward them, hotly pursued by three wolves. The dog did its utmost to outrace them and the vicious beasts were exerting their best running power to catch him. They were so near his heels that there was small space between the foremost wolf’s nose and the dog’s heels. If they caught him it was goodby poor canine. Kersey and his wife was terrified like the dog was and they both made for the nearest tree which was a slippery elm. The woman reached the tree first and clasping her arms around the body of the tree pulled herself up out of danger and seated herself on a small limb. The man was making all haste in climbing too but he was not as nimble as the woman was and not so lucky either for in his rush and excitement he grabbed at a dead limb which snapped off at the trunk of the tree and down went Kersey sprawling on the ground. The wolves reached the foot of the tree just as the men started to fall and at the moment the three bloodthirsty wolves caught the helpless dog to rend him to pieces, Mr. Kersey was precipitated on the wolves’ backs. It was hard to distinguish now which waa the worst scared, wolves, dog, or man. The wolves darted away, two of them ran off one way and the other in an opposite direction. The dog fled down the creek toward home. The man lost his presence of mind and did not notice the wolves disappear and imagined they were pulling him to pieces and he yelled lustily for his wife to drive them away and save his life from the ravenous animals. His wife was scared too but she kept her senses and saw the wolves run off and knowing her husband was in no danger now laughed outright until she came near falling out of the tree. Kersey continued to call loudly for his wife to come and save his flesh and bones from the teeth of the impudent beasts and she answered by laughing the louder. But very soon she told him to hush his mouth and quit acting the fool and get up for the wolves were gone. At this Kersey became more quiet and raised up and looked about him as if bewildered and seeing the coast was clear was overjoyed to find that the wolves were gone and he had made a miraculous escape as he termed it. After his wife had come down out of the tree Kersey told her they must not take time to catch the horse, but "we must hurry back home to escape a second attack from these terrible animals." His wife tried to persuade him to not go back until they had secured the horse but the man was bent on going at once and says, "Let us go now," and he started off and the woman followed. He led the way down the creek to his cabin at no slow gait and believed that he had avoided another charge from the daring wolves." When the old timer closed his story he remarked that Kersey was always reluctant about alluding to this incident but his wife recited the account of it frequently and vouched for its truthfulness.

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