The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

Coon hunting was very common with the young men during the early settlements along the streams. The dogs were trained to "coon hunts" of night as well as chasing the deer. Many old people cherish the memory when they used to go coon hunting and catch as many in one night as they could carry home with them.

Mrs. Cassia King gives an amusing story of a lot of boys going out on a coon hunt one night and how it turned out.

Mrs. King said that her grandfather, Jimmie Adams, was among the first settlers in the neighborhood of the mouth of the Big North Fork of White River. He built the first mill in that section which was erected on a spring branch on the south side of the river 5 miles below the mouth of Buffalo.

"My grandfather owned a few negroes, among them were three boys named Mose, Wash and Bill. The last named was a tall, slim fellow and they made his name double by calling him "Long Bill". These three negroes were regular coon hunters of nights and as my grandfather was not hard on his slaves he allowed them to hunt coons whenever they chose to do so if he could spare them from their work if the weather admitted. My grandfather had two sons named John and Matthew who were just large enough to go hunting and they loved the sport of it as well as the three negroes did. One bright moonlit night the two white boys and the three negroes took an axe and the dogs and started off together on a big coon hunt. On making a large circuit and capturing several coons which they carried with them to remove their hides at home the dogs attacked something that was found to be bigger than the kind they had been killing which resulted in a terrible fight between it and the brave dogs. The boys all hurried up and surrounded the combatants and hurrahed for the dogs, but after a hard battle the dogs were vanquished and apparently the fierce creature got tired of fighting and went up a tree and growled at the boys and dogs fearfully, but its size and noise did not scare the boys for they believed it to be an unusually big coon. The tree it was up was uncommonly large and it would take too long to chop it down. They could see the mighty form of the "big coon"` as it lay crouched on a limb some 25 feet above the ground. The tree was too large to climb and the boys concluded that they could have to have help to capture the monster, and the white boys and the other two negroes persuaded "Long Bill" to take one of the dogs with him for company and protection and go home and tell grandfather what they had treed. As soon as the negro arrived there he told a monster tale by reporting that the dogs had met and fought the biggest coon he ever heard of and that it "thrashed" the dogs before it took a notion to climb a tree and that its "tail was as long as a fence rail." My grandfather thinking that the negro was enlarging on the description of the alleged coon told him If it was a coon that it was a new kind of them that had come Into the country lately, but laying jokes aside he told the negro that it might be something and he sent Josiah Adams, an older son than John and Matthew, with "Long Bill" to see if it was anything worth a load of powder and lead to kill it with. Day was just abreaking when they left my grandfather’s house and it was nearly sunup when they got to the boys where the dogs were treed. The moment Josiah saw the big fellow lying on the limb of the tree he exclaimed, "Boys, it’s a panther and a big one, too," and he shot and killed it.

After this night’s experience the young hunters had learned how to distinguish a panther from a coon, said Aunt Cassia.

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