The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

The pioneer hunters never forgot their most interesting experience in the forest.

Mr. A. Brown or Uncle Auss as he is commonly known and who has been postmaster at Peel, Marion County, Ark., for many years, relates some items of the pioneer days of White River.

"In the olden time," said he, "it was very common to fire hunt for deer of nights during "mossing" time. I well recollect of nine deer being slain one night in 1844 and also how two panthers were killed during the early days of Taney County and I will give the stories as I remember them.

"When I was only three years old or in 1838 my parents came to Taney County, Mo., and located on Bee Creek just above the mouth. I was born April 23, 1835. You can see by this that my parents were among the early settlers. Father died in the southeast part of Missouri in 1845.

"What I tell you may not be very interesting to some people nowadays because there is no big game and people have almost quit talking about hunting except for squirrels, possums, coons and skunks and such like. One afternoon in the month of August, 1844, my father and two other men pushed their dugout canoe a few miles above the mouth of Bee Creek, and after night while floating down the river with a bright light in the bow of the canoe they shot and killed nine deer. When they had killed a deer, they would remove the entrails and sink the carcass in the river by weighting with chunk rocks or gravel, and proceed on down the river. The big torch which was produced by burning pine knots and pine splinters cast a light sufficient to see several deer along each shore, but those they shot were feeding on the moss in the water. The following day they pushed the craft back up the river, collecting their game then to save hides and hams if they needed the latter for meat. They found all where they sank them except the first one killed; this one was missing. It had been pulled from the water and dragged away. There was a plain trail, and the men followed it for half a mile, where it led into the face of a bluff, and there they discovered a panther lying on a low ledge of rock. It did not seem to be the least alarmed. The hunters kept approaching it until in close range and still it appeared to be not a bit afraid. The three men now stopped and father fired his trusty rifle. At the report the long ugly creature sprang up several feet above the ledge and alighted on the ground below the ledge and leaped the second time, and after rolling down the face of the bluff a few yards it died. The carcass of the deer was found within 15 feet of where the panther was lying; the beast had covered it with leaves and was guarding it. More than likely the animal was nearby when the deer was killed and soon after the hunters had passed on down it had approached the edge of the water and waded in and pulled the dead deer to the gravel bar and after appeasing its appetite on fresh venison, dragged the remainder into the bluff as related.

"Now I will tell you a little of my own experience," said Mr. Brown. "One day when I was a young man I mounted a mule and with dog and gun I rode into the Layton Pineries some 12 miles south of Forsyth. I enjoyed the sport of hunting and hoped I would meet something worth shooting at. My hopes were more than realized as the sequel will show. As I rode through the tall pine trees, the dog struck a hot trail of some animal, and after a short but lively chase, he treed it. I urged my mule along as fast as he would go, for I was convinced the game was worth capturing. The mule, like most mules, was quite stubborn and did not want to be hurried and had rather jump over the fence into some man’s corn field than be bossed by a man; but finally after threshing him lively with a stout switch I got him into a gallop and after considerable trouble in preventing my gun from being knocked out of my hands by the limbs and trees I was soon approaching near where the dog was stationed. I slowed up and directly the mule came to a standstill. Then I cast my eyes toward the top of a tall pine tree that the dog was barking up and saw a monstrous panther. I never had killed a panther, and now was my chance. Hunters, like everyone else pursuing a certain occupation, desire to do something elevating and now was my opportunity to be elevated in my mind as a hunter. Dismounting I made the mule secure to a sapling, and after a critical examination of my rifle I nerved myself and ventured slowly to within 30 paces of the tree. The animal looked fierce and angry and grew restless at my intrusion. I was careful to take accurate aim with my gun, pulled the trigger and sent a leaden messenger into the tree to invite him to the ground. After the report of the shot had died away and the smoke cleared, I saw it totter, then reel over, and as it swung off the limb it turned its hold loose and come tumbling down and struck the ground with great force. A slight quiver of the body and legs showed that my shot was well directed. It needed no second shot for it soon made its last gasp for breath. As it lay stretched broadside with the blood flowing from the bullet hole I viewed it with pride. The dog was as well pleased as I was. We were both highly elated for we had something to brag on. I measured the panther and found that it was nine feet long. I was so well pleased that I wanted to take it to Forsyth to prove to the world my skill as a slayer of wild animals, but I doubted the docility of my mule in carrying it; but the animal proved all right. But I had a hard lift in placing it across my mule’s back. I succeeded in scrambling up behind the dead panther and went on. The trip to town was found to be no easy task, but I would much rather try to carry a dead panther than a live one. The river was low, and after fording it I rode into the village and dumped the dead panther on the street in front of John Vance’s store. It soon attracted the attention of a large crowd who happened to be in town that day, and several of the old timers told interesting stories about panther and other big game and refreshed each other’s minds until everybody in town was ready to give in his experience as a hunter. I was congratulated on my skill in killing one panther at least. After the men had run out of hunting stories I gave a man a half dollar in silver to remove the hide, then it was stuffed and Mr. Vance gave me permission to place it in a crouching position in the second story of his store house where it remained for several weeks."

More sketches given by Mr. Brown are told in other stories.

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