The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

In gathering stories of thrilling experiences with wolves I obtained a sketch of this nature from Mr. A. Brown of Peel, Ark., who has served as Postmaster there for many years. Mr. Brown said that one who has ever been attacked by wolves cannot forget it as long as he lived. The noise they produce while charging up and as they crowd around you and ready to pull you to pieces while snapping and snarling makes a fellow shudder with fear. It strikes terror to the bravest heart and makes him feel like a cowering dog does when assailed by a howling pack of them. The dreadful thoughts of being devoured by a gang of these vicious animals makes a man’s heart almost cease to pulsate and the blood freeze in the veins and arteries and a feeling of horror and despair creeps over him.

In describing the account Mr. Brown said that he had heard hunters relate frightful tales of being surrounded and attacked by wolves and the terrors of expecting to be eaten up by them, but I do not think any man ever got scared worse than I did when that hungry pack assailed me. "It was in 1863. The Civil War had warmed up to a higher pitch than during the previous year and every man in the White River hills had to keep a sharp look out for an enemy especially if he had a desire to prolong his life. I was living then on Bee Creek which flows into the river a few miles above the mouth of Bear Creek. My cabin stood over the line in Taney County, Mo. One day in the late forenoon I went down White below Bear Creek and it was night when I started back. I was afoot without gun or dog. My only weapon being a large pocket knife. While passing through a heavily timbered bottom below Bear Creek and when near the mouth of Stillhouse Hollow a number of wolves broke out to howling close by. The part of the trail that I was passing over at the time lead through a patch of cane as well as timber. The night was clear but no moon and the little light shed by the twinkling stars was cut off by the growth of timber, but I was able to discern the forms of the trees, logs and the undulating land. The path was very narrow and I brushed against the cane and bushes as I passed along. I had traveled over it frequently and knew the way by night as well as day. When the wolves began howling I heard them coming through the cane toward me and dashing up they surrounded me. Their attack was so sudden and unexpected that I stopped and stood like a statue. I could see their forms and hear them snarl. I expected to be torn into small pieces on the spot and you can guess my feelings. I would have climbed a tree but they were so near me I knew they could catch me before I would ascend a tree three feet above the ground. Thinking of my knife I jerked it from my pocket and after opening it held it tightly in my right hand. Then I remembered the old adage, "While there is life there is hope." But the Impudent and vicious animals had nearly scared the life out of me, but recovering sufficiently to understand that I must put a move on myself I made a dash for liberty and the wolves sprang after me. It was the hardest run I ever engaged in. I heard the ravenous beasts at my heels clashing their teeth together. The noise of their teeth as they would snap at my heels and their feet as they clattered on the ground and leaves encouraged me to use my best efforts and I did some fast running along that narrow path in that dark and lonely forest. I was in such a hurry that I would lose the trail at times and the limbs would hit me in the face and I would stumble and would come near falling over logs before I could get back in the trail. I did not run in silence either for as I ran I yelled with all my might. I had known and heard of running fights between the northern and southern soldiers, and during that dark hour in that lonely White River bottom I indulged in a running prayer.

It is natural and very common for a man to call on the Great Omnipotent Being to save his life while facing death. But when the good Lord shows us mercy and all danger has vanished, then we forget to pray. Some people claim they do not know how to pray and that prayers do not amount to much and they do not when they are out of place, but when we all think we are about to enter the gloomy land of eternity, praying is easily learned and our heart’s desire is that it may do good. Just so with me that night. It was no trouble to learn how to pray for I was in deep distress. I prayed that the great God of heaven would intervene in my behalf by turning some obstacle in the way of the wolves which would cause them to stop or turn aside. The wolves gave me no rest but kept right up behind me and on each side of the path and so the race continued without slack. Why they did not take hold of me I am not able to explain. My prayers may have kept them off for I used plenty of praying and the kind that reached deep down in my heart, and I did not forget to keep on praying as I rushed along that dark trail to keep out of the way of those dreaded wild animals. By the time I had run a half a mile the effects of the race was telling on me rapidly. My breath was short. My strength was giving way and how I puffed and blowed as well as prayed. I was now only a short distance from a settler’s cabin occupied by Wash Glover who kept a gang of dogs. When I thought of Glover I thought of the dogs and made all the exertions in my power to reach in hearing distance of the cabin. Then I tried to call the dogs but I had run until I was too short of breath to make much noise now. As I got nearer I called the dogs the best I could. They heard me and so did Glover. The dogs came as fast as they could run and met me and the wolves. How I did love those dogs. I wanted to hug every one of them. The dogs and wolves clashed together and a fight ensued. I stopped to encourage the dogs a few moments. Glover came running up to me and with loud yells he and the dogs started the wolves back the other way. The dogs pursued them a few hundred yards and then ran back to us. The brave dogs met me at an opportune moment for I was so exhausted I could not have run much further and if they had taken hold of me I would have been as helpless as a child in defending myself. In spite of the knife I held in my hand they would have had an easy job dividing my carcass among them, for I was so nigh give out when the dogs met ,me I could not have used the knife with sufficient force to keep them back. There is more horror than enjoyment in running a race with wolves if you are in the lead." said Mr. Brown as he finished his narrative about his close call with the wolves.

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