The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

In an interview with Captain A. S. Wood relating to the wild beasts of the forest in northern Arkansas during the early settlement of the country, he said, "I will give you a short history of the first panther killed in Marion County, but where the animal was shot is in Baxter County now. The panther was killed in the hills on the north side of White River and a few miles above the mouth of Big North Fork. Dave Womack who lived on the river as well as other settlers who lived on that part of White River was annoyed by the depredations of a huge panther which destroyed a number of hogs, calves and young colts. The settlers made several ineffectual attempts to kill the stealthy beast and it went on with its usual way of killing all the live property in its reach that it was able to. They would chase it with their dogs, but they were not successful in bringing it to bay as they expected to for the ferocious animal would stop occasionally while the dogs were chasing it and give them battle and after killing one or two of the dogs it would go on and make its escape. In this way it got as many dogs as it did hogs and calves. But finally the fierce and ugly creature met his doom which put an end to his destruction of domestic animals and wild ones, too, which came about in this way. The few settlers met together one day and held a council with the decision that they would unite their forces of men and dogs and end Mr. Panther’s career if it took an entire year to do it. They had determined they would get rid of the beast and they set about arranging for its extermination.

On the date set to meet every man along White River who lived close enough to hear of the arrangements to attack the enemy, the panther, met at the designated place with dogs and gun and everyone was on horseback. As was well known the main haunt of the beast was in a certain rough locality and they went in there and the dogs routed it and brought it to bay. The dogs were so numerous that they proved too many for the troublesome beast and after killing one of the dogs outright the panther went up a tree to get rid of its noisy foes. The panther was so large that it looked fearful while it was lying on a big limb of the tree that it was in. The dogs fairly swarmed around the foot of the tree barking at their dreaded enemy. Mr. Womack was a good shot with a rifle and some of the men said, "Womack, you are the surest shot among us and as we do not want that wild thing to escape, we want you to plug a hole through its body with a ball from your rifle," and Womack consented to try. There was no convenient place in close rifle shot to rest his gun where he wanted to aim his gun at the beast and like the other men he did not want to make a mistake in the shot. A small son of Womack’s was in the crowd by the name of Abram and the father placed the boy in a proper position and after instructing him to stand still, Womack rested his rifle on the lad’s shoulder and shot the panther. The beast quivered a moment, then reeled over and fell to the ground and all the dogs swarmed around and onto it, but it was dead and there was much rejoicing at its death and Mr. Womack bore the honor of killing it. The great beast measured 11 feet from the tip of the nose to the end of its tail."

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