The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

Charles Turley, or "Wid" they call him, is a son of "Dine" Turley who once owned a little corn mill on Brattons Spring Creek in the latter 50’s. The Turleys were early settlers in Ozark County, Mo. "Wid" was born on Brattons Spring Creek in 1848. His father died a few years ago and is buried in the graveyard at the mouth of Brattons Spring Creek. "Wid" says that his father settled the Jack Ellison farm on Brattons Spring Creek and that his grandfather settled the Carroll Johnson place. His grandfather also rests in the same graveyard where Dine Turley lies. "Wid" Turley began hunting when he was very young. "One day," said he, "when I was only eight years old, I went out alone to hunt an hour or so. I had no dog but I carried my father’s rifle. I went up the creek from the house and when near the big spring known then as the Bratton Spring I saw the glimpse of two animals that I at first through were deer, but when I got a better view of them they proved to be two panthers. They were ten feet apart and either one was not over 15 paces from me. I stood and viewed them both as they stood and looked at me. I did not offer to shoot at one of them for fear I would wound it only and they would both attack me. Neither one threatened to attack me except that they both glared at me a short while. Then both animals walked slowly up the hillside and passed from my view. As soon as they were out of my sight I turned and started to the house and I was not long in getting there either."

Here is a story of a man killing a young panther with one blow of his clenched hand which was told by Mrs. Dorah Ross, daughter of Billy James,"In 1860," said she, "a few families came from Tennessee and located in our neighborhood where we lived on East Sugar Loaf Creek in what is now Boone Co., Ark. Among the number were Ellis Wright, Jeff Phelps and Alexander (Doe) James. The latter was a brother of my father. The newcomers had come from an old settled country where game of all kinds were scarce and they wanted to enjoy themselves hunting and so the second night after their arrival on Sugar Loaf Creek they went on a big coon hunt. As the forest here was strange to them my father went with them to prevent them from getting bewildered. The hunters went up on head of south fork of Sugar Loaf Creek where the dogs struck the trail of some animal that did not act like a coon. But the men all thought it was a coon. After the dogs chased it about 100 yards it climbed a tree. The hunters hurried to where the dogs were barking up the tree and saw the outlines of the game lying on a limb of the tree. But owing to the darkness they were unable to make out for certain what it was. But anyway they pronounced it a "Whaling" big coon. Uncle "Doc" James was so enthusiastic that he wanted to climb the tree and make it jump out. He sat down and pulled off his boots to ascend the tree, but some of the other men objected and he did not climb the tree. Jeff Phelps now picked up a rock to throw at it to try to knock it out, but Ellis Wright says, "No. Jeff, let me shoot it." And did shoot at it, but missed the object. While the others were joking Wright for his bad aim they noticed that the anima1 was growing restless and moved about on the limb. Phelps still held the rock and was standing with it in his left hand watching the creature’s movements, when unexpectedly it sprang down at him. As he saw the dim form flying toward him he clenched his right hand and struck it a hard blow on its breast as it got in reach of him. The beast fell to the ground at his feet. The man struck with such power that the shock of it nearly threw him down. The animal lay still. Phelps, after recovering himself, was amazed and says, "I’ll be dadslapped If I didn’t kill It." They encouraged the dogs, but they were slow in taking hold of it. When they did it was found that it was dead. Then the men examined the dead beast the best they could in the dark and found that it was not a coon but a young panther. They carried it home and examined it closely for a bullet mark but none was found. Jeff Phelps had killed it with one blow with his clenched hand."

Mrs. Celia Clark, daughter of Arch Tabor, now the widow of the famous hunter Bill Clark, gives a sketch of dogs chasing a panther in the hills on Big Creek. In describing it she says, "When I was a little girl, father and most of our relatives were living on Big Creek in what is now Taney County, Mo. One night while the moon was shining brilliant a panther killed a fine sow which belonged to old Uncle Isaac Tabor. He came for father and they mounted the horses and soon collected together a few other men and several dogs. The dogs chased the animal the entire night. The most interesting part of that night’s hunt after the ferocious beast was that it gained so much time and distance on the dogs and men that it killed three more hogs before daybreak. The men said they saw the panther several times during the chase and found that it was an unusually large one. About sunrise it left the Big Creek settlement and went to Little North Fork where it escaped. The four hogs it killed that night it had taken out the entrails. This is a strange story to tell the present generation." said Mrs. Clark, "but it is true."

It is well known in pioneer days how hunters would call up turkey and deer and shoot them, but it was not common for a hunter to decoy a panther up to him and kill it. But I have one account of this kind which I give here. Mr. Asa Dutton who came to Christian County, Mo., from Tippecanoe County, Indiana, is the man that told the story to me. He has also hunted a great deal in Taney Co., Mo., and Marion County, Ark. Mr. Dutton said that "before I tell you the panther story I will tell you a big buck tale. One day while I was hunting on Barbers Creek which flows into Swan Creek I shot and killed two bucks that were standing in a few feet of each other, but I did not kill them both at one shot, for it took two bullets to kill them. The deer were exceedingly large ones and very fat. After removing their hides and entrails and cutting off their heads and severing their legs at the knees one weighed 156 lbs. and the other 157. One of them carried 14 points of horns and the other 15. Talk about bucks," said Mr. Dutton "these were fine ones. I killed them In 1872."

In telling the panther story, Mr. Dutton said that the incident occurred in Christian County. "While I was living on Swan Creek," said he, "a settler of the name of Bill Whitehead hauled a load of lumber to Springfield and while on his way back home he bought the hind quarters of a beef and started home with it on the running gears of his wagon. On arriving where the town of Chadwick now stands Mr. Whitehead was almost dumbfounded to see a panther leap upon the beef from behind the wagon and attempt to take it off of the wagon. But the beef was tied there and the animal was foiled. The mule team took fright and plunged forward at a rapid gait and the panther leaped back to the ground. The mules ran some distance along the road before Mr. Whitehead was able to check their speed. The panther pursued the wagon uttering a loud cry at short intervals which accelerated the speed of the mules. Whitehead was as bad scared as his team and when the mules were not running too rapid he made no effort to hold them back. After the panther followed the wagon to the ridge at the head of Ballon’s Creek it stopped. I forgot to mention that it was after nightfall when the panther attacked the beef but the weather was clear with a full moon. I saw Whitehead a few minutes after he arrived home. The man was excited, but he made out to tell me about his adventure with the beast and where it had left him. I informed him that I was going to try to kill it that night. He replied, "You had better not hunt for the beast, for it might kill you first." I owned a fine double barrelled shotgun and after loading each barrel with 25 no. 8 buckshot I took the gun and a well trained dog named Frank and started for the spot where the settler said he last saw the panther. Arriving at the place I was determined not to be caught napping. I stopped at the side of the Forsyth and Springfield road. The night was brilliantly lit up by the moon. I stood in the road with the trusty dog standing by me and listened several minutes. But the night seemed as still as death. The shadow of the trees looked lonely and I felt somewhat nervous. I believed the panther was not far off and I wished now that it might be a hundred miles away. I was thinking of going back home without hunting for it, but I had told Whitehead that I was going to try to kill it and I concluded not to back out. Then I screamed out in imitation to the cry of a panther. To my dismay I heard an answering cry which I knew was the scream of a panther. I felt in dark spots all over, but there was no going back now. I made the dog lie down and I held my shotgun ready and answered the beast and the panther replied again. It was coming nearer. I felt for my hunting knife. It was safe and I could reach for it in an instant if I needed it. I kept repeating the cry and the panther did likewise. The animal advanced slowly toward me. Its cry was louder and much nearer. I could feel cold chills pass up and down my spinal column. A clammy sweat broke out over my body. The dog showed indications of restlessness and wanted to be somewhere else, but I succeeded in keeping him quiet. Nearer and nearer the ferocious beast approached. Its terrible screams sounded louder and fiercer. Very soon after this I saw it creeping along toward me and I ceased my part of the noise. I concluded it best now not to get scared and got my nervous system steady for work. I made no attempt to shoot at it until it was in 20 steps of where I was standing in the road. Here it stopped, and while it seemed to be reconnoitering me I took aim at it with my gun and pulled the trigger of one barrel. A great report sounded out and the smoke from the explosion of the powder obscured my view of the beast for a few seconds, but when it cleared away I could see that the form of the animal had sank down and was still. I waited a while before I ventured up to it, and found that it was dead. I felt more than glad that my shot proved to be a success. The panther was a female and measured just an inch over nine feet in length. Though I had succeeded in calling this one up and killing it, but I thought it best to not make a practice of calling any more panthers to me for the fun of shooting at them. But in the case mentioned I received good pay for my trouble and risk for I went back the following morning after killing the panther and removed its hide and had it well stuffed and carried it to Springfield and sold it for seven dollars."

July 8, 1902.

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