The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

A few stories of this kind are given here to show the stealthy nature of panther in attacking young colts. Major Sampson Barker, who lives on White River two miles below Forsyth Mo., contributes a short story of this nature. Barker is a native of Virginia being born in Scott County in that state in 1832. He served as major in the 27th Virginia Regiment in "Stonewall" Jackson’s command and was present and in command of this regiment when Jackson met a tragic death at Chancellorville. After the close of the war Major Barker came to Taney County, Mo., and has lived here since 1869. Here he has enjoyed the art of hunting and farming. He has killed many deer and has had a few tussles with wolves, but he never met a wild panther. "But", said he, "I have a short panther story I will tell you which was told me by Tom Snodgrass who on a certain occasion soon after the war visited Springfield, Mo., and died while on the way back home. Mr. Snodgrass informed me that in 1865 while he lived 1 ½ miles above Forsyth he met a panther one day which gave him serious trouble, which came about this way. In the early fall of the year mentioned I had put up a corn crib and one day while engaged in putting on the roof a mare of mine came running into the wood yard without her colt. Thinking the colt had been attacked by wolves and without taking time to arm myself I ran in the direction the mare had come. About 200 yards from the house I ran onto a panther devouring the colt which it had just killed. The animal seemed to be greatly angered at my presence and before I could get out of its way it sprang on me. I had nothing to fight it with except my bare hands, but I was robust and in good health and made good use of my clenched hands and struck it such fearful blows that it was not able to maintain its strength but a little while, and I soon killed it; but it tore my clothes and flesh before I was able to conquer it. The panther was a suckler and very weak from starvation and nursing her young. This was the cause of my gaining such an easy victory as I did" said Mr. Snodgrass.
Major Barker’s story reminds me of another account as told by Philander Snow. Every old settler In Douglas County, Mo., remembers Jarriett Huffman, who lived on Cowskin Creek, a branch of Beaver Creek. Huffman was a great hunter and killed game all over Taney and Ozark Counties as well as Douglas County. "Uncle Jarriett told me one day," said Mr. Snow, "that a settler who lived on Cowskin Creek sent his two boys into the field to cut corn stalks with hoes. The man owned a mare with a very young colt following her. During the day the mare fed up on a low bluff near the field, but some distance from where the boys were at work. All of a sudden they heard the bell making an unusual noise. The mare was bad disturbed. The oldest boy remarked that "we had better go and see what is the matter with the mare." The youngest boy replied, who was 13 years old, and said, "you stay and work and I will go," and he went on. It was some time before he returned back to his brother in the field. His brother was astonished at seeing his clothes torn and bloody. He asked him what done it. He said something jumped on him and he had killed it. His older brother requested him to go back with him to the bluff and show the animal to him, When they reached the spot it proved to be a young panther not half grown. But it was not dead and trying to get on its feet. They finished its life by hitting it on its head with stones. The younger boy said that when he got in sight of the mare she was standing and looking toward him with the young colt hovering against her breast. "I kept walking toward the mare to find out what she was scared at," said the boy. "Just before I reached the spot where the mare was the panther which was concealed in the grass leaped on my back. I reached my hands back over my shoulders and caught the little beast by the ears and pulled it over my head and slammed it violently against the stones and injured its spine so that it was not able to use its hind feet and soon killed it as I then supposed. When I jerked it over my head it tore my back severely as well as my clothes." No doubt." said Mr. Huffman, "the panther was trying to catch the colt, but the mare was protecting it."
Here is another story of a similar kind except that the panther did not leap on the man. "In 1865 I was residing on James Fork of White River," said Sam Carpenter. "During the summer of that year I had a mare and a colt out on the range that I had not seen for some time and I took my rifle from the rack one day and went into the woods to hunt for them. I had a long weary tramp but was at last rewarded by hearing the tingle of the bell. But I soon recognized that the mare was annoyed by something. The bell at times would jingle rapidly as if the mare was running and jumping. I knew the mare was not in the habit of doing this unless something was wrong. I hurried on faster and before getting in sight of her I heard her neighing to the colt and the bell was jingling very rapid. Then I raised to a trot and was soon running my best. When I got in sight of the mare she was watching something, but on account of the rank grass I was unable to see anything. I ran on until I was in a few yards of the mare and discovered a panther lying in the grass ready to leap on the colt. The mare was trying to make it go away. About the time I saw the beast it pitched at the mare but the latter avoided it by jumping out of its way. The attention of the animal was so absorbed in watching the mare and colt that it was ignorant of my presence, and I was so amazed when I saw it that I stood perfectly still until it alighted on the ground after springing at the mare. It was now in a few feet of me. I saw the ugly creature was irritated and much angered because the mare was defending the colt so strongly and it crouched for another leap at the mare or colt. This brought me to my right mind, and quickly leveling my rifle I took aim at the panther in a moment. As I pulled the trigger it saw me, but before it had time to attack me a leaden ball entered its body. With a powerful bound it sprang away through the tall grass. It did not stop until it ran about 80 yards from where I shot It. From here it was not able to go further and died in a few minutes. I have no doubt," continued Mr. Carpenter, "that if I had not reached there in time, the panther might have killed the colt and also crippled the mare while she was trying to protect her colt."

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