The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

The noted Salt Peter Cave Bluff on White River in Marion County, Ark., and some six or seven miles below Oakland, was once the scene of the killing of a panther, the account of which was furnished me by Joe Hall, son of Dave Hall, who said that when he was 20 years old or in 1842, he and his brother Leonard Hall went to the south side of the river one day during the year mentioned to kill deer for the pelts only, and remained in the hills three days. "But our camp hunt was not a success for we killed only a few deer. When the third day that we had been out in the woods came I says, "Leonard, let us go home," and we mounted our horses and started with what few deer hide we had. Peter Calder, a brother-in-law of mine kept a severe pack of dogs to chase bear and panther with and on our return home and before we had reached the river we heard the dogs barking in the Salt Peter Cave Bluff and we rode up to the top of the bluff and dismounted and hitched our horses and went down into the bluff where the dogs were treed and discovered an average sized panther sitting on the trunk of a leaning tree. The animal looked at us in a way that was fierce and ugly. The dogs had started the panther on the north side of the river and the beast had swum across the river and the dogs had pursued it into the bluff and the panther had taken refuge in this tree. It was evident that the dogs had treed it the day previous to our finding them. Both the dogs and panther looked gaunt and hungry. The latter seemed to show that our visit was unwelcome, but the dogs were glad to see us. The panther glared at us like it meant business. When we had advanced up in close rifle range my brother suggested for us both to shoot at it the same moment. He thought two shots would insure its death. I told him one shot would do and that he could save the load of ammunition in his rifle for a buck and I would kill the panther, and he agreed to it and I took aim with my gun at the beast, intending to hit it behind the shoulder. At the report of the gun the beast never moved. I had surely missed the mark or the animal would have fallen out of the tree dead or desperately wounded. My brother was amused and laughed outright at my awkward shot. Said he, "Joe, you aimed behind the shoulder and missed. I will take aim behind the shoulder and kill it," Continued Leonard, "All right," said I. Then my brother took steady aim at the ugly creature and pulled the trigger and fired. The panther did not flinch and continued to glare at us the same as it did before the first shot. I supposed my brother had missed it, too, and it was my time to laugh. "That panther certainly bears a charmed life," remarked Leonard, after I had enjoyed a laugh at his supposed bad shot. I now said, "Let us reload our rifles and try him with two shots together," but we barely had commenced pouring powder into the chargers before the panther began to move down the tree. At first the animal moved very slow. Then it increased its actions, but it showed no indication of being wounded and we imagined that we would soon witness a bloody encounter between it and the dogs. On crept the beast head foremost down the stooping tree. The dogs raved and barked furiously. When the great beast got in reach one of the dogs which was an enormous cur leaped up and caught the panther by the throat and both fell to the ground together. The other dogs sprang on the panther, but it made no resistance. It was dead. We removed its hide and discovered that one bullet had penetrated through the body of the heart and the other ball had not touched the animal as far as we could ascertain. We were not able to decide which one of our rifles did the work and which one missed for both guns carried the same sized ball and both of us had aimed behind the shoulder."

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