The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

At this late day it is impossible to procure full particulars of certain events or experiences of early settlers. In some cases fuller details of an incident are wanting. Where an early pioneer is dead that underwent a great deal of experience with wild beasts, there is no record left except the recollection of his children or friends. But sufficient evidence is known by the surviving children if he had any to formulated sketch and if full details cannot be obtained, enough truth is gathered to show that such did occur, and though we call these sketches stories, yet these narratives are not based on fiction and as a rule they are statements given by participants. But in cases like the following where the participants are dead we get the detailed account from their children or others that knew of the affair by hearsay only. They obtained it from those who were present when it occurred. Now for the story we started to tell.

Jim Barnette, an early settler of Ozark County, Mo., and who is dead now, said that one day in the month of December, 1848, while Levi Barnette and Pleas McCullough were hunting in the hills of Little North Fork above the mouth of Little Creek they struck the trail of a panther which lead through the deep snow. The weather was very cold and the panther had been prowling around in search of prey. The two hunters quit hunting for deer and followed the trail. The animal seemed to have got cold and was traveling in a straight direction to a cave where it took shelter to warm up. The hunters were not prepared with fuel for torches and had but few dogs with them, and declined to enter the cavern to meet such a fierce beast without collecting more men and dogs. Among the other men who were asked to assist them were Herrod Holt and Gruff McHerrod. They all met at the cave the next day with eleven dogs. There were no signs in the snow that the animal had come out and the men knew he was yet in the cave. The hunters were soon ready for the fray and to let the dogs attack him in his lair. They all desired some fun and sport and did not want to kill the panther outright. They wanted to be a long time in killing it so as to enjoy the fun and they would continue to rejoice over the victory after it was dead.

To make a beginning, they at first sent in only a few dogs to irritate the beast to get it in good fighting order, for they supposed they had enough dogs with them to destroy it without much trouble. But they had counted their chickens before they had hatched and made a serious mistake. When they sent in the dogs the panther rushed them back and it tried to come out but the anxious hunters gathered around the mouth of the cave and drove it back. It was now wrought up with rage. After it ran back the men sent all the dogs in while they stood about the mouth of the cavern with guns in hand to shoot it if it ran out. Of course the dogs went out of sight, but the men heard them attack it. It was only a skirmish, for it was not long before all the dogs ran out. The men knew the panther’s temper was up at a high rate, but it was amusing to them to see all the dogs come hustling out with their hair turned up and tails between their legs, and they had to laugh about it. After the hunters consulted a while they encouraged the dogs and sent them all in again. The dogs seemed willing to go. This time they waited a long time. They could hear a faint sound in the cavern which they knew was the dogs fighting the panther. How far in the interior of the cave the battle was raging they were not able to tell. They knew it was a hot fight. The hunters were afraid to go in, but waited and listened. In 15 minutes or more three of the dogs returned covered with blood and one was severely wounded. They waited for the appearance of the others, but they did not come. The men grew uneasy and decided to light a torch and go in and see the result of the fight for they were fearful that the remaining dogs were badly used up. Levi Barnette and Pleas McCullough said they would go in and investigate first and the others could come to their aid if they heard them hollow. The two men went in very cautious and got some distance before they saw anything. As they crept slowly along they reached the battle scene and were dumb with surprise at finding eight dogs dead and lying almost in a heap. The panther was also dead and was stretched out close to the dogs. It had been a desperate struggle and the result a fearful one. The sight presented was appalling and seldom met with. The dead dogs and dead panther told the tale of the terrible combat. The latter was covered with blood; the former were bathed in blood and awfully mangled, A few of the dogs entrails were torn out. It was a fight to the death and the men’s enjoyment turned to sorrow for the death of their faithful dogs. When the others went in they dragged the panther and the dogs out and they all grieved at the loss of their dogs. The panther measured nine feet and seven inches from tip to tip. They stripped the panther of its hide and George Duckworth dressed it and manufactured it into an ox whip using the tail for a lasher."

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