The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

One beautiful Sunday in the month of September, 1898, I had the pleasure of visiting the home of Abbi Deacon on Elbow Creek in Taney County, Mo. In the afternoon we crossed the creek opposite the spring at the lower end of his farm and strolled up the steep hillside to the summit to take a view of the narrow valley of Elbow Creek, and while seated in the shade of a tree, Mr. Deacon related to me the following account.

"I was born in Marion County, Tennessee, May 27, 1832.
I came to Searcy County, Ark., in 1857 when I was 25 years old and after living there sometime I moved into Boone County and remained there until in 1879 when I moved to Elbow Creek. As we view the rough hills and gorge-like valleys of this stream," said Mr. Deacon, "I am reminded of an amusing story of a hungry panther visiting my camp one night while myself and a family were traveling from Little Rock, Ark., to Boone County. I had taken a small number of fat hogs to Little Rock and sold them for a snug little sum according to the size of the bunch. Just before starting on my return to where I lived then in Carrollton Hollow in Boone County, I met Bob Reynolds who wanted to move up into Boone. I had a wagon and team with me and I promised to take him and his family where he wanted to stop. The time was in the primitive days of Arkansas, when deer and other wild animals were plentiful from Little Rock to our destination, but we were not molested until we got in the Buffalo Mountains. One night we stopped and camped on Buffalo River some two miles north of the now famous Rush Creek. Our camp was at the foot of a knoll. Late that afternoon we met an old man hauling two dead deer home on a sled drawn by an old horse and he sold us a pair of deer hams for 50 cents. When we stopped on Buffalo for the night we hung the hams on a stooping dogwood sapling which stood in a few feet of the fire. As we wished to take the hams home with us we did not use them that night. It seemed like we dreaded to pass through the Buffalo Mountains worse than any part of the country we had come through on account of wild beasts. We had no gun or dog with us. A chopping axe and a fire shovel was all the weapons we had to fight with in case a wild animal should attack us. We had traveled many miles that day and were all tired and ate supper late. After partaking of our forest lunch, Reynolds and I sat up and chatted a while before we retired to bed, and were soon in the land of snores and dreams. But near the hour of midnight we were suddenly aroused by the piercing scream of a panther which had approached in 30 feet of the smouldering fire. Mr. Reynolds and I sprang out of bed the same moment and hurried to get on our clothes and prepare ourselves for an attack from the vicious animal. The panther was up on the side of the knoll and when we reached the fire to throw on wood it uttered another terrible cry, As the fire was low it was just out of the circle of light and it was too dark to see its form, but as fire hunters say, we could see the "shine" of its eyes. We could hear it lashing the ground with its tall. I fully believed that it was making preparations to spring on one of us, or one of Reynolds’ family, for they were all up now dodging around like a lot of quails to prevent it leaping on us. I snatched up a chunk of fire and hurled at it which scared it away a short distance. But it soon returned. This time it threatened to take the deer hams, but I threw more fire at it and away it went again. In the meantime Reynolds picked up the axe and sat down by the fire and says, "I’m going to protect my wife and children," and his frightened family gathered about him to receive protection. The man fell to cursing and swore if the "tarnatious" beast hurt any of his family he would chop it to pieces with the axe, "but I am not going to leave the fire," said he, "to help run it off." While it was gone the second time I threw a lot of dry wood on the fire and soon had a bright blaze which made plenty of light for several yards around. Very soon the panther returned to the side of the knoll where it first made itself known and screamed loud enough to scare Satan himself. I began to sweat profusely all over my body and I could feel the hair of my head standing straight up. The panther was visible now for the light of the fire reached beyond it. The beast with its great glaring eyes and long lithe body was enough to frighten the bravest. Mr. Reynolds, surrounded by his frightened family, could keep his seat no longer, and rose to his feet instantly and dropping the axe from his hands he fell to his knees and prayed the Lord to protect him and his loving wife and his dear little children. I thought he ought to work and pray, too, but he made no move to protect himself and wife and little ones. I never thought God would help a man if he made no effort to help himself. Reynolds did not pray long before he went to cursing again and says, "Deacon, there shall never be anymore fresh meat brought to camp where I stay." After the man indulged in the worst of oaths awhile longer he quit cursing and says, "I am going to throw them infernal hams to the panther for I had rather do without meat than for my wife and children and myself to be eaten up alive," but he took care not to move off of his knees where he was at and I suppose he changed his mind. The continued cry and attitude of the panther, and prayers and curses of Reynolds, his frightened wife and little ones was a peculiar scene. The animal was bold and daring and remained in the firelight. It apparently meant to have the venison or attack us. Something had to be done at once to get rid of it or I would soon become overpowered with fear, and snatching up a blazing faggot I jumped toward it and struck the chunk of fire against a sapling which made sparks and coals of fire fly thick and fast in every direction which put a bluff on the huge beast and it bounded off into the darkness, and did not come back anymore that night. The frightened man and his family gradually grew quieter and I heard no more groans, prayers nor curses from Reynolds. But he insisted that if the devilish creature came back to molest them he would slay it with the axe."

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