The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

Here is an account of a panther springing on a deer on Lick Creek 3 ½ miles below where the town of Gainesville, Missouri, now is. The account was furnished me by McDonald Turley, son of Jacob Turley, who lived on the creek one mile above the scene of the occurrence. Mr. Turley said that soon after William Bridges settled on Lick Creek in 1839 Mr. Bridges was passing along the creek bank one day with gun in hand searching for a deer when he heard a noise in the water and seen two deer in the creek "mossing." These deer were in a few feet of a clay bank which had been cut under by a freshet. The animals were in the water where it was shallow. "When I stopped to aim my gun and shoot one of the deer," said Mr. Bridges, "I was dumbfounded with astonishment at observing a panther lying crouched on the brink of the bank ready to pounce down on one of the deer. The top of the bank was covered with grass which concealed part of the panther’s form. The beast lay so still that I could not see it move a muscle. Its eyes were riveted on the unsuspecting deer. I stood in a few yards of the pool of water where the deer were feeding on the moss and the deer and panther did not seem to know that a human being was nearby. I had a good rifle but after I had discovered the panther I did not want to use it until I had seen what the panther was going to do. The innocent looking deer ignorant of the near presence of their stealthy enemy continued to feed on the moss which they found on the rocks that lay in the water. The huge panther as it lay on the bank watching every movement of the deer looked horrifying. It was a forest scene that an artist would like to draw a picture of. As I stood and viewed the three animals I expected every moment to see the panther spring on one of the deer and with this end in view I refrained from shooting the ugly creature for I desired to see its actions when attacking its prey. What the panther was waiting for I was not able to conjecture for both deer were standing so near it that the animal could have almost stepped down on one of their backs. Finally after a long waiting spell the long lythe form without creating the least noise rose slowly and slyly and sprang on one of the deer and crushed it down into the water. When the terrible creature struck the deer the other deer bounded away. The one that the panther leaped on was so stupefied by the shock and weight of the panther that It lay motionless on the gravel bed for a few seconds before making an attempt at resistance. But when it felt its enemy’s sharp teeth pierce its flesh it quickly revived and bleated which was followed by strong effort to get on its feet, but its stout and powerful foe held it down. The water splashed and foamed and was soon reddened with the deer’s blood. The struggles of the deer in resisting the sharp teeth and rending claws of its awful enemy grew weaker and weaker until it ceased to bleat and lay quiet. The panther now quit tearing the flesh of the deer and remained perfectly still a few seconds and seeing no sign of life it sprang back up on the bank and kept its eyes fixed on the deer until there appeared to be a slight sign of life in its victim by a perceptible movement of its legs, then the terrible beast sprang down on it again and bit it so severely that it lay quiet again. Then the panther let go its hold and remained there to watch for signs of life in the deer longer than it did before. Though the body of the deer was lying in the water, but it was so shallow that more than half of it was above the water. its head was just in the edge of the water so that if it breathed its nose was out of the water and it would not strangle, but the deer did not move anymore. The stealthy beast had done its work. The deer was dead and the panther leaped back up on the bank again and looked straight at its dead prey. Its attention was so deeply absorbed in watching the form of the deer that it had not yet noticed me. I had heard of panthers waylaying and killing deer and as I had never witnessed such
a sight as this was my reason in allowing the panther to carry out its designs. I had watched the beast long enough and leveling my rifle at its head and pulled the trigger. The rifle was fired. The bullet sped to the mark and before the report of the gun died away the long form of the panther rolled off the bank and lay dead in the shallow water at the side of its victim."

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