The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

We have given several accounts elsewhere in these fireside stories of panther attacking and slaying deer and will now relate three more stories of this kind in this chapter. The first account we give here was told me by Isaac Fleetwood, a former resident of Douglas County, Mo., and also of Marion County, Ark., but his present home is in the Indian Territory. In narrating the account Mr. Fleetwood said that he never saw a panther attack a deer, "but I will tell you a story of this kind from hearsay that came from a reliable source and I will tell it to you the way my informant told me." said Mr. Fleetwood.

"Just after the close of the Civil War Marion Fleetwood went up Mountain Creek one day to hunt the horses. As is well known this stream is very rough with numerous hollows that lead into it and was once a prominent haunt for wild beasts. The stream empties its waters into Gooley’s Spring Creek. This last named stream passes into White River just above Oakland, Arkansas. Marion was accompanied by a large bulldog he called "Bull". After traveling up the creek some distance he left the main creek and went up a long hollow that heads up at Long Mountain. When he had passed up this hollow a half a mile or more he saw a panther spring off of a stooping tree to the ground and run off. The dog pursued it and pushed the animal so hotly that Marion said that he expected the beast would climb a tree. But soon after the dog chased it out of sight the dog came back. Thinking that the panther had slain something nearby the tree it had leaped from Marion made an investigation and the ground under the tree showed evidence of an attack of the panther on a deer. The ground for several paces around had been torn up by the deer’s feet and the panther’s claws. The ground and grass was also stained with blood. The tracks and blood were all fresh. Being convinced that the beast had killed the deer, Marion searched for its carcass and found a pile of leaves that had just been heaped together. On kicking them apart a big fat buck met his eyes. The buck, though dead, was yet warm. Its entrails had been taken out as nice as if a hunter had taken them out with the aid of a knife. The buck carried a big head of horns. Testimony as found on the ground and in the tree indicated that the panther was in the tree waiting for game to approach and this buck had come along under the tree and the panther sprang down on its back and overpowered the deer and killed it. The deepest wounds were on the back of the neck where the panther had torn into the flesh with its teeth until death put an end to the suffering of the poor buck. Marion did not hunt for the horses anymore that day and went back home and returned back accompanied by his father and they saved the torn hide and what was left of the venison. It was supposed that after the panther had killed the buck and covered it up it had went up the same tree to wait for more game to approach and it would be treated likewise."

The following account was given by A. J. Lee who was born on the head of Long Creek in Searcy County, Ark., October 10, 1848. Long Creek is a tributary branch of Buffalo and empties into that stream on the south side. In relating the incident of the panther killing the deer Mr. Lee said that one late afternoon in the year 1873 while he was out alone on Leatherwood Creek in the Leatherwood Mountains hunting for a deer his luck in finding them was not good until he saw two deer coming toward him which was several hours after he had started to hunt earlier in the day. "Leather Creek is a rough valley with tall hills and the locality where I was hunting was a wild desolate looking spot. The creek goes into Buffalo which accounts for the rough rugged country along the stream. While the two deer were coming toward me I stopped to wait for them to get in shooting distance. While I was standing there with gun in hand watching the two deer coming slowly along, I was almost startled out of my senses at seeing a monster panther leap down from a stooping tree onto one of the deer which was a three-spike buck. The weight and force of the spring made by the huge beast on the deer crushed its body down to the ground and with its terrible paws and sharp teeth it tore out the deer’s entrails in less than a half a minute and the poor creature soon ceased its struggles. The panther now seemed to understand that its victim was dead and quit tearing the deer’s flesh with its death dealing claws and teeth and began satisfying its appetite on the meat. By this time my presence of mind had returned and leveling my gun at the ferocious animal I shot it in a vital part and it reeled over broadside and lay dead in a foot or two of its prey that it had just slain. The panther was much above the average size of these animals and measured 11 feet from the end of its nose to the end of the tail. I removed the hide of the panther and deer and carried them home with me, and I also took the hams of the buck."

The other story was told me by J. N. (Nate) O’Neal, son of Isaac and Mary Ann (Brown) O’Neal. "Nate" was born in Camden County, Mo., in 1857. Soon after he was grown he went to Taney County where he lived several years at Protem. When the writer interviewed him he was living at Choska, Indian Territory. In relating the panther and deer story Mr. O’Neal said that the incident occurred in Camden County near where he was born. "When I was just old enough to hunt I went to a lick near Niangua Creek to watch for deer to come to taste of the salty dirt so that I could shoot one. The lick was a new one and had been started at the foot of a white oak tree by boring into the roots with an auger and filling the auger holes with salt and scattering salt on the ground under the tree. The country along Niangua Creek is mountainous with rough bluffs. There were plenty of deer in that section and they soon found the lick and paid it frequent visits. When I arrived at the lick I ascended a tree and rested on a small platform that was made for the hunter to sit on while waiting for the coming of game. After whiling away an hour or more of time waiting to see a deer come on the lick, I heard the report of a rifle in the direction of another lick which was a mile from the one I was watching at. This lick was older than mine. After the elapse of some 25 minutes after hearing the report of the gun my blood seemed to chill and stop flowing for I saw the glimpse of a panther creeping along toward the lick. Directly he stopped and took a good look at the lick and seemed to be disappointed at not seeing a deer there. Then it walked up to the white oak tree mentioned and went up to the first main fork which was 20 feet above the ground and squatted down on a limb which branched out even from the main fork. As a matter of fact," said Mr. O’Neal, "I quit watching for deer. The ugly creature crouched down on the limb. I made no attempt to shoot it, but I held my gun ready for business if the animal should threaten to attack me. A long spell of waiting followed. I wanted to find out what the panther meant to do. After a while I saw two deer come to the foot of the white oak tree and put down their heads to get a taste of the salt in the auger holes. At the moment they touched their tongues to the salt the panther partly raised up and bushed up its hair and shaping itself for a leap shot down on one of the deer’s back. The deer was a stout one and the weight and shock of the panther when it sprang on its back did not knock it down. It stood perfectly still for a few seconds, seeming not to understand what had happened, then all at once it bounded off with the terrible beast hanging to it and tearing the hide and flesh on its back and sides. The deer in its frantic efforts to rid itself of its blood thirsty enemy bleated in quick succession. The angered panther uttered a few loud screams which sounded dreadful in comparison to the piteous moaning and bleating of the deer. I almost felt that I was stuck fast to the platform while watching the terrible beast trying to overcome its victim. The struggle was furious. The deer with the blood streaming from its wounds with its monster enemy tearing fresh gashes in its body kept plunging forward. The deer seemed to be stouter than the panther but it was not able to break the panthers hold on it and in turn the panther was not able to prevent the deer from running. In this way they soon passed beyond my view which was the last I saw of them. It is reasonable to suppose that the panther finally overpowered the deer and killed it, for it is not likely that the deer succeeded in releasing itself from its tormentor. I had rode to the lick and had hitched my horse with the halter some 200 yards from the white oak tree, and as soon as the deer and panther were gone I made a hasty descent to the ground and ran to my horse and after unhitching him I mounted on his back and urged him away from there in a bigger hurry than I had come."

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