The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

Ben Hager, a former resident of Madison County, Ark., tells this story which relates to a panther.

"On the first day of October, 1862, while we lived on Holman’s Creek south of Huntsville my sister Charity who was 17 years of age was pursued by a ferocious panther. It was customary among the settlers of Madison County when they killed a fat hog was to divide a part of it with their nearest neighbors. If a citizen failed to do this it was considered an insult offered them. Though it was war times but neither side up to that time had interrupted the country but little. On the date named my father killed one of his fat hogs and in the late afternoon he sent my sister Charity to Mr. McMaster’s with a mess of the fresh pork. McMaster’s wife was named Ellen and they lived 1 ½ miles from our house. My sister was afoot and after delivering the pork to the man’s wife she hurried back home for it was near night. After she had traveled halfway back home a panther made its appearance at the roadside just behind her. At the sight of the ugly creature she was nearly stupified with fear, but on recovering she ran at her best speed along the road with the angry beast in close pursuit. When she reached the orchard fence which was in 300 yards of the house she bounded over it like a frightened deer. As she struck the ground she looked back and saw the panther loping along in the road in 20 feet of the fence. While she was running through the orchard she cried and screamed which attracted the attention of the dog and he began barking and the panther stopped at the fence where my sister had leaped over, and did not follow her further. It was now getting dark and we did not make any investigation until the following morning when I and my father started out to hunt for the beast. We took our guns and the dog we called Sweeper. Our guns were the old muzzle loading kind and father called his gun Sweepstakes and I called mine Spud Short. On going to the fence where sister had crossed over in such a hurry we found where the animal had scratched the ground with its claws. We tracked it one mile and found where it had caught a shoat and devoured a part of it and covered up the remainder. On following its trail one-half a mile further where there was a rough and low shelving rock which extended a short distance along the hillside, suspecting that the beast had stopped under this projecting rock, my father kept the dog back and directed me to go up the hill and pass around above the ledge and watch for the beast while he took the dog and advanced slowly and cautiously up to the rock to see if it was lying under it and if it came out to make its escape up the hill or down the hill either or both of us might get a shot at it. I felt a little spotted while I was creeping along the side of the hill watching for the panthers appearance when I saw its head raise above the top of the ledge. The animal had heard the noise of our approach and it was on the lookout for danger. It did not see me for it was not looking toward me and my father and the dog was not yet in view. I took careful aim at its head off hand and pulled the trigger and at the report of the gun I saw the panther’s head disappear below the edge of the rock. I felt somewhat nervous about venturing up for a moment or so when I started to see whether I had killed it or not and went down slowly to the ledge. When my father heard the gun shot he knew almost that I had found the beast and fired at it and we both reached the ledge at the same moment. He saw it first and says, "Ben, you got it." I knew what he meant and I leaped over the ledge and there it lay stretched out in the tremor of death. The bullet from my gun had taken effect just behind the right ear and passed through its head and broken the jaw bone. Soon after the big beast was entirely dead we procured a pole of dead wood and tied the panther’s feet together and swung it on the pole and started on our way back home. Before reaching there we saw a fine buck which my father shot and killed. Being only a short distance from home I went up in view of the house and yelled for my two brothers, Jim and Bob, to bring the wagon and oxen which they did and we loaded the dead panther and dead buck into the wagon box and soon hauled them to the house. The buck was a monster and carried 11 points on each beam. The panther was a big fellow, too, measuring 9 feet and 11 inches from the end of the nose to the end of the tail. The oxens names were Dick and Buck.

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