The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

Among stories of panthers gathered, is one given me by William Brown, stepson of Allin Trimble. Mr. Brown, before telling this story, first related to me a short story about a panther coming up close to him while calling turkeys. He told it in this way:

"One day I was riding along the road which lead from the old crossing of White River known as Keesee’s Ferry to Lead Hill, Ark. The weather had been very cold and the ground covered with snow, but the temperature was warming up and the snow was beginning to melt. I had just passed over the Black Oak Ridge where the "Hideout" schoolhouse is now and while rounding the head of Big Beach Hollow I thought I would stop and call up a turkey and kill it and carry it home where I lived in Lead Hill. So dismounting, I hitched my horse and walked down the hill about twenty paces and took my station at a tree and began yelping like a turkey. Pretty soon I was amazed at hearing the piercing scream of a panther just out of sight further below. A moment later I saw it leap up on a ledge of rook and begin growling and advancing slowly toward me. As it came up the hill I kept quiet and held my rifle in my hands and a big knife lay across my knees. When I first seated myself at the roots of the tree I was not sweating, but now somehow great drops of perspiration broke out all over my body. I expected the panther would assail me and I decided to remain where I was and fight it out with gun and knife. The panther kept coming on in a slow, creeping manner, but when it came within thirty yards of my position it turned to the right and began circling around. Then, all of a sudden, it ran up the hill across the road and out of sight. Though I could have easily followed its trail in the snow, I had no inclination to do so. I was more than glad it was gone."

Mr. Brown, in furnishing the other story, told it in the following amusing way:

"When I was nearly 16 years old Abe Perkins and I thought we would make a deer lick for our own particular use and kill deer mostly for their pelts. It would also be a nice pasttime, staying there of nights watching deer come up to the lick, and then shoot them down. In our imagination we would have a merry time. We proposed to establish the lick on the north side of the river between Bull Bottom and mouth of Music Creek in what is now North Fork Township, Marion County, Ark., and did begin by boring a few holes with an augur at the roots of a stooping post oak tree, and filled the augur holes with salt. We then prepared a resting place in a tree which was made of one or two pieces of plank and a few poles. The scaffold was constructed about ten feet above the ground. Deer were so numerous that they required only a day or two to find it out.

After waiting long enough we went there one evening to get a supply of venison and pelts. We imagined that all we had to do was to, shoot, remove hides and carry them home. Arriving there we saw that deer had been there and had licked most of the salt out of the augur holes. We refilled them again with salt and when twilight settled down into dusk of the evening, we ascended the tree and seated ourselves for the night’s watch and the slaying of deer. It was in the early fall season—the air was just cool enough to feel pleasant and the night was lit up by the moon. We watched and waited for an hour, but the deer declined to make their appearance and taste of the new supply of salt. After awhile Perkins began to nod and he told me to watch while he slept and then he laid down on the plank and was soon in the land of dreams.

Before going to sleep he instructed me that if a small deer approached not to fool away time or waste ammunition on it. These instructions were strange to me for it was my understanding that we were to kill all the deer that came to the lick, big, little, old or young. He told me to let the little deer alone if they came and wait for a large one. I told him that I would obey him. I sat still for a long time and every now and then I could hear something drop on the ground at the root of the lick tree, which resembled small fragments of bark striking the leaves. I thought it was a ground squirrel up the tree pinching off bits of bark or wood. Of course, I did not think anything serious about it. As I sat and watched I saw a small deer walk to the lick and lower its head and begin tasting the salt. As I had told Perkins I would obey his advice because he was a good hunter I refrained from shooting the little deer, though for all he had advised me against it, I found it was all I could do to restrain myself to keep from shooting at it. I looked at the deer and then listened to Perkins’ loud snoring and thought certainly the little animal would take fright and run off. I expected to see a large deer come up to the little one, but none came in sight and my imagination began to dwindle down in regard to the load of deer hides and deer hams I would help Perkins carry off in the morning. I was somewhat discouraged, too, because Abe would not allow me to shoot at a little deer as well as a big one, when all at once something happened for I was startled suddenly by seeing a long animal leap from the tree on the deer’s back. I knew from a moment’s thought that it was a panther. The poor deer jumped as far as it could with its unwelcome burden hanging on. The deer kicked, bucked and plunged but the ferocious beast still held on. The racket created by the struggling animals awoke Perkins, and forgetting the narrow bed he occupied, he raised up quickly, overbalanced, and went tumbling down to the ground. About the moment Perkins was aroused from his slumber the little deer was bleating piteously and was pulling the panther under the tree we were in and Perkins struck the ground just in front of them, and before the man had time to think what caused him to fall from his roosting place, both animals ran over him. Perkins was as much surprised as he was scared and yelled for mercy while the beasts were passing over his prostrate form. I could not help laughing at Abe’s terror and his hallooing in such a prayerful way. When the two animals had passed over Abe and from under the tree I shot at the panther and it released the deer, and they both ran in different directions.

After they were out of sight I spoke to Abe, who was yet lying on the ground, and said, "Perkins, was that a big panther." He quickly replied, "Oh, Lord, yes, Bill, if you call 20 feet long a big one it was." Perkins in his excitement and terror, was wallowing on the ground, trying to get up when he saw it, and of course, was not in a condition to answer as to the length of the animal and he just made a guess and it was a very lengthy estimation, too. With the exception of a few bruises Abe did not sustain injury in the fall from the tree.

It is useless for me to inform you that we vacated that lick immediately and made for home, but by the following day we took courage and went back to the lick and following the direction the panther had gone, we found blood sprinkled along the way it went, which was unmistakable evidence that my bullet had inflicted a wound. We trailed it to a cave in the face of the bull bottom bluff. But we made no attempt to enter it or force the panther out. How the panther got up in the tree without us seeing it I am not able to say, but my impression is that it was in the tree when we went there and was concealed among the limbs of the tree. Our anticipation of killing such a vast number of deer here fell so short that we did not visit this lick anymore for the purpose of killing deer. We should never count chickens before they hatch and hunters ought not to count deer hides before they kill the deer."

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