The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

Isaac Tabor was an infant child when his father, Arch Tabor, located on Big Creek. Isaac was born in Jackson County, Illinois, January 1, 1835. Uncle "Ike" has lived on Big Creek nearly 70 years and is a law abiding citizen and industrious and like his father, he loved the sport of hunting. Mr. Tabor is feeble now with old age and cannot use his rifle and labor on the farm as in former years. The valley of Big Creek was his principal hunting ground and he had a varied experience among the game. At the request of the writer he narrated a few of his best stories in regard to hunting when plenty of game existed in Taney County.

"On one occasion while I was out hunting on Big Creek not far from home," said he, "I discovered a large rattlesnake dead which had been killed by a lot of deer. Grass and weeds were trampled down by the deers’ feet and the serpent was nearly cut to pieces by the deers’ hoofs. There was no question in my mind but that the snake had been trodden to death by deer for the deers’ tracks were thick where they had run and jumped on the reptile.

"I had heard hunters talk of seeing white deer in the woods, but I never seen one until one day I and John Herrean went over to the head of Shoal Creek to hunt a few days. We camped at a spring where Nelson Southworth settled later on. Some 200 yards from the spring I saw a white deer and shot it. After carrying it to the spring we removed its hide and entrails and out the latter open to attract wild bees and found a hard substance in the stomach which proved to be a stone-like formation nearly two inches in length, one inch broad and ½ inch thick. One end of it slightly tapering and very fine cells or pimples were all over it. It was a peculiar formation to be found on the inside of an animal. Thinking it of no value we tossed it aside. Sometime afterward I gave a description of it to Peter Marsh and he told me that it was a mad stone and offered me $5.00 for it if I could find it again. My energies were so stimulated by the price offered me for the stone that I visited this same spring on several occasions and searched carefully for it but never recovered it. The deer was a doe and quite a small one.

"Deer was so numerous and gentle," said Mr. Tabor, "that they would venture close to the house. While I lived on the right prong of the creek I saw two deer feeding near the cabin. Taking my rifle down I put it in shooting order. By this time the deer were side by side and close together broadside toward the house. I blazed away at them both. They ran and I thought I had missed them but one of them got only 30 yards and fell. The other ran 50 yards and tumbled over, and I rejoiced at my lucky shot."

"One day while I was hunting stock on the head of the creek I met a fine lot of deer in one bunch. They were passing over an open ridge. I was afoot and had no gun with me. When I discovered the deer I stopped and stood as still as a statue and watched them as they passed me. Some of them passed in 30 paces of me. I was so interested in taking items of their actions as they went along that I never took time to count them accurately, but there was not less than 50 If not more."

"On one occasion while I was in the hills with gun and plenty of powder and balls I stood behind a post oak tree and killed four fat bucks as fast as I could load and shoot. I was in the head of a gulch and noticing a buck I shot it down. I thought it was alone but by the time I reloaded, another one walked up to the dead one. When I fired at it, it sprang away a few yards and fell. I thought that there were certainly no more deer nearby but when I finished reloading, two more advanced and I shot one of them. It jumped twice and fell. The other one darted away but seemingly it changed its mind after running a short distance and came back to one of the dead ones and began smelling over it. I hurriedly reloaded and shot it and away it went and I thought I had missed, but it fell in 100 yards of where the others lay. This was the greatest deer killing I ever got into. It seemed that the gulch had turned to bucks and I waited for others to show up, but not seeing anymore I went to work and had a busy time dressing and carrying the hides and venison home."

In referring to wounded bucks attacking hunters, Mr. Tabor said he never met but one trouble of this kind. "I was hunting on Lick Creek, a tributary branch of Big Creek, and had shot down two deer and while taking off the hide of the last one a fine buck with a big head of horns made his appearance and walked up in 30 yards of me and stopped and surveyed the scene of removing the dead deerhide with great curiosity. I had shot away all my bullets and my gun was empty. I kept at work until I found the bullet with which I had killed the deer and after cleaning off the blood I chewed it until I had a new bullet and loading my rifle with it I shot the buck. It wheeled round and ran down a hollow some 40 yards and jumped off of a ledge of rock and lay down. Thinking it was almost dead I walked up to the edge of the cliff to watch it die, but I was too fast, for the moment the wounded animal saw me it rose quickly and sprang up on the ledge where I was standing and I fooled no time away in getting away from there at my best speed. The angry deer pursued but being severely wounded he was unable to run fast. However, he could run a little faster than I could. I had one dog with me but he failed to check its speed until the enraged beast was in the act of goring me with its horns and I darted behind a sapling and aimed to catch the buck by both horns with my hands, but in my hurry I grabbed only one. No doubt the deer would have killed or wounded me on the spot but it was now the dog exerted its strength and activity and caught the buck by the throat and the animal struggled hard to free itself, but the dog held it until I recovered from my scare and struck it in the forehead with a stone and killed it."

"Well," said Mr. Tabor, "I will tell you a little bear story which may sound strange to you, but it is true. My brother, John Tabor, and myself had gone out into the woods with our dogs and rifles. We had not gone far before the dogs went off on a hot trail and soon treed; we ran on as fast as we could go and found a bear up a cedar tree. One of us shot it, but instead of falling down it climbed down; when it got in reach of the dogs they took hold of it, but the bear pulled loose and went back up the tree. We shot it the second time and down it climbed again. Then the dogs tackled it again and it went back up the tree and we shot it the third time and once more it descended in reach of the dogs—then went back up the tree. The fourth ball was fired into its body; it descended the fourth time and the dogs scared it back, it being so weak that it was just able to climb. At the fifth shot the bullet entered its head, and it fell out, too near dead to return up the tree."

"Talking of panthers," said Mr. Tabor, "I have had experience with them. I saw several in my boyhood days. I remember going with father one day upon the head of the creek where we found a lot of leaves, grass and trash all heaped together. On kicking it apart a dead deer was brought to view that had been killed by a panther and covered up. We had several dogs with us and they routed four young panthers, as large as full grown coons, out of the grass. Three of them hustled up a tree. The dogs caught one and it gave a few loud squalls before the dogs killed it. We expected to see the old one dart up, though she failed to show herself. Then we shot the other three out of the trees. We carried them all home with us to show them to my mother and my brothers and sisters.

"When I was large enough to carry a rifle father took me into the hills with him one day to teach me my first lesson in hunting. We had walked some distance and had gone down into a hollow and were going up it when we reached a small cataract. Upon the ledge where the water was pouring over was a small thicket. We separated below the cliff and father went around on one side and I on the other. As we were passing around the bushes and green briars hid us from each other. When I reached the top of the ledge and a few yards beyond, I was horrified at meeting a panther, which was in five feet of me. I was so paralyzed with fear that apparently my blood grew cold and quit circulating. I stood and shook like I had ague and without a place to lay down, for it took me by surprise. I never thought of my gun, but stood and shook with it on my shoulder. The panther instead of springing on me as I expected it would glared at me a few seconds and darted off. After it turned to run I yelled, "Oh, Daddy, here’s a panther." "Well, shoot it," answered father. This brought me to my senses and seeing it bounding away diminished my terror, and about the time the animal was rushing out of sight I shot at it. But of course, I never touched it. The panther had been lying in this thicket, and the noise made by father in passing around had frightened it. It met me unexpectedly and gave me a bad scare, but I believe it was as badly frightened as I was," said the old pioneer.

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