The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

We have mentioned Bill Riddle in three other chapters and refer to him again in this one. He came to White River from Decatur County, Tennessee, with John Jones, his step-father, in 1857. He was born in Henderson County in that state December 30, 1840. Mr. Riddle was an industrious young man and worked hard for himself as well as for those that employed him. In August, 1859, he married Miss Martha Smith, daughter of Hue Smith, an early resident of Taney County, Mo., who lived on the east side of Shoal Creek about two miles south of the present site of Protem, "Chat" Sallee, a Methodist preacher, officiating. I remember that several of us young people received a special invitation to be present at the wedding. It was just after dark when the young couple were married. As soon as the ceremony was performed we were all invited to sit down to an old fashioned wedding supper. Riddle’s parents were Nathan and Elizabeth (Hub) Riddle. His father died in Tennessee. After the death of his father his mother married John Jones. During the greater part of the Civil War Mr. Riddle served in the army as a confederate soldier. After the close of hostilities he drifted to the mouth of James Fork of White River then to Long Creek where he has lived many years 12 miles below Carrollton, Ark. Mr. Riddle relates two little stories of hunting which we deem worthy to be preserved. One of them had its origin on the east side of James River in what is now Stone County, Mo. Mr. Riddle said the year following the close of the war tame meat was a scarce article in that section and the few inhabitants depended on their rifles for a supply of wild meat. "One morning," said he," I went out into the forest for a fresh supply of venison. I waded through the tangled grass and weeds wet with dew for three miles before seeing any game worth wasting a load of ammunition on, when I seen a large buck. I carried a double barrel shot gun and I discharged the contents of one barrel at it which gave the animal a wound only. The deer must have been angry before I shot it for at the report of the gun it came toward me on a run, snorting in a vicious way. When the antlered beast had run to within ten steps of where I stood I let fly the load out of the other barrel of my gun and the buck fell. The animal proved to be too large and fat for me to carry it home alone and after taking out its entrails I went to Jim Sims’ who lived two miles away and borrowed his old Jack to take the buck home on. One of Sims’ boys and a young man of the name of Sam Johnson, son of Martin Johnson, come back with me. The old Jack looked like he was too lazy to be disturbed by the bite of a horsefly or the stings from the sharp bills of a swarm of mosquito, but when we went to put the dead buck on his back a whole lot of fun commenced. The old fellow brayed and kicked like a young mule and bucked like a mustang pony. The sight of the dead buck had converted the life of the sleeping beast into one of sprightliness. He seemed determined not to carry the deer. We coaxed, threatened and scolded him, but no use. He refused to allow us to load the deer on him. We worked for an hour but the Jack was stubborn and refused to give it up. We devised several plans to compel him to carry it but it did no good until I fell on a better one. I pulled off my shirt which was all the one I possessed at that time and blindfolded him with it and he soon relapsed into the same dead lazy look before we tried to raise the buck on his back. He was now as docile as a gentle oxen and looked as innocent as a young sheep. He stood as quiet as a ship in a dead calm while we were securing the deer to the pack saddle on his back. We had no more trouble with him and I landed the deer safe at home." In furnishing the other story Mr. Riddle said that an old settler had a funny experience with a bear one day while he was out bee hunting, the account of which was given by him as follows. "Tilman Boyd was one of the first settlers on Long Creek and was a famed hunter. Bee hunting was his speciality. Bee trees were so numerous that it was little trouble and much less expense to furnish his table with an abundance of wild honey, but on a certain occasion a bear interrupted him so suddenly that he did not take time to contend for a bee course that he was almost in the act of following. "Mr. Boyd has been dead several years," said Mr. Riddle, "but I have heard him relate the incident so often that I remember the story word for word and this is the way he told it. ‘One day,’ said he, ‘while bear here on Long Creek were plentiful and bee trees more plenty, I went into the woods to make a raise of wild honey for my supply was nearly exhausted. Our tables in those days looked sortie lonesome unless a vessel of some sort was placed on it filled with nice strained honey. Children as well as grown people delighted to sop their corn "dodgers" in it. After leaving the house a short distance I passed into a hollow near Sid Hulsey’s old mill stand where I stopped and put out bee bait by burning some pieces of bee comb to attract the bees. As usual it was not long before bees began to appear and sip at the comb. Very soon after the first ones made their appearance they came from various directions and after filling themselves from the bait would fly away in as many directions. After awhile hundreds of them had collected and a stream of bees were coming and going all the time. They were so thick that it was a hard matter for me to decide on following one certain course of them. I sat and watched the busy workers some time before I thought of starting out to locate one of their abodes. Then I heard a racket on the hillside above me which I imagined was a deer running. I had no dog or gun with me. I had come out to hunt bee trees and did not want to be bothered with a rifle or dog either. At first I paid but little attention to the fuss. But the racket growed louder and nearer. Whatever it might be it was coming toward me at a fast gait. But owing to the shape of the hillside I could not see the object that created the noise until it approached closer to me. I quit coursing bees now and watched and listened with an attentive ear. I did not wait more than 3 or 4 seconds longer when a huge bear made his appearance and rushed at me as straight as a bee could fly. His mouth was wide open. His lips were turned wrong side out. His ugly teeth almost glistened. I was astonished at the boldness of his bearship but I knew it was no time for foolishness. The Bible says there is a time for everything and it was time for me to run and I vacated that spot in no slow manner. I did some of the best running from that bear that I ever did in my life. If Bruin pursued me I did not see or hear him. The truth is I never took time to stop and look back. I never halted until I arrived home. I ventured back the following day with dog and gun to investigate. His bearship had retired but evidence indicated that he took charge of the bait for awhile at least. But suppose he did not try to follow any of the bees home. No doubt the bear was attracted by the odor emitted by the burning bee comb and probably thinking a hunter had a nice supply of honey on hand and he would run a bluff game on him and take it. His stratagem was a success as far as frightening me away was concerned, but he got no honey. This was the only time a bear ever captured a lot of bee courses from me,’ said Mr. Boyd."

This incident occurred in Carroll County, Ark.

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