The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

The following are several short stories as told by John H. Tabor that have been omitted in other chapters.

"Soon after I settled on Crooked Creek in Marion Co. Ark., in 1836," said he, "I discovered four bee trees that stood near my spring. One of the trees contained only a small amount of honey but the combined yield of the other three was 11 gallons. Of course, I could find a bee tree whenever I wished to, but me and John Billingsly found a bee tree one day a little out of the ordinary way. We were riding along about four miles north of my place when I saw a honey bee enter a hollow in a big limb of a low boughed, but large bodied black oak tree. I wanted a mess of honey and I told Billingsly I was going to climb that tree and knock for admittance into the abode of the bees. So after dismounting and hitching our horses I climbed up to the limb where the bees were which was only a few feet above the ground and told my companion to toss up a rock which I caught with my hands and sounded the limb with it and found that the limb was shelly, but when I hit the limb with the stone the bees swarmed out and while some catched in my hair others stung me on the face and ears. Of course I went back down the tree much faster than I went up. We had some rags with us to use if needed and with a piece of flint rock and steel and punk we soon struck fire and after wrapping some of the rage around the end of a stick and waiting awhile longer for the bees to quiet down I went back up the tree and Billingsly set the rags afire and I held down the bees with the smoke while I broke into the hollow limb with another stone that my companion had tossed to me. It proved to be rich in honey. Billingsly spread a deer skin on the ground and I dropped a lot of the honeycomb down on it and after I descended the tree I and my partner consumed honey until it failed to taste good. Then we got sick, but we rode back home and was all right by the following day and went back and took out five gallons of honey from this same tree. One day while Yellville was a little hamlet of white settlers I saw a hunter bring a large deer hide there that had large white spots all over it. The man said that he killed the deer on Buffalo. Sometimes a hunter gets badly surprised at something he is least expecting. While I was hunting one day in the head of the hollow just above where Dodd City is now I noticed a fine buck standing in gun shot distance. I shot but the deer ran. I went on up where it had stood to examine for blood stains and found plenty of it sprinkled on the grass. With the help of the dog I followed on after the deer. Just over the crest of a hill I seen a buck standing still. I says to myself, "There is my deer now." I took aim at it and fired and the animal fell. I ran toward it with knife in hand to cut its throat but just before I reached the prostrate animal it jumped up and pitched at me. To protect myself I reached my hands forward and one point of its horns struck the palm of my left hand which gave me great pain, but the horn did not pierce my hand. I try to be more like a Christian now, but in them days I was wicked and did not care for "cursing" and when the buck hurt my hand I flew into a rage and tried to "swear" the buck to pieces. I was so angry I felt the strength of Sampson and caught the deer by the beam of one horn and held it until I sank the blade of my knife behind the shoulder and the deer sank down in the agony of death. My hand gave me great pain and I went on "cussing" thinking it might ease my suffering. I soon found that cursing would not help it and I sat down and kept quiet until my temper cooled and then my hand did not pain me so bad. Just before I was ready to dress the buck the dog entered a cluster of bushes in ten steps of where the dead buck lay and commenced whining. I said, "Mr. Dog, what have you got there," and rose up and went to the dog and was greatly surprised at seeing my other buck lying dead. This find almost relieved my wounded hand and I went to work and removed the hides. I saved both pair of hams and loaded them and the two hides on my back and shoulders and went on my way rejoicing. A number of hunters have told me that they have stood in one place and killed five deer, but I never could reach that number. The nearest I come killing five deer was on Sugar Orchard Creek. I had went there to fell a bee tree but just before arriving at the tree I seen a herd of deer standing on a hillside and I shot one down. The others stood still until I reloaded and shot and killed another one. Quickly reloading I killed the third one which all fell close together. The remaining deer never moved until I shot the fourth one, but this last one was only wounded and run. When it started the others run, too. The wounded deer escaped, but after I had reloaded my rifle I saw a buck standing near me in an opposite direction from where I had killed the other three and I shot and killed him. I had killed four and wounded another one. The weather was cool and after taking out the deer’s entrails I hung the four deer on the limbs of trees and went on and felled the bee tree and after carrying the honey home me and John Magness went back and brought in the dead deer."

"I never had much experience with panther, " said Mr. Tabor, "but I will give you two little stories which may be worthy of some interest. Many years ago me and my brother, Smyth Tabor, and Henry Teaf went up Crooked Creek a short distance above where Powell is now to camp one night on a deer hunt. We hobbled our horses and put bells on them and turned them on the grass to graze while we hunted. We had went there early in the forenoon. We had brought a lot of bread with us and depended on our rifles for wild meat. But we seen only three deer that day and succeeded in wounding only one of them, but were not able to capture it. We lost its trail near camp. Just before day the following morn we were aroused from our slumbers by the fierce screams of a panther near camp. The animal lurked around and screamed at intervals until daylight when it ceased its noise. As we had not secured any wild meat our supper and breakfast consisted of bread only, but we did not grumble very bad about it. After eating our bread we started to hunt the panther. We thought it was concealed in the grass close by. We stayed together for we believed we could manage one panther if it did attack us, but we never found the panther. But soon discovered our deer, but the panther had found it first. Evidence showed that the deer while lying down was attacked by the panther and killed. The wounded deer had struggled to free itself but the terrible beast had overpowered it in a little while and ate all the fresh venison it wanted and dragged the remainder of the carcass to a little sink in the ground formed by the uprooting of a tree where it covered it up with grass and weeds. Some of the stocks of the weeds were as large as a man’s fingers that the panther had snapped off with its teeth. This ended our camp hunt for we saddled our horses and went back home. On another occasion, " said Mr. Tabor, "I went on a visit on East Sugar Loaf Creek to see my parents. The weather was cold and snow lay on the ground. I was horseback and took my rifle with me but no dog. On my way back home the following day I killed a deer on Torkilm Creek and brought its hide and hams with me. I had not traveled far from where I shot the deer when I come to an uprooted tree that had been blown down the summer previous. As I rode around the tree top my horse brushed against a limb which produced a loud racket among the dead leaves. The next moment I was confronted by a monster panther which sprang up off the snow in 12 feet of me. The place was on the south hillside and the beast had been basking in the sun. It was a ferocious looking thing to have to face. My horse thought so too for he began backing off. The panther glared at me about a half a minute. I could have shot it off my horse but the sight of the animal was so sudden that my mind was scattered and when the panther turned to go I had not as yet collected my thoughts together. The panther after bounding away 60 yards down the hill run into a cave. I took courage enough to ride down to the cave and examined it a long time before I ventured to dismount. Then I collected a lot of dry wood and with my flint, steel and punk which I always carried with me I started a fire in the mouth of the cave, but the beast refused to be smoked out. I now raked the fire out and tossed a few stones into the cave. I could hear the stones penetrating the interior of the opening some distance, but the noise failed to frighten the beast out. I went back the next day with my dogs but the panther had come out and gone off. Its trail showed plainly in the snow. I followed it a mile or so. If it had been a wounded buck I would have went on, but as I was not panther hungry I turned in another direction. Though I have lived in Marion County, Ark., a long time but I have never had as much to do with wolves as many other settlers have. I have chased them with dogs and killed several but I never was attacked by one. Wolves were ravenous and caused much destruction among stock and we were forced to guard our stock close to protect them from the ravages of these animals. I remember being on Sugar Orchard Creek once horse hunting and met a she wolf with a lot of half grown pups following her. They were shy and I was not able to approach them near enough to get a shot at one. I was anxious for their scalps. I went back home and returned back next day with a dog and hit the same bunch of wolves in the same locality. The dog soon caught one of the young ones and clung to it until I dismounted and killed it with my knife and after taking its scalp I mounted my horse again and sent the dog after the others, where he overhauled them on the crest of a ridge. When I galloped up close to the wolves they scattered and hid in the tall grass. The dog was bothered and did not catch another wolf, but while he was running back and forth through the grass trying to find a wolf a big black wolf appeared on the scene and caught the dogs. The wolf was a vicious fellow and I knew the dog was no match for him. The wolf hurled the dog down in the grass, snapped and bit him fiercely. The dog yelled with pain and fright. I interfered as soon as possible to save the dog’s life by rushing up in a few yards of the wolf and shot it behind the shoulder and it fell on the dog. The wolf was dead, but the dog thought it alive and he kicked and scrambled until he got from under it. I took my knife and scalped the dead beast with a vengeance. Luckily the dog was not seriously hurt. I belonged to a wolf scalping lodge of men numbering about 21 members and we obligated ourselves to pay a member 50 cents each for each wolf scalp sent in. The two scalps realized me 20 dollars in gold and silver for the other 20 men paid me one dollar apiece for the two scalps. But with the exceptions of the destruction of so many wolves which saves hogs, sheep and calves, none of us realized any profits by belonging to this society, for we all kept about even in producing wolf scalps and each member paid out as many dollars as he had received."

The foregoing sketch was written in 1902.

Other old timers of Crooked Creek spoke of this wolf scalping lodge, called the Wolf Scalpers. When a member of this lodge killed a wolf and produced the scalp of it each member paid the man 50 cents in silver. Thus if a member received $2 for one scalp from the members of the lodge where it numbered 21 men. In this way they swapped money with each other and one man did not get all the money for all were industrious in trying to destroy all the wolves he could. In this way they killed great numbers of them on Crooked Creek which saved a vast amount of stock.

August 17, 1907.

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