The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

Among the old timers of the White River hills is Sam Carpenter, son of Levi and Catherine (Forest) Carpenter, who came to White River in the latter 20’s. Sam was born on Jimmies Creek in Marion County, Ark., March 26, 1831. This part of the country was an almost unbroken wilderness when Uncle Sam was an infant child. Sam’s father died in Hamilton County, Texas, in 1870. His mother died at Dardenelle, Ark., in 1883. Sam Carpenter, the subject of this sketch, is an old veteran hunter of both sides of White River from the mouth of Buffalo to the mouth of James. Sam says there were roving bands of Indians here from the time he can remember until he was a good sized boy. "After my parents left Jimmies Creek and went to the mouth of Long Creek above Forsyth a lot of Indians visited our cabin one day while father was absent from home. Mother owned a large pewter dish which she prized very high. While the Indians were in the house one of the bucks concealed the dish under his blanket. Mother saw him hide the dish and she told the Indian to give it to her but he denied stealing it. Snatching up the broom she struck him with the handle of it. The red man made no resistance except that he persisted in denying having possession of the dish. Mother hit him a second time with the broom handle. The second blow had better effect on the man for he now took the dish from under his arm and handed it to her. The other Indians refused to interfere in his behalf and after mother compelled him to give her the dish they began giggling and pointing their fingers at him and called him "bad injun". During crop time Of 1835 and while we yet lived at the mouth of Long Creek I remember one evening while I was going from the field to the house I heard a great noise in the thicket near the path. The noise resembled something running over bushes. As it was in the dark gloomy bottom I was afraid to go into the thicket to see what was making such a loud noise. I ran on to the house and told mother about it, and she told father about it when he came to the house that night, but he laughed and said I had got scared at nothing. Four or five days afterward I and father were together going along this same trail when we got opposite of where I heard the racket. I pointed out the spot where I had heard it and he passed into the thicket to show me that the racket I claimed to hear did not amount to anything. He soon discovered two large bucks lying dead with their horns locked together. It turned out that in fighting so desperately they had rode over the bushes and dug up the dirt with their hoofs. They bad died on the field of battle. Father after giving the two dead deer a thorough examination went back to the house and brought the hand saw and sawed off a beam of one of the deer’s horns and unlocked the prongs. The largest number of deer I ever killed while standing at one spot is four. This was on the head of Lower Caney Creek of Beaver. There were several deer in the bunch. The ones shot were a doe and three bucks. One of the bucks run 100 yards before it fell. I remember shooting a deer on Elbow Creek that weighed 140 lbs. after it was dressed. It was winter time and I took the deer to Springfield, Mo., and sold it and the hide for ten dollars. This was the largest deer I ever seen. The only combat I got into with a wounded buck was on what we used to call Kiln Mountain on the waters of Lower Caney Creek. There was a soft crust of snow and sleet on the ground. As I walked along I seen two bucks standing near together and I shot one of them down. I ran to it to cut its throat but it had got nearly on its feet before I got in reach of it. Catching hold of the buck was very foolish of me, but I caught it by the horns. The enraged deer soon gained strength sufficiently to equal my strength and I was not able for the time but to hold it by the horns. To aggravate matters a fice dog which was with me caught the deer by the nose which caused it to rear and plunge and made it worse for me. I made an effort to make the dog release the deer but he would not obey me, and the buck went on kicking and rearing. I was nearly give out but was afraid to turn the animal loose for fear he might gore me with his horns. But I knew the fight had to end some way. Luckily after a long struggle I managed to make the dog let go the buck and I and the antlered beast went on with the fight alone. I was getting very weak and the deer was getting awful tired too, and soon become quiet. It was now that I exerted all my strength and hurled the beast down broadside on the ground and held him down until I could take a weak Barlow knife out of my pocket which was the only knife I owned. Then I opened it with one hand and my teeth and I began to saw on the deer’s throat with the blade. I worked slow and careful for I was afraid of breaking the knife. I succeeded at last in cutting the deer’s throat and it bled freely and I held the buck’s head down until it bled to death. My strength was so nigh gone that I was not able to get on my feet until after I had rested. I had grasped the beam of one horn so tight that my left hand was very sore for several days after the fight. One day in 1855 while I was hunting on the river bluff just below the mouth of Elbow Creek I saw a doe standing 40 yards above a fallen Cedar tree with the top lying uphill. The tree had fell many years before. The limbs were dead. I shot the deer and it ran down the hill and plunged into the cedar top and the top end of one cedar snag tore into the deer’s body which tore out a part of its entrails. Which caused the deer to turn from the cedar top but after it had bounded off several yards it turned again and ran to the root of the fallen cedar where it fell dead. As the animal had acted so crazy after being shot I made an examination where the bullet had took effect and found that it had passed through its heart. I remember while hunting on Beaver Creek one day I saw a four point buck and shot it down. I walked up to it to cut its throat. Before I had time to touch it with my knife the deer revived and I caught it by one of its horns. As I grabbed the horn the deer pulled back and off come the horn and the deer run off and left me holding to its horn. One day in the early 50’s I and Tom Morrow were employed by Tom Scott to build a raft of cedar logs in the Horseshoe Bend of White River. We depended on our rifles for meat and would hunt time about. One afternoon it was my turn to go out and lay in a supply of wild meat. After I had gone a short distance from camp I discovered two deer standing broadside to me. One was just on the opposite side from me. I shot at the nearest one to me and they both ran in opposite directions. Going up to where they stood I found plenty of blood on the ground. I followed the trail of the one I shot at and found it dead 70 yards distant. For the sake of curiosity I went back to where the two deer had stood and discovered another deer lying dead a few yards away and exactly on a line from where I shot from. I did not see but the two deer when I shot, and I did not see this one when I looked for blood stains. I had hit the deer I shot at just under the backbone and the bullet had sped on just over the other deer’s back and struck the deer that I did not see when I shot. I never assisted to take honey from an extremely rich bee tree, but I and Bill Cowan found a bee tree once in the pineries on the head of Bee Creek that yeilded seven gallons of strained honey. I was attacked one day in the Horseshoe Bend by a vicious catamount. I was passing through the edge of a thicket and heard a loud growl. I stopped to see what sort of animal it was when suddenly a large catamount sprang out of the bushes at me. I avoided its rush by leaping out of its way. It crouched itself for another spring at me but I aimed quickly with my rifle and shot it dead. Soon after I shot the beast I shook like I had ague. Though the cat had a large frame but it was thin in flesh. I did not search the thicket that day but returned the next day and discovered a nest of young catamounts in the thicket as large as grown rats.

The only attack I ever had from wolves, " said Mr. Carpenter, "was one night on Lower Caney Creek while I lived on that stream. I had hunted all day and succeeded in killing only one deer. I took out its entrails without taking off its hide except the head, neck and legs. I severed the neck at the shoulders and cut the legs off at the knees and hocks and tied the strips of hides together from the legs and carried the deer shot pouch fashion. It was almost dark when I started with the deer home. I had not gone far before my clothes were saturated with the deer’s blood. I had an excellent dog with me and about ½ mile on the way home he showed evidence of restlessness by running in advance of me then dropping back behind me. He appeared to be very uneasy and was afraid to stay or leave. At first I supposed it was a panther following me. I had a revolver with me which I now took in one hand and carried the rifle in the other. The anxiety of the dog increased to such an extent that I felt as uneasy as the dog was and stopped a moment to listen for footsteps of some animal. The weather was clear with no moonlight and I had to depend on starlight to travel by. All at once while I was standing there a gang of wolves went to howling about 100 yards back on my trail. I hurried on. Very soon the vicious crowd overhauled me and popped their teeth together like they meant business. I run and tried to run faster. Some of the wolves got in ahead of me. Soon I was completely surrounded by them and I could discern their forms in the starlight as they darted about me. It was either the dog or deer they wanted and maybe both and me too. They were so bold that I had all sorts of feelings except comfortable ones. As they pressed around me I backed up against a tree, while the dog was cowering at my feet. I shot at one of the wolves with the revolver, but it was too dark to take accurate aim and I guess I never touched the animal, but the report of the gun had good effect on the pack for they instantly scattered. Then I started again on a wild run. The vicious beasts soon overtook me again. Their snarls was too frightful to be called mild music. One of the wolves dashed at the dog and tried to catch him. I halted and the dog darted between my legs. I yelled in terror and the wolf backed off a few feet and come at the dog the second time. I knew that a scared man in the presence of a lot of wolves in night time was worse than nothing in defending himself, so I discarded my fright as well as I could and made out to shoot at the animal as it sprang at the dog and me. The shot seemed to encourage the dog and he dashed at the wolf and it retreated. Though I tried to be as brave as the dog now seemed to act, but I wilted again and quaked with fear. I would have thrown the deer down but I did not have time to take it off my shoulder. The weight of the deer, rifle and revolver were burdensome to carry, especially while I was on the run, for I had run faster and faster still and the race was telling on me for I felt greatly wearied. I stumbled over the rough stones and logs. The race went on. The wolves stayed near me and the dog. I took time now to yell out and fire the pistol twice at random hoping by this that the report of the revolver might frighten the wolves and prevent them from crowding me too close, but they rushed on after me and kept up my rear in good style. By this time I was nearing my domicile and I called lustily for my other two dogs which come bounding up meeting me. My other dog joined them and the three rushed at the wolves and they give back, but I did not stop until I ran into my cabin and thanked the starry heavens that it was no worse than it was. I will now give you an account of the death of a monster bear said the old timer. "A number of people of the present generation refuse to believe our antiquated tales. If they lived among the wild beasts like we once did they would not be so ready to discard our stories. But I am digressing and must return to the bear. When I was a young fellow I went in company with three other hunters to the head of Bee Creek on a camp hunt. We met no big game until the third day out, when we struck an enormous bear. The dogs flew at him at once, but bruin was so large that he soon brushed them out of the way with his paws. While he was playing this game with the dogs we shot and wounded him and he made off and took shelter in a cave. The dogs were game and followed him into the cavern but the mad beast rushed them out faster than they went in. Soon after the dogs were driven out we decided that if we went into the cave he would treat us likewise and we declined to go into the cave. It is a fine thing sometimes that hunters has sense enough to stay out of a cave while there is an angry bear in it. After consulting together awhile we planned to force bruin out of his hiding place with smoke. We soon had a fire started just on the inside of the entrance and spread a blanket over the mouth of the cave to keep the smoke in. A high wind was blowing and I held the blanket down while the other hunters stood guard with their rifles to shoot the bear should it come out. I was careless in standing in the mouth of the cave and holding the blanket, but thinking I would have plenty of time to move out of the bear’s way when it came out I held my station until I thought a mountain had struck me. The bear had rushed out and knocked me down. It had hurled the blanket out of its way and run over me. I was more scared than hurt. I would have prayed but I was too much frightened to think of anything to say. After the huge black beast had passed over me, the other boys shot him. The dogs closed around him but he was too badly wounded to whip them the third time and he sank down in their midst. The cave was on the side of a steep hill and he and the dogs rolled down to the foot where the bear lodged against a tree and soon ceased to breathe. After taking his hide off we dressed his meat and divided it into four parts and carried it home on our horses. The weight of the meat amounted to nearly 600 pounds."

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