The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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by S. C. Turnbo

Among other snake stories we present a few of the finding and killing of large rattlers as related by hunters and others. Jerry Hutchison, an early settler of Ozark County, Mo., tells of Jim Loftis discovering and shooting a rattlesnake which Loftis reported to be ten feet long. "As the man seemed to be over excited about the reptile I and others went from Isaac Mahan’s to view the monster and found that the serpent had crawled away from where Loftis had shot it. But we soon found it a short distance away barely able to crawl. The reptile was about 7 ½ feet long and measured ten inches around the middle part of its body. The snake carried only seven rattles but they were an inch broad." Mr. Hutchison said that he cut out one of its fangs with his pen knife. The fang was in size according to the size of the serpent. The snake was killed in a glade at the foot of Bald Mountain near the "Nat’l Richmond land and where the old wagon way leads up the hill towards Dugginsville and near three miles west of the mouth of Brattons Spring Creek.

Mrs. Elizabeth Clark says that during the Civil War while she lived in Bear Hollow which empties into Little North Fork above the mouth of Little Creek, she killed a rattlesnake which was seven feet long and carried fourteen rattles. Mrs. Clark says that when the snake was discovered it was in a coil. The bulk of it resembled the size of an ordinary homemade washtub.

The largest rattlesnake the writer ever saw was killed on what is now the Gum Smith farm on Elbow Creek in Taney County in 1850. This was before Josiah Bone, the first settler of this land, located there. The reptile was nearly six feet long and also carried fourteen rattles. Its body was large in proportion to its length. My father was stock hunting afoot on the creek and I was with him and was barefooted. We found the rattler in the tall grass by hearing it singing.

Mr. A. (Aus) Brown says that his father Wm. M. Brown killed a rattlesnake under his house floor when he lived on Bee Creek, which flows into White River in Taney County, Mo. Mr. Brown said that the snake was seven feet long and 18 inches in circumference. "This was in 1841, and just before my father made his residence below the mouth of Bear Creek." said Mr. Brown.

A few years ago I was talking with old Uncle Sammy Stone, who lived near Thornfield in Ozark County, Mo., about incidents of old times. "I never had much trouble with wild beasts," said he, "but I had a fearful time with a big rattlesnake once which makes my flesh fairly crawl when ever I think of it. When I first come to the valley of Little North Fork, the settlers told me about meeting unusually large reptiles here in the Ozarks. I gave these snake tales but little attention except I laughed at those who were bold enough to tell such stories. I believed half of the accounts were imagination and the other half was coloring matter, spread on to make these stories sound big and smoother. I was not convinced to listen at stories of "snakedom" until one day I was face to face with a diamond rattlesnake. After this I never refused to believe any sort of a snake story told me. On a certain time I and a companion were hunting in the hills over the line in Fulton County, Ark. The country was thinly settled and rank grass and other vegetation was thick all over the woods. While I was making my way through the grass and weeds, I got within a few feet of the rattler before I knew it. I was so horrified at the sight of it that for a moment I seemed to be under the influence of its charm. The serpent lay in a coil just to my right, and struck at me immediately, barely missing my breast. As it made the stroke it lengthened out and dropped full length at my feet. I have heard some people talk about getting scared nearly to death at a snake. I was that time. The reptile recoiled itself and drew its ugly head back and struck at me again. But by some means I avoided the stroke by jumping out of the way. After striking at me the second time it recoiled again and lay quiet. When I stepped back out of reach of its fangs I recovered from the shock and shot it through the head and there was some terrible squirming of the serpent while it was in the throes of death. My friend and I were separated about 200 yards at the time. When I shot the serpent I called him to me. After the monster quit moving we took the measure of it and found that its length was eight feet and was 21 inches around the biggest part of its body. I cannot call to mind how many rattles it carried but recollect they were one and one half inches broad."

"The largest rattler I ever come in contact with," said Arch Anderson, "was during the latter 80’s when I was living with Uncle Abe Anderson in the Blanket Bottom on White River. I discovered the snake and Dan Crawford killed it. The serpent had just swallowed two full grown rabbits which gives you some idea of the size of it."

One day near Dugginsville two of Hiram Bias’ sons—Gid and John—informed me that their father before the Civil War killed a large diamond rattlesnake on Lower Turkey Creek of Little North Fork that had also gulped down two grown rabbits.

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