The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

We give here a few accounts of settlers viewing serpents charming rabbits and squirrels. Jim Rhodes tells about Mrs. Tempy Scisney passing along a road on Mountain Creek near the division line between Ozark County, Mo., and Marion County, Ark. Her little daughter, Josephine, was with her and the child discovered a rattlesnake lying in a coil and singing. A grown rabbit was in a few feet of the snake jumping to and fro and gradually moving up nearer the snake. Mrs. Scisney stood and watched them until the rabbit was in reach of the rattler and it struck the rabbit. At this moment she approached the serpent and killed it with a stick. By the time the snake died the rabbit was dead also.

"A long time ago," said Tom Fisher, "when the John Tabor farm two miles below Powell on Crooked Creek in Marion Co., Ark., was only partly cleared up, I was in the creek bottom one day and noticed a gray squirrel running up and down the trunk of a water oak tree about two feet in diameter. The little animal appeared to be greatly agitated and was chattering and backing. When the squirrel would run up the tree several yards above the ground it would stop and throw its tail over its body, when wheel about and run down the tree. It repeated this several times and would run down the tree. It repeated this several times and would run down closer to the ground every time. After an elapse of a few minutes it run down to the ground and did not go back up the tree. It also ceased chattering. There was a cluster of bushes stood between me and the foot of the tree which hid the squirrel from me and I walked around to see what the squirrel was doing and was surprised to see a rattlesnake swallowing it. None of the squirrel was visible but its tail. I now killed the snake and with the aid of two sticks I pushed the dead squirrel out of the snake’s throat."

Matthew Mashburn, the industrious blacksmith who died at Protem, Mo., a few years ago and is buried in the cemetery there, told of his father, James Mashburn, witnessing a rattlesnake charm a grown fox squirrel six miles west of Gainesville.. Mo., in 1872. "Father said that when he first noticed the squirrel it was acting strange. It was on the trunk of a tree and about four feet above the ground. The little animal was much disturbed and was barking and chattering. Then father said he saw a rattlesnake lying in a half coil at the foot of the tree. The squirrel now commenced jumping and running up and down the tree and would approach the reptile nearer each time it run down toward the ground. The squirrel kept up its peculiar action for ten minutes, when it almost touched the snake and the latter caught it with its mouth. Father went up now and dispatched the rattler. But the squirrel was dead. I saw the snake and squirrel both a few minutes after father killed the snake," said Mr. Mashburn, "and we left them both lying at the foot of the tree."

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