The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

Mr. Ben Hager, an old time resident of Madison County, Ark., is responsible for this snake story which he said was strictly true. "Many years ago, a said he, "while my parents lived two miles south of Huntsville, my father and myself and others went out into the mountains on several day’s camp hunt. Our destination was 30 miles southeast of our home. We expected to make our central camp between the sources of two canyons, one of which emptied into War Eagle and the other into Kings River. It was known that plenty of bear abounded on the summit of the high ridges and the sides of the mountains in this locality and our intention was to spend a number of days here among the big game. The names of our neighbors who went with us were Eaph Gourd, Dave Russell, John Phelps, Ed Clark and the two Ledbetter boys, Hugh and Harve. We took four ox wagons with us to haul our camping outfits in and to bring back the wild meat hides, furs and honey. We had a big bunch of dogs with us to chase the game and keep the wild beast away from camp of nights. On the second day before we intended to reach our stopping place we noticed a small spike buck loping down the hillside toward Kings River. We were not over anxious to kill a deer before reaching camp but one of the men remarked that the little deer would furnish us plenty of venison for supper and we halted the ox teams to see if one of the men wanted to shoot it. Dave Russell was an excellent shot at long range and one of the men says, "Dave, hit it," and he took aim at the fleeing deer with "Old Greasy Kate" as he called his old flint lock rifle. But just before he was ready to pull the trigger the deer began to act in a queer manner by jumping high, then it would go sideways a few yards and leap up and kick, as if something had struck its legs. Phelps says, "Dave, don’t shoot. The deer might be snake bit." And Mr. Russell lowered the muzzle of his gun and the little buck increased its speed to a fast run and was soon beyond our view down the mountainside. Our curiosity being aroused we all went to the spot where the deer had jumped around so and was astonished at seeing a large number of diamond rattlesnakes crawling on the ground and they all seemed to be traveling from toward War Eagle River toward Kings River. The length of the reptiles ranged from 15 inches to nearly 5 feet in length. We picked up clubs and stones and killed rattlesnakes until we all become sick from inhaling the odor from them and had to quit work and went back to the wagons and drove on. Meeting the rattlers caused us to change our program of hunting. There were no roads in that part of the country then and we picked our way through the timber and the best places of the ground for the wagons to pass over. We drove down to Kings River and crossed it and camped four miles that night from where we had met the bunch of rattlers. The serpents had changed our course almost in an opposite direction from where we intended to have stopped. We were so afraid of their deadly fangs that we thought it best to put Kings River between us and the snakes and so we did. Our big preparations for a mighty hunt did not turn out very successful."

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