The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

One day in 1854 Sam Magness, who lived on the right bank of White River in Franklin Township, Marion County, Ark., had a smokehouse made of round logs. Mr. Magness had invited several of his neighbors to the raising. It was customary to have plenty of whiskey on the ground at a gathering, but Sam did not lay in any liquor that day for the use of the old timers that were present, for he belonged to the Freewill Baptist Church and for that reason he deemed it proper to touch whiskey very light. Sam Magness was very jovial and was good at running a joke on his friends and they would work many ways to get even with him in the funny line. Among those present at the raising of the building was Hugh Magness, a brother of Sam’s, and Tom Fisher. Mr. Fisher and Sam’s brother Hugh, or Mat as he was commonly known, were as fun loving as Sam was. Shortly before they finished topping off the house the men found that they needed another rib pole and Hugh Magness and Tom Fisher told Sam they would go and cut down a small tree for a rib pole which they found 200 yards from where the men were at work. But before felling the tree they discovered a large wasp nest hanging to a small limb of the tree. The nest was as large as a common sized washpan and was covered with wasps. As soon as the two men saw the nest they decided to play a serious prank on Sam and after cutting down the tree they waited until the wasps had settled back on the nest. They managed to cut off the log at the proper length and called Sam to help them carry it to where it was needed. The nest was in a few feet of the little end of the log and the boys knowing that Sam was in the habit of going to the small end of a log when it was required to be lifted they pushed the small end of this log right up to the nest and concealed the nest from view by placing a small limb bull of green foliage over the nest without disturbing the wasps. When Sam Magness reached the two men he says, "Boys, by sentimental set fire to your lazy scissors, why didn’t you bring this log yourselves. You could have carried it very easy." And going to the small end of the pole he stopped down and raised it up before the other men had time to pick up the butt end. As he was raising the log up he disturbed the nest of wasps and they swarmed around him and a few of them stung him. At this he dropped the log and yelled and fought the wasps with his hands with great fury. Then snatching his hat from his head he kept up the fight in a desperate way until some of the wasps got entangled in his hair and he now darted toward the house. A number of the enraged wasps followed him and he struck at them as he ran. A few of them pursued him to the house where he struck right and left with his hat until he was nearly give out. In the meantime his brother Hugh and Tom Fisher could not stand up for laughing and lay rolling on the ground in great merriment and the other men catching on to what was up were no less amused at the man’s actions and the noise he made. It was not funny to Sam though, he was furious and after the wasps had all left him and the other two men had ventured back, Sam says to them in an angry mood, "By sentimental set fire to your trifling lazy souls, you got me into this trouble on purpose and I’ll get even with you some day. You mark if I don’t." Some of the men said that Sam on arriving at the house found that a few of the wasps were determined to stay with him and while he was fighting at them so furiously he says to his wife, "Elmira, raise a puncheon and let me under the floor and maybe the sentimental things will leave me." But instead of lifting up a puncheon his wife went to work with a garment as a weapon and helped her tormented husband fight the wasps away. It was several days before Sam got in a good humor with Fisher and his brother and in the meantime they dare not raise the subject in his presence.

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