The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

The following incident aid not happen in the Ozark region but as it is an unusual occurrence we give it here.

Samuel Johnson was the father of Sam Johnson who was drowned in White River Marion County, Ark. the 9th day of February 1860. The last named lived in Ozark County, Mo. a number years before he met his tragic death in the river. One of his sons W. C. (Carroll) Johnson is a prominent farmer and stock man who resides on Brattons Spring Creek in this same county. Mrs. Polly Martin wife of P. H. (Dick) Martin another well to do man who also lived on the same creek is a daughter of Mr. Johnsons. These are his only surviving children, Mr. Samuel Johnson father of the one that was drowned was a farmer in the state of Tennessee and never lived In the Ozark Country. Huldah another daughter of Mr. Johnsons who married the writers brother J. N. (Newt) Turnbo and who is dead now furnished me with an account of her grandfather Samuel Johnson catching a thief in a steel trap one night where he lived in Tenn. The account of which was given her by her father Sam Johnson. She said that her grandfather had been missing a quantity of corn several times that had been stolen out of the crib. He suspected a certain man who lived in the neighborhood as being the thief. One day this suspect come to Mr. Johnsons house and the latter told him of the corn he was losing out of his crib. Apparently the man was greatly surprised which made Johnson believe the stronger that he was the thief and he requested the fellow to assist him to devise a plan to catch the rascal and the man agreed to do it. There was an opening between two logs at the back end of the crib that was large enough for a man to reach his hands in and take out corn and Johnson suggested that this would be a good place to set a steel trap for part of the stolen corn had been took out at this opening. The suspect did not agree to this and said that the trap ought to be put just on the inside of the crib door and Johnson says "I will set the trap where ever you suggest and put it there in the presence of the fellow." This was late in the afternoon and after the fellow had gone away and being thoroughly convinced that his visitor was the man he wanted, changed the trap from where it was put on the inside of the door to the inside of the opening between the logs at the back end of the crib. There was just room enough to pass the trap in at the opening. The trap was so large that if the thief was caught he would not be able to pull the trap out. Mr. Johnsons wife prepared supper early in order for the family to retire to bed before the usual hour so that the light in the house could be put out and no noise be made in the dwelling. Johnson lay awake some time and listened but hearing no noise at the crib sleep over come him and he fell into the dreamy land but soon after mid night he was awakened by some one hallooing at the crib. It was a noise of distress and sounded piteous. The man was certainly suffering in agonizing pain. But Johnson did not go out to see about it until after day break and found the same man that was there the evening before with his right hand caught in the big steel trap. He was powerless to pull the trap through the opening or open the jaws of the trap to release his hand. His moans were continual for he was suffering dreadful and Johnsons heart soften and felt pity for him and after giving him a short lecture for his advantage he set him free. And after doing so he says "Your hand is severely bruised by the jaws of the trap and you will not be able to work for some time yet and you must stay for breakfeast and I will fill your sack full of corn that you brought with you last night to steal enough to fill it with. But the man sulled and started off. At this Johnson become angry and says "you must stay" and the man stopped and went to the house with him. When breakfast was announced Johnson showed the corn thief a seat at the table but the scoundrels appetite was not very good and he touched the victuals very light. Soon after breakfeast Johnson says come go to the crib with me and after getting there Johnson picked up the sack that the thief had brought there and filled it with corn and says to the man "Take it and go," and he went and kept going for he left the country forthwith.

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