The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

In my collection of material of pioneer days of the Ozark hills is an account of a hunter entering a cave and becoming bewildered in there. This story was given me by Mr. Fielden, H. Holt and others which runs as follows. It is said that Harrison Bullard was the first settler on Little Creek a tributary stream of Little North Fork that empties in at Thornfield Mo. When Mr. Bullard first saw this fine little water course in 1841 it was a wild region with plenty of game. But when the first settlers here began to build their cabins more new comers arrived and it continued to settle up until the commence of the great struggle between the people of the North and South when there were a number of residents living on this stream. Among them was Tommy Norris the noted Freewill Baptist Preacher and Bill Piland who during the war commanded a company of mounted soldiers on the Union side. Mr. Bullard was a hunter of no little fame. Soon after he had built his hut he discovered a cave on the east side of the creek not far from where he settled. The opening in the ground indicated that the cavern extended some distance into the earth. He was anxious to explore it and one Sunday morning soon after sunrise he started into the cave to ascertain how far it penetrated into the ground and whether it was inhabited by a bear or other animal. He left the house with out informing his wife of his intentions and carried his rifle and a bees wax candle the last of which to be used for a torch. He was accompanied by a trusty dog and on arriving at the cave he delayed but a few minutes before he went into it with the lighted candles and began his explorations. He had not been in there long before he got bewildered, for the cave proved to be an extensive one and he had passed from out of one off shoot into another until he could not find his way out. After a while the candle was exhausted and the light went out and the hunter was left in total darkness. The dog did not desert him but kept right along with him. The lost hunter did not stop but continued to wander here and there through the dark passages and pockets until after hours of groping In the dark and stumbling over stones on the rough floor of the cavern then he gave up in despair. He lost all hope of ever seeing his devoted wife again on earth. His poor wife and sweet little babe would be left alone in the wild wilderness and cold world to battle for an existence in this life. He would slowly perish in this dark cavern. "How foolish I was in not letting my beloved and trusting wife know where I was going", thought he. "Too late now. He would be forced to suffer in a slow way and finally perish in this dark and lonely cave. Oh, my wife will never know what become of me, though it might chance to be that years after his disappearance a hunter may enter this cave and discover his bones which if identified would throw light as to the manner how he met death. These thoughts were sorrowful and despairing ones indeed. After all hope had fled from him to find his way out he bade farewell to his family and put his trust in God to save his soul and sit down to die a slow and miserable death. Very soon after seating himself an idea or something come into his mind he did not exactly understand at first but it developed itself in a moment in this way "The dog will save you", "How" thought he. Then the how came to him and the man put it into execution at once by laying down his gun and catching his canine friend by the tail with his left hand and with his right hand he jerked his cap off of his head and commenced scolding the dog until he tried to pull loose then he began whipping the dog on the back with his cap. The astonished animal yelped and howled for mercy and did his best to get away but the hunter held to the dogs tail and quit whipping him a few moments, the dog wanted to go and started and Mr. Bullard without letting go his tail followed along behind him, the way he lead without trying to make him go any other way. Directly the dog slowed up and he scolded the animal and hit him with his cap again and he repeated this every few seconds until the dog was willing to lead without any more urging. In some places the man had almost to crawl and at other times he went with his body stooped for the roof of the cave was low in places. In this way the faithful dog lead his master to the mouth of the cave in safety and found that the sun was just sinking behind the western horizon. He had been in the cave nearly all day. In a few days thereafter he procured assistance and armed with plenty of fuel for lights the men went in the cave and brought the gun out."

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