The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

John Ford, who settled on the north bank of White River in what is now North Fork township in Marion County, Ark., in 11818, was a famed hunter. His principal hunting grounds were in the hills between the river and Little North Fork. Mr. Elijah Ford, son of John Ford, related to the writer some accounts of his father’s experience with the wild beast that then infested the wild forest. Among other things he told of a bear that was a skillful bee hunter. Mr. Ford said that one day In the early part of December, 1830, while a deep snow lay on the ground his father went out into the woods to hunt for a bear and kill it. I was too young at that time to remember the Incident but I learned the story from my father after I was old enough to understand and remember anything told me. My father said that he owned two well trained dogs and with his rifle and accompanied by the two dogs he left home and waded through the snow in search of Bruin. During that period of the settlement of the country bear were so plentiful that it took only a short time to strike a trail of one especially in a snow, and as usual while hunting for bear in the snow he soon struck a trail of one that had passed along the day previous. The weather after the snow had fell turned warm enough for the snow to settle down and melt a little. After following the trail of the bear a short distance he found where the beast had discovered a bee tree and had climbed up to dine on wild honey but after Bruin had knawed off the bark he found that the wood was solid and he could make but small headway in getting at the honey and gave up in disgust and descended the tree and went on. After traveling a mile further his bearship had discovered another bee tree but he was not any more successful in reaching the abode of the bees than before and quit his labor and went down the tree and traveled on. It was not long before he found a third bee tree and up he went to try for the honey but his luck was as bad as ever and he went on again. By this time his trail was fresh for the animal had delayed a great deal of time at the tree bee trees. A mile or more further and his bearship found the fourth tree but like the other trees he failed entirely to knaw into the storeroom of honey. The trail from this tree indicated that his bearship was only a short distance In advance and my father said that kept his dogs nearby him and used a vigilant eye on the lookout for the bear and overhauled him very soon after leaving the fourth tree where he was at work on the fifth tree. This time his success was better but he did not have time to feast on honey. He had just reached the honey when my father and the dogs interrupted him and he was not a bit pleased at being disturbed so abruptly. He did not have time to remain angry very long before my father shot him and he fell at the foot of the tree. I suppose his death was sweet to him for he died with a mouth fell of honey. After removing the hide and hanging the meat up on a limb my father said he returned back home over the same trail and marked each tree the bear had found so that he could locate them after the snow disappeared. On arriving home he mounted a horse and went back and took the bear hide and meat home.

The bear in traveling through the snow had noticed small bits of honeycomb, bee bread and dead bees lying on the snow under the trees which the bees had thrown out during the warmer hours of day. The bear had learned these signs of a bee tree from natural instinct and this explains why Mr. Bruin was such an expert bee hunter."

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