The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

The following hunting stories was written to me in a letter by J. D. Row of Pruitt, Boone County, Ark.

D. L. (David) Pruitt was born in Saline County, Mo., Feb. 11, 1858, and come with his parents to Taney County, Mo. in October, 1867, settled on what was known as the John Campbell farm. Settlements were far apart and schools were not known in those days. The settlers lived mostly on the streams and had such times as are usual to early settlers. At the age of 16 or 1874 young Pruitt enlisted in the Baptist cause and has lived a life of morality since. At the age of 17 he began a career of hunting with his father and brother, that developed those traits of watchfulness and shrewdness that Is often observed in the pioneer. In July of 1875 he went on a hunt with his father, brother., cousin and hired hand. When they arrived at the selected place they concluded to make a "drive." His brother and cousin stationed themselves on one side of the hollow. His father went down on one side of the hollow, with the 4 dogs and back up where the boys were stationed., while D. L. (Pruitt) and the hired Hand., a dutchman, stationed themselves on the other side of the head of the hollow.

Huckleberries were ripe, and the two boys were soon feasting on them. The dutchman eat them right from the bushes, but Pruitt broke off several of the bushes and taking them to the shade of a tree, stood letting the gun lean against his shoulder while he eat berries freely; soon he heard a noise, and looking down the hollow he saw something leaping over the bushes coming up the hollow. He jerked his gun to his shoulder and stood ready to fire. The dutch boy, having left his gun by the tree and gone up the hillside a short distance after berries, looked around down the hollow and hallooea, "Look, Tavid, or you’ll shoot dat bob dogs of yours." (They had a bob tailed dog with them they called Bob.) This plagued David (D. L.), so he lowered his gun and turned his attention to the berries again. In about a minute the boy shouted, "Look out David here it comes." David looked around and there was a bear a few yards down the hill from him with its front feet on a log, that lay across its path ready to leap over right by him. David soon had his gun to his shoulder and fired. The bear rolled over, but was soon on Its feet and coming at him. He jumped to one side and grabbed the dutchman’s gun, but the triggers being out of fix he could not make it fire. The bear went on up the hill and passed the dutchman with David close after it. As David run by the hired hand the latter was trying to poke his head under a log or ram it into the ground to get away from the bear. At this moment David’s father come running up saying, "Shoot it again," but the bear made its escape. As they followed on after the bear, the dutchman fell in line with the other two men. After they had crossed a hollow and up the other hillside and over the ridge and down the hill and the dutchman, being a little to the left, run over a fawn. He gave a grab at it and caught it by the forelegs. The rest of the men seeing him gave up the bear chase and watched him. He held the fawn by the forelegs and threw it over his shoulders and started toward where the horses were hitched shouting, "Come, boys, that bear’ll schmell die deer and com pack and kill us all." He did not shout long before the little deer took a notion to free itself and began to rake down the dutchman’s back with its hind feet, and before he let it go It tore all his clothing off his back, and part of the hide and flesh. After he dropped the fawn the other men secured it and they had plenty of "camp meat" for that night.

Later on or in wintertime while there was snow on the ground, David’s father said, "Boys, let’s go on a hunt." And they started to be gone several days. So the hired hand and his brother Howard were sent on to strike camp at a place know as the "old Harris camp" where old man Brocken lives. David and his father made a "cut off" through the mountains to kill "camp meat" expecting to meet the boys at the camp. While passing over a mountain David discovered a fresh bear track. He followed it by himself, his father being farther up the hill to the right. The tracks soon lead down a steep place where David could not ride, so he left it. He had just headed the next hollow when he discovered another bear track. He "owled" to his father to come and help track the bear. By much persuasion he got his father to come and go with him. They followed the track down the head of the hollow which was very steep. They had tied the horses at the head of the hollow. All at once David’s father spoke sharply and said, "Stop, David." They had just reached a "Jump off" of about 3 feet. The "Jump off" was shaped across the hollow about like a horse shoe. A few feet below this was another "Jump off" or bench, shaped like another horse shoe which crossed the bed of the branch and run down on each side of the hollow several feet making the horse shoe shaped pitch off. David’s father said, "Let me have your rifle." David handed his rifle to his father and took his double barreled shot gun which had 9 buck shot in each barrel. His father tried to fire the rifle down these jump offs, but not being familiar with the patched up triggers, failed to get the gun to go off. David stepped several feet to the left and then he could see the "game" his father was trying to shoot. It was a bear and it was sound asleep. It had its head drawn down between its legs about like a dog when it lays down to sleep. The animal was all "curled" up with its back toward them. When David saw his father fail to fire the rifle he fired one barrel of the shot gun into the bear’s back just between its shoulders. The air being damp, the fire of the gun produced so much smoke that his vision was cut off from the bear. Jumping several feet to the left, the first thing he saw was the bear standing on its hind legs with its forefeet on the top of the ledge of rock, ready to jump up where himself and father were standing. David lost no time in pouring the other 9 no. one buck shot into its side. This knocked It flat on its side on the lower ledge of rock. By this time David’s favorite hunting and watch dog was on the scene and about ready to take hold of the bear. David valued the dog above the worth of a good horse and started to climb down to where the dog and bear were. His father said., "David, don’t go down there." His son replied, "Father, he will kill my dog." In response to this his father said in a loud tone, "David, I tell you if you go down there, the ‘bear will kill you." "If I don’t," quickly replied David, "he will kill my dog." And down to the bear he went. He had drawn his butcher knife from its scabbard. By this time the dog had leaped on to the bear and had hold of him by the cheek. The bear was getting ready to "hug" him when David caught Bruin by the ear and plunged his knife Into his throat. At this time the dog let loose and his bearship turned on David but the dog darted up to the bear and grabbed it by the side of the mouth again. David had just turned the bear’s ear loose but then the dog caught it again he leaped forward and grabbed Bruin’s ear again and gave him another slash with the knife in the neck, when he tumbled over and died. The next question was how will we get him to camp. The camp was about 5 miles away. Just up the hillside a couple of rods was a tree which had fallen over by the roots. The body of it lay about 5 feet from the ground at one place. By hard work rolling the bear up to the log and on top of it and leading one of the horses up by the side of the log they soon had the bear laying across the saddle and tied it down by the head and hind legs on either side of the horse, but I forgot to say before bringing his horse up to the log David pulled off his overcoat and blind folded the horse with it. By leading the horse they finally got the bear to camp. When they arrived they found that the other two boys had killed a large gray wolf and a fine buck and brought them to camp. This camp was on the Springfield and Harrison road and many men stopped to see the bear as it hung up by the side of a tree. Among those who stopped and saw the bear was "Joe Middleton" who was then moving into Boone County, Ark., from Missouri. He and David are neighbors living near Pruitt., Boone County. David yet likes to take his Winchester and "steal awhile away," but he does not find any ‘bear nowadays."

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