The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

A worthy and much esteemed citizen who died on Crooked Creek in Marion County, Ark., several years ago was John H. Tabor and also was among the earliest settlers on the upper White River. In refering to the game that existed In the White River hills when he came there In 1826 and for many years thereafter Mr. Tabor said that it was astonishing to think about it. One could hardly pass through the forest without being in sight of deer and turkeys. "I have seen as many as twenty bucks In one bunch and from 150 to 2000 wild turkeys in one flock. Bee trees were so plentiful that almost every hollow tree was occupied by a swarm of bees," said he. Mr. Tabor has killed many fat bear. An account of his experience with these animals if put into book form would fill many pages. One of his most amusing stories of encountering Bruin was told by him to the writer in this manner. "When I bought my claim here on Crooked Creek two miles below Powell in Marion County in 1836 I made a small clearing in the creek bottom and planted it in corn in the spring of 1837. The land was fertile and produced a fine crop of corn but as soon as it was in roasting ear bear, deer, squirrels and everything else seemed to concentrate in my little field of corn. I guarded it all I could but the wild animals devoured nearly all the crop in spite of me. Bear invaded it day and night and so did the other animals. One afternoon I took my rifle and a favorite dog I called Blue and started to the creek bottom as usual to drive out the wild beast. when I had got down at the foot of the bluff near the field fence a large hawk flew and lit on the limb of a tree near where I was passing. I stopped and shot at the hawk but missed it. Squirrels were so numerous that I seen several of them running, out of the field and seeing no larger game I thought I would kill enough squirrels for supper and reloaded my gun with squirrel shot. But just before I had finished reloading it the dog darted off up the side of the bluff and run beyond my view. Very soon after he was gone I heard him barking in a vigorous way and before I could have counted ten I seen the dog coming back in a fast run with a big bear in pursuit of him. The dog made no halt until he got to where I stood. The bear got in 10 paces of me before it discovered me. Then it stopped. By this time I was ready to shoot again and while Bruin was standing and gazing at me I fired the load of squirrel shot into its body and down it tumbled and come rolling down the face of the bluff toward me. A short sycamore log lay a few feet below where the bear fell and the animal rolled against It and Its weight started the log and here come bear and log together down to the foot of the bluff where the log lodged against a sapling and stopped and the bear stopped against the log. I supposed the bear was dead and was puzzled to know where the squirrel shot had hit the bear to kill him so easily, but I was counting chickens before hatching time for all at once Bruin got up which surprised me no little and the dog was equally as astonished as I was but he delayed no time before he sprang forward and made a vigorous attack on his bearship. But Bruin was so large and stout that he soon caught the dog by the throat with its teeth and held him like a vice. I had no time to reload my gun but I was determined to save the dog’s life if I could and so I dropped the gun on the ground and snatching my hunting knife from the scabbard I uttered a loud yell and rushing up to the bear I sank the blade of the knife into the bear’s body. At this moment my other two dogs which I had left at the house a few minutes before hearing the racket come bounding down the bluff and attacked the bear which compelled the beast to release the dog to defend himself. He only stood his ground for a moment for the reinforcement of dogs gave him a scare and he seemed to think It best to retreat and away he went followed by the two dogs. The other dog was not able to go. I now reloaded my rifle with a bullet and went on after them. The bear tun 200 yards before it come to a halt and when I come up the dogs were baying it and I shot it again and down it fell once more and up it got again and fought the dogs as lively as ever. I reloaded my rifle and shot It the third time and killed it for good. My dog was so severely hurt by the bear that it was many days before he fully recovered. This was his last bear fight for I never could persuade him to tackle another bear. He had enough of Bruin and he had sense enough to know it."

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