The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

In a few instances settlers have been know to slay bear with a chopping axe. We relate three stories of this kind In this chapter which was given me by early settlers.

James Helms, a native of Monroe County, Mo., and who came to Marion County, Ark., in 1870, told one of these accounts. He said that in 1872 John Clark, a nephew of the famed hunter Bill Clark, had been burning pine knots on head of Music Creek for tar. One day he visited the kiln to look after the tar and seen a black animal traveling across the ridge near the kiln. At first he thought it was a black muly cow which belonged to him and thought strange of her wandering from home so far. After due reflection however he concluded that it was not his cow but some kind of a wild animal. He had never seen a bear before this but from the descriptions he had heard of this animal he reached the conclusion that this one might be a bear. While he was trying to identify the beast it had passed almost out of rifle range and was going along at a moderate gait. However he aimed his gun at the disappearing animal and shot and inflicted a slight wound. After Clark had shot at the beast he observed two other black animals that were much less In size than the other one which he pronounced to be cub bears. Still he had some doubts that they were bear. These lasts were the size of big clogs and were following the old one some distance behind her. Clark reloaded his rifle and followed them and the two least animals hurried up and soon overtaken the larger one.. In a little while the foremost animal went very slow and the hunter soon got in rifle range again and shot at the big one but he aimed too high for the ball as he learned afterward pierced the tips of both ears. Some distance from the kiln was a thicket of dogwood bushes and the three animals went Into it. Here Clark left them and come to my house one half a mile from the thicket and requested me to go with him and help him kill a lot of bears or devils, he did not know which. He said they were the ugliest creatures that he ever saw. It was after sunset when the three beasts entered the thicket and it was growing dusky dark when Clark reached my house. I had no gun but I called my dogs and picking up the axe went on with the man. risen we had arrived near the thicket where Clark said the animals had went in it was dark and when we were in 50 yards of the edge of the thicket Clark stopped and said that no amount of money would induce him to go into that thicket of dogwood while them things were in there. My two dogs were trusty and not feeling much afraid I encouraged the dogs and they darted Into the thicket and I followed them. The dogs attacked the beasts at once and when I had advanced up near them I could discern their forms in the dark. The larger one was sitting on its haunches and the dogs were baying it. The bears were on a steep hillside. Directly the two smaller ones got up close to the bigger one and while the dogs were baying them I felt my way slowly and cautiously around above them and crept up in reach of the largest one whose back was toward me and hit her a hard blow on the head with the axe which stunned the beast and she reeled over, but as she fell she turned and struck at me with her paw and glanced my leg which came near tripping me over. When the bear fell she rose up again but before she could do me harm I gave the beast another blow on the head with the axe and knocked her down the second time. She rose partly up again but another hard stroke from the axe finished her life; while she was dying Clark called out., "Helms, is it dead." The dogs chased the cubs a short distance when they went up a leaning black oak tree and we cut the tree down but the young Brunos escaped in the darkness."

One day while I was conversing with Sam Carpenter of near Cedar Creek., Mo., he told me about killing a bear with an axe while the animal was in the act of entering a settlers hut. The man’s account of it ran about this way.

"Near the close of the Civil War while I was on a stream of water known as Big Creek which runs into Buffalo I stopped at a Mr. Archer’s for dinner. The family happened to have some bread and Archer had killed a bear and the family were faring well in comparison to others. After Mr. Archer’s wife had prepared the noon repast and we all had seated ourselves at the table except Mrs. Archer who was frying meat and we had just barely began eating when a bear walked into the woodyard. Mrs. Archer discovered it first and not knowing what It was exclaimed In alarm, "Look yonder." I and Archer supposing it was a squad of men approaching the Louse and that they were our enemies we made a dash for the door to escape. But not an enemy in human form was in sight but we were greatly astonished at seeing a bear coming toward the yard fence and our excitement was not diminished, yet we had much rather face a bear than look down the muzzles of guns in the hands of our enemies. Archer had neither dog nor gun. Neither had I at the time but this did not prevent us from stirring around hastily. The chopping axe happened to be in the house and I picked it up and took my position just on the inside of the door. Archer armed himself with anything he could lay hands on and stood ready for battle. Mrs. Archer was badly scared. The bear when It reached the yard fence climbed over into the yard and did not stop until it got to the door of the cabin. I saw that Bruin meant to come into the house and share our dinner with us without an invitation. As the beast reached the doorstep it placed its forepaws on the step to walk into the house. Though the bear did not look dangerous yet I felt my heart thump violently against my ribs. It was now that Archer and his wife were greatly excited as well as myself and the former dropped what he had in his hand to fight with and snatched up some other kind of weapon of defense to protect his domicile from the intrusion of his bearship. I waited until the animal put its head in the doorway when I dealt the beast a terrific blow on the head with the axe and sank the blade into the skull. The bear fell on the doorstep and after I had struck the animal a few more times on the head with the axe it died. It was of medium size but extremely thin in flesh and weak and being hungry it had approached the hut and scenting the oder of the frying meat had boldly attempted to enter the house to appease its appetite. ‘I Abbi Deakins, who years ago lived near Wiley’s Cave in Searcy County, Ark., gave the writer the following bear tale.

"There were two brothers lived in Wiley’s Cave of the name of Bratton whose given names were Jim and John. Mort Love owned a saw and grist mill at a fine spring of water near the head of Cedar Creek which flows into Long Creek. The latter stream of which empties into Little Rea River. Love’s farm was in the creek bottom below the mill. He usually planted all his land in corn. During one crop season after the corn had matured a bear invaded the field and his visits were so persistent that he ate and destroyed one third of the crop. Mr. Love was not a hunter and did not want to get In close touch with Bruin but he had a strong desire in wanting to rid the field of the bear before it got all of his corn crop. One day he offered a reward of 1000 feet of well seasoned first class lumber to any man who would slay that bear and he could keep the hide and meat as an extra inducement to kill the animal. Who ever killed It would not have Lo pay over to Love one half of Bruin for fattening off of Lovels corn. Jim Bratton told Love that it was a trade provided the latter would furnish a gun and ammunition to shoot his bearship with. In reply MR. Love informed Bratton that he could not comply with his request for he had no gun. The Bratton boys owned an excellent Remington pistol between them and they decided to use it by setting It just on the inside of the field where the bear was in the habit of climbing over the fence. It was after night when they had got all their arrangements completed and they went to Lovels house and retired to bed but they were unable to enjoy the sweet sleep of rest for they expected to hear the report of the pistol at any moment and lay awake to hear the discharge. Near 10 o’clock their hopes and expectations were realized by hearing the report of the pistol. They leaped out of bed, ‘but finding that the night seemed to grow more darker they declined to venture out until after daylight on the following morning when they went to the place where they had set the pistol and did not find a dead bear or a live one either. But the beast had been there and threw the triggers of the pistol and drops of blood on the weeds indicated that the shot gave it a wound. Tracks of the animal showed that it had left the spot at running speed and had went across the field to the north corner of the fence where it had climbed over to the outside leaving the rails stained with blood where it had got over the fence. The hunters had two half grown hounds with them which they put on the trail of the bear and followed it one mile and half were his bearship took shelter in a rough thicket of hickory saplings on the back side of a widow woman’s field. Here the pups bayed the bear but they did not venture close enough to take hold of it. The men went Into the thicket and shot the bear four times with the Remington which exhausted their ammunition. Seemingly the only effects the shots had on Bruin was to increase his anger. On perceiving this Jim Bratton told his brother to stay and watch the bear while he went to the widow woman’s house mentioned which was net more than 150 yards distant to borrow some ammunition but the woman had neither powder nor lead and before he had time to leave the house Jim heard one of the pups cry out in distress and pain and at the same time heard his brother yell out, "Run here, Jim, and be quick about it". As he started to run to the call of John he noticed an old axe lying In the woodyard that the family used in splitting up pine knots for kindling wood and without taking time to ask permission for the loan of the axe he grabbed it up and ran to relieve the pup for he knew the bear was going for it in a rough manner. When he got ‘Into the thicket where the bear and pups and his brother were he saw that Bruin had one foreleg of the pup in its mouth and crushing it with its teeth. Jim did not fool away time by standing a moment and listen at the howling of the suffering dog but rushed up to the bear with axe in hand and struck Bruin between the eyes with the blade of the axe and sank it Into the skull and spattered some of the bear’s brains on the ground. Jim did not stop at one blow but he kept dealing them on the bear’s head with the axe until the animals head was cut and beat into a jelly. John Bratton said that the bear made a rush for the pup and the latter retreated but had not went but a few yards before it become tangled in the brush and before it could get out the bear caught it. Though while the bear was not a large one It was very fat from eating Lovels corn. They removed its hide and dressed the meat and carried it home. Love paid the men the lumber as he had agreed to and the Bratton boys hauled it home," said Mr Deakins as he finished his story.

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