The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

One who enjoys stories of wild scenes among the beasts of the forest never tire listening at sketches as told by John M. Tabor, the aged pioneer of neat Powell in Marion County, Ark. He tells one in an amusing way. "A short while after I located on Crooked Creek I took a notion that I wanted a fine target gun but I had no opportunity to purchase one until Daniel Wickersham brought one with him from Louisiana. He wanted to sell it and I paid him 18 dollars for it and was well pleased with my bargain. I could plump the center of a target with this rifle without the least trouble. One day I thought I would go out among the game and try my luck with the new gun and see if I could hit a deer as easily as I could a mark. So mounting my horse and calling a favorite dog I rode to the mouth of Sugar Orchard Creek and went on up that stream. It was in the month of July but on that day the temperature was more pleasant than common. The grass was rank with numerous wild flowers of varied color growing all along this valley. Finally I left the main creek and rode toward Tarkiln creek. As I rode along the breaks of Tarkiln I came to a large huckleberry patch. The bushes were loaded with ripe berries. The wild fruit was so tempting I could not pass it without a feast. After this, mounting and hitching my horse I set my gun against a tree and began gathering and devouring the fruit. In half an hour I was so elated at finding such a grand feast of wild berries and was so busy that I almost forgot where I was. The dog had left me for the time and was out of sight. I worked on gathering and eating the delicious fruit as rapid as I could pick it off of the bushes and cram the berries Into my mouth. The thought of game had passed out of my mind until I heard a peculiar noise near me. Raising my head to ascertain the cause of it I was astonished at the sight of a bear sitting on Its haunches a few yards it front of me. He seemed to want me to understand that he was monarch of that huckleberry patch and that I was an intruder on his domains from his looks I took it as a hint that he wanted me to vacate at once. I was not quite ready to go. Casting my eyes around I found that I was 40 yards from my gun. Then I yelled for the dog. The bear remained In the same position until the dog dashed. up and made fight at it. The bear now dropped on Its fore feet and ran down the side of a steep, hill, but before reaching the hollow the bear went up a large stooping white oak tree which leaned toward the hollow. In the meantime I had secured my gun and leaving my horse where I had hitched the bridle I ran down the hill where the dog was treed. The bear had took a position at a fork, of the tree and was sitting on the trunk of the tree. Getting In close rifle range I gave an invitation to Bruin to come down and with the help of my target gun he turn bled out. He was a small bear but he had got fat on the huckleberries. I did not take time to pick more berries but took the bear’s entrails out and hurried up the hill for my horse and loaded the bear on him and went home before the meat had time to spoil on my hands."

After finishing his story Mr. Tabor remarked that as he had told me about the bear In the patch of huckleberries I will give you another bear tale that may be of some interest. "You know," said he, "that once and awhile a tracking snow will fall here in Marion County in the month of November, but it seldom remains on the ground more than a day or two. It was on one of these occasions that a snow of more than two inches deep fell. I always did love to hunt game while snow was on the ground and as I sit in the house and watched the flakes of snow fall and make the earth white so early in the season I rejoiced at the thought of tracking the big fat buck and killing them. My father Elijah Tabor was living on East Sugar Loaf Creek below where the George Wood mill stood. I concluded to pay the old man a visit. Next morning the snow had ceased falling with clouds and wind from the northwest with temperature below the freezing point. After breakfast I lit out afoot with a trained dog. I still owned my target gun. I led the dog with a copper colored rope made of thread my wife had spun on the spinning wheel. After I left the house I changed my notion and concluded not to bother with a deer or turkey and kill a bear on the way. As I went along I saw any amount of deer and turkey tracks in the snow but I was in for a bear. I did not discover any bear tracks until after I had reached Sugar Loaf Creek a short distance below where Dodd City now is located. I found the fresh trail of 4 bears that were traveling together. I knew they were close at hand and I followed the trail very cautious. In a short time I come In sight of them. The bears proved to be a she and three big cubs. They were bunched together and looked very nice as they walked slowly along. My appetite began pinching me for bear meat. They were in rifle shot and telling the dog to keep quiet I took aim at what I believed was the fattest cub and blazed away at It. But I was over anxious and excited and missed Bruin. The report of the gun caused the whole family of bears to run and I turned the dog loose to follow them and as he went rushing up behind them they all made the snow fly with their feet getting out of the way. The Bruins were in a good humor or the old one would have stopped and give the dog an important lesson. But they had not ran far before one of the cubs stopped and went up a tree. The other bears made no halt but traveled on as fast as they could run. I had forgot to reload my gun until I reached the tree the young bear was up. When I was ready to shoot I was certain in my mind I would see it fall out of the tree dead when I fired, but I was mistaken. The bullet had gone wide of its mark. But I blamed my own awkwardness and not the gun. I would do better next time but before I got the gun reloaded again his little bearship was restless and uneasy and began descending the tree. When it touched the snow on the ground the dog leaped on it and there was a lively row between it and the cub. The young bear knew how to fight and would hit the dog with its paws and the snow was beat and wallowed down for several paces around the tree. I enjoyed the battle and refrained from interfering until I was aware that young Bruin was going to get the best of the dog. Then I stepped up behind the bear and sank the blade of my hunting knife into its body and leaped out of the way before it could turn on me. But it was not able to do me injury for the little beast sank down on the trampled snow and made a piteous outcry as it lay dying. I expected to see the old one come running back but she aid not show up. The little Bruin was as heavy as a common sized buck. But after I took out its entrails I picked it up and after a tedious walk down the creek arrived where father lived and laid my heavy load down. We all had a delightful feast of tender meat for supper and breakfast. The following day I took part of that bear meat to Crooked Creek where I lived but you may note it down that I was weary of the job before I reached home.

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