The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

This story relating to a bear chase was given me by G. W. Thurman and shows the amusement enjoyed by hunters on the chase. Mr. Thurman said that during the Civil War he and Rod Beckem, Joe Webb and a man of the name of Pittman while several inches of snow lay on the ground were one day in the hills on the south side of White River a few miles below the mouth of Buffalo got into an interesting bear chase. "We were all mounted and my horse was not of a gentle disposition and gave me trouble in guiding him over the rough ground and through the timber. Each of us carried a good gun and we had two large yellowish brindle colored cur dogs with us that belonged to Pittman that were stout and fierce fellows. As we were riding along close together, the dogs started a bear out of a thicket and it went off on a run with the dogs in close pursuit. We galloped on after them as fast as the deep snow would admit, yelled like Indians, laughed and talked which made the chase more lively. My horse being rather a spirited fellow I soon got in the advance of the other men and had a few opportunities to shoot the bear as it would halt to repel the attack of the dogs. But I wanted to see it go up a tree so I could invite it down with my gun and have the pleasure of seeing it fall on the snow. Bruin when the dogs would crowd him too much gave evidence that he did not approve of such strong coertion by halting and raise on his haunches and knock the dogs away with his paws then drop on his feet and rush on. Notwithstanding Bruin gave the dogs some hard blows they were "spunky" and would continue the pursuit and attack him again as vigorous as before. Onward went bear, dogs and we hunters beating a wide swathe in the snow as we traveled along. I thought every minute Bruin would ascend a tree but after awhile I gave up all hope of it for he appeared to forget there were any trees or had no notion of going up one and thought he would take his chances on the ground and did. Owing to the deep snow the dogs and horses become so wearied that they began to lag and after a chase of 4 miles the bear entered into a small but very rough creek valley which so impeded our progress that we fell back some distance behind Bruin and dogs and the latter finally gave up the chase and come back to us and the bear escaped."

The following is an account of two settlers on horseback, worrying a bear until it was completely exhausted. The story is related by Frank Woods, who was born on Crooked Creek below Yellville, in March, 1838. Frank is a son of William Woods. His grandfather Woods given name was also William. As is well known, this family were among the earliest settlers in Marion County, Ark.

As we enter the suburbs of Yellville on the Harrison and Bellfonte road the hills south and southwest of town between Crooked Creek and Buffalo is in plain view and reminds us of stories of wild beasts in the early days as told repeatedly by old settlers. Among these pioneer tales is the one given by Mr. Woods.

Frank before starting out with his bear story tells of seeing a few bands of Indiana during his boyhood days on Crooked Creek. He said that he often saw Peter Cornstalk, a prominent Indian who had a brother named John Cornstalk. These two redmen claimed relationship with Tecumseh, the noted Indian chief. They said they were present in the battle on the river Thames which was fought October 5, 1813. The American troops were in command of General Harrison when Col. Johnson made the attack on the Brittish regulars and the Indiana and during the progress of the battle they said they were close to Tecumseh and saw him shot and killed, falling dead at the root of a tree. Peter Cornstalk lived awhile on the river below the mouth of Buffalo, but learning of the discovery of gold in California he left White River and went west. Jesse Young who went to California during the gold excitement, come back to Crooked Creek in a few years and said that he saw Cornstalk In the gold mines and talked with him.

"Now," said Mr. Woods, "I will tell you the bear story, the occurrence of which dates back several years before I was born. My authors of the story were my father and grandfather. A good number of Indians were living in their village called Shawnee town where Yellville now stands. Grandfather was residing on the creek below the village. One day Grandfather and father rode into the hills south of the creek. Father was a young man then. They were not accompanied by a dog, though Grandfather carried his rifle. Father was mounted on a splendid mare. Two or three miles southwest of the village they spied a bear that was so fat that it was not able to travel fast. They said it was the clumsiest bear they ever saw. Here was an opportunity for fun, and they charged up near to compel it to run faster. There was no brush in the way to prevent close pursuit. In those days there were many huckleberry patches, and bears grew fat on the fruit. When the horsemen pushed the animal too close he would stop, turn round and charge at them. But he was so fat that his actions were slow, and the men could get out of his way before he could do them harm. They followed the fat beast some distance and laughed at its awkwardness in traveling. They kept on just behind It until it was so tired that it was hardly able to get out of a walk. Finally it entered a thick grove of timber where they had some trouble in driving it out into the open again and went into a prairie hollow. By this time his bearship was so exhausted that he could hardly walk. Thinkng the animal was not able to afford them anymore sport, father dismounted and took grandfather’s rifle to shoot it; but his mare was not willing to relinquish such amusements and the moment he dropped the bridle reins she rushed up to Bruin and bit him hard. Though the bear was almost given out, he had a little strength and energy left, and managed to resent the insult by wheeling around and catching the mare by the hamstring with its teeth, after she had turned around to get out of its way. The astonished mare kicked the bear viciously, plunged forward and released herself. At this moment father took quick aim at the bear and shot it down. The mare’s leg was so severely lacerated by the bear’s teeth that she never recovered sufficiently to be of any more benefit. They had enjoyed the fun of chasing and killing a nice, plump bear, but it was small recompense for the maiming of the fine mare. Father had paid well for the chase and amusement."

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