The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

Mr. Calvin Clark, brother of the famous hunter Bill Clark furnishes the following somewhat amusing story of an interview he had one night with a bear in a field of corn. In giving the account of it Mr. Clark said that during the time he lived on White River below the mouth of Music Creek he made a crop one season in the Blanket Bottom in Marion County, Ark. "Bear were plentiful and furnished us an abundance of fresh meat as well as bear bacon. Some of these bear were troublesome by invading the fields and destroys corn crops. Unless you had an opportunity to kill them it was a hard task to prevent them from entering the fields. One old "residenter" bear could destroy more corn than 4 or 5 grown hogs. The year I cultivated land in the Blanket Bottom a bear began visiting the crop in the early part of September. His visits were regular but he come only in the night time. I had no dogs that year that was worthy to be called a dog. They were trifling and I only kept them until I could procure better ones. I tried to shoot the animal but it would avoid me. Its habits were peculiar, for when it had time it would jerk off the ears of corn and throw them together until it had enough in one place to feast on. In doing this it would lay down by the corn and eat and waste until its appetite was satisfied. A dozen hungry bears can destroy several acres of corn. This bear would usually enter the field about midnight or soon after and go out just before day light. Though I had made efforts to shoot it after night but it was too shy. To tell the truth I did not feel like fooling around the field of night while Bruin was in possession unless I had a few trained dogs. But its ravages was so fearful that my little crop of corn would soon be gone and I was compelled to make an effort to get rid of it by some means. One clear beautiful moonlit night I made up my mind to go in the field and waylay Bruin. I concluded to slay the bear if it took all night to do it. I put my rifle in good shooting order and about 2 hours after nightfall I went into the field and took my position under an apple tree which stood out in the field. I knew the shade of the tree would help shield me from view and Bruin would not be so apt to see me. The temperature was pleasant and the air perfectly calm. It was one of those bright still nights that one can see and hear well. I felt rather lonely out in the field watching for his bearship to make his appearance but I waited and listened for noises of his approach as patiently as possible. I could hear the water in the river splash and roar as it passed over the rough rocky shoals. Ever now and then the scream of a night hawk would startle me for a moment. Then a "tub" owl would turn loose with a signal cry to denote a change in the weather. I could hear all sorts of noise except that of the bear. I stayed under the apple tree and waited until midnight but no bear entered the field. But I was no so badly discouraged but that I could remain longer. Near one o’clock I heard it scramble over the fence and come in the field for an early breakfast. The bear soon told what he come for by making the corn stalks and shucks rattle. He was about 150 yards from me. I did not feel over anxious to be any closer but after awhile I thought I could venture out toward him. Outwardly I acted as if I was not afraid but my conscience told me different. I crept slow and cautious through the corn and tall cuckleburs until I was pretty close to the busy animal and stopped to reconnoitre. Then with lighter step and more caution I managed to get nearer. Bruin was so busily engaged breaking of the corn stocks and pulling off the corn that he did not see me. I held my rifle ready to shoot at a moments notice but I was not quite close enough for a sure shot for too many burs and cornstalks intervened. I went on a few feet further until I stood in 10 yards of his bearship. I felt awfully excited, peculiar and curious. It was too busy to think of stopping to look for an enemy. It made a great noise among the corn and I remained quiet and watched its actions until it turned broadside toward me. Then I carefully aimed behind the shoulder. On a few occasion I had been attacked with what we hunters term buck ague. This time I took the bear ague. My body shook and my hands trembled. But I managed somehow to pull the trigger. The report of the gun seemed to sound out as loud as a cannon. I expected to see Bruin drop dead or so badly crippled it would not be able to get up but I was disappointed for when the smoke cleared Bruin was standing looking here and there like he had been astounded by an earthquake. In a moment more he saw me and gazed at me steadily for half a minute. I thought my hour had come and the clammy sweat exuded from my pores. My legs shook so hard that my knees seem to knock together. I thought it would rush at me and have a breakfast of humane as well as corn. Of course I never thought of trying to reload my gun for I thought the bear would allow me no time for that but I thought of my butcher knife and pulled it from the scabbard and managed to brace myself for some sort of defense. About the time the half a minute had passed the bear gave a loud snort which affected me so that I leaped to one side for I supposed this was the signal for attack. But to my great relief his bearship did not charge at me but went in an opposite direction. It snorted as it ran and blowed and puffed. The noise it made getting away was exciting. It knocked down every cornstock that stood in its way and bent down all the rank burr stocks in its trail. When it reached the fence I heard it crash against it like a horse knocking it down on a run. When it got on the outside. I could hear it snorting and running until it passed out of hearing distance. Though I was terribly frightened before Bruin run and I laughed now to see how bad seared the bear was. His fright was worse than mine was. I laughed all the way back to the house. Next morning about sunrise I went into the field to investigate and made a close search for blood stains but failed to find any and I suppose I had missed the bear entirely. The trail it made through the corn reminded me of where a wagon had passed through and it had knocked down two pannel of fence where it had passed out. That patch of corn had a resting spell after that for his bearship quit visiting the field and I made it a business not to lay in wait for bear anymore after nightfall."

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