The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

James Knight furnishes the following sketch through a letter written by him at Bruno, Marion County, Ark. I never met Mr. Knight and know nothing about the man but he said the accounts given in the letter was true. "My father, Jonathan Knight, was a Virginian and emigrated to Tennessee where he lived 8 years and then went to Green County, Mo., where he lived 4 years. In 1837 he left Missouri and settled on Buffalo fork of White River where he lived until his death. There were only a few settlers on this stream when he come here. Among them were John Avey, Charley Suggs and Sam Porks. The first white man that died on Buffalo was Henry Baily. He was buried some three miles above the mouth of Water Creek. My grandfather on my mother’s side, who was a Kentuckian named Harris, was the second white man that died on this stream. He was buried near the mouth of Buffalo. My father said that on his arrival here in 1837 the mountainsides as well as the creek bottoms were covered with cane. When emigrants began settling along Buffalo they usually cleared a small piece of land to plant in corn. But bear was so plentiful that it was hard work to prevent them from destroying the crop. The men would go out of nights to their field and whoop and hell and discharge their rifles to frighten the bear out of the fields. Father killed a goodly number of bear on Buffalo. He went into a cave one day where a lot of bear had taken winter quarters and killed 4 of them. Him and Sam Parks and Oliver Taffer hunted together and kept a pack of well trained dogs. A fearless educated dog was worth more than a horse then. The three hunters got into some serious combats with wounded bear. One day they met an unusually large one which the dogs chased and fought. The men followed and shot a few balls into the bear’s body but none of them touched a vital part. But the effects of the shots irritated the animal and he was mad. On one occasion the men ran up just behind it and father and Parks emptied their rifles at the beast again but did not bring him down. Taffer reserved his fire until he ran a few yards in advance of it and intended to shoot it in the head but his gun failed to discharge. The man had no time to do nothing more except to retreat for the enraged beast rushed at him. In his hurried scramble to avoid its fury he stumbled and fell backwards over a log and Bruin caught him by the foot. As the animals sharp teeth entered the flesh and crushed the bones of his foot Taffer yelled in agony, but instantly recovering his presence of mind he snatched up a good sized flint rock with sharp jagged corners and pulling himself up in reach of the beast’s head he held the stone in both hands and hit it on the head with such force that the sharp edges of the stone punctured the skullbone and being almost in the act of falling from the effects of the shots when it took hold of his foot that the animal now sank down and released his foot before the other men could prepare to shoot it again. The man’s foot was so severely crushed that he was not able to walk home and one of the men procured a horse while the other remained and bound up his foot and removed the hide of the bear and dressed the meat. After the man was taken home it was many days before he was able to engage in another bear chase."

In relating the encounter between the boar and bear on Buffalo Mr. Knight said that he witnessed it from a tree. "It occurred when I was just large enough to carry a rifle. One late afternoon I took the rifle and went up to the field to kill some squirrels. About the time I reached the fence I heard hogs rallying on a hillside above me. At first I thought they were wild hogs and were preparing to attack me and throwing my gun down I went up a tree as fast as a coon could climb. Getting up high enough in the tree where I could obtain a plain view I saw at once that the hogs were tame ones and I knew their owner. The hogs were all bunched close together and I saw a big bear walking around them. All at once the bear rushed at the hogs and struck some of them with his paw which made them all scatter except a 4 years old boar which stood his ground and squared himself for battle which was followed by one of the most fiercest struggles between animals I ever heard of. They closed together like two savage dogs and fought terrible. As I witnessed the fight from the tree my blood almost chilled while watching them. As the two infuriated animals fought they gradually worked down the hillside to a white oak tree that was swelled near the ground. Here they separated for the time and each beast appeared to want to shelter himself behind this tree and for a half hour or more they kept up a duel game by springing at each other from behind the tree, but each would dodge in turn and resume their respective positions. As they would catch at each other with their teeth they would wrench pieces of bark off of the white oak. At the expiration of the time stated above the bear seemed to grow tired of this sort of maneuvers and changed tactics and left the tree and walked around the hog with the Intention of seeking the advantage of his antagonist. As he passed around, the boar turned and stood on the defensive. At this the bear halted and rose on his haunches seemingly intending to grasp the hog in his embrace. But just as Bruin rose the boar made a furious rush for his adversary and knashed him with his tusks just under the foreleg. It was now his bearship’s turn and before the boar could do him further harm he instantly dropped down on the hog and caught it at the back of the neck with its teeth. Then ensued another fierce struggle. The bear lay on the boar’s back. The latter made violent efforts to hurl the bear off, but his frantic attempts were in vain. The bear had the advantage and he appeared to be determined to retain his hold. Both animals were badly wounded and their strength was much weaker now than it was when the fight began, but both were still game and ferocious. The struggle went on, but the advantage was all on the side of the bear now for he held the boar in such a shape that he was powerless to use his tusk again on Bruin. The furious bear held him as if in a vice. The boar struggled, but that was all he was able to do. At last his efforts to extricate himself from the power of the bear seemed fruitless and he gave up and began to squeal. He evidently had hallooed enough and sank down. I thought the bear had killed him, but after holding him a short time longer Bruin let go his hold and backed off a few yards. As soon as Bruin had left him, he began showing signs of life and scrambled to his feet with great difficulty and staggered off. The bear stood and looked at him a moment, apparently saying, "Now, don’t go off and say you whipped me for you know I got the best of you." Then he turned around and walked away in an opposite direction. It was now after sunset and I slid down the tree and picked up the gun and went back to the house. Next morning we found the boar lying dead near the scene of the fight and with dogs we followed the bloody trail of the bear and soon overhauled him and finished his life."

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