The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

We have already mentioned Bill Clark as a remarkable deer and bee hunter, and told where part of his hunting grounds were. In this sketch I will relate more about his career as a hunter, and give an account of some of his encounters with enraged bucks.

Just over the line in Ozark County, Mo., from Taney County, is a small stream that flows into Big Creek on the east side known as Lick Creek. This valley was once noted for game and hunters of old visited there to kill deer. This was another favorite valley of Clark’s to hunt and enjoy the pleasure of meeting the fat bucks and other game. Lick Creek has its source among the Bald Hills which divide the head of this prong of Big Creek and part of the hollow of Lower Turkey Creek. This part of Ozark County has not been settled many years. The people are pushing and enterprising and we see a good number of nice little farms indicating that this section is improving some. There is also a good school and church house in that settlement, known as the Tannihill house. But as we did not start out in this sketch to describe a country and its people but to relate some of Bill Clark’s hunting stories, I will leave this matter for some other writer who can give the subject more justice than I. I have said this little stream was one of Clark’s favorite hunting grounds in years gone by. Like other famed deer hunters the man enjoyed tracking game when snow fell. One day, when a few inches of snow lay on the ground, Bill Clark put his gun in good shooting shape and shouldered it and never halted until he reached Lick Creek, where he met a fine bunch of deer. It was common for Bill to be a lucky hunter and he always managed to kill several deer with only a few bullets. In this case he did not get the opportunity to shoot a deer when he first saw the bunch, but when they started off he followed them and seeing a chance he shot into the bunch while they were all closed up together and killed two at one shot. The others made off in a hurry for a short distance, stopped and looked back seemingly with astonishment and then went on slowly. Clark reloaded his rifle, which carried a half-ounce ball and after hanging the dead deer on a low limb of a tree and taking out their entrails he followed on after the bunch. On nearing the deer again he watched for an opportunity for another shot, which soon came, for deer resemble sheep in their actions by bunching close together again. There was another shot and two more deer fell in the snow and Bill exclaimed, "Luck is a fortune when it hits right." This time the remainder of the bunch scattered and did not huddle together anymore. Treating the last two like he did the first, the hunter put his rifle in good shape again and walked on in the direction a few of them had went. In a little while he saw two of the deer standing a few yards apart and in line from where he stood. "If I can down them both with one bullet," said Clark, "I will be well pleased with my day’s hunt." The two deer showed indications of starting to run and the man cut his talking to himself short and quickly raising his rifle he aimed and fired. The ball sped to the mark and broke the nearest deer’s back and passed on and struck the other. It leaped 10 feet and after alighting jumped again and fell dead and the hunter was happy for he had slain six deer with only three bullets.

After cutting the throat of the deer with its back broken he let them lay as they fell and went home for a horse and returning loaded three deer on the animal and took them home where he lived on Big Creek. Then he went back and brought the other three.

Like many other hunters he was careless at times and had to fight a wounded buck. Some of these encounters were desperate and his escape from death seemed miraculous. On one occasion he was hunting on this same stream mentioned above. This time he had a "slow track" dog with him. Up in a little prairie hollow at the head of the creek he saw a buck which was alone and shot and wounded it. The deer ran; the hunter pursued with his dog. There was no snow on the ground this time for the weather was warm and the buck soon stopped and laid down in the grass in the shade of a clump of bushes, and Bill shot at it the second time, but being somewhat excited on his short run after the deer the bullet did not touch it. The report of the gun scared the buck and up it got and away it went again, but it only ran a few yards when it halted. The animal showed evidence of being sick. Then it grew furious and made fight at the dog—then all at once it turned and bounded off a short distance further, stopped and laid down, and to the surprise of Clark the dog laid down close to it. Bill, when he shot the second time, went on in a run without taking time to reload. When he felt in his shot pouch for bullets they were gone; he had lost them all. The buck was lying in close range. Clark was at a loss as to what to do for a bullet, until he thought of a few small marbles he carried in his pocket that belonged to his children. He took the marbles from his pocket and selected one that would fit his rifle without patching. "I will use this as a substitute for a bullet," said the hunter as he pushed the little marble down with his gun stick on a charge of powder. He intended shooting the deer in the head but the missile struck the deer in the nose and the blood spurted. The already furious beast flew into a worse rage than ever, snorted, leaped up and looked terrible. The dog got a move on himself and jumped to his feet and darted out of its way. The deer with its eyes almost sparkling fire rushed at Clark, its tormentor, at once.

The hunter was well aware that he could not outrun it— nor did he have time to climb a tree. There was but one thing to do to have a little chance for his life and that was to drop his gun and brace himself for the attack. Bill was in the prime of life, robust and as stout as a yearling mule, and when the furious beast charged him he made a desperate grab at its horns and caught them. As he did so the deer pushed him down on his back. Clark held to its horns with all the strength he could command to prevent it from goring him with its points. Though the buck was severely wounded and losing blood yet it had plenty of life left and surged, jumped and pawed his breast and trampled his legs. The hunter was in a close place.

He had killed great numbers of big bucks but it seemed as though this one would end his life. He dare not release it, for the angered animal would gore him to death at once. The man was certainly in a critical condition. While Clark was struggling with his best efforts to hold the deer he tried to encourage the dog to help him out in the fight, but his friend the tired dog refused to budge an inch. The canine seemed not to care the least whether his master gained the victory or lost it or was killed or come out alive. The man in his helpless condition could do nothing but hold the buck by the horns, while the furious brute was pulling, pushing, surging, kicking and pawing. His grip on its horns was weakening; he could hold out but a few minutes longer. He would then be at the deer’s mercy. He continued to beg the dog to take hold of the deer but he turned a deaf ear seeming to say, "it’s none of my business; let it be a fair fight." This was provoking and he wanted to get up and slay the dog for he had treated him outrageously. His friend had gone back on him and as he thought his time was nearly to a focus, he prayed earnestly that the buck might kill the dog, too, for not aiding him.

Just before the despairing man gave up the last ray of hope, he cried aloud. He was like a sinking ship when the crew and passengers lose all hope of the safety of their ship and give a signal of distress. He said it was his only hope—for another hunter might chance to be nearby. That loud piteous cry proved to be his earthly salvation, for Jim Green, who happened to be close by, gave an answering signal which Clark heard, It was a joyful sound to him and he held onto the deer’s horns for dear life. Green knowing that someone was in trouble rushed to the rescue. Arriving quickly, he saw his old friend in great peril. Something had to be done at once, so he went to work by jerking his hunting knife from the scabbard and he sprang at the buck and cut its throat. The blood was streaming all over the prostrate man, but he cared nothing for that, for his life was saved from the sharp-pointed horns of the buck. The grateful hunter informed his friend and rescuer that he got there just in time, for he could not have held out a minute longer. The dog paid the penalty of refusing to render his master assistance for Bill put him to death on the spot. Bill said that a false friend even if it was a dog was much worse than an open enemy.

The time of this occurrence was away back in 1857. Ten years after this Bill met another high tempered buck that gave him more trouble again. This time it was more amusing than serious. This incident did not happen on Lick Creek, but in a branch that puts into Big Creek from the west side known as Bear Cave Hollow a few miles above the mouth of Lick Creek. while hunting one day in this hollow he shot and wounded a monster buck. The deer went on, and Bill followed and shot the animal a second time. The combined wounds were painful and crippled the animal pretty badly which greatly irritated his buckship. The hunter was alone, not even accompanied by a dog. While he was reloading his gun the buck hoisted his head, sniffed the air in a haughty way and came toward him on a run in a defiant manner, but owing to its wound it was not able to run fast. Clark wanted no more trouble with angry bucks and, as the beast ran at him he turned and fled, for he thought prudence was the better part of valor. The race was a lively one but it did not last long, for the man threw down his gun and went up a tree as fast as he could climb.

Just as he was out of reach of its ugly horns the deer was snorting and stamping the ground under the tree with its feet, then it pawed the ground furiously. Its hair stood up straight and it appeared to be in an awful rage and Bill thanked his Creator over and over that he was not in reach of those dangerous antlers. The deer and hunter eyed each other without showing the least signs of friendliness. The buck was in no hurry to leave and kept a strict guard at the foot of the tree the greater part of the day, but late in the afternoon It grew weary of watching and took its departure. The hunter supposed, for awhile, that it was setting a trap for him by going off and hiding until he came down, and attacking him, but he found that he was mistaken for it was gone and the reknowned hunter slid down to the ground again and, after picking up his gun, ran about 100 yards in an opposite direction from which the deer had gone, stopped and finished reloading his gun. Then he sat down on a log and waited until his excitement grew more calm. Then he got up and went back to the tree and followed the trail of the deer, which was marked by a few drops of blood found on the grass. Mr. Clark said the reason he did not overhaul it was because he was careful not to hurry up in sight of it and the buck escaped.

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