The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

Soon after the close of the Civil War John Jones or Jack Jones as he was commonly known lived on what is now the Pate Duggins land on Big Creek, Ozark County, Mo. Jack was a son of Hugh Jones. Jack lived here in 1866. He is dead now. His mortal remains was laid to rest in the graveyard opposite the Panther Bottom. Mr. Jones was an excellent coon hunter. Big Creek then was nearly alive with these animals. The coons nearly destroyed Jack’s small crop of corn and he with his yellow dog he called Track belabored the coons until they had but little rest, only of nights when they would invade the field and fill up on roasting ears, Jack hunted after these animals in daytime mostly until their depredations on the corn crop was so serious that he hunted them after night as well as day. Then it was that the coons were kept busy in keeping out of the way of Jack and his dog. When the late fall of 1866 came around Jack began to save the hides for the fur was ready sale. One night as usual he took the dog and axe and started out into the woods to slay more coons. His common mode of catching coons was to let the dog tree them and he would cut the tree down with the axe and the dog would catch and kill it. If there were more than one coon up the tree it or they would escape for the time or until the dog killed the one he got hold of and he would trail up the escaped ones whether it be more than one and tree it again and Jack would follow up and cut the tree down and another fight and another dead coon would be the result. On that particular night we have referred to the air was pleasant. The sky was partly overcast with clouds and no moon to lighten up the then wild forest, but the dark of the moon did not prevent him from hunting and killing coons. It was in the month of October and that night as he was walking up the hill on the west side of the creek near where the Protem road now leads down the hill to Big Creek. The dogs treed a coon in a hollow post oak tree that stood near what was then only a dim trail. Jack built a fire close to the tree for a light and then he went to work with the axe and felled the tree. Wolves had not as yet given him much trouble while out of nights hunting. The thought of the beasts gave him small concern until that night. Just before the tree fell Jack heard several wolves howl nearby but he was accustomed to their noise and he went on with the work of felling the tree the same as if he knew nothing was going to happen. The limbs of the tree branched straight out and when it fell the top part of the tree where the coon took shelter in the hollow rested a few feet above the ground. After the tree fell Jack run to the opening where the coon had went in and stuck a chunk in the hole to prevent the corn eater from making his exit, then the young coon hunter with axe in hand got up on the tree trunk and began cutting a block of wood out in order to get at Mr. Coon. While at this work he was horrified at the sight of 12 wolves rush into the circle of the light of the fire and halt a moment, then they all sprang at the dog. The latter avoided them by dodging in among the limbs of the fallen tree. Jones yelled at the vicious animals as they darted into the tree top in their efforts to catch the dog and he struck at one of them with the axe but missed it. The terror stricken dog stopped under the tree where Jones was chopping. The wolves in their frenzied efforts to get at the trembling dog leaped around among the limbs, but the dog kept immediately under the part of the fallen tree where his master was and the latter used his axe so freely that he kept them from reaching the dog and forced them back from the tree top. They all stopped in the outer edge of the firelight and stood and snarled and snapped their teeth together. Seeing that he had put a move on the wolves by making them give back that far, Jack took courage and leaped to the ground and snatched a blazing chunk from the fire and threw it at them which caused them to move further back into the dark. The hunter now pitched more wood on the fire which soon ignited and in a few minutes a brilliant light penetrated the dark shadow of night for several yards around. Soon after this the wolves made their appearance again but they were not so bold as before. Jack hurled more fire at them and they retired again, and did not come back to molest Jack and the dog anymore, and Jack went to work and he and the dog captured the coon and after the coon was dead Jack declined to hunt anymore coons that night and picking up the axe and dead coon he went back down the hill to the house.

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