The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

I am told that one who never witnessed a struggle between a bear and panther can hardly realize the strength put forth and the ferocity exhibited by these animals. A combat between them is so desperate, and to watch them as they tear each other’s flesh with teeth and claws and see the blood stream from countless wounds and hear their ferocious snarls and growls is indeed blood curdling. Though the writer never witnessed such a sight but from accounts given him by settlers and hunters many encounters of this kind have occurred and I have written down a few of the more interesting accounts to show the awful struggles between these animals for the mastery when they get in each other’s way. Among these is one given me by Mr. Gideon Baughman who lived on Crooked Creek seven miles below Harrison, Arkansas. He related the story to me in July, 1896, a short while before his death. He told the story in the following way. "When I was a boy my parents lived in Iron County, Missouri. I was just old enough to take a lively interest in hunting for game. The country there was new then with plenty of small game as well as bears and panther. One time while hunting near a narrow creek or slough called Cranes Pond I heard loud growls which evidently were produced by enraged animals. The noise seemed to be at the pond. Though only a boy my curiosity was aroused to know what sort of wild animals had met and were about to get into a fight. Advancing cautiously until I saw what they were I was surprised to see a bear and panther on a log which lay across the creek where the water was about 25 feet deep. The animals had approached the log from opposite sides of the creek and they both wanted to cross over on the log but each was in the other’s way. When I came in sight of them the bear was sitting on the log over the water and the panther was on the other end of the log advancing slowly toward the bear. Both animals seemed to be in a rage and were growling fiercely. When the panther got in reach of the bear the latter struck it a terrific blow with his paw which sent it into the water with a splash. But quickly recovering it swam out on the same side it started from and leaping on the log walked fearlessly up to the bear again. But bruin was ready and with another severe blow sent the panther back into the water, but immediately it swam back to the same bank it started from. When the bear struck it the second time the former dropped on his feet and walked across the log. As the panther leaped up the bank the bear had reached the end of the log and here they met on the bank and without further ceremony both animals clinched together in a savage combat.

It was terrible to witness. They growled, whined, bit and clawed until their hair was red with blood. Neither one seemed to want to show the white feather. After they had fought several minutes the bear caught the panther in his hug in such a way that the panther’s back lay against the bear’s breast. Then another scene followed. The bear sat on his haunches and as he tightened his embrace his antagonist surged desperately to release itself. For a while it seemed that the bear would come out victorious, but with a desperate struggle the panther succeeded in turning its body face to face with the bear. Then ensued the greatest scene of the fight. The panther with the sharp claws on its hind feet ripped the bear open and let out its entrails. At this bruin uttered a piteous noise and seemed to realize that he was done for, and with a last effort he crushed the panther so hard that it was unable to make further resistance. The bear released his hold and both animals sank to the ground in the agony of death. Bruin died first but his enemy lived but a minute or two after. They had fought to a finish and ceased to be in each other’s way. Both animals were of medium size and in good condition. I went home for assistance and we skinned the panther and took the bear home and used the meat. Since that time," remarked Mr. Baughman, "I have witnessed many hard fights between animals but the encounter between the bear and panther was the fiercest and most bloody I ever witnessed between domestic or wild animals."

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