BADLY USED UP BY A PANTHER

FIRESIDE STORIES OF EARLY DAYS IN THE OZARKS


BADLY USED UP BY A PANTHER


This is a copy of an article published in the Harrison, Arkansas Times of April 10, 1901 and is vouched for as being a true story in substance at least, if not in all details.


During the late years of the history of southwest Missouri, there is no account so far as I know, of a panther attacking a traveler, or other person. The country has been improved to such an extent, and so thickly settled that the wild beasts have all been killed or driven from the forest. As we write this chapter in the early part or the first year of the 20th century, there is scarcely any danger of man, woman or child being attacked by one of these dreaded animals. For this fact we ought to feel under many ob1igations to the old time hunters and pioneer farmers who broke the wild wilderness and helped to destroy and drive out the ferocious animals of the forest. No only to the early settlers, but we should also be thankful to the great God of Heaven that we can now traverse the hills and valleys day or night, with small danger of being assailed by some wild beast.

But in time past, settlers were attacked from time to time, and a few were badly maimed. In collecting accounts of this nature which are obtainable, I find there were only a small percent of people attacked by the wild beasts in comparison to the great risks that settlers and their families were subject to. Some of these encounters happened so long ago that it is a matter of impossibility at this late date to obtain correct details of such events. But enough testimony is gathered to show that their pioneer stories are not founded on fiction, and while a few of these tales emanate from ancient dates in the history of the White River valley, may not contain all the true details of the affair, yet they are written on such facts as are in reach, and consequently, are based on truth.

Here is a story of an attack of a savage beast on a settler, in years gone by, that occurred in southwest Missouri. The account was common talk among the settlers when I was a boy. Likely other descendants of early settlers remember hearing it told; no doubt others have forgotten it. To revive the memory of this circumstance, I made an effort to obtain the history of it so far as I could.

Among the earliest residents of Webster County, Missouri lived a man by the name of Mercer Fain. While Mercer Fain resided In Webster County, he was attacked one day by a hungry panther and mangled by its teeth and claws. He lingered for days and weeks before recovering from the effects of the terrible wound. After the sores healed over, ugly scars remained to tell the awful tale.

In addition to my own recollections of this incident, John Cardwell of Cedar Creek, Missouri, and Sam Fain, formerly a popular druggist of Protem, Missouri, and son of William H. Fain, gave me further details. Sam Fain took much interest in gathering further accounts by writing to several parties who knew something about it. Thomas Cardwell, father of John Cardwell, settled in the locality where Mercer Fain lived in 1886. The following story is combined from several sources.

Mercer Fain emigrated from Fannin County, Georgia, to Webster County, Missouri, when there were only a few settlers scattered here and there. He settled on a creek called Dry Glaize. He built a cabin and began opening a farm, but as game was plentiful, and stock range good, there was comparatively little attention given to farming, and for some time he depended mostly on hunting for a living. He had come all the way from Georgia in a slow moving ox wagon. Then an active hunter, he gave some attention to the raising of livestock, which kept fat on the luxuriant grass. In 1882 he erected an additional house as well as clearing a few acres more of land.

One day in 1888, while he and a Negro were engaged in building a stone chimney to the new house, a number of his horses came off the range into the yard. Among them was a mare with a young colt at her side. Salt was scarce in those days, and settlers were not able to salt their stock every time they came home. After Fain's horses tasted the saline dirt for a while, they went back out onto the range again. In a short time they came running back because the colt had been attacked by a wild animal, its hips torn and bleeding freely. Evidently the mare had fought the beast away from the colt. Fain pronounced it the work of a panther. Instructing the colored man to follow him directly, Fain taking his rifle, went into the woods in search of the ferocious beast that had almost killed the colt.

The back trail of the horses was easily followed. The panther had approached in sight of the house, and went up a tree at the side of the trail. As Fain was passing under the tree (he was ignorant of the panther's presence) it leaped down on his shoulders. The weight of the animal and force of its spring threw Fain forward onto his face. For a few seconds the man was powerless to offer the slightest resistance and the terrible beast had its own way. It sank its teeth into the quivering flesh, and tore deep gashes with its claws. Fain's back, shoulders, and the back of his neck were soon a mass of lacerated and bleeding flesh. Partially recovering from the shock, he made an effort to turn on his back, thus exposing his face and chest. After turning, he raised one of his hands to catch one of its paws. The panther struck him in the palm of the hand and tore it badly with its long claws. The man was rendered frantic, and made a desperate effort to save his life. He clutched the wild, mad animal by the throat and before it had time to do further damage, the Negro man dashed upon the scene and snatching up the rifle he dealt the animal a terrific blow on the head and broke the gun stock off at the breech pin. The panther was stunned and released Fain, but crouched on the ground at his side. Fain though weak from his wounds and loss of blood, staggered to his feet, took the gun barrel from the ground and struck the crouching panther across the back. It reeled over, apparently dead. This was all that Fain could do, his strength was exhausted, and he swooned and fell.

The fearless Negro deserved utmost praise for his coolness and fidelity to his master; he did not remain idle, and seeing the critical condition of his master, he raised him in his arms and carried him toward the house. Two other settlers chanced to come by the house, and they ran and met the Negro, and assisted in carrying the weak and helpless man to his dwelling. The scene at the house was one of sorrow and distress, for the family believed that the husband and father would never recover.

When Fain revived and grew somewhat stronger, and the excitement had to some extent subsided, some of the party repaired to the spot where Fain had nearly lost his life. The panther was not dead, and had revived sufficiently to raise up on its front feet. The men finished its career with stones and clubs. It was a big sucker, and measured over nine feet from the tip of its nose to the tip of its tail. Sam Fain said that Ephreim Fullbright, who had waited on Mercer Fain during his convalescence and recovery, told him one day many years afterward, that Mercer Fain was the worst torn up man that he ever saw that managed to recover, and he (Fullbright) had gone through the horrors of the Civil War.

The Sam Fain referred to in this article was a grand nephew of Mercer Fain. Mercer Fain was an exceptionally strong, active man, and had it not been for this fact, no doubt his injuries would have proved fatal.

Signed Silas C. Turnbo

Copies by Richard Calhoun Fain
Britton, OK
November 10, 1927