How Two Snakes Tried To Swallow Each Other

by S.C. Turnbo


One of the most strange snake stories I ever heard of that was told me for the truth originated from a small stream in Carroll County, Ark., called Dry Creek, which runs into Long Creek from the west side. I obtained the account from Tom Erwin, an old pioneer settler of that section who in the bygone days hauled goods from Batesville to Carrollton in an ox wagon. The snake story as told by Mr. Erwin is as follows:

"One of my neighbors of the name of William Beck while hunting on Dry Creek discovered two large black snakes engaged in a fierce combat. Mr. Beck said that it was remarkable how these reptiles fought each other. They struggled with all the strength at their command to overcome each other until it seemed that their power of motion was nearly gone, when suddenly they changed their mode of fighting by each one taking the end of the other's tail in its mouth foremost and began to swallow and they went on swallowing each other until there was nothing left of them to be seen except two reptiles in the shape of a hoop and after they had swallowed each other as far as they could they both sulled and lay as if perfectly torpid. Mr. Beck said that he then picked up a stout stick and lifted the snakes up with it like raising a hoop from the ground and when he did this he concluded to bring them to my house where I lived and did. They had made no effort to free themselves from each other while he was carrying them along in this way. When he layed them down in my yard they lay as quiet as if they were dead. It sounds unreasonable to make such a statement but it is a veritable truth that we could not separate the reptiles until we knocked them loose with the stick. But the moment they were freed from each other they took on new life and we killed them both."


Silas Claiborne Turnbo was born in a log cabin on Beaver Creek, Taney County, Missouri, on 26 May 1844. He was the son of Elizabeth [Onstott] (1824-1868) and James Coffee Turnbo (1820-1870). Silas was the oldest of eleven children.

Silas joined Company A, 27th Arkansas Infantry, C.S.A., as a Private when he was eighteen. During the war Silas kept diaries of his wartime experiences. He first wrote a history of his military unit, but after the Civil War he continued to record reminiscences from individuals about their personal experiences and various narratives. Some of the small town newspapers would publish his stories. In 1905 Turnbo published a book of 173 pages under the title: Fireside Stories of the Early Days in the Ozarks.

Thomas J. Erwin and Nancy Caroline (Mathis) Erwin left Tennessee about 1848 and settled in Carroll County, AR. They later homesteaded on Dry Creek near the little town of Denver. The original homestead is currently part of the farm owned by great-great-granddaughter Glenna Trigg Combs and husband  Gene Combs.                                                                      -Cherie Olson                                                                             

The above short story is from the Turnbo manuscripts by Silas Claiborne Turnbo (1844-1925), and was researched and submitted by Cherie Olson of Kent , WA. Cherie is also a great-great-granddaughter of Thomas Johnston Erwin. The complete Turnbo manuscript collection can be found in the Tulsa City/County Library.                                                                                                                         -Ed.