Benjamin Hardy Carlton moved with his family to the little settlement that would one day bear the Carlton name in 1875 when he was just a young teen. By 1876, he was having the adventures that only a boy of the frontier could have. I’m sure some of these things were a lot of fun, but the one I am about to relate causes the mom in me to shudder…and then shudder again.
According to Carlton, it seems that he, a brother, and a couple of friends were sent out to look for a cow and calf that were missing. There had been rumors of a lion roaming the Hamilton countryside; in fact, “they” were saying that this very lion had actually treed a couple of Hamilton boys, forcing them to remain in the tree for several hours.
Of course, no one really believed that story because everyone knew that there were no lions in Hamilton County.
On this particular day, the boys were being boys as they searched for the cow, stopping their hunt to watch the dogs chase a rabbit in a hole, pulling it out, and (awful as it sounds) dividing it among the hungry dogs. It was at this point that the boys realized that their dog, Shep, was missing.
Shep did come when called, but he was not hungry. He seemed agitated, turning and heading back in the direction from which he had come when called. The dog led the boys to an overgrown thicket where “suddenly some huge animal rushed wildly from the thicket and ran up a leaning tree…We had never seen a lion, but we knew immediately that the rumor was true.”
According to Carlton, the boys had no gun and after jumping up and down and screaming for help for about an hour, they decided they had to get a better plan. Since no one was willing to stay with the lion, the boys left the dogs and went back into town to get a gun and some help.
Unfortunately, there was no help to be had because no one believed that they boys actually had a lion treed. “The only gun we could get was a double barrel shotgun and only one of the barrels was in condition to shoot,” and there were only two buckshot in the small shot of the load. (Oh, the confidence of youth!)
Anyway, when young Carlton pointed the gun at the lion, it looked right at him, snarling and seeming to be preparing to pounce on him. What I’m sure was a pretty terrified boy right at that moment pulled the trigger, thankfully hitting the lion in the mouth and knocking out one of its teeth.
The lion, in mid jump, twisted in pain before finally landing among the dogs as the boys worked desperately to reload. The dogs helped keep the lion occupied, but it finally took six shots and a beating with a limb or two to finally knock the life out of the huge creature.
Measuring over seven feet from nose to tail, the animal was too large for the boys to drag. They went back to town and asked to borrow mules for that purpose, and again they were taunted with laughter. Of course, it was the young boys from Carlton, Texas who had the last laugh as they came dragging the lion that no one believed existed into the little town.
Of course, the laughter of the town turned to cheers, and the boys were excited to find their names in the newspaper of the day….heroes the paper called them…
And yes, if it had been my little boy out fighting a lion, I would have “killed” him when he got home. What in the world were they thinking??