On the farm there were always tales of the panther. You’d hear its screams in the late evening and night, but we learned to live with it.
The above photo appears courtesy of: www.qnet.com/~saddleup/mountainlion.htm
One time Mom and Granddad said they seen the panther leaping through one of the meadows, and they said it was coal black. They said they were in the truck when they saw it, and when they stopped the truck it would stop, and when they would move a little bit, it would move a little. Other people who had seen it said the panther was brown like a paper poke. I’m thinking there was probably more than one of them.
Below is a photo of the farm, where they saw the panther leaping through the field.
The panther could make itself sound like any animal in the woods, it could also scream like a woman in pain, whimper like a baby or slap its tail and make a sound like somebody stacking lumber.
It seemed that panther sightings and the frequency of hearing its mournful screams seemed to increase when a baby was around. My Great-Granny always said that a panther was drawn to a baby’s crying. She told of how when she was little and her family lived at Fiddlers Green, one time when her brother Vern was a baby they saw the big paw of a cat reaching through the logs towards the baby’s crib and it was trying to snatch uncle Vern out of his crib. Granny said that her daddy took off after it with a garden hoe and would no doubt have killed it too if he got ahold of it, but that the panther got away. Granny’s daddy was a very strong man, people still tell stories of my great-great-granddaddy Alfred and how he stopped a charging bull by hitting it in the head with his fist and knocking it out.
Below is a photo of Fiddlers Green, the house my great granny grew up in.
Now that I think of the panther, I remember another story that involved Rob Bennett. This happened when Rob was walking down the lane one night at about 10 O'clock, he was returning home from visiting neighbors. He said that right about where the old cemetery is, he started hearing the loose rocks in the road scuffling around and a light growling noise a few yards behind him. He said he turned around but didn’t see anything because it was a pitch-black night. He said he then started walking again and heard the sound again, and again when he turned back to look, he seen nothing. He said he knew then and there that he was being followed by the panther. He said he just started walking toward home and started singing and waving his arms to make himself look bigger than he really was, he knew better than to run because even as a child, you are taught not to run when being followed by a panther. The old saying went, “When you walk, he walks; when you run, he runs”. Rob said when he got near his house he hollered out to his brother who lived with him to come out with the lantern. He did and Rob walked on into the house but the panther stayed at the edge of the ring of light put off by the lantern. Rob then said that when they looked out at the side window into the yard, there sat the panther a-lookin’ in at them through the window. Rob didn’t have nothing but an old smooth-bore shotgun that would probably have pissed off the old panther more than anything if they tried to shoot it, so they went upstairs and locked the stairs door in case the panther was to break in on them by coming through the window. Such tales as this were pretty common on the mountain.
Every so often on the farm we’d find the carcass of a cow or a sheep that had been an obvious victim of the panther. We all just made sure we didn’t go out of a night unless we had to, although we now know that what is out there in the night is also out there in the daytime.
Above: The Burns Brood
Of course, looking back now I’d pity the panther who tried to take on a Burns kid, we were all twice as mean, three times as wiry and had ten times the grit of any ole panther. It would have been a sorry day for the old panther.