Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tales of the Panther

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.


StitchinByTheLake said...

I once had a panther run across the highway in front of me. It was coal black and the most graceful thing I've ever seen. It reminded me of mercury when it moves - silky smooth, quiet, leaving no trace. Blessings, marlene

Jason Burns said...

Granny's father knocked the bull out by tearing up a tree stump and clobbering the bull with it, he didn't hit it with his fist. Unless he did that more than once, which is possible. Still, to tear up a stump and still be able to swing it and knock out a bull is quite an accomplishment.

Matthew Burns said...

No, this was two different occasions. Alfred beat the bull with a stump when it was trying to gore him (he was trying to separate the bull from a cow in heat). The time he hit it with the fist and knocked it out, the bull was charging at him and a few other people.

Tipper said...

I too have heard tales of the screaming panther roaming the woods around my area. Only time I ever saw one was on Franklin Mountain in NC. My Dad and I both saw it cross the road directly in front of us. My brother is still mad till this day that he didn't see it. He was tying his shoe in the backseat when it happened.

Granny Sue said...

I love these stories, Matthew! Keep 'em coming!

And by the way, explain on your blog sometime why you're Matthew and not Matt :-)

QueenofPlanetHotflash said...

Hello, love your blog! I moved to Kentucky in the foothills of the Appalachias from Michigan 20+ years ago a few nights into our new home I woke in the middle of the night because I heard a child crying. I was thinking it was one of my children who had woke up and was in an unfamiliar place, so I went to look. My children were all in the bed asleep, so I thought it may be a neighbor child and something was wrong. I walked out onto our porch and looked around and out beside our out building were green/gold eyes and it screamed again and ran off. My first introduction to Kentucky wildlife. :o)

admod said...

I've seen reports from the "experts" trying to say that panthers have been extinct for 30 years, when I can personally say for a fact that is not the case. I am 33 and when I was about 14 that summer we would sit out on the porch at dusk and first you could hear it making the sound of a baby crying, and before long would switch to the blood curling sound like a woman screaming, and my grandma had always warned us about hearing those noises in the woods, and of course she knew what it was the first time it started making those sounds. This went on every night that whole summer. In September we had our family reunion at our house, and after we took everything down and we had the trash cans still sitting outside with food scraps and all left in them, and about 2 or so in the morning I hear something knock them over, which they were right outside my bedroom window, and since my dog wasn't barking I figured it was him since he would be going wild if it was a coon out there. I rolled over in the bed and looked out the window which was right at my head, and there I was face to face with the big black panther. My heart stopped, it was both scary to see and still at the same time a beautiful sight to see. Until it noticed me in the window, and it opened its mouth and showed those teeth as it let out that shreik/woman scream, and it was so loud it rattled my ears and made my blood run cold! That scream woke everyone else in the house up and they came running, and that noise sent the panther running, but for a brief moment I saw my first and so far only panther that was roaming in the wild, but far from what the "experts" say, that was not 30 years ago. Plus I once also almost had a run in with a wild cat- my dog was chasing after it and I thought it was a regular stray cat since sometimes people used to dump them off near our house, so I went to try to pick it up and rescue it from my dog. Until I noticed it didn't have a tail, and then noticed the hair on the tips of its ears, and I stopped dead in my tracks just as it opened up that mouth and growl at me and showed me those teeth that were a couple of inches long and I backed up real fast and let the dog just keep chasing it off

Ralph Caudill said...

I've heard a few stories in my day, and I truly believe that they are still up in the mountains and some valleys of the entire Appalachian chain. Love this. Please keep them coming.