Daddy would always tell tales of hunting in these woods with his uncles and stepdad. He often regaled me with hilarious tales of his Uncle James taking them in a circle instead of back home; stories of Uncle Kenny not being able to get a coon out of the tree and it ending up on his head when it finally bailed out of the branches. One of his tales spoke of danger and hilarity combined with stubbing his toe, discharging his shotgun into the ground, and having to convince his stepdad he was shooting at a squirrel. Nothing, however, compared to the tales told by Dad’s Uncle Bob of being hunted by a big black panther roaming the woods on Bacon’s Mountain.
Back in the old days when Bob was a young man — the 1930s — the area was much wilder and less populated. Bob lived in Wayside in a home long gone. Often, he rode his horse to a cousin’s house on Bacon’s Mountain. Back then, cars were far less common than they are today. Bob told Dad he hopped on his horse and took off with nothing but a lantern.
One day, he underestimated how long it was until the sun fully set, and darkness crept in on him, making the trip seem much longer than usual. As an added concern, Bob swore he heard something barely out of sight walking alongside him and his horse. He said he waved his lantern around but couldn’t see anything; however, the sound of gently crunching leaves persisted. The horse appeared to be getting spooked as well. Bob said he urged the horse into a gallop when out of the darkness came what sounded like a frightened woman crying. At this point, Bob would say he urged the horse into a full-on run, and finally, his cousin’s house was in sight.
Upon arrival, his cousin came out with a rifle and a new lantern, which was a good thing because Bob’s lantern died as he went inside the house. The horse kept pulling and making skittish-sounding noises. Bob told the story of what he had heard, and his cousin said, “Why, that’s a panther. They dig a hole and scream into it to lure you into the woods.” Bob was terrified. They looked all around. On the outskirts of the property, they could barely see what appeared to be a giant black cat. Bob said it hissed and growled. They ran inside, locked the door, and left on every light they could.
When morning came, the horse was gone. There was nothing but a tiny patch of blood and some scratches in the dirt. The cat had gotten the poor beast after all.
Dad said Bob got scared telling the story up until his death. For years after the event, there were tales of a large black panther stalking Bacon’s Mountain. Have you ever encountered one?
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