Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Speaking of Panthers...

Charles Lanman explored the Southern Appalachians in 1848 and compiled his accounts in Letters from the Allegheny Mountains. He wrote the following letter after arriving in Franklin in May 1848:

The river Nan-ti-ha-lah, or the Woman's Bosom, was so named on account of its undulating and narrow valley and its own intrinsic purity and loveliness. Upon this river is situated a rude but comfortable cabin, which is the only one the traveller meets with in going a distance of twenty miles. On first approaching this cabin, I noticed a couple of sweet little girls playing on the greensward before the door with a beautiful fawn, which was as tame as a lamb. This group, taken in connection with the wildness of the surrounding scene, gave me a most delightful feeling, the contrast was so strange and unexpected. The proprietor of the cabin owns about five thousand acres of land in this wilderness region, and is by profession a grazing farmer….

On questioning him with regard to the true character of the panther, he replied as follows: "I don't know much about this animal, but I have had one chance to study their nature which I can't forget. It was a very dark night, and I was belated on the western ridge, near the Big Laurel ravine. I was jogging along at a slow rate, when my horse made a terrible leap aside, and I saw directly in front of me one of the biggest of panthers. He soon uttered a shriek or scream (which sounded like a woman in distress) and got out of the way, so that I could pass along. Every bone in my horse's body trembled with fear, and I can tell you that my own feelings were pretty squally.”

“On my way was I still jogging, when the panther again made his appearance, just as he had before, and gave another of his infernal yells. I had no weapon with me, and I now thought I was a gone case. Again did the animal disappear, and again did I continue on my journey. I had not gone more than a hundred yards before I saw, on the upper side of the road, what looked like a couple of balls of fire, and just as I endeavored to urge my horse a little faster, another dreadful scream rang far down the valley. But, to make a long story short, this animal followed me until I got within a half a mile of my house, and, though he ran around me at least a dozen times, and uttered more than a dozen screams, he never touched me, and I got safely home. If you can gather any information from this adventure you are welcome to it; but all I know about the animal is this, that I hate him as I do the devil."

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