France, Joe, and the Cat
We left the old John Smith place, and started across the divide that divided Luftee River and Couches
Creek, up a mountain . . . about seven or eight miles to the top. Only a trail, Indian trail, what we had .
. . . We went onto the top of the mountain, and then we went down a great gorge, about half a mile,
right around, straight down. Over on the left was a big laurel hemlock rock cliff, a canyon. An’ you
could hear all kinds of squeakin’ animals in there.
Well, we got to the creek. I started fishin’. Pa learned me how to get ’em. You had to know how, or you
wouldn’ get a one. (I caught a) right pretty good bunch of ‘em. We went down to the -- on down the
creek about three miles below there, to a old house a feller name of Taylor Burrough had built many
years before that, and he killed a hundred bears while he lived in that house . . . We stopped there it
was getting pretty dark. I got up a little wood . . . . we built a fire right by the house, by the old log
house. There ’as a big log run across the creek, and the creek — it was about fifty (feet) across it I
guess — pretty good creek.
I never thought nothin’ about it much. I wasn’t scared I could tell you. I knowed there ‘as animals in
there of some kind, and that old dog we had, Old Tige, my old dog, boy he ’as a bad ’n’. Mean as the
devil, too. He ’as so mean I had to hang him up to a bush and whip him sometimes, an’ you know what
he’d do when I’d turn him loose? He ‘d jump up on me and wiggle his tail, he ’s the happiest thing in
the world. He ’d run off behind a tree up there and go to barkin’. Wasn’t a thing there at all. He
knowed what I wanted, but he could’n smell — nothing but a cat. Now he could smell a cat, buddy, don’
t care how big it was. An’ he didn’ care how big they was, he run’em.
Well, we ’as settin’ there eatin’ — I’d skinned the fish, I’d fixed the fish, gutted’em at the spring about
twenty feet away. We had an old fryin’ pan, an’ I ’d fried the fish and the meat; and the meat scent
went way up in the air, buddy.
So we’d got done eatin’ and boiled some chestnuts and started eatin’ them, and that thing hollered.
Boy! Whew! That’s the first time I believe I ’as ever scared. The hair begin to raise up on my neck. He
squalled three times — took a little while; he didn’t hurry right on with it. Then he growled, right at the
last. Then I re¬membered my mother, what she said, then. He’ll holler, he’ll squeal three times harder’
n a woman can scream. And he did. I never heard one that could holler that loud. It started off low
and it got louder. . . . real (loud) to a point, and then he growled.
When the last one, the third one, he growled big. He was just like a bear. Well, he ‘as close enough to
I could hear him growl, that must have been pretty close, wasn’t it? I guess about fifty yards, maybe.
And I hauled off with that old shotgun and let it go right (in the) direction he hollered. Well, that dog
was layin’ there with his head on his feet, and when I shot, he jumped, just like that, his tail stuck
straight up and his bristles (stood) up.
I said, “Get ‘im, Tige.” Boy, he went across that log in a jerk of nothin’. Yes, Sir, Yeah, he knowed
where that log was. In the dark. And he hit that thing over there, just a yelp, yelp, yelpin’ like he had it
right there, you know. But he could see it somewhere, settin’ there. About four or five minutes it
stayed there, then I heard it hit the ground. When it hit the ground, it jarred and shook, buddy. I never
heard a dog squeal and scream — like he was right at it nearly, but he didn’t quite get it. It might have
been a good idea.
Well, he run it for about fifty more yards, right on around the field — a little old field where the man
had cleared it and tended; raised a little corn I guess -- and he treed it ag’in. It jumped up another
tree, couldn’t take it. My mother always told me that they wouldn’t fight a feist, wouldn’t jump on a feist
dog, but they’d get a big’n. I begin to believe what it was when he growled and hollered — it ’as a pant’
er. And I wondered if it was goin’ to get my dog. Boy, he went right on after that thing.
And they bound to ‘a’ been two of ’em. Now, because, about a hundred yards up on the hill, he had
one treed, at this same minute now, he had it up a tree somew’ere, and there was somethin’ — it was
in the fall you understand and the weeds was high and brittle — there was something walked from
that spring through them weeds, twenty feet away from me. I could hear him pushin’ the weeds down.
And he was up there barkin’; I knowed it wasn’t him. Well, it was another‘n, wasn’t it?
The’s two usually go together. But they won’t come to a fire. My mother told me all of this, now. I
begin to realize, and I didn’t get scared too bad. It must ‘a’ been a pant’er and he wouldn’ come to the
fire. I chunked up my fire, then. Well, whatever he thought about the fire, I do not know, but she told
me he wouldn’ come to the fire. He wouldn’ jump on the fire, so if you stayed by the fire, you was safe.
Well, that kind o’ cooled down, then.
The dog come on in. I don’t know what went with the animals; he quit barkin’ directly. I wondered may
times what went with them durned animals. I think I know where they went. They went right back to
that den where they come out of. Right in that thicket where we come by. They had a hole up there
some’ers. Nobody ever been able to get in there. They started in there but it ’as so rough they
never... Pa never could get in there. I asked him, about it. “No . . . “ he said, “I went down there once
and seen a lot of bones, and I got scared and left.”
Well, the’d been some sheep drug off the top of the mountain, off the top of the bald there, old Collins
Creek Bald. And Pa said he saw where the sheep had been drug by somethin’. The wool was left on
the bushes. And he did go down there to see. And the’ could be pant’ers that stopped in there for a
while. They don’t stop nowhere for long.