From the journal of Jedidiah Bryson, June 7, 1885
by Joel Telschow with art by Freeman Payne
Writers Artists Night 2022
On May 8th I was headed back from my brother’s place after helping him with a cow that was birthing. He doesn’t live but three miles away on the next bald. Hell, I can see the smoke rise in the wintertime. It was unusually hot for around this time of year and I didn’t get started home until after midnight, I suppose. It was clear and the moon wasn’t full but it shone bright enough to where I could see my watch face but I couldn’t read the damn thing, it was cracked so bad.
I cinched up my horse fairly tight as I always do and headed down Tail Creek Road which went by Coon Holler, which is where I live. I was probably about a mile away from my brother’s place when I started hearing this sound coming from the woods. At first it sounded like a baby crying which made me think it was just a bobcat. I couldn’t tell which direction it was coming from at first but it certainly got my attention.
It kept on for about a half mile or so and then stopped and sounded more like a woman wailing like she was badly wounded and that caused me to stop for a second and listen to where it might be coming from. I listened as it kept on but for all the echoing off the hills, I couldn’t quite figure where it was coming from so I squeezed Buster up and we went on towards home. Wasn’t but a hundred more yards and I heard a sound I’ve never heard before. It was like a howl, but deep, and close.
That made Buster look off to his right as he tensed up and cut sideways a bit. Now, Buster, he ain’t scared of anything and can sleep through a lightning storm, so when he did this, I knew it was a predator. I started to hear more rustling in the woods off to the right and I knew then, it was tracking us. I kept hearing leaves rustle and sticks break as it got closer towards us. I don’t always carry my rifle but I do have my knife ready in my right saddle bag for when I need it. Buster kept sweating and chortling as I pushed him home, trying to keep at least one of his ears on me.
I watched those woods only turning, briefly, to see the road ahead. I was about three hundred yards from the road to my holler which is a mile from home and was focused on getting us there and Buster in the barn. I couldn’t make a run for it because that would cause it to chase us and strike. Then…I swear to God it was fifty feet from us if that, and it howled again. I’d never been so scared out of my mind, but settled and focused at the same time. This wasn’t a bobcat, wasn’t a coyote, I had no idea what this was, so I calmly pulled my knife out of my saddle bag and prepared for what was coming.
The closer we got to home, I planned for every scenario in my mind as to what I needed to do. It was growling deep and low almost constantly now as I had to pull back the reins to hold Buster to a fast walk. Then, just as it got closer…the growls stopped and not even the damn crickets made a sound. Just the creek. This is it…..get ready…..
I heard the sound of four feet running towards us and what jumped out of those woods…..I’ve never seen anything like it. It was the size of a bear and just as stocky but had a tail, ears and face of a cat like creature. It landed on Buster’s neck, grabbing the withers and biting his jugular, and its back claws were scratching and digging into his chest and my right leg. Buster stood up on his hind legs and took off as I grabbed the saddle horn and started tearing into that thing with my knife. You’d figure once would be enough to at least startle it, but I tore into that thing ten god damn times before it started in on me, slashing my left shoulder and the right side of my face, all the while I’m still stabbing this thing with everything I’ve got.
Finally I hit it below the back left shoulder blade and it let out that god awful howl, but this time it was the howl of pain. We both fell off of Buster as he took off towards the house. It limped to the side of the road as I stood up with the knife in my hand. There was no way I’d go down without taking it first. I got a good look at it as it stood there on all fours panting and staring at me with its bloody fur that was black as night and these glowing yellow eyes. I was shaking so bad from fear and pain I gritted my teeth expecting the worst and told it, “Come finish this, you son of a bitch…”
It stood there for a moment and turned into the woods and limped away into the night. I stood there until the sun come up, and my muscles started to relax and I walked home in pain, tore all to hell.
I found Buster lying on the road about twenty yards from the house. He was all bled out and gone. It’s been hard to take, seeing as I started him as a colt. His beautiful buckskin coat all the way from his head and neck, down to his belly was soaked in blood that hadn’t even coagulated yet. He was still warm. He suffered, trying to get home, and waited for me probably to within minutes before I got to him. Hell, he probably heard my footsteps as I was coming up the road. I didn’t get to walk him to the other side and that ached in me so bad I went back to the spot I saw that thing crawl back into the woods, every night for a damn month. But, I still haven’t seen it and I haven’t heard any of those sounds since.