In the early days of our county, the panther and catamount silently roamed our virgin forests, ever once in a while making themselves known to an unsuspecting traveler. Sometimes the story would be handed down through the family.
Another wonderful story from the Dean family collection.
It was a dark afternoon in early February, about 1875. A few snowflakes fluttered through the air but not enough to stop John Lamb from chopping out fence rows and cutting bushes.
In the shelter of the big family room warmed by a log fire, Sara Ann was knitting. Annie Maria, now more than four had been playing with her brothers, Bob and Edgar, until suddenly their activities were not in accord with her mood. So she pulled up a stool at her mothers feet and said. 'Ma, tell me about the panther.”
Well, said Sara Ann, when your grandmother, Evaline Phillips, was a young woman she had to ride quite a distance one afternoon on horseback to take care of an errand for her father. She was riding through a thickly wooded section and before she reached home the shadows began to lengthen, then all of a sudden it seemed almost night.
Oh, Well! She wasn't afraid or Was she? For there on the branch of a tree just ahead she saw a darkish figure sprawled. It was not a raccoon, nor a possum, nor a mink.
No, no it was much too large. It looked more like a cat had it not been quite so big.
She would have preferred to turn her horse and ride back in the other direction, but there was no other way home.
Suddenly she had no choice. The horse wheeled and changed directions. At the same moment, the animal disappeared. Although she had difficulty persuading her horse to right about face, she finally did. But what was that touching her from behind? It felt soft. Then she felt nothing. In both mind and body she seem to become numb.
Sara Ann continued, what light there was had now faded into darkness. Her horse took the imitative now and galloped off.
When he reached the big gate which led into the barn lot, he stopped short. Evaline came to herself in time to hear a THUD behind her. Looking quickly she thought she saw something shiny and black slink away into the night. Just then she saw her father coming toward her carrying a large lantern.
“Evaline, Evaline! What happened,” he said, “Why are you so late?”
Father, she said, I think a panther rode behind me all the way from Dawson's Wood.
Annie Marie said, Oh Ma! Do you think it really did?” Sara Ann replied, “Well, we'll never know for sure.”
Little Annie Maria Lamb grew up and married J. N. Dean. This article was written by Ruby Dean, daughter of J. N. and Annie Dean.
The Dean family were great writers, and have written several wonderful colorful stories about the Deanwood area and things that happened in their lives.