Fight With A Catamount


January 21, 1897

 

FIGHT WITH A CATAMOUNT

 

Saturday morning was an ideal morning for the fox hunters of this section, and just before the break of daylight across the eastern hills Tim Gass, the boldest and best spirit of the chase in Crittenden county, was directing his steps towards the gloomy precincts of the famous Panther Hollow, which occupies a large slice of the county, some three miles north west of Marion.  Panther Hollow holds a place in the memory of all Crittenden county people, for has not Mr. R. C. Haynes made it famous in his rhymthical [sic] story, "Chat's Peril," which delighted the readers of the PRESS some months ago?  His description of that lonely, rocky, cavernous, heavily wooded valley, penned in by frowning, shaggy hillsides which bristle with boulders and giant trees, whose powerful branches kept time to the doleful music of the wind before our grandsires left the settlements nearer the seas, must answer for this brief story of Tim's fox hunt.

Accompanying Tim was his son, Ada [Adar], and Mr. Thomas Murray, and five fox hounds, a trusty old coon dog, and a little fice.  They had not be [sic] in the hollow long before the music of the hounds broke the silence of the darkness, and away the whole pack went with the speed of the wind.

"It's a hot trail, boys," said Tim, "and neither fox nor dogs can stand that gait long."

Down the hollow they fairly flew, then only an occasional yelp was heard, and it seemed reynard was making for some faraway den.  Directly the sound that fills the soul of every true hunter with enthusiasm, floated on the air and Tim exclaimed:

"He has crossed, boys, and is coming; all hands to the stand; we'll get a shot."

The dogs passed straining every nerve, as if ready to leap upon the quarry; the light was not strong enough yet to see plainly in the hollow, and the failure to see a red or gray fox go galloping by was attributed to this.  Then the dogs took a wide circle, and the hunters followed.  In a fallowed field the tracks of the dogs were seen, and Tim's trained eye discovered a foot print made by an animal other than a dog.

"If that's a fox," said Tim, "he makes the biggest track I ever saw for one of his race, and I have killed as many as nineteen a season along this creek."

The wide circle followed by the hounds gradually decreased in circumference, then off the [they] few at a tangent and up the hollow.

"I see him!" cried Tim, "in that tree lap, but I swear by the great horn spoon that it's no fox.  It leads the hounds like a fox, but that monstrous broad head, that speckled fur, and those big yellow eyes glaring like moons tell another tale."

Into the tree lap went the hounds and with the feet of the cat the animal slipped out almost under their nose.  The dog [dogs] catch the trail again and away they go.  The dogs are heading towards the hunters again, and with cocked guns the hunters scatter to the various stands.

"Bang," went a gun up the hollow and further down Tim was standing, when the game made straight toward him, while the hounds were hunting for the trail away up the hollow.  Into the tangled mass of a fallen tree the animal crept, hid by brush and leaves.  The hunters surrounded the spot and before they came up the fice flew into the brush for a fight.  He got one, and was so completely knocked out the first round that he was glad to get out, and when he did get out it was with more than one hole in his hide.

By the time the hounds came up, and in they rushed, then brush, leaves and hair flew in all directions, and above the howls of the dogs there was an unearthly scream that made the hearts of the hunters thump their sides until they suspected that the tenor drummer of the Marion brass band was marching over the hills that surround the hollow.  The dogs, although veterans in chase, retreated in disorder, howling with rage and pain.  Clinging to one of them was the animal they had been chasing.  The dogs howls were appeals for relief, and not tocsins of war.  He had caught a Tartar, in fact, and wanted somebody to help him turn it loose.  Finally he succeeded in disengaging himself and another hound pounced upon the enemy.  Quick as thought the enemy had its forefeet clutched into the face of, and its hind claws sunk into the belly of the dog; with its back down and muzzle to muzzle the fight raged for a moment; and then the dog's powers were directed towards shaking off its antagonist.  The rest of the pack could give no assistance, because the cat like animal clung so close to the dog, and dodged with such agility and all the time it was sinking its knife like claws deeper and deeper into the dog's body, raking hide from his face and leading in the biting contest.

A dog once free was loth [sic] to get himself entangled again.  The old coon dog showed wisdom commensurate with age and experience by acting as referee only.

The dogs were about to give up the fight.  The animal lying on its back, surrounded by the dogs, struck out with its paws right and left, fore and aft, and when its weapons came in contact with a dog the vicinity was notified by the sufferer.

Finally Tim seeing that the hand to hand contest with the unknown animal as party of the first part, and the fine fox hounds as party of the second part, was likely to result in disgrace to his heretofore impregnable favorites, cocked his gun and between the shifting of the scenes he got a shot, at short range, and all was over.  The shot tore away the lower jaw of the animal, and stretched on the ground was as fine a specimen of the catamount as the eyes of the natural historian could desire to look upon.  It measured three feet from tip to tip, and its tail is short--about five inches long.  Its breast, belly and sides are grayish, dotted thickly with black spots the size of a nickel.  Its head is short and very broad--broader than long.  Its body is long and lithe, its legs are a foot long and its paws are covered with blackish fur, soft as silk and when taken in the hand feels like a ball of slightly compressed cotton, but hidden in that cotton, and folded up something like a jack knife, are claws, quadrant shaped, an inch and a half around the fourth circle, and as keen as the inner side of polished steel blades.

Years ago this member of the cat family were occasionally seen, and more frequently heard, and when the doleful scream was heard it was not soon forgotten.

Tim relieved the carcass of the hide by taking the body out through the hole made by the charge of shot, and the pelt is a beauty.  He will stuff and preserve it as a trophy of the most exciting hunt in his history.

When the dogs first struck the trail the pack divided and there is evidently another in the hollow, for after the death the hounds found another trail and this chase lasted for two hours, when the dogs were called in.

Tim is arranging for a hunt for the remaining animal, and everybody in town wants to go.

 

Source:  Crittenden Press. (Marion, Ky.) 1879-1907, January 21, 1897, Image 2 - Chronicling America - The Library of Congress.

 

[My comments are in brackets.]