It was just about noon when we commenced, and we edged down the stream, filling our haversacks with trout and looking for our camping place, and before night we were loaded down with fish. I have no recollection of counting that catch. We came after a while to the Red Hole. This is the deepest water in that stretch of the river and gets its name from the exposure of the great stratas of red Mauch Chunk shale which the erosion caused by the river has uncovered at that place. The river here encircles two tall mountains, known as Big Spruce Knob and Little Spruce Knob, and hugs the foot of Black Mountain, which makes a bend.
The cutting of the timber has greatly changed the appearance of the stream. Then the big trees completely arched the water, and it flowed through this green tunnel. It seemed to us that we had travelled a great distance wading the water but, in after years, I found that we had not fished over a mile. The weight of the fish and the wilderness caused us to debate the question of a camp, and we chose a place where there was a great pile of driftwood near a broad patch of shingle. We eviscerated the trout and had our first experience with the black gnats that swarm and bite at dusk on those waters.
We made a good fire and the night was clear and bright and we rested tolerably well until after midnight when a colony of great barred owls gathered nearby in the trees and carried on something awful. Their loud unearthly shrieks were meant to drive the strangers out of those particular woods. I have often heard them in the spruce forests since then, but never before or since have I heard anything like the concert that they set up that night. They were still there when it got to be daylight, and we could see them gathered in the trees about a hundred steps up steam, hopping about and screaming. These owls are the ones that have been so often mistaken for panthers on account of their terrible note. They are the most active and destructive of all the owl family and a part of their raptorial habits is to terrify with their screams. I have no doubt that they had staged the demonstration for our especial benefit, and it had some effect upon us, but as we had no where to go, we waited for daylight.
“A savage spot as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted,
By woman wailing for her demon lover.”
Dawn brought us more confidence on that desolate river, and we got breakfast and took up our way down the river. We had heard the intensified roar of the river all night and in short distance we came to the falls of the river. This is a fall about twenty feet over which the river in time of flood dashes and makes a wild dashing. Soon after negotiating the falls we came to the end of the timber and found that the river flowed through pasture and hay land for some miles, before it again entered the primeval forest for many miles. I never did come to the end of the woods after the river left this sod, though I fished and hunted on the river more times than I can count in after years.
The last of that noble forest land is rapidly disappearing before the timber operations now so active on Williams River, and in a short time the glory of the spruce woods will be but a tradition…
To be continued…
In the year, 1910, John H. Doyle attended a meeting of Presbytery at Marlinton, and returned to Clover Lick, his railroad station, on the evening train, reaching there after dark on a misty dark day. Luther Coyner lent him a lantern, and he started home riding a grey mare up a path to his former home on the mountain. He came to a place in the path where a tree had fallen across and a road had been made around it but someone had cut the tree so that the old path had been restored. As he rode to the place where the treetop was and just as he reached it, the mare reared and showed evidence of great fright. After arguing with the mare for a time, Mr. Doyle discovered the cause of the trouble. On the trunk of the fallen tree about six feet above the path there lay a panther at full length looking right at him. It was at a distant of about sixteen feet and was plainly visible. The panther left the trunk of the tree and moved around the hill and the mare went away from that place.
In the month of October 1894, Mr. Doyle lived on Clover Creek. A neighbor came by one afternoon and reported that wild turkeys roosted in a clump of trees in a hacking on the butt end of Shavers Mountain, one of the Back Allegheny range.
After hearing this, he arranged to go to the place the next morning with a young relative to lay for the turkeys. There were but two rifles at the homestead, one, a single shot muzzle loader mountain rifle, and a Winchester. The boy owned the Winchester and did not give it up, so that left Mr. Doyle with the muzzle loader. They got to the turkey roost before daylight, Mr. Doyle taking a position on a fallen tree above the roost and the boy a place below the trees but in calling distance. They settled down to wait for daylight.
Just as dawn was beginning to show in the sky, a panther called at the back of Mr. Doyle, and another panther answered the call. The first call was a loud wailing three times, which was answered from the sugar camp in the cleared land below. The panthers continued to cry out to each other and it was soon apparent to the waiting hunter that they were slowly centering upon him and he could mark their approach by their calls and pretty soon by the sound of their feet.
The hunter remained quiet and it was not many minutes until he found that one of the panthers had gotten on the butt end of the tree on which he was sitting and that the other was in the tree top at the other end and that he was between them. The one at the butt end of the tree began to make its slow way toward him, thrashing around with its tail, and presently it was but a few feet from him, and right then it shook itself and the spray of water from its fur showered all over him.
He did some quick thinking. He had but one shot and he remembered that the hunter’s belief was that in case of two panthers that it was not safe to shoot, as the uninjured one would attack the hunter. He decided not to risk a shot and he then arose and without taking his eyes off of the beast commenced to back away and in this way he got about sixty feet away from the tree. Then he shouted to his companion to come with the Winchester rifle…
They came back to the place the panthers had been on the tree and then heard them on the ridge. One gave a scream that could have easily been heard at Dunmore, eight miles away.
Light was coming fast now and the next they saw the panthers, they crossed out from the ridge and went through some cleared land. They came to a fence and climbed and jumped the fence just like two men crossing a fence in their road of travel.
The hunters then hurried home and got their hounds and came back to the ridge. The panthers screamed from the ridge across the hollow. The hunters went there, and heard them scream across another valley, and soon after, they went up the mountain toward the Cheat country and were seen on more.
Here endeth this lesson.