Thursday, November 14, 1927
Withrow McClintic saved and counted the beans from one stalk in his garden this season. The number was 1,393.
Editor, Pocahontas Times;
The more chapters I read of this Panther Story now appearing in The Pocahontas Times, the more I become convinced that I almost saw a panther. For which cause I also crave to have my name written upon the rolls of the sect of the panthrites. With my application for enrollment, I herewith submit the following statement of historic fact:
It was in the early part of the month of May during the year 1924 that I almost saw a panther.
I was in Marlinton one evening during that month and after having enjoyed a delightful visit with one of your nieces, who later became my wife, I set out to return to Clover Lick in my new Grey touring car.
At this point, I want to state that I had not heretofore driven a car at night and furthermore that I was totally ignorant of the inner workings of the thing. About all my knowledge of the car consisted of the fact that it had five wheels, three holes, (one for water, one for gas and one for oil) and could be bought for over seven hundred dollars, delivered.
On my way home, my car broke down and not having either a flashlight or match, I was unable to locate the extent of its disability. I pushed the car over to the side of the road and walked all the way from about four miles above Marlinton on to Clover Lick, intending to send for the car the next morning.
It was during the latter part of my long walk that I almost saw the panther.
I heard him very distinctly, but at the time thought he was either a dog or a wild cat. But after having read all the articles recently published in The Times concerning this panther question, I have become absolutely convinced that what I heard following me that night was not a dog or a wildcat, but a panther.
I became aware of his presence for the first time when I stopped to rest at Poage Lane school house which is located at the top of a small mountain adjoining Clover Lick. A road winds down this mountain into Clover Lick. I stopped at the top of the mountain to rest before I began the last part of my homeward walk. And as I stopped, I caught the sound of softly trotting feet. At first I did not give the sound very serious consideration. The sound came from the woods along the lower side of the road. I noticed however that it quickly ceased. I thought probably it was caused by some dog running through the woods in search of a rabbit or an opossum. I walked on and suddenly decided to stop again and see if the animal was following. I stopped, and I heard. I walked on and again stopped and again heard the sound. I kept this up for quite a distance and each time I stopped, I heard the trotting of those feet. But I also noted that the animal stopped just as soon as he heard me stop walking. That gave me some encouragement and I stopped frequently. After a while, the matter became one of a serious moment.
Right here, I deny positively that I became afraid, but I do admit being unable to prevent a cool sensation running up and down my spinal column. A sensation of coolness rising and falling somewhat after the manner of mercury in a thermometer.
I also strenuously deny that, as has been slanderously insinuated, I ran from the top of Poage Lane hill down to Coyner’s store.
Any sane man can realize at once that after a man has walked ten miles over muddy roads, he would be unable to run two more no matter how great hidden and unrecognized danger stalked his rear.
I did not run, I walked.
Fortunately I recalled a story I had read about a hunter who entered a country schoolhouse to find shelter from a storm.
This story related that a wildcat also entered for a similar purpose and seeing the hunter, treed him on top of the teacher’s desk. The story furthermore states that the hunter at once began to sing hymns and by so doing held the cat spellbound, thereby saving his, not the cat’s life from destruction.
Since I was unarmed and since the panther persisted in following me, I decided that perhaps music might have a soothing effect upon him. Therefore, I at once proceeded to pour out my soul to that panther through the instrumentality of my voice. I continued walking as I sang. The panther continued following.
Later developments proved my tactics to have been wisely adopted. By singing and walking, I finally was so fortunate as to reach the foot of the hill where the road turns at the Yancy Ligon Farm. At that point the trees were not so thick, and I found myself able to see a little better. There being yet one more mile to go, and I being almost exhausted and realizing that I should not be able to walk the remaining mile, I decided to stop and fight it out with the panther, using my only available weapons – rocks and a fence rail.
And fearing the worst and hope for the best, and if absolutely unavoidable, die like a man, I waited. All was still, save for the pattering of that panther’s feet.
Finally, they stopped.
Dead silence reigned supreme.
After a few moments, which seemed like ten thousand years, I heard the panther trot rapidly away in the opposite direction.
I heaved a deep sigh of relief and walked home.
I made the grave mistake of telling my experience to Mr. Ligon Coyner, who at that time was the leading humorist of Clover Lick. Those who know him will have some meager conception of the torture I, for a long time was forced to patiently endure.
The important point to be noted in this incident is, not that my new car broke down, not that I walked all night along a muddy road, not that, as some slanderously affirm, I may have been scared, not that news of my predicament was broadcast throughout Pocahontas County, but rather that I heard and almost saw a panther.
I am positive that had the night been a moonlit night, I should not only have heard but also have seen a panther. I am further more absolutely certain that I should have seen one of the largest panthers ever heard around Clover Lick.
There are several facts which cause me to be positive that a panther was following me.
The first fact is that I heard it; the second fact is that I kept on hearing it; the third fact is that it followed like a panther ought to follow – at a distance, and the last fact is that it behaved like a panther and offered me no personal injury. A panther is, according to naturalists, much like an overgrown kitten and a natural friend to man.
This panther was seeking to make my acquaintance and to assure me of his friendship, but I, being totally ignorant at the time concerning the disposition of panthers, and the night being dark and I far from home, did not have the courtesy to respond to his proffer of friendship.
For over three years, I have tried to keep silent about this painful experience, but since so much has been written both for and against the reality of pantheristic appearances, and since at least one eminent naturalist has questioned the truthfulness of the claims of some who have declared that they have seen a panther in Pocahontas County, and since I have been repeatedly asked to offer my testimony, I hereby reluctantly do so in the interest of scientific veracity.
Write me, dear Calvin, at least as one who has heard and almost seen a panther.
Sincerely, and respectfully yours,
G. J. Cleaveland
Montgomery, W. Va.