Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Case of the Panther of Panther Key

There was always a big debate in that neck of the woods about whether there were really any panthers on Panther Key. I’m not a zoologist so I’m not sure whether the species in question was panther, puma, mountain lion, cougar, or if there is even a difference.

Neither Foster nor my Dad ever actually saw one, although on rare occasions, they both saw footprints. But I am here to testify that, yes, there was a panther on Panther Key on at least one occasion.

I had the claw marks to prove it.

Exhibit I

First, I’d like to draw your attention to Exhibit I, above. This is an unretouched photograph of the exact location of where the adventure occurred. This photograph was taken approximately 8 hours prior to the event itself.

The jury will please note by how calmly my father is washing dishes that he is unaware of what the night will bring.

BAGMAN: Please tell me that you’re not going to write this like a courtroom thing!”

BUTLER: “Order! Order! He’s trying to prove the existence of a Panther on Panther and the presentation of evidence is appropriate. Please sit down.”

BAGMAN “Okay then, wise guy, how can you tell from the photo that he’s washing dishes and not filleting a fish, or cleaning blood from a murder weapon.”

BUTLER: “We aren’t even talking about a murder here! You can’t cross-examine about something that is not in evidence.”

I’m not listening to these guys. To continue, I posted the photograph to show you the interior of the shack on Panther Key so you could picture what happens later. In particular, please note the end of the wooden bunk bed in the right of the picture. This is the foot of the bunk and, although it doesn’t show well in the picture, the roof curves back so there is less clearance near the head of the top bunk than at the foot. A minor, but important fact.

BAGMAN: “But there IS evidence of a murder. I distinctly see a painting of John F. Kennedy in the background. He was murdered! Why is there a painting here?

Sucked in again. But I can explain it, as well as the other paintings. Like my grandfather, my Dad was an artist. In all honesty, my grandfather who I’ll talk about in the future, was a respected artist and dean of the National Art School in Washington, DC. He didn’t think much of my father’s primitive and self-taught style. But my Dad did well as an amateur. Many people were willing to shell out a few bucks and a case of beer in order to own a painting done by a real hermit.

I’m digressing again, aren’t I?

Anyway, to keep this story to blog-length, I’ll jump forward to about 2:00 a.m. in a pitch black night.

BAGMAN: “Objection! How do you know it was 2:00 a.m.? There was not electricity, no clocks, and absolutely no light…not even ambient street lights!”

Okay, dammit! I don’t know what time it was!! But it was sometime in the middle of the night and I was sound asleep on the top bunk. My Dad was asleep on the bottom bunk. Willie, his Labrador retriever, was asleep on the floor beside the bunk.

BUTLER: “Can you tell us what happened next?”

Suddenly, sounding like it was six inches from my head came the ear-splitting, blood-curdling roar of a Panther.

BAGMAN: “Objection! How do you know it was a panther!”

I may not be a zoologist, but I’m an experienced zoo-visitor. I’ve heard lions roar, tigers roar, bears roar…”

BAGMAN: “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”

BUTLER: “One more outburst like that and I’ll charge you with plagiarism from lyrics in the Wizard of Oz.”

In other places I’ve lived, I’ve also heard guttural roars of raccoons, dogs, birds, paperboys stubbing their toes…in short, I swear without reservation that this was the roar of a huge cat. If it wasn’t a panther or puma, then it was a Tiger or a Lion. In retrospect, it was probably just outside the wall of the shack but when it erupted, so did I. I bounced out of my bunk and (remember the slanting roof?) slammed my head into the ceiling.

Apparently it had the same affect on Willie who launched upward to such height that when I bounced back from the ceiling onto my top bunk, Willie was just landing on top of me, his front paws scratching my face.

BAGMAN: “Oh what a cheap bait and switch! You had us thinking the claw marks came from the panther! Liar, liar, pants on fire!”

It was pitch black. I naturally assumed that the animal on top of me was the same one that made the roar. I erupted upward again, screaming, and this time both Willie and I together slammed against the ceiling. But now, flailing wildly, we both missed the top bunk on our way down. We were saved from crashing on the floor by my father who, equally startled had just rolled out of the bottom bunk in time for Willie and I to land on top of him.

Also blind in the night, he assumed that not one but two panthers were in the shack attacking him. So he screamed, I screamed, Willie made noises not common to dogs, and we all rolled flailing, scratching, screaming onto the table where he had been doing dishes (or cleaning fish). Cups, saucers, pots, pans, kerosene lamp all flew crashing everywhere. Leaping away in different directions, we dislodged the painting of JFK and everything else on the wall. In 10 short seconds of slapstick, we managed to completely destroy the inside of his shack, until he found a flashlight and got the kerosene lamp back together and lit.

BAGMAN: “And the alleged panther?”

My guess is that after it roared, the screaming, crashing, barking noises coming out of the shack scared it more than it had scared us. It probably didn’t stop running until it got back to the Rocky Mountains. In fact, we are probably the reason there are no more mountain lions in Florida.

But that night, there was a Panther on Panther key.

I rest my case. Court’s adjourned.

Bill -- Very loud and insistent meow but distinctly different from a Panther


  1. Well, creativity seems to run in your family. Fun read. I was there with you and almost wet my pants. You have lead an interesting life. Actually your story reminded me of a night I spent with my dog in a grass shack in the Pacific Islands...but my event involved an imaginary rat. Maybe I'll tell that story some day.

  2. B&B...as always, Gentlemen...you take a great story and make it greater!

  3. I'm waiting to read the imaginary rat story, Tabor.

  4. I am quite convinced that there was a panther in that shack! Youi told me so.
    June in Oz

  5. That was really funny. I had a good giggle imagining the goings-on. But it must have been terrifying for all involved at the time. I can just imagine the poor dog leaping up to the top bunk and then both of you falling on to poor dad. Oh my gosh!

  6. This was such a good story - I hope that you will share more hermit shenanigans in the future! Your Dad sounds like a very interesting fellow - I am always intrigued as to why people make the option to live a solitary life or, in this case, a semi-solitary life. Sign out front "Wildlife Welcome!"
    Funny story! Thanks for a good morning laugh.

  7. Love, love, love the rest of the story and that's one vicious looking panther or puma dude.
    (I'll call you later hon)

    Steady On
    Reggie Girl

  8. I clicked on the picture of the cabin and your dad at the table and enjoyed every tiny detail I could see of the cabin. I will click on the other stories you recommend to learn more about how and why he lived there. I would have bought one of his paintings and thrown in a loaf of rosemary olive bread and a hunk of fragrant parmesan cheese to go with it... but maybe beer's the thing.

  9. Dear Mark, Dear Bagman and Dear Butler....you three guys bring the house down.
    Its hard to believe you have only been blogging since 2 Janary 2009.
    I just read your first post and you are living up to the lines:

    "Let’s see if we can stir up some trouble! Sing a little song, make a little love, get down tonight!”

    If ever I need to be cheered up or want a belly laugh you three are the place to visit.

    Cheers guys

  10. Peggy...you must win some kind of special award for going back and reading my first post. I can't remember that far back and it was not long ago. I suspect I will have to moderate sometime...daily is difficult for columnists who get paid for it. But this is too much fun to stop yet.

  11. I am laughing so hard I can't think of any words to type except that you are an amusing and entertaining fellow(s).

    If you had not posted photos, I would have thought you made that up!

    Of course, without the photos, you would not have been able to write such an entertaining story.

    So, if a picture is worth a thousand words, I guess you had a double-header in one post.

    A Happy St. Patrick's Day to you, you sly devils.

  12. Great story, well done. Could not wait to see how it came out.

    I spent a month on a diesel submarine, a pig boat. On those things you do not shower nor even change clothes with any kind of regularity. And you "hot bunk". While you are on watch, another sailor occupies your bunk. The bunks are covered in vinyl, anyway. And my bunk was right under a motor that blew hydrogen out of the battery compartment. Right under means right under, the motor was about a foot above my sleeping skull. The motor would come on at unexpected times. And each time meant whacking my head on it. You might ask why I did not change ends but that would ruin the story.

  13. Hahaha, interesting story. So now you guys know that there are Panthers out there. Loved the way you wrote this!

  14. I believe, your honour!

    And I was mightily entertained!


  15. شركة سكاي لخدمات نقل العفش والاثاث بالمنطقة العربية السعودية نحن نوفر خدمات نقل اثاث بالرياض ونقل عفش بالمدينة المنورة ونقل عفش بمكة ونقل عفش بالطائف نحن نقدم افضل نقل اثاث بخميس مشيط ونقل عفش بجدة
    شركة سكاي نقل العفش
    مدونة لنقل العفش
    شركة نقل عفش بمكة
    شركة نقل عفش بالرياض
    شركة نقل عفش بالمدينة المنورة
    شركة نقل عفش بجدة
    شركة نقل عفش بالطائف
    شركة نقل عفش بالدمام

  16. You got to have more stories…