I’ll be the first to admit that a columnist has to be cautious and ethically responsible when writing a story revealed to him by a second party, versus experiencing the story first hand.
Well, such is the case with this particular column. This story was told to me as a young boy. However, I have great faith in those special stories this now-deceased man shared with me as a youngster. He was a well-known, well-studied outdoorsman and hunter, and he had accomplished enough during his time on earth that he had no reason to exaggerate.
So, follow along as I attempt to retell the tale of primal warfare at its rawest best:
“We were hunting wild boar way up in East Tennessee,” the man said, “and I’m talking about some rugged, mountainous territory, true Appalachia. In fact, back in those days, late ’50s, when going on some of those hunts in upper East Tennessee, you had to have a guide because of the treacherous terrain. That was the case here. My hunting buddy and I had a guide who was a Native Indian.
“We were making our way up the steep, rocky inclines through the thick foliage and forests with our rifles ready. We were waiting to hear a wild hog gruntin’ and snortin’ as he charged us. You gotta’ be careful when hunting wild boars. They’ll appear out of nowhere, run right up on you, head lowered, knock you down, and eat you up before you have a chance to get off a shot. That could be why we call ’em wild boars in these parts. They act wild and crazy all the time.
“We were walking along what I suppose you would call a mountain cliff, a valley down below, of course. There’s an art to walking in heavy-duty, outdoor boots and attempting to remain quiet. Every time you hear a twig snap, it’s kind of like you’ve stepped on a land mine,” he said with a chuckle.
“From somewhere down in the valley, catching us completely off guard, there came this boisterous roar followed immediately by a loud, high-pitched scream — one of those screams that pierces your ears and makes your heart jump up in your throat.
“We hurried as fast as we could to cliff’s edge to check out was going on down in the valley below,” he excitedly continued, “and here’s what we saw:
“A black bear, about 400 pounds, had a mountain lion backed into a corner, against a rock ledge. There are various arguments that terms such as panther, cougar and mountain lion are, basically, interchangeable terms, but I’m not gonna get into that. I’ll just say this was a big, dark cat with a long tail, around 80 or 90 pounds, and for me that qualifies as a mountain lion.”
I remember as a young boy leaning forward with intensified interest.
“What had happened was the bear was about to pounce on the mountain lion. Each time, the bear would lunge, the mountain lion, with nowhere to go, would hunch up, his back taking on an inverted ‘U’ shape.
“But the bear made a huge mistake,” the man cautioned. “Instead of lunging on his last move, he stood straight up on his hind feet. Quicker than a cat, as they say, the mountain lion jumped onto the bear’s torso, anchoring himself to the bear’s chest with his front claws, while cutting the bear’s stomach to ribbons with his hind claws. Just imagine eight razor blades cutting you all at once, with great speed and power.
“Next thing you knew, the bear was running off, yelping more than roaring, and the mountain lion was right behind him, taking swipes at his rear. If I could have caught it on film, I probably could have retired,” the hunter said smiling.
As I said, it is a great story for manly men.