Thursday, March 02, 2006
A Warning about Jumping in Leafpiles
From Ernest Dodge's excellent memoir Morning Was Starlight: My Maine Boyhood, comes this tidy little tale of man and cat. Dodge grew up near Ellsworth in the early 1900s, on the Bayside Road along Union River Bay, witnessing the dramatic changes in lifestyle that occurred in the first few decades of the 20th century as the world changed, and so did Maine.
"My one experience with a bobcat was explosive. My family was taking one of our Sunday walks through the woods and I was running on ahead, boy-fashion, when I saw what looked like a nice soft pile of brush to jump into. Running down the wood road, I took a flying leap and pitched feet first into the middle of it. No sooner did my feet touch the brush than from beneath there came a wild sound like a screech from the damned and a gray streak burst out of the brush pile and disappeared into the woods. I had landed on top of a sleeping cat and startled him as much as he frightened me."
Directly following this account, Dodge mulls over rumors of bigger cats in the woods:
"One winter during the early twenties, speculation ran rife over the sighting of extremely large cat tracks by most of the local men. Apparently some varmint of unusual and spectacular size was roaming the forest. There was talk of Canada Lynx and of panthers.* This last was not taken seriously at the time for the panther was never common in New England. The beast was never seen, but since then panthers have been said, on good authority, to roam even farther east in some of the wilder regions of New Brunswick."
*: panther meaning mountain lion, I believe.
For those interested in Maine life, I highly recommend this book (available at the Portland Public Library's Burbank Branch on the shelf at 974.1/D644-P, or through interlibrary loan). It's quite well written, very straightforward, and in its arrangement of recollections by season it really suits the feel of Maine admirably.