The Black Panther
Sometime ago in the long dark past of the Amazon Jungle, I had a house and barn on the edge of the jungle where my wife, Linda and I lived with our kids.
One day my daughter Tracey called out to me and, from the tone in her voice, I came running out to the barn and saw Tracey on the stairway waving excitedly to me. As I got closer, I her saw point to a corner of the barn to a box in the corner. While we watched we saw one, two, three, four, five black little bundles tumble out from inside a crack in the box. Chief came alongside me after hearing the commotion. A very large black cat like form emerged from the box and went over and began to lick her babies clean and then laid down, the little bundles finding a nipple to nurse. After a while when the babies were asleep, the mother rose to her feet, looked for a long time at each of us and turned and went out between a crack in the board of the barn into the jungle. Our barn was to be the home to a mother panther and her cubs.
We didn’t know what to do and we talked amongst our selves as to what course of action to take. We were very careful not to wake the cubs with our discussions. I was elected to the first barn watch so after the others had left,
I sat down on the floor resting my head on the door to wait. I must have fallen asleep and when I woke up I found the five black bundles curled tight to my body seeking my warmth. They knew by my smell that I wasn’t their mother but they were cold and my warmth was so much that they cuddled close. I didn’t move but I was concerned about what the mother panther would see when she returned, so I waited. Several hours later as the cubs began to move around in their sleep the mother panther came back into the barn from the crack in the wall. I was scared and tried not to move a muscle. She looked at me for the longest time and then moved into the barn and lay down with her belly facing the cubs and me. She proceeded to lick herself clean as a cat does, rolled to her side and fell asleep. After a short time the cubs awoke and made their way to their mother, looking for food. After a little while as I got to my feet and stretched, I was aware that the mother’s eyes were on me the whole time. She made no move and I left the barn to go and tell the Chief my experience. Linda told me that she and the kids came back to the barn to see what was happening, saw me sleeping with the cubs lying next to me and left me to my dreams. We both had the feeling that I had passed some kind of test and was accepted as a member of the panther’s family.
The next few moments proved me correct in my assumption; whenever I went into the barn to go get things, the cubs came to greet me and tumbled all over my feet and followed me everywhere. When I left the barn, the cubs stayed inside. I think the mother trained them to stay inside. They would only go outside through the crack in the barn wall and, then, only with their mother present. The first time that I tried to go out with them, the mother stopped me
by placing her body between me and the crack in the barn and looking me in the eyes. Only when I moved back to my starting position would she turn and follow the cubs thru the crack.
I had an office in the barn where I wrote, or tried to write, my short stories or my book. The mother did not allow the cubs to come into that part of the barn. Something sad happened to me, though I cannot remember what, but I felt like crying. Side note; whenever I was working in my office Linda and the kids never intruded. I put my head down on my arms, which were folded on my desk, and fell asleep.
I was awakened by a nudge on my shoulder but not by my family members. It took several more nudges for me to wake up and when I did I turned and there was the face of mother panther just inches from mine. She had reared up on her hind feet and placed her front paws on my desk. I was stunned. We looked at each other for a very long time, faces only inches apart. I lifted my arms, grabbed a hand full of her hair and let my head go onto her shoulder. I stayed there for a long time and I could hear her breathing and the beginnings of a deep purr. That sound vibrated through my bones. Eventually she slid her front paws to the floor. That movement tipped my chair over and I fell to the floor. As I got up she lifted her paw and gave me a gentile swipe along side of my shoulder and knocked me down playfully. I got up, shouted at the top of my lungs, jumped on her back, wound my legs around her chest and my arms around her neck and squeezed as hard as I could. We got into the barn area and we rolled over and over and I was eventually dislodged from my perch on her back.
By now we were making a great deal of noise, the cubs came out from inside their box and Chief and the kids came into the doorway of the barn to see what was going on. It sounded like I was getting torn up by the mother panther. I shouted to all that I was all right and jumped on mother panthers back again and held on with all my strength. She tried everything to get me off her back but nothing would work. I was really holding on to her back with everything I had. My strength to her must have felt puny. I all of sudden let loose of my grip and she stopped trying to get me off of her and I just laid on top of her back for the longest while. It felt so good just lying on her back. Here I was lying on the back of a wild panther and I felt safe and warm just like I was in my own living room. This was the first time I could play and exert my full strength and not worry about hurting some one. I finally lowered myself off of her back and moved to face her. I took her head in my hands, took a deep breath and slowly exhaled into her nostrils and she did the same thing. It felt like we were bonded some how. She then pushed me down on the floor and proceeded to lick my face. as my cat Princess used to do. The cubs came over and did the same thing to me. From then on, for the next two or so years, I was their brother. They came to accept Chief as my mate and Tracey and the children as my cubs.
One day several years later, I was called out to the barn from the house. The cubs and the mother panther were waiting for me. The cubs came over to me and we wrestled around for a while then the mother panther made a noise and the cubs left me and, one by one, went through the crack in the barn wall and out into the jungle. I stood up and watched as they left, knowing that I was not invited along.
The mother panther rose to her feet came up to me, put her paws on my shoulder and we stood face to face for the last time, or so I thought. She dropped down and went out through the crack in the barn and into the jungle, without a backward glance. Chief and the kids were in the door of the barn watching the proceedings. Linda and the kids came over and put their arms around me, and we turned and walked back into the house.
In the years that followed we saw the cubs from time to time but never for long. The mother panther we never saw again. We have never replaced or repaired the broken crack in the barn wall, who knows who might have use for it sometime in the coming years.
copyright © 2014 James M. Curtis