The Cougar

As told to Beth Gowdy by her mother, Anne Eliza Kemp Gowdy

When I was ten years old, we lived for about a year in a little log cabin in Polk County, near where Fort Sheridan stood. Ever since we had been in Oregon, we had lived in Salem, and had near neighbors with children to play with me. This was a lonesome place, no houses in sight and no near neighbors.

All of my sisters but one were married, and she and my brother were often away working. So mother and I were much alone.

We had three cows, one of them, Lill, we had brought from Missouri, three calves, a little white pig, some chickens, and a dog, Sounder. We had a garden, so mother was always busy, but I was very lonely. The garden was fenced, and there was a corral for the calves, but that was all the fence we had.

One day we were going to my uncle’s for wheat for the chickens. It was several miles by the road, but only one mile by the path. My uncle had fifteen children, so it was not lonesome at their cabin.

We went down a little hill to our spring among tall fir trees, and on through a grove of oak trees. I played hard with two little cousins. It was a hot day, so we did not start home till late in the afternoon. We passed another neighbor’s, and they asked us to stay for supper. Then again we started home.

Mother put down the bag of wheat several times to rest, and I picked flowers. Then I saw Sounder crouching in the path ahead of us. His hair was bristling and he was growling. I asked her what made him act so queer, but she said, “Let’s hurry home for the chickens and pig will want their suppers, and the cows must be milked.”

The path divided, and one way went to the cabin by the spring, the other by the garden. Mother said, “Let’s go by the garden, and see if our string beans are big enough to eat.” But when we were there, she said it was too late to look, and we hurried to the cabin. I helped by milking Lill. When mother was straining the milk, I said I was thirsty, and would go to the spring for some fresh water, then go to bed, I was so tired and sleepy. There was some water in a bucket that had been standing all day, so of course was warm. Mother said to drink some of it, for the path would be dark. I had gone in the dark, and insisted on going now, but she would not let me. I could not understand why, but had my drink, went to bed, and right to sleep.

When I waked, the sun was shining, and mother was asleep. I was surprised, for she always got up early. Then I heard a queer, grunting noise. I sat up and there in a box on the floor, was the pig.

Our trunks and boxes were piled against the door. I woke mother, and then she told me that she had seen a cougar go down the path to the spring. It did not seem to see or hear her or Sounder. So that was the reason she would not let me go for water.

The family all scolded her for not going back to uncle’s. But she always said she was not going to let the creature get the pig. The cows could protect themselves and the calves with their horns. But she had to take care of the pig.

She said Sounder barked all night, and would run toward the spring, then rush back and jump on the door. He was quieter towards morning, and she went to sleep.

We were afraid to go for water, but my uncle came by, having come by the spring and seen nor heard nothing of the cougar. It never was seen again. It must have been run out of the hills, and then gone back.

We were timid for several days. Then my brother came home, and we felt safe.

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