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Act 5, Scene 1: Irene's Twilight Zone

Act 5, Scene 1: Irene’s Twilight Zone See whole poem, "The Main Show," and index of scenes.  (Spotlight opens on the lobby of the theater.  Characters who remain in the lobby enter the theater, which remains dark.  Joan the nurse tells the tour guide to also go in, and the narrator hangs back awhile.) Joan: Go ahead in. I’ll stay with my patient.Anyway, this is a family…See More
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Travelling back in time on a Flat Rock roadby Rob Neufeld             If you walk the one mile length of North Highland Lake Road in Flat Rock, you step nearly 200 years into the past.            At the east end, the 21st century reigns.  Fronting six-lane Spartanburg Highway, a super-Ingles sits above a bog; and a CVS store faces an Octopus Garden smoke shop, a chiropractor, a cell phone provider, and a six-lane avenue to I-26 a mile away .            Neither Ingles nor CVS carries the big…See More
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Because this subject will grow too large for the "Mythical Creatures" forum, I am giving it its own forum. Go back to Mythical Creatures to see the beginning of the discussion on painters.

Now, let's prowl.

(Also see article, attached below.)

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Well, interestingly enough, there was a sighting of a painter in the Cashiers area recently and for a while, the local papers were full of reports. Eventually, there was an actual report of a killing and even a photo, but I think that all turned out to be a hoax. I know that the blog, RANDOM THOUGHTS FROM THE DISTANT HILLS ran the photos of the dead painter, although the host of that blog was skeptical.

For what it is worth, I saw a bobcat two months ago. What is interesting about that is the fact that I have never seen a bobcat in my entire life, yet two months ago while I was sitting in my car listening to NPR (I get great reception in my car), I looked up to see a bobcat standing on the edge of the bank above my neighbor's house. (The house is empty since my neighbor moved some time ago.) A week or so later, I asked a Park Ranger about my bobcat. He said we were all going to see a great deal of rare animals in the next few years. He said they were "surrounded" by development and they no longer have a place to go. Embattled, I guess the word is. Wal-marts, highways, new housing projects, etc. He must have been correct. A week later, a bear showed up in Sylva and according to reports, he was a terrified young bear with no place to go.
Gary
Well, as I told till I have worn it out, bears are pretty much life around here. I expect it is the one that took over my car one night about three years ago that came back last winter, pulled down a panel of the underpinning from this trailer and moved in, under the floor.
As holes are abundant in the floor, the bear perfume overwhelmed everything. That was not so bad, but we had cross words when, one night after I had fried a chicken, he decided to come to dinner, through a soft place in the floor under the sink, and I got aggravated with him. Banging around discouraged him. Next day, while he was out, I put the underpinning back good and tight, and he left for a while. Not forever, I am sure.
I look for painters every time I come in, at night. A man who worked on this place refused to be here alone 'cause he said one was denned in the old house. I'd not be surprised -- there is plenty of such history, here. So much that I see them, in my dreams -- not threatening, but, say, very confident of their place and their rights.
Gary-here in Cherokee County-bobcats have gotten to be fairly common. My husband got some pictures of one above our house with a motion camera. I've heard painter stories all my life. One time late at night-my friend and I swore we saw one on the Brasstown road-we even turned around and went back to try and get a better look. No one believed us. Everyone said we just saw a big dog.
Tipper,
Your sighting resembles two others I know of. One saw the "painter" crossing the road in Cashiers in the early morning. I think the other one was up near Linville. Both were described as tawny, brown and fast.
Gary
I am now compiling a list of sources that contribute to panther lore in WNC, including some of the material that you all have written. My method is to collect as much as possible, and then begin to make decisions about content, shape, and movement.

It looks like George Ellison has done a good job of finding one or two of the most persuasive sightings. It's in his chapter, "Panther Lore" in his 2006 book, "Blue Ridge Nature Journal." Jim Whitehurst, who lives near Highlands, describes in knowledgeable detail the panther he saw while driving through the Kelsey Tract of the Nantahala National Forest. George passed Whitehurst's letter on to Bob Plott of Statesville, and Plott confirmed the details. Plott also said he has a friend in Galax, Va. who "has a video of one in his backyard, going through garbage." I want to see that!

Ellison then cites Cherokee lore about Tlvdaji (Cherokee for panther--how do you pronounce it?). James Mooney published the story about "The Underground Panthers." A panther and man join up to hunt deer, and the man becomes initiated into panther society; and when he returns to his human society, he is ill-suited for survival there.
Rob,
The Underground Panthers are in my creature collection, too. I also have sightings in the "Notes" section, but no videos or interviews.
Gary
there are panthers roaming in these hill . I have been a coon hunter ,and have hunted in most every county in wnc and have heard the cry of the big cat on numerous occasions. also have treed them with the hounds to have them jump when first light is shined in their direction. iam also a retired locomotive engineer and have seen them , some at a distance, two as close as 50feet . steve
Rob.
Panther stories have been around for quite a while.
The stories that I remember from the early days of my life
are told in the book ,Panther On Cold Mountain,
I wrote and published. I was born in 1922 and the stories as I remember them was told in 1930s.
Charles Fletcher
Charles, I'm not familiar with your book--and its recent! What's up with that book now? Are you still selling and promoting it?
Rob,

Through the decades these creatures have morphed considerably (in our minds and literature) regarding physical characteristics, history, behavior, and numbers, and we can hardly talk about them now without adding to the confusion. I do so hope you will be able to sort your findings and stories into at least a common set of terminology and description.

I've heard "black painter" and "bobcat" stories my whole life, and when I was a child, we knew only of these two very real and very different creatures in our area (Macon and surrounding counties). The "painter" (panther) was/is solid black with sleek hair, a long body, and a long tail, and he has been seen and heard only rarely since the 1930s, according to my relatives who were loggers during the early 1900s. The "bobcat" resembles a large short-tailed house cat with fluffy yellowish tabby hair, a shorter body, and a short tail, and sightings in WNC have become commonplace in recent years, even in my own community just outside the Franklin city limits.

In recent decades representations of the "black painter" have taken on physical characteristics similar to the tawny western panther, puma, mountain lion, cougar, or catamount; and representations of the "bobcat" have changed, too, but not nearly so much as that of the "black painter." For example, the panther mascot at Franklin High School used to be depicted as black, short-haired, long-tailed, and strong but non-confrontational. Now it is usually red, shorter in body, and more aggressive. The catamount mascot at Western Carolina University used to be a yellowish long-tailed, short-haired panther. Then somewhere along the way it morphed into a short-tailed long-haired bobcat or wildcat. My Franklin neighbor, while a student at WCU, used to have a de-clawed wild lynx he had brought from somewhere out west, and that poor caged animal was used for a while in promotional photos as the WCU "catamount." Most depictions of the WCU catamount logo now are stylized aggressive purple-and-gold feline-like creatures (flying through the air like Superman) that do not appear to be based on any recognizable natural creature.

And as for the sound of a woman screaming, I always get my dander up when I read nonsense like the following: "Stephen Williams, president of the Florida panther Society, writes, “The often told tale of the panther or cougar scream, which is said to sound like a woman screaming, is one which, as far as I know, is not based upon any recorded evidence. Among the number of biologists, trackers, and professional hunters which I have met, none have ever confirmed hearing such a vocalization by the cat.” Perhaps Mr. Williams has not heard from the loggers and "professional hunters" who have lived for generations in Western North Carolina and who have seen "black painters" and heard their vocalizations firsthand.

Actually, I think we probably have western cougars (by whatever name) moving into our region along with the coyotes, and we will see more of them as development by humans displaces them.

Betty Cloer Wallace
Macon County, NC
Betty, I love your post. I was stunned by Williams' comment also. I included it at the end of my article to get responses. I wish I had more time to dig. What is that Society to which he belongs? Is it legit? Why would he be so skeptical about the scream? /Rob
Rob, I just googled the Florida Panther Society. It appears to be legit and doing some good work with DNA and reproduction and such, although it seems to be focused specifically on the Florida panthers. Here is a short blurb from the society's website, and you can click from there to get more detailed information from Big Cats Online, although the info there about Black Panthers is rather skimpy.

[QUOTE] "Is there a “Black Panther”?
The term 'Black Panther' is quite often used in connection with large black cats - however there is no one distinct species of wildcat called a 'Black Panther'. Over the years it has become used as a common name that can be applied to any large black-coated cat. When you see a picture of a 'Black Panther' it is most likely that you are looking at either a Leopard or possibly a Jaguar with Melanistic coloration.

The term Melanistic is derived from melanin, a dark colored skin and hair pigment. In cats, melanism results in the fur of the animal being very dark or black in color. In many cases the usual markings of the animal can be faintly seen through the dark fur, especially at certain angles in bright sunlight. Melanistic cats are commonly born into mixed litters along with normally colored siblings.

(Note: There is no documented evidence of the existence of a melanistic Florida Panther. Information in this answer is from the web site Big Cats Online. )" [END OF QUOTE]

Now I am really curious about the DNA of our "black painters" because all the panthers here in the mountains were black, or so we always thought. I had never heard of a yellow panther in WNC until recently, which is why I think the ones seen occasionally now are western species coming in from outside. The "black painters" here might have been a strain that could reproduce and were a distinct species or breed.

As for Williams's skepticism, perhaps he knows only about Florida panthers, or perhaps he is one of those people who think that if they have not heard about something, it didn't happen. It takes a special kind of arrogance, though, to think that only "recorded evidence" is legitimate and that such evidence must be "confirmed" by designated people such as Williams's "biologists, trackers, and professional hunters which I have met." /Betty

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