A SOUTHERN TALE -- SOCIAL CHANGE [HG]
PANTHERS [HG] UPDATED 11/15/04
Enjoyed all of this - particularly the
wonderful point that genuine illness
is the best cure for hypochondria (though it seems a drastic cure!),
and the activist bumper sticker on shirts!
David [McReynolds] 11/18/04
NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR: 11/15/04
One of the things that can happen when you have a serious and potentially
lethal disease is that your mind wanders -- though not necessarily any more erratically than it did before. In my case -- in addition to the thought
that the best way to cure hypochondria is to become genuinely and profoundly ill -- I've been thinking of activist-oriented bumper stickers I've known and utilized. One, a great favorite, was CUSTER WORE ARROW SHIRTS [1970s]. Another, depicting an armed donkey, and recently given me by the Whitworth family, is I'M A GUN TOTIN' IDAHO DEMOCRAT. This reflects the widespread and systematic move in gun and hunting country generally -- and certainly in our Mountain states -- to shoot down the false perception that the Democratic Party is the party of gun control. [I should add, I suppose, that in our late election I did write-in the SPUSA presidential level candidates, Brown and Herbert.]
Getting up early these mornings -- usually anywhere from 1 am to 3 am -- I
see and hear interesting things. No tangible evidence of earthquakes and --
with the exception of a very few odd and shadowy cars seen in our
floodlights -- nothing especially suggestive from the Stormfront White
Nationalist hate outfit or its associated National Alliance. I have,
however, heard close-by yowling on a couple of very recent occasions -- big yowling. I've heard it before, and odds are heavy it's a mountain lion.
Several are often around here, especially in the late fall and winter when
the really up high country is locked in snow and the deer and elk have come down into this region. A lion recently wandered into the large Pocatello suburb of Chubbuck -- and then left in leisurely fashion.
Now we're into November and its winter rains and snow and I always remember Another Time. A Teen, whose parents somehow avoided worrying about my many adventures, I had left my camp on the edge of Sycamore Canyon at night and was planning to head to Flagstaff and home. The roads were really not roads much of the time but my '29 Model A coupe could always handle them nicely. Soon after I started the long very dark trip back to Flag, I saw coming toward me, two horses with their riders. They turned out to be Ken Fox [a cowboy and rodeo man not too much older than I who I'd met a year before] and a slightly older friend of his, Joe MacBride. They were planning to hunt mule deer. Upshot was, we tossed in with each other. We now headed away from the direction of Flag, toward Buck Ridge Cabin -- a line shack on the Sycamore rim used by cowpunchers. Joe, who was not in good physical shape,
rode with me. When we came to a barbed wire "horse trap" [corral] into
which we put the horses, we built a fire and camped right there in the rain.
My buddies, with bedrolls, had a fifth of a caustic whiskey known in those
days as Four Roses and consumed a fair amount before turning in. They were soon soundly asleep. I slept under my big wolfskin robe [we still have it here in Idaho] which, as always when wet, smells like an old dog.
I awoke suddenly shortly after midnight. A lion was yowling, maybe a
quarter of a mile away. I reached for my 30/30 Winchester, not too
surprised when -- suddenly! -- the yowls came only a few yards from the
horse corral. The horses were now frantic. I stood up and, yelling, fired
one shot into the air. My buddies arose sleepily but the crisis was over
and the horses settled. The next morning, Joe again traveling with me, we
continued to the Cabin where we saw a huge wild turkey running across a
clearing. I shot it at a hundred yards, Joe cooked it inside on the Cabin's
wood stove, and we three ate it and some of the Cabin's grub for a couple of days before the rain and snow passed. [We left a few dollars on a shelf with a note.] Then, Joe with me, we headed back north/northwest, 20 miles or so at least on obscure roads which went around the head of Sycamore -- to Ken's folks' ranch house.
If I have any tinge of regret, it is that I sometimes wish I spent my life
[so far] in the woods, hunting in emulation of my Great Hero, the legendary
Ben Lilly, "Last of the Mountain Men." But I did not, although I've often
returned to the wilderness in many capacities and still do, of course,
whenever and however I can. I did turn down offers to join the business
side of my Mother's family; I did not consider attending the proffered
Wharton School of Business [University of Pennsylvania] which later became a well known think tank for Phelps Dodge Copper [horrors!]; and I turned down a management slot in one of the western Bell affiliates [before the divestiture.] The ghosts of my Native ancestors -- John Gray et al -- would have never allowed those heresies. [My father would have been much displeased -- but would never have interfered.] I may not have devoted my life [so far] solely to the wilderness -- Audubon's "perfection of
primitiveness" -- but I am satisfied with the activist trail I've taken and
faithfully followed -- as I always will.
Anyway, here is a bit on Big Kitty with mention of Ben Lilly.
First Post [March 5, 2002]
Note to RedBadBear List: This is being sent to
the SNCC list in connection
with the discussion of the origin of the Black Panther logo for the Lowndes
County (Alabama) Freedom Party.
Panthers were traditionally found all over Dixie and are still much around
in several sections of the Deep South -- and, by other names, they're in
much of North America. A broad term for the animal is puma. In the general
Southwest, they're called mountain lions; in the Pacific Northwest and
environs, it's cougar; in Mexico, they're called leon or pantera. And in
the South, it's panther or pantha. There is a slight variant in the Florida
Everglades, but it's the same basic animal. The general color is
yellowish -- varying with season and geography -- but occasionally one is
born dark. In the West, those are called "blue" lions [or blue cougars]
and, in the South, "black" panthers. They can easily weigh anywhere from 150
pounds to over 200. A range of a lion [being from Northern Arizona, I use
that name] is substantial -- 20 or 30 miles is not unusual and it can be
much more than that.
There is every reason to believe panthers could easily have been in the
Lowndes County region in the 1960s -- and still are to this very point. And
they would certainly have been seen there.
Actually, after having been relentlessly "thinned out" in many parts of the
country, they're now returning -- and in increasing numbers. As a rule,
they are very shy and don't bother humans. The rare exceptions almost
always involve the very rapid expansion of Western mountain cities into
traditional lion hunting terrain: e.g., Boulder, Colorado. Two lions -- a
large male and a smaller female -- often come within two hundred yards of
our house here in Idaho. Nice to have them around -- along with all the
bobcats, coyotes, deer, moose, and much more.
Lions can be, in defense of their families and their interests, quite
fierce. They are a very worthy totem -- or, in the non-Indian context,
As Ever - Hunter Bear
Hunter Gray [ Hunter Bear ]
Connie, from the SNCC list, writes and I respond:
Well, here is my input, on panthers in general. I thought a panther was a
cat unto itself, and not in the puma, or mountain lion or another general
Second Post [March 6, 2002]
They are all the same animal -- simply different names
geographical and cultural traditions. As I mentioned, the Florida
Everglades has a slight variant -- but it's still the same critter. Other
cats -- with which city folks sometimes confuse the
puma/lion/panther/leon/pantera/cougar -- are the wildcat or bobcat [15-25
pounds] or the Canadian/Siberian Lynx [40-60 pounds.] The South has plenty
of bobcats but it's doubtful that any rural person would confuse a bobcat
with a panther. From extreme Southern Arizona down into various parts of
the rest of the Hemisphere, one finds the Jaguar [tiger, tigre.] These are
often 150 to sometimes 250 or 300 pounds, yellow tan background with many
black spots -- and, like the lion or panther or pantera [Mexican for
panther], there are occasionally dark Jaguars.
I began learning these things when I started hunting from early childhood
on -- and then, for a time, trapped extensively. [I once had about 200
Number 4 Victor double-springs for large animals -- but I now have only one,
hanging on the wall. I can set it -- as I always have -- with my bare
hands, on my knee. If something goes wrong in that ritual, I'll then have
two thumbs and seven fingers.]
More to the point here: There's an excellent book, The Ben Lilly Legend, by
the late Southwestern writer, J. Frank Dobie of Texas [Boston: Little, Brown
and Co., 1950 and many more recent printings.] I bought my copy as a 16
year old at a Santa Fe bookstore almost as soon as it appeared. Dobie, BTW,
from an old Texas ranching family, was a consistently courageous liberal: a
supporter of union labor and full civil rights who always vigorously backed the
Southern Conference for Human Welfare. He was a very fine writer who
taught at University of Texas [and England's Oxford] and fought hard for
academic freedom over several generations. He was also a very good friend
of the late Jim Silver, who was, of course, the courageous History prof and
human being at Mississippi's Oxford -- and who wrote the classic,
Mississippi: The Closed Society, 1963/1964 and 1966. Jim told me that he and
Dobie gave each other every book they wrote.
The focus of this particular Dobie book [ he wrote many very fine ones]
is Benjamin Vernon Lilly, the great lion and bear hunter -- "Last of the
Mountain Men" -- who was born in 1856 in Wilcox County, Alabama, grew up in Mississippi's Kemper County, hunted extensively in the Deep South and
eventually went down into the Sierra Madre of Mexico, and finally came up
into the Western New Mexico/Eastern Arizona setting where he was active for
decades until his death at Silver City, NM, in 1936. There is a monument to
him in the Mogollon Mountains. Lilly was a Southern hunter -- who always
referred to the cats we are discussing as "panthers." One fascinating
chapter of Dobie's book is Chapter 9, "Ben Lilly on Panthers" -- which is
based heavily on Mr. Lilly's manuscript, "What I Know About Panthers." And
he knew a lot.
A ranching family in the remote Blue River/Bear Mountain country of extreme
eastern Arizona, at whose home I occasionally stayed in the late 1950s and
1960s especially, had two gunny sacks of possessions that Mr Lilly had left
there during his "last trip through" -- in the early 1930s. Everything was
kept just as he had placed it: home-made hunting knives, clothing, spare .33
WCF cartridges, etc. Ben Lilly was highly respected and is to this very
day -- a top authority on bears and lions. And he always, in the best
Southern tradition, called the latter "panthers."
Sitting right here by my computer is my one-half Bobcat cat -- making it
clear she resents my devotion to the computer and is now ready for a morning
walk. She consistently gets her way with me.
Yours - Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]
Hunter Gray [ Hunter Bear ]
A SOUTHERN TALE -- SOCIAL CHANGE [HG]
Note by Hunter Bear: [March 8, 2002]
Another very early morning in the Idaho mountains -- and one that's cold,
windy, and snowy. Even my great and loyal buddy, my half-Bobcat cat, has
returned to sleep. On the SNCC list recently, our very old friend -- Joan
[Trumpauer] Mulholland, one of we of the well-known, violently-attacked
Jackson '63 Woolworth sit-in situation and photo, who has twice visited us here, commented astutely on " . . .Hunterbear's fluffy kitty -- but watch those
But the Clawy Kitty is off chasing rabbits in dreamland.
Anyway. Writing just now to a good colleague in New Mexico, I wound up
telling -- as Indians and Other Ethnicities and Real Westerners and the
Working Class -- always do so very well: telling a story or two. Many
people like these and a few don't. And if you don't, cut out.
Anyway, to my friend in the Great Southwest, I wrote in part:
I have a strong hunch you were hatched right into civil rights and civil
liberties -- and, unlike many, you are still going strong: like the Santa Fe
chugging resolutely across the Southwestern canyons and ranges.
I'm a great train man, too [I fly -- but my technological travel acceptance
really stopped with trains.] And I miss the little now-gone branch lines and
out-of-the-way deals -- that were always so shaped by interesting local
geographies and "sub-cultures." [Including fascinating local food.]
My idea of socialist democracy does not involve cultural monolith-ism at the
people grassroots. I'm a strong pluralism person. Within reason -- my
reason -- of course.
I remember taking -- as a full-time civil rights organizer -- increasingly
archaic trains from Mississippi deep into Louisiana, very early Fall or so
'63, and eventually passing through a succession of little Louisiana
pine-timber towns. At one, an Anglo family was putting on -- entraining, so
to speak -- the "old" mother/mother-in-law. Helped by her goodbye-murmuring kin, she and they mounted into the passenger car.
Then! Then she saw several Blacks sitting therein [as per the increasingly
effective ICC rulings] -- and her public comment was really very, very
crude. Even my resilient ears were jarred, burned. Several people at least
in our car were visibly startled -- interracially -- as were even a couple
of the younger folk in her group. Quickly, the aged conductor reached for
her -- simultaneously assuring her family members: "I'll take very good
care of her. She will be just fine. You all don't worry one bit."
Reassured and embarrassed, they stepped back down, and the conductor, very
grandly, almost elegantly, escorted her, the still-smoking outburster, out
of the passenger car and through a door. And the train jolted hard a time or
two, and then commenced its rolling-along through the edges of the little
town and back into the piney woods.
And I wondered. "Where in the hell did he take her?" When the conductor
returned without his distraught charge, I finally got up and went casually
but sociologically through that door.
And I had to go through several doors and cars until -- Suddenly!
I was in an intriguingly ancient old "living room" car. Tired flowers
clung to their water base in very old vases. There was a rug of distinctly
conservative color. A kind of wall-paper depicted pleasant antebellum
themes and times.
And there They were -- not just one but several of Them:
Five or six old Southern white ladies -- including the now ostensibly calm
recent addition -- sat silently in bolted down chairs -- staring bleakly,
drearily out the windows.
Lonely, but segregated. Racial Integrity -- as the Citizens Council zealots
would approvingly note.
This was well before, of course, the '64 Civil Rights Act -- but, as I say,
the trains and other trans-state public conveyances were covered by slowly
effective ICC orders and regs. Hence, the desegregation in my car and
elsewhere on the train -- save for this intriguing little exception which,
if technically illegal, was, in its own way, in everyone's best
psychological interests. American pragmatism.
Just as soon as I was hatched, literally, my father gave me a very nicely
done and intricate sketch in which the Mohawk chief, Thayendanegea [Joseph
Brant] is standing -- grim, determined, and partially in shadow -- and
partially in firelight: the firelight of a burning settler's cabin as he watches his
warriors, one with tomahawk raised, doing in some settlers in the Cherry
Valley region of New York. That sketch has always been with me -- and
presently hangs on my office wall right here with a number of other notable
activists: Frank Little, Cherokee, metal miner, and IWW organizer lynched at Butte by the Copper Trust on August 1, 1917; my old photo of John Reed [which just surfaced the other day as it periodically does -- a sign]; other bona fide and committed social justice radicals.
And I also, believe it or not -- read GWTW [every word -- something that's
always interested Southern oral historians] while I was in the third grade,
after seeing the flick. In that Great Fantasy, the always perceptive and
trenchantly ironic Rhett Butler comments to Scarlett, as he studies the
aging white folk of Atlanta, "The Old Guard dies but it never surrenders."
But, as I saw the lonely and old segregationist ladies sitting in their drab
and fading -- but racially exclusive -- version of splendor, I knew the
Old Guard, if not yet dead, was definitely surrendering. We-all were out in the vigorous and visiting Big Train Country -- and they, encased and hushed, were prisoners in a tiny canyon -- deep and arid. They weren't even looking at one another. Lifeless.
And the Old South, however slowly and -- in some quarters, however bitterly
and sometimes bloodily -- was passing.
Anyway, that's the story I've just told my friend down in New Mexico.
The South was tough -- but we all won some very significant things in that
one. Significant for the country, for the world.
And we'll win again -- and again -- all of us together -- as we travel
toward the Sun.
As Ever, Hunter [Hunter Bear]
Hunter Gray [ Hunter Bear ]