SUNNY CAL JOURNAL - Panther Squall Sent Chills Up Spine

By Bob Weaver

During my youthful days in Sunny Cal, rarely a week went by without some oldtimer telling a tale about spotting or hearing the squall of a panther.

They were always seeing and hearing things.

The tale itself would send a chill up the spine.

Some folks still believe there are panthers, more formally known as mountain lions or catamounts, residing in the Calhoun wilderness, while officials say they faded from the landscape right after 1900.

Hur native Robert Leon Kerby, who just passed away in Ohio at 83, didn't help reality much, often walking down country roads making squalling sounds, as did his brother Charles "Tap" Kerby.

Perhaps the highlight of Bob's endeavors was walking to my house to discover a rusting Model-T Ford horn in my dad's garage, and acquiring a dry cell battery, giving it a test.

The horn gave forth a mournful off-the-wall squall, and rather quickly Bob decided to put it to use.

A couple miles around the Joker Ridge, his dad Holly Kerby, with a number of his buddies, Alva Bell, "Hunkerin" Ed Cooper, and Eddie Starcher were at the top of a knoll around a campfire, engaging their dogs in their Saturday night fox chase.

During those years just about every guy had a couple foxhounds.

Bob led me around the Joker Ridge to position us on a wooded path below the fox hunters, at which time he engaged the old horn three or four times.

It would not be an exaggeration to say the hunters, screaming salty words, broke and ran down the knoll to a truck, to fire it up and dispatch for the house.

The next evening, the two of us loitered at the McCoy Store where there was always an evening gathering.

Hunkerin' Ed Cooper was exited as he told the bench sitters, "By gracious, last night that panther squalled so close to us we could've thrown a rock at it."

Neither of us cracked a smile.

It reaffirmed there are strange creatures in the deep dark woods.