Contrary to popular belief, not everyone in West Virginia lives way back in the boogey woods. My dad's family lived on a hill-what others (not from WV) would call a mountain, but what mountaineers see as smaller than a real mountain. I live on that same hill now (in Itmann, right below one of my uncles and my paternal Grandmother), so life on a hill is even way different than life on a mountain.
Barker's Ridge has bears, deer, coyotes, and all kinds of other creepy critters, and that was a big adjustment too. I loved to walk from my Grandma's place (quite possibly the highest point inhabited on that mountain) to my great uncle's house below a bit, and then out the strip and back. That was a great work out! I hated, however, making the trek from my grandma's house to my great uncle's house in the dark at six in the morning to catch the school bus. Then, when I moved in with my mom, right below my grandma, it was basically the same walk, except that my mom lived in this little holler-closer to the woods and even more out of the way of modern society.
When I was in the 9th grade, though, something very different happened. Something I never expected, and no one even told me about until about two years ago-long after high school had ended.
I got up one morning at 4:30 as usual so that I could take a shower and blow dry my hair and get ready for school as usual, in time to be to the bus stop by 10 til 6 (so that gave me ten minutes to sneak and smoke in my uncle's driveway). At ten til, I walked out the door of my house and up the driveway, hem hawing around with my backpack and carefully avoiding mud puddles so that I didn't get my shoes dirty. I think I even stopped once or twice to adjust my shoes and shift my super heavy backpack around.
When I got to my uncle's house, he was waiting for me on his porch, shotgun in hand. Usually, he was asleep because he worked night shift in the coal mines. When I made it to his porch, he had already anticipated my arrival and had the sliding glass doors open, quickly ushered me inside, and then said, "There's a coyote in your driveway. Don't go out there this morning. There's a whole pack of 'em in the woods. Stay in here until the bus comes and I'll wait with you."
One coyote doesn't scare me nearly as much as a pack of them, so I listened. The idea of being ripped to shreds by a pack of wild dogs before school didn't appeal to me very much. When the bus came, I got on-with my uncle standing at the door with his gun at his side-and I went to school a little shaken by the news of the coyotes, but the next day I walked to the bus stop as usual and no coyote activity. That meant I could smoke outside in peace.
Years later, I learned the real story. Sure, I was there to experience this, but apparently there were things I didn't know.
Apparently, the real story went something like this...
I left my house, through the front door, as usual. I stopped in the driveway to adjust things, and stopped to do whatever it is teenage girls do. I hem hawed over puddles and through rocks in the road. Meanwhile, I was being stalked.
By a big freakin' cat.
|I'm sure to him I'd be rather tasty...|
I couldn't have been more wrong. My uncle watched it stalk me and he held his gun at the ready in case the damn thing tried to grab me. He didn't make a sound for fear of spooking the cat. If the cat were spooked, I would have been a goner for sure. Panthers are just gigantic kitty cats. They play with their food first. It would have grabbed me from behind, went for my neck, possibly snapped it, and then played with me while I tried to get away. It would have left a blood trail from the overgrown driveway into the woods, and my mom would have just thought somebody or a bear maybe had killed a deer there in the middle of the night. Until I didn't come home from school that night, she'd have no way of knowing what happened to me.
About two years ago, my uncles finally told me about the story. I thought they were kidding at first, but then my mom confirmed that it was true and that they didn't tell me cause they didn't want me to freak out and never go to school again. It makes me wonder if they kept an eye on me after that, though lol. I'm sure that they did. I think...