Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick
DALE’S MOUNTAIN LION
A decade ago I published a magazine article entitled Dale’s Mountain Lion, wherein I used "artistic license" in describing an adventure that happened in Lacey-Keosauqua State Park, entwined with a vivid, colorful display of the Northern Lights along Mile Lane between Pittsburg and Keosauqua. I had witnessed both on separate occasions but combined the stories in a fictional setting for impact.
Dale Hufford was a good friend and companion between High School and college. We worked together at Barker Equipment Company in Keosauqua and socialized in the evenings, frequently double-dating. One night on our way through Lacey-Keosauqua State Park, a large animal jumped over the hood of the car as Dale slammed on his brakes and skidded through the snow to a stop.
"What was that?" he asked in alarm, "a deer?"
"No!" I exclaimed excitedly, "A deer doesn’t have a long tail!"
We got out of the car and saw clearly the tracks of the animal as it had bounded westward in six foot strides. Then through the semi-darkness we could see two eyes like burning embers glaring at us from a tree branch. Dale edged a little closer, and then a little closer, and said he wished he had his gun. I pulled at his sleeve and insisted that we return to the car.
We could still see those terrifying eyes watching us through the darkness when we reached the vehicle. Dale’s father was the assistant park custodian, and it was not so late that he would be asleep; so we decided that we had better report the matter to him. I was certain that we had seen a mountain lion! If so, people must be alerted as livestock could be in danger.
After a careful but short interrogation, Brice Hufford decided that we had seen something other than a bobcat or a deer, so he began telephoning.
"There’s been a report of a wild animal in the park that might be a cougar," he began. "Yeah, Andy and my son Dale spotted it." We drank hot black coffee and listened. We had only seen the animal from a distance, but later on Dale would exaggerate the encounter as he related over and over how we could smell its breath while it growled, snarled, and hissed at us.
We were asked to join a posse, but declined. Ralph Doud and several neighbors who lived near the park quickly found three and one-half inch cat tracks that they followed with dogs to the Missouri border. They gave up the hunt around daylight, after fresh snow obscured the tracks and their dogs lost the scent.
In light of recent claims that mountain lions/cougars have been spotted locally, I can personally confirm that "yes," on occasion these critters do visit the woods of our state.
Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick