But Christmas of 1955 was one of the last reports that Price made about these panther tales. It was almost his last Christmas. He passed away in June 1957.
Why did that Pocahontas Panther come so close to town so many times during that Christmas? Was it the smell of all those Christmas hambones, tossed outside? Or the smoke from the chimneys, carrying smells of partridge, venison and mincemeat pie?
Whatever it was, it interested the panther so much that he came back to that house with the mother and her children a few days after Christmas. This time she was reading a story to two of her children, who sat near her lap. The presents had all been unwrapped, but the Christmas tree was still up. The stockings still hung at the mantel, and a nativity scene decorated the table.
The youngest boy was looking out the window when the panther returned. The mother turned to see the panther's face in the window, as before. She dropped her book on the floor and called her husband to come look. She and the children rushed to the window, but the panther had already leapt away. The moon, now full, lit up their fields, shining down on the panther as he jumped the high fence into a neighboring farm and disappeared.
Close your eyes, and it's not difficult to see his tail twitching beneath the light of the moon. Tracing his own memory in circles across the snow. Sniffing out the source of all those who still told stories of him around the fire. He let himself be seen. A kind of last farewell to one who would always believe.
Todd and Schultz write for the Traveling 219 Project. A version of this story was first published at Traveling219.com.