The Gully's panther is dead. We're not making a fuss about it – no one wants the attention it'll bring. But the bloke who shot it is pretty pleased with himself.
Everyone knew there was a panther around here. A couple of people had actually seen it. Paw prints were found sometimes. A few farmers had lost sheep, though the unbelievers reckoned it was dogs.
But then yesterday, as I was priming the pump at the well, I heard a distant shot. Minutes later, the phone rang.
"Got yer camera?" asked the Captain. "Get down here quick smart cos I've shot m'self a panther!"
"A panther?" I asked suspiciously. "What, as big as that tortoiseshell tom Ted shot up on your hill?"
"A panther!" the Captain insisted. "A real, fair dinkum black panther. Get over here, now."
The Captain was still running around with his side-by-side 12-gauge in his hand, brimming with almost as much energy as his silky terrier.
"Strewth," I said. "You did shoot a panther." This was clearly not an African panther, but the American breed, which is a black version of a mountain lion or puma, as the Yanks know it.
"I told you we had one," he retorted. Many people believe they're here in Australia, and books have been written on the subject, but until now I'd never seen the proof.
"I heard it growl," he said. "I looked out the door and there it was, sitting on the edge of the pool looking down at Tilley." I'm sure it was – the little dog would've been a tasty snack.
The relatively small wound testified to how close the panther had been when John pulled the trigger. None of the pellets had exited the animal's big body.
It must have weighed 50 kilos and was solidly muscled. Its shining coat indicated it was in superb condition.
Then again, I could be mistaken. I've been known to be out in my weight estimates. Even exaggerate once or twice. It's all a matter of perspective, although the camera never lies.
18 October 2011