The Skreech!

One of my favorite stories from my childhood involved the most surreal event that ever took place on one of our deer leases.  There deer lease seemed to be a place where lots of strange things happened.  I remember seeing my eight year old cousin try to shoot a sawed-off ten gauge single-shot shotgun (so, so very violent).  I remember seeing the same cousin a couple of years later gut-shoot a jack rabbit with a 308.  I felt bad about that.  It was unfortunate and unnecessary, but I assure you, the rabbit felt no pain.

I also was there to see that another youngster (age eleven) had killed a ten-point doe- no kidding.  The game warden was called out to see what to do about it.  Since, in Texas, deer tags say antlered and antlerless, the warden decided that it had to carry a buck tag because it had antlers.  This made some sort of sense, but it did not make the boy and his father happy that they had to use one of their buck tags.  The game warden did thank them for killing the deer.  He said that management officials were aggressive about weeding-out freaks from the population before they had a chance to reproduce.

I also remember my dad and me climbing a 20 foot wooden ladder to a box-blind on a gun lease only to find out that a family of ring-tailed cats had moved into it during the summer.  I still don’t know how we kept from getting hurt on that day, as we held our rifles while a couple of angry and frightened ring-tailed cats tried to exit the blind on the same ladder that we were climbing up with rifles in our hands.

Note: Ring-tailed cat odor is not pleasant.  Think of cat pee mixed with sweaty feet and feces.

However, the strangest thing that ever happened occurred on the Possum Kingdom bow lease that we hunted until gun season started every year.  We stayed in a popup tent trailer that my dad owned.  It had a bed on both ends, a booth style table that converted into a bed, and a little kitchenette area that never got used because all of the cooking was done in a community fashion outside around a large campfire and with a couple of Coleman stoves (including a Coleman oven).

I was probably about eight at the time, because I fit in the cramped bed that converted into a table just fine.  It must have been early in the season because it was hot enough that we had the canvas flaps on the sides of the tent-portion of the popup trailer down (unzipping these would reveal a mesh screen underneath that would allow a breeze to flow through the entire trailer), and the top half of the door was open.

My dad was on one end of the trailer, there was the kitchenette and door, and I was sleeping on the table-bed.  My uncle and his dog (a small terrier of some sort that looked like a wiener dog with longer legs) were above me on the other end-bed.

We kept no light on, and it must have been overcast, because I remember it being the darkest dark I had ever seen.

For some reason, even though I had a little fear of the dark at home, I never had trouble going to sleep on the deer lease.  I guess all of the activity combined with the fresh air put me to sleep quickly. 

On this particular night we were all sound asleep.  At some point in the night my father felt the dog curl up next to his legs for a while.  He did not mind because the dog was an extra source of warmth, and even though it was still warm in the daytime, October nights would eventually get cold.

Later, I felt the dog lay by me.  I have always liked dogs.  Finally, ‘the dog’ moved up to the bed with my uncle and attempted to lay next to…The Dog!  That is when all hell broke loose.

Have you ever been awakened after you had already gotten into the delta wave portion of your sleep?  It is hard to get your mind to focus, but I find that extreme terror has the ability to bring you back into focus as well as anything.

The animal that crawled up next to my uncle let out an unearthly cry that woke up everyone in the camp, not just our trailer, immediately.  It was a high-pitched wail that seemed to go on for a minute (believe me it seemed like forever at the time).  At once, the real dog began chasing what we thought was ‘the dog’ around the inside of the trailer.  They made two complete circuits of the inside of the trailer rounding both end beds twice and crossing my bed four times.  All the while the creature wailed and the dog barked, and as they went by on their second round, it found the door, and sounded something like a siren as it retreated into the night with the dog close on its tail.

Many theories were developed regarding the creature that visited the trailer that evening.  Some creatures were dismissed.  It was too big for squirrel.  An armadillo or a rabbit could not have made it over the half-door, and it was probably not a skunk, or it would have left more evidence.  We were pretty sure it was not a bobcat or a coyote because there would probably have been more damage.  This still left a host of possible candidates including:  an opossum, a raccoon, a ring-tailed cat, a weasel, a marten, or a fox.  I have since added a few other possibilities including a Jaguarundi, an Ocelot, a Swift (also know as a Kit Fox), or a black-footed ferret.  We will never know for sure what creature visited us and frightened the hell out of us that night.  It has since become part of the hunting lore of my family, and forever will be known as the Skreech.

For some reason, the door was shut completely when we went to bed after that.

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