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A Tillman MysteryPosted Sunday, January 10, 2010, at 7:13 PM
This is the view from my front porch in rural Tillman, and, as such, this is the scene of a mystery which remains unsolved at this time.
It started on Tuesday, mid-day, when the chimney sweep came in from being on my roof.
"I heard a strange noise while I was on your roof," he said.
"What did it sound like?" I asked, knowing that strange noises are a familiar part of life in the Tillman Outback.
"It was an echo - like some animal was caught in a metal culvert," he said.
I didn't think anything more of this conversation until Wednesday morning about 10:30, when I was upstairs getting ready to go to town. At that time, I heard a LOUD noise that caused me to open the window and listen, as the noise echoed back and forth from one side of the pond to the other.
It started on a low key and then rose to a high key, but I didn't think it sounded like an animal. The pond wasn't completely frozen over then, but I still thought the noise and vibration would break the ice, it was so loud.
Thinking my neighbors should be able to hear it, I called Wilma Stubenrauch, who lives on the next hill south, less than a mile away. She went outside and listened, but (of course) the mysterious sound kept mysteriously quiet! (Isn't that always the case?)
Covering all my bases, I called another neighbor who has a barn on land that used to be ours. She came out, listened, and pronounced it an animal caught in a culvert, but what kind, and HOW BIG?
She left, and I went in to town, vowing to track it down when I got back.
When I got back to the farm, the sound was gone, and I doubted my sanity in ever having heard it. I didn't know where to look, so I dropped it.
I heard nothing again until late Thursday night, when I went out to get a piece of firewood. The pond was completely frozen by that time, and the air was crisp, like it used to be in Fairbanks, when we watched the Northern Lights dance across the sky and could swear we heard them crackling.
I heard a "swish, swish, swish!" as if some giant whip were cracking over - or across - the pond. It didn't seem to be the same sound as I heard Wednesday, but it did have the echo quality to it.
The Peacock Theory
This theory relates back to a previous occasion, late one summer evening last year (I think), when I heard a "Help!" sound coming from what appeared to be my laundry room. However, when I reached that room, the sound was clearly outside.
I went out on the porch, but then the sound appeared to come from somewhere else --- but where??
It sounded vaguely familiar (unlike this new sound) - so I called my daughter and said, "Kristin, I hear this noise - "Help! Help! Help!"
"Mom, it sounds like a peacock," said my astute, animal-loving daughter. "Don't you remember Wally Knight having some peacocks when he lived out there?"
I called my son Matthew, who takes a rather dim view of my wild imagination, and then the next morning, I went off to Springfield to see my sister, admittedly worried about leaving my farm in the clutches of a wild mysterious peacock.
Matthew and his father-in-law were out the next day, fishing, and, sure enough, they not only heard it -- they saw it!
My friend Emma, who is familiar with all the wild things on my farm, thinks that the peacock-in-the-culvert theory is the right one.
The cougar theory
This theory was proposed by Hiram Jones and his helper at the local hardware store. Far be it from me to keep quiet about a mystery, so I, of course, let them in on it, when I went to buy another mag light to replace the one Matthew inadvertently carried off.
"I'll bet it's a cougar!" said the two hardware men. "They sound just like a woman screaming - and there are lots of them up there in those hills - no matter what the conservation people tell us! In fact, they put 'em there!"
When I mentioned that my two older dogs were not barking at the sound, but the young one was, Hiram said, "Yep, it's a cougar! The dogs don't wanta have nuthin to do with a cougar!"
While we were talking, who should come in but Ryan Holder, the husband of the only other person to actually hear my mysterious sound. I told him the story, updating it to mention the "swish, swish" sound.
"It's that peacock I saw up there when I was hunting earlier this year!" he said. "I'll bet that peacock was ice-skating on your pond!"
Yeah....I knew I was in for it, as soon as I saw Ryan walk through Hiram's automatic doors...
The black panther theory
I have another neighbor two hills east who swears that she and her granddaughter saw a black panther last week. Could this animal be holed up in a metal structure of some kind, screaming out its defiance for the world to hear, warning all other creatures not to come near??
As darkness approaches out here in the Tillman hills, I admit that I'm going to have to call a halt to this story, before I scare myself senseless and start jumping at every sound. (Like a log falling over in the fireplace...)
I know there must be a scientific reason for this mystery.
But what could it be??????????
From the remote hills of Tillman, Missouri, this is your rural reporter, Madeline, signing off for now. Next time you hear from me, I may have a dandy alien abduction story to tell you...
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.