Papa, That Ain’t No Coon

This story has been passed down through my family for well over a hundred years. I have heard it from my Dad and his Brothers and Sisters. Brinson and Fannie Bryan, who were living in McLennan County, near Riesel, Texas, sixteen miles south of Waco, were my paternal Great Grandparents. Their son, Peyton, who played a big role in this story, was my paternal Grandfather.

The dogs were barking and raising a racket outside, waking both Brinson and Fannie up from a sound sleep. Fannie was expecting their ninth, and she hoped the last, child the next month, December 1889 and with all the work around their place, Hominy Hill, she needed her sleep! Brinson figured they had a possum or ‘coon treed in the large oak tree near the hen house. Next thing he knew all eight of his kids were awake and asking him “Papa, what’s all the noise with the dogs?”
This picture of Brinson, twenty-one, was probably taken in California.

Brinson climbed into his heavy clothes, it was cold for mid November, and lit a coal oil lantern. His plan was to “chunk” the ‘coon out of the tree and not even mess with loading his .44 pistol. With all these kids around, it didn’t pay to leave the old pistol loaded. He handed the lantern to his oldest son, Peyton, slipped on his boots and said to him, “Let’s go run that varmint off.”

Peyton, taken around 1893.

Stepping outside and heading the hundred feet to the old, oak tree, with the dogs raising a ruckus, Peyton held the light up towards the tree and he and his Papa were greeted with two big, yellow eyes staring back at them. “Papa, that ain’t no ‘coon,” he exclaimed, as he and Brinson edged closer to the tree! There, crouched on a branch, eight feet above them was a very, large cat, rather a very large mountain lion!

This looked like another “tight spot” shaping up. Brinson had had his share of “tight spots” in his life. Joining the Texas Rangers in 1845 he had fought Mexicans and Indians during the Mexican War. After that war he guided wagon trains to California facing more Indians, wild animals and thieves. Next was his three and a half years of service with the Confederate Army of Tennessee and experiencing some of the fiercest battles of that bloody, war. He had married Fannie in 1867 and settled, hopefully, into a peaceful and quiet life of farming, mule trading and raising his family.

Now, he was being stared down by a big cat and knowing the dogs would keep the cat treed, he told Peyton, “Boy, hold the light on the cat while I get something to finish it off with!” That “something” happened to be his old Bowie knife, almost two feet of it, which he tied onto a walking stick, or Moses stick. Counting the knife and stick, his “lance” was nearly six foot long. He knew if he shot the cat with his pistol that it would die, but not before it would leap down on he and Peyton.

As Peyton held the light, Brinson shinnied up into the tree and with one thrust shoved the knife into the cat’s throat and then, with both hands, held on tight to the stick as the animal thrashed about, impaled on the knife. After it was over and the cat lay still on the ground, Brinson thought it funny that his three dogs could tree the lion and keep it treed, while the lion could easily kill the dogs and also how the light from a coal oil lantern had kept the cat off of them.

Apparently, the dogs had intercepted the cat before it had gotten into the hen house. It ended up a very lop sided victory for Brinson and Peyton, no dogs or chickens injured, just a little lost sleep.

This may have been the last mountain lion killed in McLennan County, Texas!