For several generations, a rumor has persisted among the residents of Benton, Mississippi that the swampy bottomlands south of town are home to a monster that is said to stand nine feet tall, have fiery red eyes and possess immeasurable strength and endurance. The monster is said to walk upright on its two feet and is said to swing its massive arms as it stomps through the countless streams, brooks and creeks that crisscross the thick woodland, the best is said to be covered from head to toe in thick, tar black fur that's often matted and muddy. You're said to smell it before you ever come close to seeing it. And at night when the moon is full, is said to roar loudly through the cypress and willow trees. My uncle Thomas Weller Potter, my dad's oldest brother who is an avid big game hunter and sports fisherman claims to have seen the creature first hand. This is his story.
I have always considered myself an avid sportsman and fisherman. I've always been more at home in the woods, surrounded by God's creatures and handiwork than say in town or at school. When I was a young man, I would often steal way to the bottomlands of Big Cypress Swamp and Haunted Hollow for days at the time. Now during the spring thaw, the Mississippi River tends to go beyond flood stage and that pushes water into the Big Black River and that causes the bottomlands to flood. That flood transforms the hilltops of the many small hills that dot that region into tiny heavy wooded islands.
It was during such a period of "High Water" as we locals call it that I decided to venture into the bottomlands. I can remember leaving my family's shop early that morning. I had equipped myself with a rucksack that held two pounds of flour, a pound of cornmeal, two pounds of salted bacon, a pound of ground coffee, a tin cooking kit, some matches, a bundle of old newspaper to use as fire kindling and finally a hunting knife. Latched to the side of the rucksack was an old shelter-half a kind of pup tent.
With my gear in hand, I then rode the tram down to the railroad station. From there I followed the train tracks for about three or four miles. Till I came to an old weather worn and beaten trestle. From there I climbed down the bank, and into a hidden tin boat. Loading my gear up into the bottom of an old pirogue that I hidden down among the brush and reeds and then I shoved off.
Now in the spring, the bottomlands become something of a seething lush green hell. Huge swarms of black gnats fill the air. Blood sucking mosquitoes land on any exposed skin, the air is sticky and breathing soon becomes a chore. Groves of palmetto's hide dangers, the brown water is home to water moccasins and gators. Here in the bottomlands, even a tiny cut can fester and become infected.
Despite the hardships, the bottomlands hold treasures no man can phantom. There is nothing like watching the world waking up on a foggy morning in the bottomlands, or watching a white tail fawn taking its first shaking steps into the new world. Or nothing so soul soothing as sitting by roaring cooking fire, the smell of roasted salted pork cooking on a forked stick over the dying embers while sipping a cup of warm coffee that has been flavored with cane sugar and powdered creamer. There also beavers, foxes and other fur bearing creatures that can be hunted for their fur. Fur that I often sell for a tiny profit to a fur trader that comes down to Benton once a season to swap with the local traders.
Now one night, I was camping on one of those tiny islands I was telling you about. It was late at night, I had just finished having a dinner of roasted salted pork, baked beans, strong coffee and piece of solid milk chocolate for the after dinner sweet. Anyway I had settled down for the night, and was snuggling under the plastic covers and about to fall asleep when something snatched aside the tent and there in the moonlight I saw it.
It stood as tall as a man, but was covered with thick black fur that covered every inch of its body. Its eyes burned like the deepest embers that were taken from the deepest pits of hell. Its hand were as big as hams and its fingers as thick as hot dogs. The thing loomed over me and then tossed its head back and released a loud booming yell that caused the trees to shake.
I remember peering at the thing, as as he started to advance toward me, it loomed over me and peered down at me, for a good long minute our eyes met and hair on the back of my neck stood up straight and my heart started to race as it started to advance toward me. What happened next, I don't really remember, I remember it swiped at me with its huge paw like hand, and I felt a stinging feeling on the left side of my face and then I saw stars.
When I came, the sun was shining and the birds were singing. My head felt somebody had slapped me with a piece of heavy scrap iron. The reflection of my face in the water revealed that the left side of my face was black and blue with one eye was swollen shut. Taking a deep breath, I started to poke around the campground, the camp ground was scattered with my personal items, my rucksack had torn to bits. I struggled to stand and struggled more to collect what gear I could savage. A lot I left there..
I somehow got myself together enough to paddle into town and to get myself to the local hospital. I don't know what attacked me, but I know it was no man. But whatever it was, I believe its still out there, lurking in the shadows, waiting to attack again. I never returned to bottomlands again, and shortly after that I gave up trapping for good. Instead I turned to fishing. And there my story ends.