My family and I were camping for an entire week at our camp. It is secluded off an old dirt road in the middle of nowhere. My brother and I stayed up playing in the twilight every night. Roasting marshmallows and making memories. He and our mother were still asleep as I awoke on what was about to be the most adrenaline fueled morning of our lives.
I was 12 when my father led me out of the cabin door toward the pavilion for breakfast. The old cabin was just perfectly placed in the woods. It looked as if it was straight out of a country magazine. That classic "creak" to the door was ironically fitting. Constructed decades before I was born, it had an antiqued aroma. The jingle of the latch style handle cut through the silence as we exited, but was apparently not abrupt enough to wake them.
An invisible path directed us threw the tall maples and past some silent paper birch trees. It was beautiful. Birds sang songs of love and the frogs croaked along as we walked. The sun just barely squeezed out of the arms of the trees, and gave light to the roof top of the building. That's when I saw it. Something was on top of the pavilion. I squinted as if using nature's binoculars, but couldn't quite make it out.
"What is that? Is it a black garbage bag, dad?" I question him."Why did you put it up there? Did you do it to keep the trash from the bears?" I interrogated, not leaving him enough time to answer between questions.
A puzzled look began to graffiti across my father's face. He pressed a long strong arm across my chest like in the car when he shielded me from braking too suddenly. I could feel his concern. His body language said it all. Something was wrong.
"Stop, that's no bag honey. That's a ... not possible ... no one's going to believe this ... black panther." He whispered with panic.
Now, most children would have turned to tears, but I was with a superhero. So I commented like any other girl in this situation would. "Dad, whoa, let's check it out." My father is a good dad, but just like many others, he acted in the moment. Instead of walking me back to the cabin and locking the door like my mother would have, we investigated. I was not worried for a moment; after all, he is my dad, fearless and strong.
Smooth as butter sliding behind trees, weaving in and out like Scooby Doo and Shaggy, we approached. Conniving our way closer we tip toed on the grass that blanketed the dirt under our bare feet. When we got about 30 yards away it stood with motions mimicking that of a house cat. It stretched almost mockingly to show its awesome long body, smooth chest and powerful muscles. Yawning as if bored of our shenanigans it displayed its immense ivory teeth. It was so black it was almost metallic.
The size of this cat was instantaneously humbling. Aware of us, and annoyed, it stepped down off the pavilion roof, like a tabby off a table. It loped across the camp away from us, gracefully stepped over our five-foot ditch, and crossed the dirt road into an open field. We watched until it was only a silhouette in the distance. There we stood, frozen, like lawn jockeys in awe, even after it was gone.
Now of course no one believes us when we tell this unique story, just as no one ever believed that my dad is a superhero. You can't tell me what I saw or what I know. Without a doubt we had seen a big black panther. Period. As far as my father being a superhero, he scares away the boogeyman, even still today. He can make a quarter appear out from behind your ear and he's fearless in the presence of a black panther. So if you ask me he is definitely a superhero.
Ivory Fishgold is a Sinclairville resident. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org