Monday, July 30, 2007

The Night the Roar Came

I was seventeen, living at home on our farm in Arkansas, when one night we heard a roar from the fields below the house. It sounded like I imagined a lion would sound, but this wasn’t Africa and I was no great safari hunter.

Whatever made that noise, it drove our cattle wild, sending them stampeding across the field, bawling as if their tails were on fire. My older brother and I grabbed our guns and took off in the truck for the source of the commotion. Both of us were afraid, and I know I felt the beginnings of terror because I had no idea what that roar could be. As far as I knew, nothing in Arkansas could roar like that. But I’d read about cattle mutilations and could easily imagine something that might make that sound. Something…not of this world.

We reached the field where the cows were and they had quieted down a bit. I had to open the gate for us to drive through, and that was terrifying in itself because I kept thinking of what might come out of the darkness. My heart was beating so hard that it fluttered my shirt. But I got the job done and lived to get back in the truck.

There was a little hill awaiting us, and as we crested it and started down the other side the lights flashed out over the field and for a moment I saw--literally--hundreds of little glowing purple balls floating in midair in the darkness in front of us, floating a few feet off the ground. Paul David, my brother, slammed on the brakes and we slid to a stop. I looked at him. He looked at me. I could feel the hairs curling on my neck, and I’ve always had a lot of hair to curl. I could hear the cows moving about, right in the midst of those purple floaters. How could that be? How could that be?

My brother was a braver man than I. He let off the brake, inched forward, and as the light from the headlights struck further into the field we saw suddenly that the floating purple orbs were eyes. But not alien eyes. It was the cows, their eyes wide open in terror as they reflected the headlights. I’d never seen them that scared before; nor have I since.

So what made the sound? We never found out. There were no tracks the next day, but we were missing a calf and we found its mother with her ears stripped to threads by the teeth or claws of...something. Before that night I often walked the farm in the darkness. After that night I seldom did again. Fear can go away, but terror lingers.

15 comments:

cs harris said...

"Fear can go away, but terror lingers." Interesting insight. I used to go camping all the time as a kid until my best friend and I were attacked one night in the wilds of northern Idaho (human beasts, not wild beasts). I tried camping along the Snake one time after that and was in a terror the entire night. Never again.

Avery DeBow said...

What a great post, Charles. And you never found out anything else about it? No one else saw or heard anything? Very creepy.

Must've been swamp gas. Everything's swamp gas when it can't be explained, right?

Charles Gramlich said...

Candice, I'm sorry to hear of your experience. Would be nice if we could feed those beasts the animal kind.

Avery, we never found out specifically what it was. We later did see bear tracks near our farm (at a different date) and I've imagined that it was "Probably" a bear that roared. The shredded ears, though, is more like what happens when wolves attack prey. They'll grab the ears of the mother as she charges them while other members of the pack kill and steal the calf. I'm sure I'll never know for sure what really happened.

Lisa said...

I may have nightmares tonight.

the walking man said...

So uhhhh did you remember to take the safety off the gun before you opened the gate?

Peace

mark

Sphinx Ink said...

I've heard you tell this story a couple of times before and I love it every time. It's deliciously creepy and mysterious--from the floating purple orbs to the unknown source of the roar to the missing calf and the cow's shredded ears--AND IT'S ALL TRUE, TOO! {shivery spine-crawls}

Steve Malley said...

No wonder you have such a way with the horror!

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

charles, are you sure that the roar wasn't from...werewolves on wheels?

Danny Tagalog said...

That is terrifying - purple orbs turning out to be cows eyes. Like that a lot! Now I gather it's true, but I didn't think it as I read...

Bernita said...

"Fear can go away, but terror lingers."
A true distinction.

Charles Gramlich said...

Lisa, enjoy them.

Mark, yep. And didn't even shoot myself.

Sphinxy, yes, still creeps me out.

Steve, a country raising seems to be a good preparation for horror of certain types at least.

Wayne, I'm wondering now if it were you running the night.

Danny, it was true. And weird.

Bernita, at least it seems that way to me.

Lucas Pederson said...

Werewolves...
Vampires...
Something hideous...

I spent some of my younger life in northern Minnesota and can report from experience how awful cattle mutilations are. The one my friend I happened upon was at night. It was a full moon, no seriously, it was.

We were walking downt eh gravel road that led from his house to my grandparents. We were walking on the right side of the road, his dad's pasture was there.
I remember my friend stopping in mid-sentence and staring through the barbwire fence at something. I remember his breathing thinned to gasps. When I looked, I saw nothing more than a large hump beyond the fence.
I had the flashlight and I shown it into the pasture, where that still hump was. I wish I hadn't done that. Because lying there was a half eaten cow. Most of its belly was torn out and strewn across the grass. But that was nothing, becasue we soon realized the corpse was steaming in the cool night air. And it's only fresh corpses that steam.
And, yes Charles, we hear a loud roar, something gutteral. We bolted.
The casue of death had been unexplained.

Sidney said...

Wow, a scary story for sure. My cousin once told of hearing something that made the dogs with him turn and try to climb into his arms.

It's enough to make you wonder what's really in the shadows.

Charles Gramlich said...

Wow, Lucas, what an experience. Rougher than mine for sure.

Sid, indeed. I think about that when I go swimming in a lake or something. You know there are BIG things in the water that hardly anyone ever sees. The world is still not quite tame.

Rachel said...

Wow. That shows some insight into some of your writing.