It was a steamy summer's night in the azure moonlight
when two alligator hunters lost their wits;
Rumor was for years that their frozen fears was the reason
their bodies fell to bits.
No soul really knew why their flesh turned blue and the sockets
of their eyes bulged red in death.
Word passed 'round that the footprints on the ground
belonged to the wild girl known as Beth.
Beth, folks said, was a Choctaw half-dead, pushed aside
by the crush of modern days;
She had sought some grace in the only place that she knew
was familiar with her ways.
In primal Everglades she was free from nightly raids
and ridicule that made her life hell.
But word got out that she was still about, ...
the challenge overtook men like a spell.
The only solid clue known among them to be true, was the aching,
ghastly cry that filled the air;
It caused the ground to shake, a curdling, spongy quake,
it echoed, but they knew not from where.
'Twas said her tangled hair flowed like castles in the air,
eyes a-glowin' as she shimmered in the gloom.
Years went by, men gave the hunt a try, lamenting
that the trees were each man's tomb!
On this special night, hands with torch alight,
'Ol Laughing Jack 'n Bubba elbowed Spades:
"We've heard the tale fer years, now ta button up the fears,
let's git our guns 'n gear 'n raid The Glades!"
Packed firmly on their backs were bulky gunny sacks,
be it fantasy or legend mattered not;
To find the girl called Beth and to put the wail to death, ...
in their madness they would give it all they got.
Now begins the ancient myth of dreadful
acts of old.
Three men would enter, one returned,
at least 'tis so, I'm told.
Cacophony of blaring sounds rang through
their tired ears;
Miasma rising from the marsh, their sweat
poured out like tears.
Skeeters suckin' out their life, gnats
a- buzzin' in their eyes;
Creepy, crawly things a-squishin', fog awash
with ghostly cries.
Night-bugs hummed a funeral dirge, cottonmouths
slimed on their way;
Flashing teeth, the silent 'gator,
bound to live another day.
Wails continued through the night as they
camped in gloom and dank;
Huddled under star-hid skies
with fickle fate to thank.
Nostrils filled with sewer smells, their
moldy shoes and breeches;
Everywhere a magnets hold, ... leeches,
leeches, ... LEECHES!
Rations gone, tongues coated green,
Mucous snails to eat;
Blood a-runnin' from their noses, sores
a-festerin' on their feet.
Faces beyond recognition, swearing to
their final death;
Though they looked a fearsome sight, one
obsession drove them, ... Beth!
Piercing howls embraced their senses, half-human,
guttural, aching cries;
Grey light shut out definition, each way they turned
they saw her eyes!
A-glitterin' in the shadowed timbers, a-gleamin'
past their faces pale;
Bubba thought he saw her tracks, when near to him
there came a wail.
A sudden movement in the moonlight, muscled,
golden, flashing whirl;
Fears increased, for now they knew, it wasn't
just an Indian girl!
A bead was drawn and silence broke, the air
resounded with a thump.
Quiescence fell upon the mist, ... the creature
shuddered in a slump.
Sloppin' through the mucky mire, trippin' past
a palm tree rat;
Jack stumbled upon the quivering prey, to find he'd
shot an old swamp cat!
He dragged the matted carcass, a-swingin'
to and fro,
Then Bubba turned to Laughing Jack and asked:
"Wher'd 'ol Spades go?"
Never more to see him, only bubbles
For sure it wasn't proper time to
conjure back the dead.
'Twern't easy for fat Bubba, tasty morsel
now or later;
Gliding through the inkwell black, he'd
bumped into a 'gator.
That armored, antique critter wasn't about
to miss his turn;
He sneaked along the winding shore and hid
beneath a fern.
Just as Laughing Jack cried out: "Mind yourself
so close ta shore!"
One moment Bubba looked just fine, the next
he 'twern't no more.
A gurgling, gasping whisper 'neath the water
brown and muddy;
In time for Laughing Jack to shout: "So long
old loyal buddy!"
A-shiverin' in the spectral light, the snakes
thought him fair game;
A cortege went a-floatin' by, ...
he'd have to change his name.
No smile appeared upon Jack's face
as the waters rippled past;
He grabbed the trophy, sucked in his breath,
no critter moved so fast!
Feet a-flyin' all directions, from his throat
a sudden moan;
His rifle slipped, he'd shot himself
right through the collar bone!
The crew had died off one by one, 'til Jack
was left to stare;
Crawling on his oozing sores and cuts
that needed care.
He dragged that corpse back to town,
vowing never more to roam;
They celebrated his brave deed and silence
in their home.
He boasted 'bout his daring venture, how his
buddies met their death;
Gruesome nights spent all for naught, to catch
a panther, 'sted of Beth.
It's true, he'd suffered and endured, exaggerating
for a touch;
Marveling at the big, dead cat, Jack cocked
his head: "It wasn't much.
If Spades 'n Bubba had used good sense, they'd be
a-sittin' here with us.
'Spect I'll be the village hero, but really folks,
no need ta fuss.
If men had braved that lie of old, no yarn would
last that's so absurd.
But rest in peace my faithful friends, the tale is
dead, ... ya have my word."
Convinced the haunting cries would cease, they laughed
how spooky stories go;
Generations blaming Beth, to learn the
legend wasn't so.
"That panther has a nasty scar, shot years ago,
long side his head.
But now we all can rest at last,
the Indian tale is finally dead."
Fog rolled in that silent night, the town
wrapped in a misty womb;
Glazed eyes peered through window panes,
tranquil was the cypress tomb.
A death-like hush filled all the homes,
a distant echoed shivered.
They bedded down, blew out their lights,
the lanterns dimmed, then quivered.
And while they all were dozing off, the only
sounds to hear;
Snoring in the heated eve, mosquitoes
buzzin' in the ear.
But as dusk descended softly and the moon
began to pale,
From out the vapored, dripping gloam, ...
the village heard a wail!
Soft and moaning, nightmare low, they
strained their ears to hear;
With frozen dread they raised their heads, ...
the sound kept coming near.
The same half-human, lowing cry, took charge
that long, black night;
They knew that Laughing Jack's big boast
was anything but right.
So, it started over once again, ...
the haunted, sleepless nights;
Folks talked of seeing 'moving things'
and 'mighty queer swamp sights.'
Does the panther have a partner who bewails
and moans his death?
Or is it true, in phantom-folds, ...
there still roams Wild Beth!