Appalachia Appalachian Dialect

Big Cats, Bears, and Coyotes

Dorie woman of the mountains

One of my favorite books about living in Appalachia back in the day is Dorie Woman of the Mountains written by Florence Cope Bush. The book was first published in 1992 and has been published at least 7 times since then if not more. In the introduction Florence Cope Bush writes

Dorie: Woman of the Mountains was not written with the idea that it would ever be published. I wrote it as a gift to my daughter, my mother, and myself. The manuscript was in my possession for fifteen years before a friend talked me into letting him publish two thousand copies in paperback for local distribution.”

The book is a biography about Bush’s mother, Dorie. The story spans the years between 1898 and 1942 and is set primarily in the Smoky Mountains.

Even though my life is drastically different than Dorie’s I identify with the way she looked at her world.


The only animals we have to take care of other than Ruby Sue are our chickens. The Deer Hunter built them a nice sturdy house that is totally enclosed in a large run. He even added doors on the backside of the house so we can get to the eggs without going inside the closed pen. My sister-n-law refers to it as the Chicken Condominium.

The chickens have a ramp that leads up to the house, which is on stilts so that they can get under it if it rains, although our chickens seem to prefer standing in torrential downpours for some reason! At the top of the ramp is a small door that latches on the outside. Once the chickens go in to roost at night, we go out and lock them in. Next morning we go out and unlatch the door so they can come out.

The girls feed the chickens in the afternoon and check for eggs, but the unlocking and locking up of the chickens is The Deer Hunter’s job, unless he’s gone off hunting. When he’s not here the putting up and letting out is left to us.

I try to remember to shut the door at dusky dark so that I don’t have to go out in the pitch black, but sometimes there’s no help but to go out in the dark and get it done.

In the last few months we’ve had a bear practically on the deck and two large coyotes near the back deck that didn’t seem intimidated by The Deer Hunter nor his bright flashlight. These recent sightings have caused the girls to be reluctant to be the one who shuts the chickens in at night.

Dorie’s daughter faced a similar dilemma when she was sent to the spring house.

“The mountains were beautiful. Cold, crystal springs cascaded down the slopes. We got our water from one several yards away from the house. Countless trips were made to it everyday. One evening at dusk, Wilma took a bucket and started for water. Unknown to her, the water had attracted something else too. Just above the spring, two golden eyes glared at her, watching every move. A wildcat crouched low to the ground, ready to spring when she came close enough. Wilma could feel the intensity of the gaze before she saw the cat. She froze for a second as the golden eyes narrowed. She dropped the bucket and ran toward the house. She didn’t look back to see if the cat was coming. Her eyes were on the crossties. If she missed one and fell, the cat would be on her in a minute. The door flew open and a white-faced ghost of a child collapsed on the floor. Fred took his rifle and went back to the spring, but the cat was gone. “




You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    O P Holder
    December 1, 2017 at 10:42 am

    Great story about the walnuts. I had so many that I didn’t know how I was going to use them.
    I heard about a man living near Topton who made crackers from automobile parts. I asked him to make one for me, he did and it worked great. It was so good that I could crack more nuts than 3 people could pick out the goodies. I recently gave it to a friend who was cracking them with a hammer.

  • Reply
    November 19, 2017 at 7:20 am

    I’m catching up on blog-reading when I get the chance, and doggone it, I missed this giveaway by one day! “Dorie” has been on my wishlist since the first time you wrote about it – seems like just my cup of tea. I do wish it was available as an audiobook – I wouldn’t be able to resist buying that right away! I listen to audiobooks every day, but paper books are sort of rare for me now, as I can’t make the text bigger or change the color when my eyes are tired, and it makes my hands hurt to hang onto an open book for hours the way I did most of my life. So I do a lot of reading on my computer, and a lot of listening to audiobooks on the same computer. But now I’m going to go order a copy of “Dorie.” My birthday’s coming up in a few weeks, so it will be my “surprise” present to myself. Joke is, by the time it arrives in the letterbox, I’ll probably have forgotten I ordered it – so it WILL be a surprise! 😉

  • Reply
    Terry L Stites
    November 16, 2017 at 11:45 am

    Tipper, thank you so much for bringing the mountains to me every day. Please enter me in the drawing.

  • Reply
    November 16, 2017 at 10:47 am

    I’m so sorry I missed this yesterday. I need to remember to snag ‘Dorie’ from my sister- I gave it to her for her birthday.
    I really enjoyed your critter account-( do be careful! ) and also the many Blind Pig comments. I’ve rarely seen any wild animals, even in wildlife refuges or GSNP; but there are far too many panther/painter/wildcat sightings to discount them as being bobcats. It gives one pause.

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    November 16, 2017 at 10:42 am

    Tipper this sounds like a great read. Would love to win it. I am fascinated with the early 1900 time period. I think it is so interesting. I haven’t seen any bears in our area, but we hear the cries of the coyotes around us all the time.

  • Reply
    November 16, 2017 at 9:27 am

    This sounds like an exciting and interesting book to read. Thanks for offering the opportunity to win this book. I really enjoy reading your blog every day.

  • Reply
    Barbara Gantt
    November 16, 2017 at 8:14 am

    THe book looks so interesting. The family story goes that my Grandma and her family walked over the mountain from Georgia into Haywood County in the late 1800’s. She married, survived the 1918 flu with a brand new baby. I would love to read the story of another woman from that time. Barbara

  • Reply
    Amanda Burts
    November 16, 2017 at 6:31 am

    I love your blog, and I would love the opportunity to read about Dorie. Thanks, Amanda Burts

  • Reply
    November 16, 2017 at 12:25 am

    Please put my name in the hat to win a copy of Dori. I was holding my breath reading about her running back to the house. As a kid my cousin and I would often have to walk down to her older sisters house just a few yards away but around a corner in the dirt road. In the day it was a hop-skip-and a jump, but at night it felt like miles! We had a flashlight and would usually sing to “scare anything away”. When we got to the yard we couldn’t help but take off running like something was after us! I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything. Thank you so much for your blog, I love it!!

  • Reply
    November 15, 2017 at 8:47 pm

    Dorie sounds like such an interesting woman; would love to read about her. My first thought at reading the word ‘wildcat’ was ‘bobcat;’ however as I read further, I believe she must have been referring to a cougar/mountain lion. We have them both in our backyard here from time to time. The bobcats are smaller and fascinating to watch. They are so much like an overgrown house cat in many respects. I surely do keep my distance from its bigger cousin, the cougar.

  • Reply
    November 15, 2017 at 4:39 pm

    I would love to have a copy of “Dorie”.I’ve enjoyed all the excerpts you have posted, and like the concise writing style. I plan on submitting a request to my local library suggesting that they purchase a copy; thus making it available to a larger audience.

  • Reply
    November 15, 2017 at 4:07 pm

    A black panther crossed the road on 129 near Caulderwood Dam late at night when my Dad and I were going up to hunt the next day. The size of it was scary enough but those eyes reflecting the headlights were terrifying to a 12 year old boy. I can still see them even though that was more than 60 years ago.
    I would love to read that book.

  • Reply
    Richard Beauchamp
    November 15, 2017 at 3:15 pm

    I am interested in any and all stories about the mountains , I believe there are still Big Cats around we just don’t happen to see them.

  • Reply
    Pam Danner
    November 15, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    Hello Tipper! I sure would love to read Dorie Woman of the Mountains! How nice of you to give a copy away! I love to hear my Dad tell of the different animals where he grew up in the mountains! I sure hope your chickens stay safe, poor little things!

  • Reply
    November 15, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    When my mama was a small girl, her mother, Delia, heard something jump on top of the house and was screaming. My Grandma was a tough lady and she got a broom and punched where the varmint was scratching. Hugh, her husband was coon hunting with all the dogs and some friends. They came home sometime around 4:00 a.m. and that thing jumped off the house and ran away. After Grandma told her man about the comotion they had encountered, Hugh and the men took all the dogs and treed that booger and shot him nearly a mile away. It was a black panther with the long tail.
    I lost my Jack Russel to a bunch of coyotes a few years ago, he wasn’t afraid of anything. I keep a 30-30 loaded anymore, just in case! …Ken

  • Reply
    kenneth o. hoffman
    November 15, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    tipper; i think any wild animal might give you a start, but few will actually attack you,especially.if they happen to see a juicy chicken, and chickens rarely care guns. i hope you keep this blog site going.i love the girls singing. and mountain lore. blessings k.o.h

  • Reply
    November 15, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    HI Tipper,
    What a delightful sounding book! Interesting the passage about the big cat. My eldest granddaughter, went out one night on their small farm to see what the horses were all riled up about as they were in a state. Normally when she goes out to the barn at night, she takes her phone with it’s flashlight app, but she had been sitting on the porch enjoying the evening, so just ran out to see what was happening in the dark. Thank goodness her great Dane went with her! She gets out there, the horses seem fine, but are all sweaty and definitely upset… so she’s looking around to see what got them upset and comes face to face with a cougar who decides that she looked like an easier meal than the horses… little did he know! She started backing up and the cat started crawling towards her and she was figuring she was gonna see the other side very soon, when her Dane who had walked up around the edge of the barn following scent, jumped on the cat and grabbed it by the back of the neck and broke it. One snap and then of course Andi had to shake the dickens out of it. Granddaughter said she checked Andi over about 3 times, because couldn’t believe that she had gotten by without a scratch. Amazing when you know how sweet and gentle this dog is with kids and kitties and other animals… but she knew her momma was in trouble! It’s raining hard here today, was windy and stormy last night, but just sheets of raining coming down today. Cats in the window watching birds at the feeder. I may just have to go take a nap. Have a wonderful day. Thanks for all your sharing!

  • Reply
    Janice Chapman
    November 15, 2017 at 1:33 pm

    I would love to read this book! My husband put an automatic door opener and closer with a timer on our chicken coop door. Sure beats having to go out to close it after dark!

  • Reply
    Kenneth Ryan
    November 15, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    Very interesting story. I would love to read more about Dorie, so consider my name in the pot for the drawing!

  • Reply
    Janet E
    November 15, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    We live in a slightly rural area on the AR/MO border and also have some black bears, coyotes, wolves and cougars running in the woods around us and plenty of deer in the yard and pasture. Love it and couldn’t think of living anywhere else.
    Would love to win the book about Dorie, it would be a very enjoyable read!!!!!!! Thank you for the chance!!!!!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 15, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    In my first comment I stated that my son “almost hit one on a motorcycle”. Before anyone laughs at me, let me clarify that. Dusty was on the motorcycle, not the deer, although I wouldn’t be too surprised to see it.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 15, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    The wild animals we are talking about today are merely trying to survive. They rely solely on their instincts. Even though they might harm or even kill us, they have no ill intentions. The animals who are exponentially more likely to cause us grief and pain look just like us. They walk and talk the same ways we do. They are intermingled into the population so that we don’t know who they are until they act out. They don’t kill for food or to protect their young as “wild” creatures do. They have no respect for life; human, animal or even their own.
    Your girls are much less likely to be harmed by a wild animal on the way to the hen house than by one of these demonic deviants on the way to KFC. The Deer Hunter could shorten the barrel on an old 12 gauge and load it with buck shot for them to carry along. Challenge the threat if it is dark and there is time, otherwise let ’em have it. I have a feeling such a plan is already in effect.

  • Reply
    wanda Devers
    November 15, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    I would love to win the book. I just finished reading The Mountain Between Us in which plane crash victims managed to kill and eat a mountain lion!
    My mother’s cat was killed by coyotes in West Tennessee. I never hear them here in Middle TN but our area has become much more populated–we moved to the country but the city found us.

  • Reply
    Paula Beal Waldroup
    November 15, 2017 at 11:42 am

    I would love to read about Dorie’s life. I’m a huge fan of historical literature, especially southern life and times. My family has lived in Clay and Cherokee Counties since well before Dorie’s birth. We have several written and recorded anecdotes from members of the family.
    Paula Beal Waldroup

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 15, 2017 at 11:20 am

    Dorie is the best book of its kind I believe I have ever read. Dorie was Dora Evelyn Woodruff, born at Oconolufty in Swain County NC. She was born in May of 1899 two weeks before my maternal grandmother Cora but on the opposite side of the county. Dorie is a 1st cousin of the wife of my 3rd cousin but that is easily enough to include her in my family tree.
    We have reports of bears, coyotes, wild boars, wild cats and even a few painters but by far the most dangerous animal here are the deer. They are so numerous that you have to shoo them away before you can back out of your driveway. You might think I am lying but one morning Dusty went out to get in his truck to go to work and there was a doe curled up asleep behind it. He has hit two deer with his truck and almost hit one on a motorcycle. A deer hit me last winter and put a pretty good dent in my gas cap cover and a few ripples in the door. I’ll bet it still has a headache.
    I tell people that there are so many deer around here that everybody has to drive a Dodge.

  • Reply
    Roger Greene
    November 15, 2017 at 11:10 am

    Dorie was about 20 years ahead of my Dad. He came of age in the Uwharrie Mountains at a tough time to scratch out a living.
    He often would remind folks, “The good old days weren’t all good.” That is how he ended up as a 18 year old up in Jim Casada’s neck of the woods in the Smokemont CCC camp. He said it was the first time in his life he had 3 meals every day and, good clothes and a warm bed every night.
    He also got his first peanut butter and jelly sandwich on store bought bread. He thought it was worth all the hard work they did building Smokemont Campground and the road to Clingsman Dome.
    We really don’t know how well we have it today in this country!

  • Reply
    Michael Miller
    November 15, 2017 at 10:44 am

    For the casual leaf-looker who passes through during Leafnik each fall, few if any realize how many wild varmints there still are here in the mountains. Although gone now, I recently read a letter penned in the 1840’s between family members moving here to NE GA back to the family in the Upcountry of SC. They described how the wolves would approach their home, having only quilts for doors, when they cooked bacon. The red wolves (Canis rufus) in this area were soon killed into extinction; however, other large predators remain today.
    Georgia DNR emphatically states there are no mountain lions or “black panthers,” in our area, but I have seen too many large tracks, photos on game cameras, their leavings from deer carcass and the frequently heard smooth, shrill scream of a mother mountain lion calling her young at dawn to believe the “black panthers” aren’t still among us.
    Then you have the growing population of black bear that causes panic when they visit the suburban neighborhoods of North Atlanta. I’ll take an up and close and personal visit from our native black bear any day over a chance meeting with a mountain lion! Of course, the frequently seen bobcat can be a bit intimidating, especially when hemmed up, but not so much as a wild boar!
    When the Spanish arrived here in the 1500’s, they brought with them their European hogs for a source of meat. Since then these feral creatures have multiplied and still thrive all around the mountain areas. One passel we are watching now has about an even mix of the European ridgeback hogs and domesticated hogs who have escaped from local farms over the years and inbred with the others. Wild hogs can and do cause extensive crop damage around here. Especially when frightened or injured, wild hogs are a serious threat to you and me.
    Of course, the most recent arrival is the coyote that brings with it another set of problems. We now go to extremes to make sure our cats and small dogs are inside or otherwise protected by nightfall. Even though we seldom see them, their yelps and howls fill the air some evenings. Oddly, I’m told donkeys are now included in pastures with cows and horses to protect them against coyotes. There are several impressive YouTube examples of donkeys gone violent against coyotes.
    Obviously, there are other critters and varmints of the day or night to be feared, including the ‘cotton-mouthed water rattlers’ I warn flatlanders about along with the dreaded ‘snow snake’ that wakes from its summer sleep to crawl all winter looking for a victim.
    I would be remiss not to remember that an important aspect of the returning ecosystem of the mountains is due in part to the work of Ranger Arthur Woody who reintroduced the whitetail deer. The “Barefoot Ranger,” as Woody was known around his native Suches, GA, was also instrumental in setting aside the Chattahoochee National Forest. Without the whitetail deer, we might well be the meal of choice of the Appalachian ‘black panthers.’
    My favorite warning to flatlanders is, “Don’t worry about a bear attack, the mountain lions and wild hogs ran them all off!” Given knowledge what’s out there in the deep woods by day or night, most flatlanders would run screaming back to their SUV.

  • Reply
    Gloria Strother
    November 15, 2017 at 10:08 am

    I’d love to read the book and I know my mom would enjoy it also! Thank you for opportunity to win!

  • Reply
    Leon Estes
    November 15, 2017 at 10:04 am

    Congrats to Ron for winning the CD. I like cats, but have never encountered a “big cat”! We have deer running through our town, must be, because occasionally one will be lying beside the highway. (: (

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    November 15, 2017 at 10:00 am

    Having coyotes and a bear that won’t run from humans is indeed worrisome. A dose of something from the Deer Hunter is in order. The word will get around right quick.

  • Reply
    Dee Parks
    November 15, 2017 at 10:00 am

    Oh, my goodness, Tipper, bear and coyotes close to the house. I am sure you and the girls will be extra, extra, careful about running out to the chicken house at night or during the day. They are too close. I didn’t know what Dorie meant in her story about a “wildcat” as I thought maybe she was talking about a Bobcat or a Mountain Lion. I did know that back in the mid 1800’s in northern tip of MS, they had “Painters.” When I read collections of papers written back then, I saw them mentioned many times. The NE tip of MS butts up against NW tip of AL. These areas are hilly and the end of the Appalachians in those states. About 20 to 25 years ago, I was riding in a truck with my Daddy and brother going up hills and through very thick wooded areas back to one of our old family cemeteries. It was getting dusk, and just as we came around a bend in the road, I said, very loudly, “Do you believe that!” We saw the back end and long black tail of a black mountain lion just as it dove into the bushes. No doubt in my mind – they have very long tails – can’t mistake it for something else. I would not have wanted to be out walking down the road at that time.

  • Reply
    Lisa Snuggs
    November 15, 2017 at 9:54 am

    We’ve had bear sightings here in the Piedmont lately, but a close encounter with wild cats would be a whole other matter!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    November 15, 2017 at 9:54 am

    Panthers and polar bears are two of the few animals that have the reputation of stalking humans. Cougar attacks in the West have increased in the last decade or two I believe. Black bear encounters have increased in the East and only since about 1990 have they resulted in human fatalities. Some of this is due to recovery of animal populations from historic lows and consequent movement into previously un-occupied territory. Like terrorism, this calls on us to adjust to changed risk conditions.

  • Reply
    November 15, 2017 at 9:45 am

    Tipper, You always start my day with some new adventure to ponder on. I thank you for all the new threads that stir my mind.
    I know I would not have been much of a pioneering woman, perhaps in some respects, but certainly not in all!
    Would love to read about Dorie and her life.
    Thank you for all you do, many blessings 🙂

  • Reply
    November 15, 2017 at 9:32 am

    Please put my name in the hat for the book.
    As civilization encroaches on their territory, lots of wild critters become a threat as they defend their space and try to find new food sources. Guess its scary from their point of view too.
    My mother liked to take walks and as she became more frail, I especially worried that some wild critter might decide that she looked like a tasty morsel. In our area we have at least one cougar, several bobcats, as well as several packs of coyotes; and when those iconic “wild dogs” set to howling it sends shivers up my spine. Rutting deer can be a threat too but most of all I worried about the wild and feral hogs — they are feisty things often weighing over 400 pounds. Considering their size, it is amazing how well they can hide and how fast they are. Most folks think about any pig like thing eating slop but they are carnivores and can be very dangerous. I imagine they as well as the bears, cougars, bobcats, and raccoons might view your chicken condo as a “basket of chicken” just begging them to tear in and enjoy the meal.

  • Reply
    Lonormi Manuel
    November 15, 2017 at 8:50 am

    Coyotes are a real danger here in Kentucky. Several farmers in our county have lost chickens and lambs to them. Thanks for the opportunity to win the book — I haven’t read it, but I’d love to!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    November 15, 2017 at 8:43 am

    Tipper–Presumably that wildcat was a painter, although Florence’s choice of the word wildcat makes me wonder if it could have been a bobcat. Mountain folks almost always called cougars “painters,” although there are a bunch of synonyms (puma, panther, catamount, mountain lion, etc.). I recently wrote a little piece about whether or not they still exist in the mountains (my personal view is that there are probably a few).
    One of my favorites among my Grandpa Joe’s many tales involved chickens and a painter. He killed it, literally in mid-air, when it leaped off the chicken house one night when he went to investigate a ruckus there.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Brynne Crowe
    November 15, 2017 at 8:34 am

    I own a copy of Dorie but haven’t read it in years. Will have to re-read now.
    Fun to hear that others know about “cat fur” – but I never heard the one about chicken squat.
    Another thought on my mother’s “pea turkey from izzard.” Wonder if it was meant to be “pea turkey from a buzzard” and got distorted over time.

  • Reply
    November 15, 2017 at 8:33 am

    I would love to have this book to read! Unfortunately, many wild animals are encroaching on residential areas and some are not afraid of us. Bears are often spotted in our suburban area as they often get lost in the spring. Coyotes have been spotted in our area too. We have possums and raccoons in our neighborhood, and we’ve always had tons of squirrels.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    November 15, 2017 at 8:32 am

    I always thought I would make a good pioneer woman but then when I think about facing wildcats I am glad to be in the here and now. My flock of wild turkeys is about as dangerous as it gets around here.
    I do hear coyotes off in the distance and have seen a bobcat but he was more afraid of me.
    Would love to read about Dorie.

  • Reply
    Brian P. Blake
    November 15, 2017 at 8:24 am

    Davy Crockett, who grew up in East Tennessee, “killed a bar’ when he was only three.” America’s celebrated coonskin frontiersman tells of being such a dead shot that “when critters saw me coming they’d just surrender.”

  • Reply
    Lonnie Baker
    November 15, 2017 at 8:14 am

    The book sounds wonderful and so does your chicken condo! You should post some pics.

  • Reply
    November 15, 2017 at 8:13 am

    I️ start each day drinking a cup of coffee and reading your posts!

  • Reply
    milner smith
    November 15, 2017 at 8:12 am

    while growing up in a wild part of alabama, i often saw scary creatures on my solitary treks through the woods to the river.
    although, some may have been the wild imagining of a young boy.

  • Reply
    Steve in Tn
    November 15, 2017 at 8:06 am

    Running back to the house. I always expected to be caught when I had to stop to open the door.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    November 15, 2017 at 7:59 am

    Coyotes have moved in to the area in SE Ohio where my family still lives. On a visit home, my wife and I saw one running across the road outside of Kingston. It was as big as a German Shepherd. They are at the top of the food chain, now.
    Although, my Dad swears he saw a big, black cat…like a panther meandering around the creek behind the house. I really don’t think Panthers have moved back in to the Hocking Hills, but my Dad isn’t a fool or a liar. Well, you can tell when he’s lying and anomalous animals aren’t part of his repertoire. Except the Monkey…but that is a whole other story.
    I need to spend more time with my Dad.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 15, 2017 at 6:07 am

    Tip, I don’t think I’d be going out there after dark either! I am not interested in a face to face with your bear or either of your to coyotes. I’m also thinking that if those animals have a lick of sense they will find some place else to wander cause the Deer Hunter will not tolerate them being a threat to his family for very long!
    I like that your chicken lot has a fence wire across the top as well as on the sides. It would not be easy for anything to get in to attack the chickens!

  • Leave a Reply