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THE TIGER



It is a wonder that we orphan boys survived the many dangers that are out there in the outside world. I could not possibly count the times we ran away from the Children's Home Society Orphanage in Jacksonville, Florida or all the nights we walked the streets as if we were a pack of wild dogs hunting for food. I cannot count the times we headed out across the United States of America without a dime to our name.

As I look back into the memories that I had when I was a little boy, I cannot remember exactly what it was that each of us was searching for. All I know for sure is that whatever we might find out in that ‘great big world’ had to be better and a whole lot nicer than what we had at the orphanage.

One particular incident comes to mind - one that I remember as very dangerous.

"Look at that old shack," said one of the boys in our group.

I am not exactly sure where we were at the time. I do remember running from the police. We boys jumped over a wire fence and headed out across a great big field. When we stopped running, we found ourselves in a very heavily wooded area. Further and further we traveled back into the woods. All at once, we came across an old shack.

"I wonder if anyone lives there?" I asked Wayne Evers.

"Can't nobody live there. It's too old and it's fallen in on one side," Wayne blurted out.

Carefully, we boys approached the front door of the cabin. I reached out and knocked on the door.

"Anybody home?" I yelled.

There was no answer.

"HELLO!" I said real loud.

"It's almost dark. Maybe we can stay here for the night," said Wayne.

"I don't wanna stay here. It's spooky like," said Emmett.

Wayne and I motioned for the other boys to stay put while we walked around to the back of the old cabin. As we made our way to the back of the shack, we noticed that the back window was missing. Both Wayne and myself looked through the window and saw that the cabin was empty.

"Help me get through the window," I told Wayne.

Wayne pushed me up so I could climb through the opening. Carefully, I made my way to the front door. By that time, Wayne had made his way back to the front of the building.

"Knock on the door again," Wayne told Emmett.

Very carefully, Emmett walked up to the door and held out his hand to knock. Just at that moment, I jerked open the door and yelled, "GOT YA!" Emmett must have jumped 10 feet straight backwards. All the boys started laughing.

It was almost dark when everything finally settled down, so we decided that the five of us would stay in the cabin for the night. We ate what few candy bars we brought with us, as well as a bag or two of potato chips.

"I gotta pee," said Emmett.

"Then go outside and pee," Wayne said.

"I'm too scared to go by myself," he replied.

"I gotta pee too. I'll go with him," I told Wayne.

Emmett and I headed outside to use the bathroom. He went into one of the large clump of bushes and I went into another. It was less than a minute before I heard the loudest scream I have ever heard. Emmett came running out of the bushes and ran right into me.

"It's a tiger! I saw a tiger! A great big tiger!" he kept yelling over and over.

I looked in the direction he came from, but did not see anything. The two of us quickly ran back into the cabin and shut the door.

"What's the matter?" asked Wayne.

"Emmett said he saw a tiger," I replied.

"Ain't no tigers in Florida," said Robert.

"I swear. I saw a tiger. I really did. It smelled me when I was peeing," exclaimed Emmett.

"It's dark. How could you see a tiger?" I asked.

"I seen his eyes when he smelled my hand. HE WAS BIG!" yelled Emmett.

None of us believed Emmett. Yet, the rest of us were starting to get a little scared ourselves.

"Shhhhh. I think I hear something outside," said Wayne.

Everyone became quiet and no one moved a muscle.

"I think I hear something out there in the bushes," said Robert.

Sure enough, we could hear something rustling around outside the cabin.

"It can't get in, except through there," said Wayne pointing at the back window. "We’re gonna have to take turns guarding the window."

Wayne picked up a piece of an old wooden chair and held it against the opening.

"Can't stop no tiger with the back of no chair," said Emmett as he started to cry.

"Oh shut up so I can hear," Wayne said.

Not a one of us got a wink of sleep that night. It was one of the longest nights I can ever remember as a young boy. It was a night that I will never forget as long as I live.

When dawn finally came Wayne, Robert and myself walked outside to have a look around. Each of us had a piece of the wooden chair in our hands for protection. Sure enough, there were paw prints like that of a tiger all around the cabin. The five of us made our way out of the woods and back to civilization. We later learned that a cougar had been spotted in that same area.

It was a long, long time before we boys ran away from the orphanage again. When we did, none of us ever went back into the woods.



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