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Patricia A. O'Malley
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Bobcat Hunting in the Wilds of Pennsylvania
March 20, 2018
I grew up in and around Pittsburgh. In 1960, my grandparents, Rose and Frank Gracy,
aka Nana and Pappap, bought a 160-acre farm outside Meadville Pa, just south of Erie.
They continued to live in the city, as Pappap was a foreman on the open-hearth ovens at
J&L Steel in Pittsburgh’s South Side Works.
Until I was ten years old, I thought Pappap’s name was “goddammit Frank”;
that’s what she called him.
Because they weren’t there all the time, they didn’t keep animals on the farm, but they did have crops.
Their largest crop was our extended family. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and assorted others spent many weekends on the farm, as well as at least a week every summer.
We loved it. There was a corn field, 3-acre lake, tire swing, and rumors of Indians and elephants in the French Creek valley down the hill. We weren’t allowed to go there. There were two long rows of pine trees behind the garage. The trees grew wild, very tall, and close together until they formed a long tree tunnel. It was always dark and spooky in there, and we rarely ventured inside.
In the summer of 1964, I was nine years old. My family – including my parents and brothers Marty and Danny - went up for a week with Nana and Pappap; Aunt Lois and Uncle Ken and their kids Ellen, Mike, Mark, and Patrick; and with Uncle Frank, Aunt Joan, and their kids Janice, Frankie, and Mark. We had a blast swimming, fishing, spinning on the tire, catching frogs, and eating fresh corn on the cob.
One day, I saw Pappap walking around, looking off into the distance, muttering to himself. I asked what was wrong. He said a neighboring farmer, Mr. MacNamara, had called to tell him that a wild bobcat was lurking in the area. I said “Let’s go look at it!”. “No”, he said, “They’re wild animals and very dangerous. A bobcat can kill a deer or a farmer’s cow. Let me know if you see it, but don’t go near it.” I heard him telling the other kids the same thing.
At dusk, he called us all together into the front yard to announce that we were all going to catch the bobcat. “Get your gun!” I said. He told me “You don’t hunt bobcats with guns. We’ll get him. Let’s go.”
And he marched off toward the tree tunnel, brandishing a golf club. I have no idea where he got the club, as he never played golf in his life. And off we went, Pappap leading all of us except Patrick, who was the infant that year. Janice was right up front, behind Pappap.
We crept as stealthily as nine kids under the age of 11 can and he warned us to look carefully. He said bobcats can climb trees and pounce down on top of your head without warning. We tried so hard to be so brave.
At the very end of the tunnel, Pappap pointed up to the last, tallest tree. “There! There he is! Get him!” and began beating the crap out of the tree with the golf club.
Janice had been right behind Pappap, but she beat us all out of the tunnel, her little legs pumping like crazy. As we burst out into the clearing, there stood all of our parents, busting a gut laughing at us, and Nana hollering “Goddamit Frank! Leave those goddamn kids alone!”
So, if you ever go bobcat hunting, you don’t need a gun. You need nine little kids and a golf club.
Oh yeah. There was no bobcat. But we all still remember it.
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