Legend has it that deep in the thickest of forests in West Virginia lurks a frightening creature known only as the Tailypo.
Folklore says it is a large cat-like creature with long, sharp claws, fangs like a vampire and a long thick tail.
I remember being just a wee one when I first heard this tale.
We were camping in the woods when a neighbor, who every kid in the neighborhood called Uncle Ezekiel, got everyone a stick for marshmallows and then asked us if we wanted to hear a ghost story.
Ezekiel was in his late 80s then, and he could spin a tale like no one else.
So as our marshmallows turned golden brown we learned this mountain legend, hanging on his every detail.
It was a harsh winter in the Mountain State when a hermit living deep in the woods with his three dogs awoke with a loud grumbling in his belly.
He was hungry and knew his dogs were hungry too.
The cold temperatures and deep snow made fetching dinner difficult.
He went out in the woods for several hours, but never saw a set of tracks or a critter stir.
Downhearted and cold, he headed home empty handed.
The old hermit stoked the fire, and sat down in a rickety old rocking chair to get warm.
Just as his fingers began to thaw he heard a strange sound.
Thinking it must be his hungry stomach he continued rubbing his hands over the fire.
Again he heard the noise, but this time his dogs began to whimper.
In the darkest corner of the cabin the man saw something dark with glowing eyes push its way up from the old floorboards.
The creature stood on two feet like a man, had pointy ears, red glowing eyes and a long furry tail.
Picking up a nearby hatchet the hermit lunged at the creature. Before he could reach it the creature crawled back under the house.
But the hermit reached down, grabbed the creature’s tail and cut it clean off. The creature howled in pain and disappeared into the darkness.
The hermit turned to his dogs, holding up his prize and said, “Look boys! Meat for the pot!”
That wasn’t the end.
Every night for nearly a week the creature would return to the forest outside the hermit’s cabin, and in an inhuman voice would cry “Tailypo, Tailypo…Where is my Tailypo?”
On the second night of its return, the hermit sent his dogs out after the creature, but they never returned.
Despite the fact that the creature kept returning, the hermit fell into an uneasy sleep.
Just as the sun began to rise the hermit woke up to find the creature standing over his bed.
Before he could gasp in fear, the Tailypo attacked the hermit by tearing him into shreds.
To this day, hunters and hikers tell the tale of being deep in the woods as darkness approached.
And in the not so far off distance, hearing something inhuman shrieking “Tailypo, Tailypo I got my Tailypo!”