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

tinted red;

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!