Now this is an old North American Folktale and Ghost story that I was told as a child. It scared the absolute mess out of me as a child and I thought I would share it with you. There is no copyright on this story as far as I know, because it's a legend. I hope you enjoy.
(The story image was purchased through graphicstock.com)
Once Upon a Time, long before cars and airplanes and possibly trains there was a group of people living in the Appalachian Mountains. It was, to say the very least, an incredibly hard life. The winters were bitter cold and the food would become scarce, especially when competing with the local predictors. If you got sick, sometimes it was days to find a doctor, if the doctor was even at home and not helping somebody else in need. As I said, life in the mountains was hard.
The folks up there though, they had and have to this day, a community unlike any other in this great country of ours. They are a mix of a great many cultures and beliefs. While most of these people are good, honest hard-working people there are a few that are stingy, mean, and morally corrupt. Those people tend to live on the outskirts of most towns and settlements. Today I will tell you about one such a person.
On the outskirts of the town lived an old man, way back in the dark part of the forest. I say the dark part because, even when the sun was out blazing hot as high in the sky as it can get, there were still great shadows in his part of the wood. It was so dark that it was almost like twilight, and sometimes even the night animals don't know the time of day or night it is.
This old man, some called Old John lived in a very rough one room cabin. He didn't really have much, his cabin, his hunting rifle, an odd ax or two for chopping firewood, a large pot for cooking and the barest of human comforts. The 3 luxuries this old man had were his great big mastiffs: Iknow, Youknow, and Calico. Calico was the biggest of the dogs he stood almost as tall as a man, on all fours! He came up to Old John's chest. Next biggest was Youknow and he came up to a man's waist. The smallest dog, who wasn't really small at all, was Iknow. Iknow came up to just about a man's hips. When these three dogs got to wrestling, well, the entire forest would shake and tremor with their rough housing. That might just be another reason people didn't much like Old John, he had perfect control of them when hunting but otherwise they did what they wanted.
He didn't much care for anyone and no one much cared for him, but being good neighbors, people would check on him now and again to see if he was alright, and offer him their help if needed.
While other folks in the area prepared for winter, smoking and salting their meats, drying out grains and other lasting vegetables for the winter, Old John just hunted. You could hear the great barks and growls of his dogs like thunder. He hunted and at his fill and gave his dogs all the scraps which they enjoyed. Nothing was put away for the winter, and Old John didn't much worry about that.
Winter came to the mountains and Old John had a harder and harder time finding things to hunt and eat. One such day he was out hunting in his dark part of the woods. He had no luck at all and his stomach rumbled fiercely and his dogs kept sniffing around in vain looking for something to eat. Taking his rifle, he cursed the land and started to head on back to his cabin with his dogs weaving in and out amongst the trees. Then in the trees he spotted a large shadow, it seemed thick and in the gloom he could see barely light glinting off nocturnal eyes. A long tail came out of that shadowy mass making it look very strange indeed. Faster than anything this shadow was whipping around the branches by his smallest dog, Iknow.
Well Old John was mighty hungry and he bet that critter was too, considering how big Iknow really was and the side of that creature. He figured at least one of them shouldn't be hungry tonight so he took aim and he fired off a round.
A crack lit up the air and echoed through the forest and a horrible terrifying scream filled the air and something small fell while something larger bolted away.
All the birds had stopped chirping, the wind died in the leaves, and not a sound could be heard except Old John as he ran to inspect what he shot.
Iknow, Youknow, and Calico stood ringing the object, almost as if afraid to get any closer, eyes as big a saucers. Old John was too hungry to notice and snatched up what he shot.
It was a long, furry black and white ringed tail, like a lemur only much longer and thicker. Being the hunter he was, and hungry he tucked that tail in the rucksack and took himself and his dog a back to his cabin for a meal.
Once across his porch and through his door, he got out some old bones for the dogs and began to cook up this tail over the fireplace. Delicious smells of roasting meat filled the cabin as he cooked that tail. It was the finest meat he had eaten in a long while, it was very tender and juicy. He shared none with his dogs.
Quite full, he sent them out to do their business and began to clear up. He had his dogs go out on his porch to take their rest, and closed up his cabin for the night
Just as he was settling down, He heard a scratching, a scratching sound started from the corner of his cabin outside and he heard a voice hiss into the night, "Tailypo, Tailypo, give me back my Tailypo."
Alarmed but more angry he called out, "Iknow! Youknow! Calico! Git out dere and find dat scratchin!" His dogs kept up into the air and went out into the night searching around the cabin and out into the woods. They each came back without anything to show for all their hunting.
Once again, the old man settled his dogs on the porch and got himself ready for bed. Again he heard the scratching outside his cabin but it was louder this time more frantic and the hiss in the darkness sounded more urgent, "Tailypo, Tailypo, give me back my Tailypo!"
Old John jumped up and yelled for his dogs, "Iknow! Youknow! Calico! Git in here!" And all three dogs ran into the house. They sniffed up and down and in and out and found absolutely nothing. All the while the scratching got louder and louder. Scared this time, Old John sent out his largest dog Calico to investigate his property with Youknow. He locked himself and Iknow in the house to wait for the other dogs to return with whatever was making that scratching sound.
The scratching stopped abruptly, and you could hear the howling of Calico and Youknow as they pursued their target.
Worried more so for his life than anything else, Old John sat up by his fire holding his rifle with Iknow laying at his feet. Iknow laid on the floor as quiet as death with both his eyes as big as saucers staring at the cabin door. Waiting.
Old John nodded off in front of the fire but was awoken by a horrible loud, deafening scratching sound that seemed to surround his cabin. It was frantically insanely scratching and kneeing into the night, "Tailypo! Tailypo! Give me back my Tailypo!"
Pure cold fear filled John as he jumped up out of his chair. Iknow was nowhere to be seen and he whistled to his dogs who made absolutely no sounds of acknowledgement.
The scratching continued faster and faster louder and louder with the hiss closing in almost as if it was outside and inside his house at the same time.
Old John in a complete fear steamed out into his cabin, "I don't have yer Tailypo! I ate it! Leave me be!"
It all stopped.
It was gone.
Old John sat down hard upon his bed, head in hands. He drew a few shuddering breaths and wiped his face. He listened for a long time, hearing nothing but the wind.
Finally, convinced he was well and truly alone, he whistled for his dogs. He heard paws on his porch and opened his door to let them in. He looked out into the darkness and there was nothing. Shutting his door quickly, he saw what looked like Iknow hiding under his bed.
"Dumb dog. Lotta good yer done me tonight." Old John muttered climbing into his bed. He'd get his dogs in the morning. Chances were they discovered something tasty out in that forest and were enjoying a treat.
Laying down once again for the night, he began to drift off to sleep when he heard the scraping of claws at the bottom of his bed. Sitting up quickly, two red hellfire eyes met his and hissed into the dark, "Tailypo, Tailypo, GIVE ME BACK MY TAILYPO!" And it kept straight across the bed at Old John's quivering stomach.
Months passed and winter turned into spring. One of the small mountain community men remarked that they hadn't seen Old John since before the winter. Worried, he and a friend traveled up to the cabin expecting Old John was either keeping to himself as usual or had passed away during the winter.
They came upon the cabin in the woods, completely deserted. They whistled and called for Iknow, Youknow, and Calico and they never came. Inside the cabin was completely ruined, rain had gotten to some things and it was just a mess. Old John was just, gone.
Finding this strange but not knowing quite what to do, both men left the cabin and started to head back towards town.
In the trees above them they heard the rustling of leaves and the scratching of claws. Alarmed they saw a large dark shadow high in the branches and eyes that surely only glinted red in the darkness, due to a trick of light. Moving faster now the men left Old John's property as an eerie giggle filled up the empty forest and a hissing voice proclaimed victoriously, "Tailypo, Tailypo! Now I gots my Tailypo!"