Mama Remembered: (one final panther story) Grandpa Browning and a Panther


It’s funny that I never realized that there were three stories about panthers in Mama’s book, I Remember, until I reprinted the first one about her experience with a panther two days ago.  Then I thought, “Hey, I remember reading somewhere else in the book about her dad and a panther when he was a cowboy!”  So, I looked up that story and shared it yesterday.  And as I was relaying that story, it reminded me of yet another one about his father!  So I looked it up and here is her third, and I think final, story about a panther.  

But before I tell you Mama’s last panther story that involved her Grandpa Browning, here’s is another of her stories that gives a little background on that kind of interesting grandpa:

Grandpa and Grandma Browning

I never knew my grandparents on Dad’s side.  They had both died before he and Mom met, but here is what I know about them from Dad’s stories.

My grandfather was Dr. Benjamin Franklin Browning.  His brothers were James Monroe, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and several others, whose names I can’t remember.  They were all named after famous men from the past.

Grandpa’s father was a wealthy farmer and had servants.  When Grandpa was a baby his nurse dropped him and broke his back.  He grew up to be a hunchback and was only 4’11” tall.  His father realized he could never be a farmer or do any sort of manual labor, so he sent him to school to be a doctor. 

Dr. B.F. Browning was a country doctor and called on his patients on horseback or in a horse-drawn buggy.  He and his wife, Martha Ellen, lived a few miles from Lansing, Kansas in Leavenworth County in a one-room log house, heated by a huge fireplace.  It had an attic where my Dad slept as a boy.  He had to climb a ladder to get up in the attic and sometimes in the winter he would wake up with snow on his covers.

Grandpa and Grandma were both very proud of their Scottish ancestors.  Their families both belonged to the Roberson Clan in Scotland.  Grandpa was related in some way to the poet Robert Browning.  He inherited some land in Scotland once, but the only way he could claim it was to go over there and live on it for two or three years.  He never went.

Grandpa and Grandma had four children, two boys and two girls.  The oldest child was Reubena Ellen.  They called her Reubie.  Then there was another girl who died when she was about a year old.  Next was a boy named Robert who also died as a baby.  My dad was the fourth child.  His name was Duncan (his mother’s maiden name) LaRue. (Sandra’s note:  To give you some perspective on the dates for these events, I know that Duncan was born in 1869.)

Grandpa planted a double row of walnut trees from their house out to the road.  I saw those trees and his old home when I was about 9 years old (Note: she was born in 1907. S).  We were living in Kansas City and Dad took us out to see the old place.  We rode the interurban.  An interurban was a street car that traveled between cities.

Now, here is the excerpt from Mama’s book about her Grandpa’s panther story:

Grandpa Browning and the Panther

Dad used to tell us a lot of stories about his family.  The story I remember best is about Grandpa coming home late one night from delivering a baby.  The night was dark, no moon, not even any stars.  He had to ride through dense woods.  He was riding along on his horse, thinking about getting home and being able to get some rest.  All at once his horse lunged forward and he had difficulty hanging on.  At that moment a panther landed on the horse’s back behind the saddle and then slid off.  The horse really took off for home then with Grandpa hanging on for dear life.

If the horse had not lunged forward, the panther would have landed right on Grandpa.  No doubt the horse either sensed the panther or he could see it in the dark.  Grandpa would never have seen it.  It was a close call for Grandpa.

The fact that three past generations of my family had stories to tell about panthers tells me one of two things — either panthers were verrry common west of the Mississippi in the olden days and sightings were common for everyone — or, my family is just genetically predisposed to attracting panthers!  In which case, I probably should steer clear of the panthers when I go to a zoo.

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7 Responses to Mama Remembered: (one final panther story) Grandpa Browning and a Panther

  1. Suldog says:

    Heck of a good read! And, for the time being, until you find out for sure, I’d definitely stay away from wherever panthers congregate 🙂

  2. C. Beth says:

    Wow, what a compelling story. What strikes me (and saddens me) about it is that this baby who was dropped suffered all his life, and that they had two children out of four who died. I have to wonder, in 2010, would Grandpa have had spine surgery and grown up to be 5’10? Would both of those babies have lived? I guess in those times, tragedy was more expected because it was a lot more common. But I still have to feel for those mothers, who dealt with injured and dying babies!

    Great story.

  3. Linda says:

    I’ve enjoyed all three of these panther stories. Your mom really did a good job in capturing these memories in her book. Since she never used the term “black panther,” which is what most of us picture when we hear the word “panther,” the panthers mentioned may have been the cats that we usually refer to as mountain lions, pumas, or cougars. Those cats are also sometimes referred to as panthers. In fact, we saw one in a natural history museum recently that bore that label. But, no matter what color the panther was, those were some scary experiences shared by three generations of your family. Does that mean it’s your turn?

  4. chrissy witt says:

    Scary and so neat how the horse knew or sensed something. I too enjoyed these panther posts. I also enjoyed the coments and the interesting information they all shared!

  5. Sandra says:

    Suldog — Thanks for the advice! And, glad you enjoyed the stories. 🙂

    Beth — I think even in my parent’s generation, it wasn’t uncommon to lose babies either at birth or when they were very young. I remember a friend telling me that her grandmother, who had 9 children, had actually given birth to 16 children, but 7 had either died at birth or as young children.

    Regarding her grandpa’s height, her father, Duncan, was 6’4″ — very tall for his generation, and I remember hearing Mama say that she was told her crippled grandfather was practically bent in half — so I’m guessing he would have been tall too. No surprise to me that he died at 49. And I think your words “suffered all his life” are probably right on. I much admire him that he was even able to have a “normal” life with a profession and wife and children.

    Linda — I hadn’t thought of that, but I wouldn’t be surprised if mountain lions were what she was really talking about. But, of course, they are scary too! As far as it being my turn — instead of panthers I had teenage drivers to scare the heck out of me! 🙂

    Chrissy — I know what you mean about the comments. Sometimes I think they’re more interesting than the post! Thanks for being one of those interesting commenters! 🙂

  6. Hilary says:

    Wonderful stories, Sandra. Some might believe that the panther and all it symbolizes might just be your family’s totem.

  7. Sandra says:

    I don’t really know what that means, but I assume that’s a good thing. So, thank you! 🙂

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