Currituck County Tales and Legends
Contributed by Robert Etheridge
The folks that inhabited Currituck County in the time of our ancestors were not always perfect. They were human and therefore shared the same traits that we have today. Avarice, jealously and pettiness were alive then as they are now. But it must also be said that, for the most part, they were a hard-working and God-fearing people whose main concern was love of their families and the constant struggle to provide for them. Frankly, the story that I am about to relate is not a pleasant one, but I believe it to be the absolute truth. The moral of this tale may be hard to decipher. Is it right to implement one evil to combat an even greater wickedness? This was the choice that six Currituck men had to make sometime in the 1880s.
He called himself Mr. Fiendly. No one knew exactly where he came from. He had drifted into southern Currituck about four or five months before with all of his possessions in a large carpetbag. He took up residence in an abandoned shack near the sound. He was a man of medium height with a countenance that was cruel and forbidding. He wore a perpetual scowl and a small mustache that curled up on each end.
He owned a large mongrel dog whose appearance closely resembled his owner's, right down to the mustache. Together they began to walk around the county seeking amusement. Their idea of enjoyment was to practice cruelty on men and animals smaller and weaker than themselves. Several barn animals were attacked by the dog and killed. When the owners complained, Mr. Fiendly cursed them and threatened them with the dog, but then reached into his pocket and produced more than ample cash to cover the loss.
When the mild-mannered man who owned the old shack approached him about some rent, he blustered and swore and gave the poor man every indication that he was going to physically assault him. When the man cowered away, Mr. Fiendly laughed hardily and threw a large amount of cash at him. “That ought to cover three months!” he bellowed. The gentle man grabbed the money and ran for his life. He could hear Mr. Fiendly guffawing loudly behind him.
Where he got his money, no one knew. He had no visible means of support. He did not do odd jobs on the boats or the farms. He did not panhandle or bootleg as far as anyone could tell. He became the object of much speculation and conversation.
The dog attacked several small dogs. It was no accidental thing beyond Mr. Fiendly's control. He always had the dog on a leash and intentionally let him go when the animal wanted to attack. He also killed several cats in the area and this action caused a reaction among the farmers that Mr. Fiendly could not have anticipated.
Cats then, as now, were valuable working animals on a farm. They controlled rodents and protected stored grain and other crops. But, like the people's dogs, they were also friends and beloved members of the family. When Mr. Fiendly decided to attack the cats, he declared war on society in Currituck.
Six men called a meeting and it was convened in a store near what was later called Mamie. Several suggestions were made as to what could be done about Mr. Fiendly. One proposal was simple: “Take him out and whup the tar outta him!” This was rejected because it was against the law and some of the men involved in the meeting considered that they would get in more trouble that it was worth. Many other suggestions were made, but all rejected for one reason or the other. Finally, Mr. Asa Goode, a trapper and hunter, stood up and said, “I have a plan that will fix Mr. Fiendly and his dog if you want to listen!”
Several weeks later Mr. Fiendly was asked to come to the little store. He was coaxed into it with a promise of “real sport”. Everyone knew that he would have his dog with him because he never went anywhere without him.
He swaggered into the little building and was confronted by the six men. The spokesman began to lecture Mr. Fiendly about his evil actions, but the dog quickly began to growl, snarl and pull at the leash. He wanted to get into the small room at the back of the store. “What you got back there? I betcha there's a cat back there—ain't I right?”
Mr. Asa Goode spoke, “There may be, but my advice is not to let your dog loose!”
Mr. Fiendly gave a malicious laugh and immediately unleashed the dog who rushed into the back room and out of view. What was heard was described later as “all the Banshees of Hell screaming at one time.” This was shortly followed by screams of agony from the unfortunate dog that came running out of the back room. And on his back—on his back was a mass of tawny fury that was taking fur and flesh out of his hide at a rapid rate. The dog weighed over twice as much as the Bobcat, but it was an uneven match and the men felt sorry for the dog as they watched him run across the road and then over a field and into the woods beyond, still with the Bobcat tearing him to bits.
All six men turned to confront Mr. Fiendly expecting to have to defend themselves, but the surly, snarling monster that they had known was gone. In his stead stood a quivering, sallow-faced little man. Mr. Fiendly's courage and bravado had left with his unlucky dog. He was faced with six strong men who made him understand that his presence was no longer wanted in Currituck and they would be happy to escort him out. He made no protest. He was allowed to go back to the shack and fill his carpetbag with his meager belongings and was ushered to the north by a succession of watchers.
The poor dog, who was as much a victim of Mr. Fiendly's evil as were the animals he attacked, was never seen again. The Bobcat was trapped by Mr. Asa Goode and returned to the “Great Swamp” from whence he came. He showed no marks from his combat with the dog and returned to his natural home with gladness.
A couple of years later someone reported that he had seen Mr. Fiendly in Norfolk. He was in the custody of the police who apparently had arrested him for petty theft. And that was the last that was heard of him.
The Bobcat (Lynx Rufus) once roamed throughout the lower 48 United States. A large male can weigh as much as 40 pounds. Their diet consists of rabbits, woodchucks, rodents, birds and sometimes insects and reptiles. They have been known to kill deer, but seldom do this unless other foods become scarce. In North Carolina, they still exist in the mountains and in some places in the east, most notably the Great Dismal Swamp.