Ghost Stories and Tall Tales of the American South

Mailbox Cat: Alabama Folktale


Alabama folktale about two kids’ encounter with a wild tomcat, and a poor mailman who happened to cross its path. Written by Dan Singley.

–February 10, 1955
28 degrees

My brother and I grew up on a small farm about mile outside Greensboro, Alabama. With the farm, my Granddad built a small mercantile – that’s a store that sold groceries, gas, ice, bait, seed, and feed. Basically what everybody wanted and needed, and it was called W.T. Singley Mercantile.

The store prospered for many years until the advent of the supermarket. I think the first one was an IGA, Piggly Wiggly, one of those names. We were mostly a credit business – you did your shopping on the weekend, we made a ticket of the purchase and the customer paid the previous ticket off before paying off the current ticket. Changes were in the wind however, and our little mercantile was headed for extinction.

I was six years old, my brother was five. We lived a good and carefree life – plenty of open space to roam, fresh air, and little responsibility.

Maintenance of the cat population, however, came under our responsibility and our close scrutiny.

It was not uncommon for feed and seed warehouses to have a cat population. In our case, we had up to 20 assorted cats. They would just show up and join the herd. We fed them once a day, and this was enough to keep them around but a little hungry – “gotta keep’m hungry.” That way, a rat didn’t have a chance.

tomcat eyes

One day a big, old tomcat showed up. To look at him, you would think he had spent all his nine lives. One ear was chewed down to the nub. He had a scar across the top of his head that reached down his neck. He was missing several patches of hair that used to be, we thought, an orange color. This color looked more like faded wheat straw with pink hide showing through.

But the one feature that was intimidating to the other cats was the single fang hung out the side of his mouth. This was because of some head trauma had apparently made a dent in that side of his head. He only had a nub of a tail.

This was one mean cat.

We were first alerted to his arrival when we heard two cats going at it. You know the sound, cats growling and screaming. The tomcat didn’t make a sound, but his opponent was carrying on. We called this other cat “Radio” because his tail looked like an antenna and was white bone, the only hair being at the tip. All of a sudden, after the tomcat had had enough listening to Radio carry on, he turned into a buzz saw. Cat hair started flying and a few minutes later it was all over. After the tomcat whipped Radio then ran all the rest of the cats off, he ate what cat food was in the pan and just laid there. The other cats never came back.

I was amazed at such a wild beast. I was thinking he would move on, I really didn’t want to mess with him. But not my brother. He was not tolerant of such behavior. These cats had served us satisfactorily for years, keeping the rodent population to a manageable level. This would not pass. Retribution was in order here and it would be severely dealt out to those responsible.

To this day, I don’t how he did it. We had one of those extra large mail boxes at the house, holds about a week’s worth of mail. Somehow he got that tomcat-from-Hell hemmed up in there and shut the door. I don’t think there was any mail in the box cause that cat was so big, wouldn’t be enough room.

Every thirty minutes or so my brother would take a stick and beat the side of that mail box. There would be a deep growl coming out – sounded like Hell itself had been awakened.

So at our age we got bored and had to move on. I think what diverted our attention was when we spotted one of Poppa Singley’s prized bulls close to the fence. This was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. At point blank range a BB in the scrotum will make a bull do funny stuff!

cat mailbox

We awoke the next morning and immediately looked at each other. We both sat straight up in bed and together said “uh-oh.”

That cat is still out there – in the mail box!

We threw on some clothes, coats, hats and ran out the door. When we got within, say fifty yards, I noticed something strange hanging off the bottom of the mail box, sort of yellow and clear. We got closer – those were icicles, yellow icicles.

We just stood there for a while and tried to come up with a plan. I decided we should just pop open the door and just let him go – maybe he would just run off. We argued about who would be the one to open the door because this tomcat could turn on us.

I finally said I would do it. I took a couple of steps, then I saw a car coming: the mailman’s car. Mr. McMillan’s car, oh crap, the mail carrier!

We dove for the bushes, which were unfortunately the rose bushes. I’m laying there in one rose bush and my brother is in the other rose bush. This was incredibly painful. Thorns were penetrating even my coat.

But I was hidden, and I had a front row seat.

What I witnessed, I will never forget as long as I live. Mr. McMillan popped the door on that mail box, and I saw the look in his eyes, the look when a person sees Hell itself unleashed!

The cat exploded out of the mail box into the car. The cat and Mr. McMillan both disappeared. The sudden explosion created a yellow cloud of mist that expanded up in the air. Thinking about it later, the temperature was in the high twenties. The air and cat pee, when exposed to sudden cold and pressure, turned into a yellow cloud that just floated around the car while the cat was ripping the car, the mail, and Mr. McMillan apart!

That cat shredded both the front and back seat, shredded the inside roof, ripped carpet off the floor board, ripped one sun visor off the bracket and continued the destruction throughout the interior.

I’ll never forget the sound coming out of the car. There was a growl and howl that I’d never heard before, the ripping of fabric, the tearing of paper – and the screams.

It seemed as though time itself had stopped. Then there was a sudden silence, no activity, just the low growl from the bowels of the demon cat. Suddenly Mr. McMillan screamed out, “For God’s sake, somebody help me!” The violence returned – more ripping noises, more shredding noises and another pitiful plea for mercy.

I couldn’t move, and my brother couldn’t either. I think we were too scared.

Finally I saw a desperate hand blindly fiddle for the door lock. Mr. McMillan was able to hold off the wild cat and get a hold of the door handle. Next I saw the bottom of his regulation mailman shoes as he bailed out the highway side of the car. However freedom hadn’t come yet – the wild cat jumped on his back rode him all the way down to the road. On the trip down he finished off what clothing remained. Later I found out he lost the tip of a finger, some of an eyebrow and had multiple chest and back scratches. He had to get two kinds of shots.

Our parents believed in the switch and belt. I think we got both. We were under close watch until late spring. I guess they just got tired and let us go about our usual lives. However, we would never try that stunt again – well, not a similar stunt.

We saw Mr. McMillan some that fall, I think he would just give us a funny look and wouldn’t speak. After his treatment and two week vacation he returned to work. I think he got a new car. The other one was just too torn up. I never did find out what they did about the missing mail.

Oh yeah – Radio showed up after the tomcat left. But the bull, he stayed on the south side of the pasture as far away as he could get from our house.

  • THE END –

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