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The Ballad of BOLO the Tiger

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A Knoxville star on the rise

Photo: Knox County Sheriff. Banner Society Illustration.

There’s a short poem that made the internet rounds back in 2016 called “The Tiger.” It’s a piece I often think back on when editing stories, as I coax, cajole, and occasionally threaten my writers into Just Saying The Thing. Written by an 826DC student named Nael, then six years old, it goes like this:

The tiger

He destroyed his cage



The tiger is out

A thing of real beauty, isn’t it? Simple. Elegant. To the point.

Now in normal times, this is where I’d sweep you all gracefully from opening anecdote into a metaphor that sets up my central premise. It’s also in my professional interest, as a writer of Internet, to vamp for as long as I can in order to keep you on this page as long as possible. But despite a lifelong love of Good Yarns, I’ve long believed that the best stories are the ones that require no embellishment, turnkey, prêt-à-porter.

The fact of the matter is there’s an Actual Tiger on the loose in Knoxville, Tennessee right now, and nobody knows where it came from (we will come back to this) or quite what to do about it (we will also come back to this).

Pause, and reflect. You can see the galaxy from here, can’t you? See the spiral arms this one simple statement has the capacity to create, all on its own.

Not all stories need born storytellers. Some of them can move about perfectly fine under their own power, generating their own kinetic energy.

Sometimes the best method of conveyance is just a reporter delivering facts and getting out of the way. East Tennessee is home to a small number of big cats, which do not typically include tigers. Per WATE’s Madisen Keavy, neither the Knoxville zoo nor the big cat sanctuary in nearby Kingston is missing a tiger.

What we have here is a free agent, a protagonist with no backstory. In fiction, it can be a maddening conceit.

In life, it’s an opportunity for anyone who hears the tale to project their own desires onto a blank screen in an empty cinema. Say, did you know tigers can swim?

I called home this morning, to see if my father had gone out fishing. My mother doesn’t want him on the water again until this whole tiger situation is resolved. He wants to tie a bunch of rotisserie birds to the back of his bass boat and let nature decide. If Cas Walker were still alive, Daddy says, that’s what he’d do. If Cas Walker were still alive, says I, he’d be hollering about tigers being attracted to fluoridated water and we never should’ve given into that Communist plot.

One other thing you should know is that alligators can climb trees. So far, that doesn’t figure into this story, but you really ought to know. Look alive out there.

Thank you for reading. This story will be updated as events warrant.