Hidden deep in the hills of south central Kentucky far away from any interstates or highways is a small town named Moreland which nestles in the County Of Lincoln.

Moreland now is not much of a town. The only public building left is a church with a cemetery where all my uncles, aunt on my father’s side, and now my father are laid to rest in the land that they loved. 

Many of my relatives on both sides of my family are from Lincoln County and surrounding counties from generations long ago. Moreland’s magic is not the town but the people that live around it. People who are extremely hard-working, honest, with a deep love of family, friends, and, unbelievably, even strangers that wander through.

I was one of these strangers, even though I was born there along with my older brother and my sister. But due to a family split we were all spread out between Illinois, Indiana, and West Virginia when I was only 2 years old.

I believe that all people are drawn back to their roots where they were born. Some more than others but for my brother and myself it is still strong, even though we are old (although he is older than me!) I have made a number of trips back to Moreland trying to find our own history. During my adventures, I discovered many things but one that most of those I spoke to mentioned the legend of Lincoln County.

On one of my journeys, I parked in front of the property where I was born (the house burned many years ago.) I sat in the car and dreamed of the past because the property was grown over and I was afraid there would be rattlesnakes. An elderly couple came walking down the road and inquired if they could help me. To my amazement, after I explained why I was here they told me we were family. They invited me to their house, offering to answer any questions they could answer.

Sitting on the front deck, the gentleman, who’s name was Virgil, and his wife, Lena, answered question after question until I could not think of anything to ask. Some answers I’d heard before, some were new. Looking out across his property I saw an old barn and out of curiosity asked what that was used for?

"Come with me," Virgil said.

We walked down the path till we came upon two old, metal chairs. Virgil said "I am getting old and need to tell someone of the history of this barn and the Legend of Lincoln County."

Relaxing in the old metal chair, Virgil began the history lesson that I have still have never forgotten. 

"Years ago, my father as a young man bought this land to raise a family and eek out a living for his soon to be family. A few years after buying the property and building the home place he called on family and friends to raise a tobacco barn. In those days that was a party, where women cooked meals and the men folk brought moonshine when the work was done for the day. They would consume a little and talk about the women while the women cooked and talked about the men.

"After a few days the tobacco barn was done and tobacco was hung up to dry. A tobacco barn is usually only visited two times a year, one time hanging it the other time taking it down. and selling it. I at about 12 years old would go down to the barn by myself and spend hours alone because my brothers and sisters did not have time for me and my parents to busy trying to keep us clothed and fed. Besides that, they were old.

"One day I entered the barn as always when I heard a strange noise and looking around I spotted the biggest barn cat I had ever seen. Staring back at me was a totally black cat with eerie green eyes and probably 30 pounds who’s actions seemed it would love to rip me apart. After coming out of shock, I thought the cat looked hungry and thirsty. Not knowing how long it had been there or how it got in, I found an old pot, got some water out of the pump and snuck into the house and got a couple of pieces of chicken out of the cold box and went back to the barn.

"Setting it down I knew the cat would not eat or drink while I was there, so I made a hasty retreat. After duplicating this procedure many times it finally got to where I did not have to leave. After about a year, the cat which was a female who I named Diana, disappeared at night some days. But she was always back at daylight and I never had to feed again. I researched the origins of the name, Diana, and found the definition as an ancient Italian goddess of the forest and my barn cat was a legendary black panther.

"Rumors always spoke of such a creature but I had it living in our barn. As the years passed, Diana and I become the best of friends and I would go out to the barn and with her head laying in my lap I would tell her of my day's events and she would just listen. One day Diana was not there in the dawn and did not return for over a year and my heart broke. Suddenly I opened the door and there stood Diana and I could tell she had weaned a litter.

"Searching one day, I found in the equipment room where there was an old rusted farm equipment, I found a well-hidden tunnel opening. Going outside there were three old cars, that for some reason nobody would sell. I looked under one and found the other side of the barn opening and the puzzle was solved.

"Unfortunately when I was about 25 years old my father suddenly passed away and because my brothers and sisters did not want anything to do with the farm, I found myself running it. The first thing I did was lock the barn so nobody could discover the Legend of Lincoln County.

"After about 15 years with my beloved panther, she had been gone longer than usual. When one day I went to the barn, there, facing me, was the blackest green-eyed barn cat I had ever seen. I never saw Diana again and figured her time was up. But before she went off to return to earth, she brought her daughter to where she was born and continued the legend of Lincoln County.

"This procedure has been repeated three more times and I have named them all Diana. Why not? George Foreman did it.

"Now that I’ve gotten too old to run the farm and my own children don't want to continue farming, I suppose when I pass on they will sell it. I wonder will someone else do what I spent my life doing or will it be the end of the Legend of Lincoln County?"

I hope not.