The Words of the Weber Family

The Great Tiger Of Littleton: a principled mystery story about strength coming through unity

Ken Weber
August 4, 2010

Here is a story that my elementary Sunday School kids helped me write. It is a fun type of mystery about a huge friendly ghost tiger that the children found really appealing. K.W.

Symbols and logos. Look around. We see them everywhere! They represent companies, products we buy, they represent places, events, and so on. This is a story about a ghost tiger that came to symbolize a very small town. But, what was the ghost tiger, and why did it appear? Ah yes, therein lies the mystery!

Littleton was one of those small towns that everyone laughs about, and it was the object of many jokes. Its name became synonymous with words like puny, small, and tiny, and other such words. Its size was the talk of people across the country. People from all over came to see Littleton and to marvel and joke about its size.

But, it was an event that was unusual and mysterious that put Littleton in the news for a completely different reason. It concerned a legend of a ghostly tiger that Littleton inhabitants talked about. No one outside the town believed in the apparition of the tiger, and so no one outside the town talked about it… that is, until two boys came up with evidence that it might really exist!

Ten-year-old twins, Carl and Bill Smithers had come to Littleton to visit distant relatives. Bill had brought a camera to take pictures of the historic small town. But they were not limiting their visit to their relatives or to sightseeing. In between times they began harassing and bullying smaller children that lived in the town.

It was when they were bullying one small boy that it happened. Denny Carson was a boy who they caught one evening walking home from school. They started pushing him around and mocking him and joking about the size of the town he lived in. What they didn't realize was that other residents of the town were watching from the windows of their homes.

As the twins harassed little Denny Carson a strong wind started blowing. Soon the loud roar of some kind of beast was heard. Carl and Bill looked up and saw, emerging from the bushes behind Denny, a huge golden tiger! Bill had the presence of mind to raise his camera and begin taking pictures of the beast. But, roaring again, the tiger came up and stood between Denny and his attackers, and the Smithers twins took off running!

The newsroom was bustling with activity when Bruce Johnson, editor-in-chief, walked up to one of his reporters, Chuck Williams. "I want you to cover a story in Littleton," he said.

"What happened?" laughed Chuck. "Did someone rob the town's piggy-bank?"

"No," said Mr. Johnson. "This is about the town's ghost tiger!"

"Oh, that!" smirked Chuck. "It's the town's local legend. But, no one believes in that except the townspeople themselves."

"Well, two kids got a picture of it," said Mr. Johnson showing him what had just come over the wire.

Chuck looked at the article. The headline read, "LITTLETON GHOST TIGER SIGHTED" Next to the article was a picture of a huge tiger standing in front of a Littleton boy.

"It looks as if the tiger is protecting the boy," said Chuck.

"Not only that," said Mr. Johnson, "look at the expression on the boy's face."

Chuck looked at the picture again. "It's a look of determination and strength," he said. "He's definitely not afraid of the tiger."

"Locals call it The Great Tiger of Littleton," said Mr. Johnson. "It has been appearing off and on now for more than fifty years. The first time it appeared was when a crime wave hit the surrounding area. A gang burned down the Littleton high school and were threatening to destroy the town unless the residents paid them protection money. But, legend says that the tiger appeared at this time, and somehow this brought the crime wave to an end. The ghost tiger has been appearing in or around the town ever since, and it has become a real legend. No one outside the town has been able to explain why the tiger appears, and residents have been silent on the matter. I want you to go to Littleton to see what you can find out about it."

Chuck looked at the picture again. "So you want me to catch a ghost tiger," he said.

"I want you to find out what it is and why it appears," said Mr. Johnson. "The residents seem to know something about it. See if you can get someone to tell you what it is."

Chuck looked at the picture again. What puzzled him more than the presence of the tiger was the look on the boy's face… that look of determination and strength. He knew who the first person would be that he was going to interview!"

The sign read, "Welcome to Littleton. Population 103."

Chuck stopped his car and reread the sign. "Population 103?" He was shocked. "My gosh! This is a small town!"

As he drove into Littleton, he noticed that there was one main street with a few stores surrounded by only a few small streets. At the end of one street was a church and a school. That was all! He looked at the people walking by on the street. There was something in the way they walked and the way they held themselves… What was it, pride? He looked into their faces. The same look of determination and strength was there that was in the face of the boy with the tiger. "This might be a very interesting assignment," he said looking around.

Chuck found the home of Denny Carson and introduced himself to the boy and his parents. He soon had heard the story of how the Smithers boys had been out taking pictures and started to pick on him as he walked down the street. Denny then described how the tiger had appeared and had placed itself in front of him.

Chuck looked up. "You really must have been afraid when the tiger appeared," he said.

Denny was surprised. "Of course not! I'm not afraid of the tiger!"

Chuck frowned. "Then, was the tiger protecting you?" he asked.

The boy laughed. "No! I didn't need the tiger's protection. That's not why it was there!"

Chuck was really puzzled. "Well, why was it there?"

The boy looked Chuck in the eyes. That look of determination and strength was back. "Look at us, Mr. Williams," he said. "Look at all the people of Littleton. The tiger doesn't protect us. It's here because of us!"

Chuck looked up at Denny's parents. Mr. and Mrs. Carson had their arms around each other and they were smiling down at him. Chuck looked closer at them. They seemed to have a very knowing look in their eyes. "Just what is going on?" he wondered to himself.

After leaving the Carson home, Chuck looked at two other names of people that had been given to him of people who had stories of the tiger. One was someone known simply as Old Man Philips, and the other was an old military veteran named Col. Tuckerman. Chuck decided to visit Old Man Philips first.

"So, you're here to find out about the Great Tiger of Littleton," said Mr. Philips sitting down next to Chuck on his front porch. "Yes, I've seen it. It was just after a tornado swept through town. Buildings and homes were destroyed and people were killed. It nearly wiped us out! But we all banded together to rebuild the town and bury our dead. We all made a determination that we were not going to let this disaster destroy our town.

"The tiger was sighted many times around the town at this time. It was seen walking around construction sites of buildings and homes that were being rebuilt. But the place where I personally saw the tiger was when we gathered at the funerals of those who had died. As we met to comfort and care for each other at the grave sites, I saw it. The tiger would be sitting there among the grave stones bowing its head as if it was paying tribute to those who had died."

As Chuck left, he thought about the words of Old Man Philips. A tiger paying tribute to people who had died? What could it mean? Chuck looked around to find the home of Col. Tuckerman, the next person he was going to interview.

"Yes, I've seen the tiger," said, Col. Tuckerman leaning back in his chair when Chuck began to question him. "It was when several of our boys went off to war!" He nodded his head. "Yes, the call went out from Uncle Sam, and our boys answered! They said good-bye to their families and girl friends and boarded a bus to go off to the city where they were going to enlist. As the bus disappeared in the distance, someone cried out and pointed to the sky, and we all looked up."

Col. Tuckerman stopped here and looked Chuck directly in the eye. "You've seen shapes in the clouds, haven't you?" he asked. "A cloud might seem to be in the shape of a rabbit, or maybe a dog, or something else. It's a game we all play at some time or another… looking at shapes in the clouds. Well, when we looked at the clouds now, we saw it, a cloud in the shape of a huge tiger, even with the details of stripes, eyes, and whiskers. There it was floating over the town. It was like the tiger had come to honor and respect our boys who were going off to war. As we watched the clouds began to dissipate as they moved across the sky and soon the image of the tiger broke up and was gone."

A tear trickled down Col. Tuckerman's cheek as he looked thoughtfully at the sky, and then he continued. "I guess the tiger had come to say good-bye to our boys and show how proud it was of what they were doing." He nodded his head and closed his eyes and sat in silence, his cheeks wet with tears.

Chuck got up slowly and quietly leaving Col. Tuckerman to his thoughts. He had his own thoughts to deal with as well. The tiger seemed to appear at times when people of the town were banded together for some cause, either to rebuild their town and comfort each other, or when they were saying good-bye to their boys going off to war. Then he remembered something the Carson boy had said. "The tiger doesn't protect us. It's here because of us!" Chuck wondered what it all meant. Where was he going to find the answers?

Chuck walked around the town thinking about the tiger. Suddenly he stopped dead in his tracks. He now stood next to a monument of some kind. But, what caused him to notice it was a picture of a tiger that was engraved on the monument, a baby tiger! In a circle around the tiger were the words, "Littleton High School. Home of the Tigers."

Chuck looked up. Behind the monument was a high school. "Now, why would there be a monument in front of a school?" he wondered. He read the plaque on the monument. "It was on this sight that the original Littleton High School was burned down and the Great Tiger of Littleton first appeared."

Chuck looked around and then back at the monument. This had been the event that Mr. Johnson had told him about, where the Littleton high school had been burned down! It was here where the legend of the tiger had begun!

Chuck reached out and touched the engraving of the baby tiger on the monument, and suddenly a voice spoke close by, "Do you want to know about me?" it whispered. Chuck drew his hand back in surprise! All was silent now. Slowly he reached out and touched the monument again. "Do you want to know what I am?" whispered the voice again. "You haven't guessed yet, have you? Well, I will show you!"

As Chuck stood there touching the monument, the stone suddenly seemed to lose its solid form, and his hand passed into it as if it wasn't there! Nervously taking a deep breath, Chuck stepped forward. He walked into the monument, and the world around him disappeared in a misty cloud.

He now found himself standing in an open field. "This is where it all began!" whispered the voice. Ahead of him was a building with a sign on it: "Littleton High School. Home of the Tigers," and on the side of the building was the baby tiger logo that Chuck had seen engraved on the monument. "This is the night fifty years ago when I first appeared!" whispered the voice.

Suddenly there was an explosion and the school burst into flames! A group of men came around from behind the school carrying torches and dynamite. One of them walked up and ripped the baby tiger logo off the burning building and tossed it to another man who was obviously the leader. "Now the townspeople will see that we will destroy their town if they don't pay us a million dollars in protection money!" said the leader.

"Yeah!" said another man, "just like we destroyed the town of Carlsbad!"

"This gang was going around bribing various towns for millions of dollars," whispered the voice. "Those towns that didn't pay were burned down! Businesses were destroyed! Homes lost! Lives destroyed!"

"Let's move on to the next building!" shouted the leader, and the group began marching down the street toward the church.

But, as they got closer to the church, they heard voices chanting, " We will not pay! We will not pay!" Now a crowd of townspeople began filing out in front of the church forming a human blockade! "We will not pay!" they chanted.

The leader of the gang faced the townspeople. "If you don't pay, the rest of the town will have the same fate as your high school!" He tossed the logo of the baby tiger down in front of the townspeople!

But, the townspeople began advancing toward the gang. "We will not pay!" they continued to chant.

Now a strong wind started blowing. Then a strange thing happened. The logo of the baby tiger began glowing, and suddenly the ghostly figure of a baby tiger leaped out of the logo, and the apparition stood between the gang and the townspeople. Though it was startling, the ghostly baby tiger did not appear very threatening.

"Oh what a cute little kitty cat!" laughed one of the gang reaching out. The baby tiger responded by purring and rubbing up against the man's leg. The townspeople continued walking toward the gang, and as they did, the apparition of the baby tiger started getting bigger and bigger until it had become a full grown tiger.

The townspeople were now chanting, "We are united! We are tigers!" and they continued advancing forward. The ghostly tiger was now walking with them and roaring as it walked. They were now a formidable obstacle that the gang could not get by, and one by one, the gang fled, leaving the townspeople standing next to the burning school and the church.

Chuck listened as the voice continued to whisper. "I am a spirit that was brought to life by the unity of the townspeople. That night they stood up to evil to keep their town from being destroyed. The school was burned, and they were unable to save it. But the town had been saved."

The scene before Chuck shifted and he sensed that he was seeing a time that was now somewhat later. The wreckage of the burned school had been cleared and removed, and now a new school was being constructed in its place. The whispering voice continued, "Now the townspeople united to rebuild the school that they had lost… And the gang did return, oh yes! They threatened to burn down the school again even before it was rebuilt! But the townspeople banded together again and began chanting, "As long as we are united, we will not be defeated! We are tigers!"

Chuck saw the townspeople block the gang from getting to the school, and as they united, the ghost tiger appeared in front of them again roaring in defiance. Needless to say, the gang ran, never to be seen again!

The scene faded, and Chuck found himself back in the present day standing in front of the monument again. A huge golden tiger stood next to him. "That was the beginning," whispered the tiger looking up at Chuck. "The unity of the townspeople brought me to life! I am a spirit that is a tangible and living symbol of their strength though unity. During times of disaster and turmoil, whenever the townspeople band together, I appear. Their strength and unity calls me forth to represent them. During quiet times, when all is peaceful, I do not appear, and sometimes I am even forgotten. But I return and stand tall and proud whenever the strength and unity of the town shines forth!"

Slowly the tiger disappeared, leaving Chuck standing alone next to the monument. It was clear now what the tiger was and why it appeared. Chuck looked around at the monument. He had a story to write, and it would change forever how this small town called Littleton would be viewed. Stories would still be told, but now they would be told about the town's unity instead of its size! Littleton was a town that was small in size; but it was big in strength and unity! 

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