The Squasholiger - [fearsome critter]
• About this critter: A little Squash-lion-tiger that sometimes grows from well-cared-for veggie patches, like an actual squash it starts off green then turns yellow over time. it eventually breaks off from the vine and wanders away, eating bugs and other garden pests. Farmers were said to grow them & let them run wild for this reason. (Technically speaking, this is a creature of the far less explored 'Crypto-Botany.') it might be the result of Tigrine "Cat-Squashes", mingling with tom-cats*.
• History: Yet another 'fearsome critter' included among Art Childs: 'Yarns of the Big Woods' (Published 1922 across several newspapers.) Alongside his charming illustration, included is the following short story:
"Across the lake was a neat little cabin where an “old-timer” lived all the year round. He raised quite a crop of vegetables, which he sold to campers.
The old guide took the tenderfoot over with him on a vegetable buying trip. “We’d like a couple of those fine squashes of yours, I’ve noticed lately they’re coming along great,” remarked the guide.
The wrinkled old woodsman shook his head. “Sorry, but they’re gone those were the squasholiger variety, you know.”
“Oh, sure,” nodded the guide, “That’s the walling kind ain’t it?”
“Yep. They grow just like any other squash on vines, only heaps larger. And as they ripen their eyes and legs come out and their mouth opens, and just before they’re ready to walk, a piece of the vine turns into a tail, and —presto! Off they go!”
“Don’t you ever get them?” asked the tenderfoot.
“ Nope. You see their green color helps them hide in the underbrush. But I don’t understand losing them, because they stay around the place and live on bugs and insects, so you see they’re considerable help. They’re a rare variety, though. Isn’t often I raise any of ’em."
• *Possible Origin?: The Earliest mention of farmers growing sentient "Cat-Squashes" at least that i can find, seems to date back to 1891: in Cato'ninetales; a domestic epic by Hattie Brown & William James Linton, among several other dark and amusing feline-themed poems, apparently written in memorium for her cat. - we find "How the squash became a cat." [pp.82] - A bit of prose which details a farmer carefully growing "Tigrine Cat-Squashes" complete with 'Superabundant articulated limbs' & a stem tail, only for them to break off & go & mingle with actual tom-cats. - [If they where tigrine, then the result of the two would be something of a 'Liger'!] - Not to say that this was/wasn't their original thought (I mean i myself have catsup which is down a similar vegetable-feline vein), it could simply be coincidental or perhaps there are other folkloric connections that i'm missing. (a popular theory is that this is a child friendly version of vampire melons of European legend but notably. either story lacks an blood thirsty melon/pumpkin.) - However, that considered & given the time frame & geography of which both stories were initially published, I wouldn't be surprised if the late Hattie's mourning prose for her poor cat proved perhaps at least as inspiration for the Squasholiger. - Then again, i suppose knowing the capricious nature of lumbermen, your theory is as good as mine.
That comparison said, this should not be confused with "NekoKabocha" (Cat-Squash) the Japanese Yurei/Nekomata, which is decidedly a ghost of a dead & well loved cat.
Art sticker by @samkalensky, part of my fearsome critters & cryptids collection of stickers! check my shop and follow for more!