Back in the Cypress Swamp, before it became known as the Okefenokee, young Lonny goes out for a routine day of possum hunting and has a run-in with the dangerous old panther locals know as Weakfoot. Later, when his father tries to revenge Weakfoot's attack on Doc Manners, Lonny once again stumbles into danger and is taken prisoner by crazy old Tom Smutt, an escaped murderer who's been hiding out for 17 years and given up for dead by just about everybody. Lonny's narrative of his captivity--which soon becomes voluntary when he saves Smutt from a cottonmouth and stays on to learn Iris ways--has a nice vernacular alacrity. Cline also has something to say about the relativity of courage (when Lonny finally does kill Weakfoot he's no longer sure it's the right thing to do) and about the gray areas between good and bad (""I reckon Smutt was like Weakfoot. He was bad, or not bad, depending on what he did to you""). The parallels drawn to this end between crazed cat and crazed old man are oversimplistic and Smutt's decision to let himself die rather than be rescued from a bed of quicksand lets everyone off the moral hook. Thus the result is not quite as weighty as it pretends to be, but Smutt's history has the ring of a real local legend.