Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Cougar



Red posted a beautiful post about big cats which prompted me to share my experience with a big cat.

The above cougars are prints from oils done by a Wyoming artist who lived out on a ranch and painted incredibly realistic wildlife in dreamy backgrounds. She is now passed away, but I have three limited edition prints - The above two cougers: "Footloose" and "Golden Eyes." The coyote below is called "Belly Deep and Blowin'"


It is surprising I feel any affinity for cougars or wildlife of any kind.

Doesn't everyone have a crazy uncle tucked away in the family closet somewhere? Well, ours is buried now - which makes us all a lot safer, but this is where the cougar story starts.

This wacked out uncle would try to tame anything that walked out of the forest, prairie, den, tree, or other wild place. All the family members have stories to tell of being attacked by a coyote, a bob cat, a badger, or, yes, a cougar. I was around the cougar a lot. It had its front claws and fangs removed. Still, several hundred pounds of putty tat that would lie on top of cupboards so it could swat visitors (crazy uncle thought that was hilarious) was a bit scary. Once he claimed the cougar was constipated - I must have been ten years old - he told me to hold the cougar down while he gave it castor oil. The cougar was at least twice my size and it was quite a wrestling match with uncle standing by laughing his crazy head off. Finally he held the cat down while I straddled its broad chest and poured down a bottle of castor oil. I never did find out if the cat had a proper movement.

Another time he and my mother decided a picnic would be fun for my sister and I. They threw us in the back of the pickup with the cougar that, once we hit open road, heading for a remote mountain area and all the exciting smells added to the smell of little girls in deep fear, made the cougar start screaming. Ever heard a cougar scream? You will never forget it.

We lived through it. My sister came back with a huge burn on her temple where a discarded cigarette blew back and burnt her.

Next, Uncle decided to take a male cousin rabbit hunting, claiming the cougar was as good as any hunting dog. Yeh, you betcha. So off they went, until they came back to town full speed - Togie, the poor cougar who knew no better, got a whiff of rabbit blood and turned on my cousin and pretty effectively shredded my cousin's face with what was left of his cougar chompers. My cousin carries the scars to this day.

Needless to say, Togie went to cougar heaven that fateful day.

Why our parents put up with this behavior, (not from the cougar, but the crazy uncle) I will never know. A psychologist I once visited said, "Gee you kids were at risk, weren't you?" We all thought it was normal, what did we know?

Meeeeeeeeeeeoooowwwwwwwwwrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Diverging from the cat story, another fun thing my uncle planned for children was to take them "snipe" hunting. There was a small lake on the property and when it became dark, one child at a time was taken to sit by the lake to watch for the "snipes." I became very conditioned to love the night as I sat there alone, feeling brave to overcome the fear, and looking at the stars shining on the lake, inhaling the prairie and sagebrush smells as adrenaline, like electricity, would course through my body at any sound. I was also aware that big kitty cats, rattlesnakes, coyotes, an occasional bear, or bald eagle looking for prey roamed the area. Later I read in my textbook studies similar methods were used by satanists to condition children. No wonder there are more than a few in this family with anxiety problems.

Anyway, the good news is that I have no fear of any animal, but proper respect is due each one, besides strange large dogs (because I was bitten once) and am often found leaning over a zoo enclosure telling whatever is caged up that it is such a lovely creature and I hope it's happy.

22 comments:

Ya Think? said...

I believe I have a stomach ache now... Two cousins went hunting that Thanksgiving day. 'G' & 'D'. It has been said that 'D' teased Togi with rabbits, but I know not for certain. The media had a field day with this and claimed it took over 10 shots to put Togi down.

Your uncle went to Casper and got his daughter Anne. His idea of a practical joke was to tell Anne her first morning in Rawlins to go see the pussycat. The child was so petrified she ended up at the neighbors house. He laughed.

Later your uncle got a badger for a pet. He indicated that the only thing wrong with the badger was the prior owners. The badger bit him so hard in the finger he could not shoot his weapon. He had his daughter Anne, who was seven at that time go to the house and get her 22. Anne, desensitized by his ways complied; she came back with the 22 and quietly shot the badger off the wall and walked out.

Yes, your uncle kept peculiar pets. One time his two pet rattlesnakes got out of their cage. They were never seen again, but each year larger skins would be found in his taxidermy studio.

I think I shall go lay down now. Anne still hates cats. She is 55 now.

Vicki said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vicki said...

Yes, Togi. You should ask mother for the picture of me holding Badgie,( I thought he was my private pet!) the badger. I would set patiently at his hole by the steps to the shop..and he would come and set in my lap and let me pick him up and play with him, much like a cat. I always thought he was wild, I don't remember him being restrained or caged..perhaps there were two??
Remember Charlie and Cuddles (I don't remember the third coyotes name)..it used to make me so sad as they were chained up in his shop lot..people would drive up and tease these beautiful creatures, I think was only 6 or 7 years old. I love coyotes and wolves still. There was a pet bobcat that took a chunk of my aunt's leg when she accidently stepped on its foot..
I am afraid of horses..go figure.

Red said...

With all due respect to your uncle/family, I think it's very unfair to keep a wild animal as a pet (I assume Togie was declawed and defanged to make him "safer" to be around?) and then punish him when he behaves like a wild animal. Sad.

The extra information I'm getting from the comments makes me feel sadder still. :(

Have you ever visited The Daily Coyote?(http://dailycoyote.blogspot.com/)
As well as the wildlife adoption angle, there's the Wyoming angle that might interest you. And some truly amazing pictures.

Ya Think? said...

Hi Vicki,

This badger was not there for more than a week. It was after your bizarre uncle was no longer in your life.

Do you remember the little chimpmunk that lived under the stairs of the original Taxidermy? Or was that Post Rawlins also?

Ya Think? said...

Hey Red,

Family was nothing like the 'uncle'. Family simply had to figure out how to deal with the 'uncle'... or not deal with the 'uncle'...

mister anchovy said...

I've never seen a cougar in the wild, but I have seen fresh tracks on a fly fishing trip to the mountain west not so long ago.

Gardenia said...

I guess this was a risky post as some folks have pretty bad memories and I apologize.

The moral of the story so to speak is that wild animals should stay wild, or in the case of rehab - should be put back in the wild. They should not be pets - as wild animals are exactly that - wild. Attempting to domesticate them is not fair to them, and a danger to humans. I dislike rodeos and circuses for that reason.

However, I grew up in country that utilized working horses and dogs all of the time. These animals were not only companions but helpers as well. We learned to respect horses - well, uh, actually I fear them due to another one of crazy uncles pranks - but no fault of the horse. However that does not make them any less beautiful in my eyes.

Once I was feeding a wild buck deer by hand and attempted to pet his head - ooops - he whapped me hard enough with his horns to warn me, another lesson learned.

I think the Creator must have anticipated our desire to be close to beautiful creatures - as we were given dogs, cats, and other animals that have decided to make humans companions and are easily domesticated. That should be enough.

Sometimes even domesticated animals can turn "wild" if they feel threatened, such as the dog in the back of the pickup who lunged over and bit me in the shoulder as I was getting into my car which was parked by the truck.

When I lived in Rawlins we had a cougar or cougars who would spend their days watching the golfers on the golf course.

Ya Think? said...

Where I live today holds the beauty of animals provided by nature. I enjoy sitting out back and watching the occasional deer which runs through, or the wild turkey going by. Recently I came what felt like nose to nose, or is that tusk to nose with a wild bore. I could not get back in this house fast enough.

There was a woman I once met in remote northern california that once told me the wild animals watch over us and keep us safe. They are our protectors. I wonder if that is true? I would like to believe it is.

Gardenia said...

Red, I just visited the link you had in the comment. Truly amazing and dazzling photos. Somehow this woman (and her cat - more amazing as coyotes love rabbits for dinner and cats are about the same size!) has found a way to co-exist peacefully with the coyote. Poor coyotes belonging to the uncle were kept outside on chains and were picked up as older animals. The man had absolutely no empathy for any living creature, so I think the humans, not just children, and creatures in his universe all experienced abuse. Still, even in the idyllic world the blogger is living in, I would not bring children into the focus - as I said a wild animal is a wild animal even if they do grace our lives with their presence, I truly believe they should be rehabbed to go back to the wild.

Gardenia said...

ya think, I had a mystical Mexican friend who was into Indian lore in Wyoming and he thought that he had a protector cougar who lived in the rocks in back of his home......I don't know.....it would be a very interesting study - this affinity between humans and animals and some humans' propensity to ascribe human AND mystical characteristics to animals.....I've done that myself...

I wish I could see the wild turkeys and the boar - - - I always wanted to go see the Sage Chickens strut in Wyoming too, but did not get to do it.....Check out the link Red sent me - it has some beautiful photography - it may bring back happy memories of Wyo

Ya Think? said...

Hi Gardenia,

My friend was Bask and is a wonderful woman in remote northern Cal. This is an Indian Belief and I cannot remember which.. Shamina perhaps? I will have to ask her. She would go to the top of the mountain and stay and meditate upwards of a week. I hold much respect for her and will always thank her for getting me past my fear of wildlife.

I wish you could come here too.. There is a clearing here, of course for my home. But I am surrounded by woods. When I am out back I hear things rustling in the woods constantly. If I had but one wish, though, my home would be off the main highway, but I am grateful for what I have.

Occasionally I get blessed with seeing some of the wildlife, but it is definately in abundance in these woods.

I also live close to the Alabma Wilderness preserve and hold a membership there. Perhaps someday if you come out I can take you there. It holds so much serenity and is such a beautiful place.

I guess it goes without saying I would prefer to pole volt over Wyoming as step foot on its soil. There are 52 states, so I guess not wanting to deal with one of them does not hurt as I have options. :-)

tweetey30 said...

Thanks for sharing that story and those paintings are beautiful. I wish I had more wall space for stuff like that. I love big cat pix. Or any animal for that matter. They are just amazing really.

Gardenia said...

tweety -I don't have wall space - two are in the closet - isn't that awful?

tshsmom said...

I had a hell of a time convincing my husband that there actually was such a bird as snipe! He finally believed me after I showed him the picture in the bird book.

Biddie said...

Those paintings are incredible.
I don't agree with keeping wild animals, yet I have a Blue Jay.
He was rescued from a man that put him in a box. By the time I got him, he was half dead..Dehydrated and scared. I nursed him back to health, and now he lives with us.
Many people have told me that I am being cruel to him...Maybe I am, but if I let him go, he will die within minutes.
If there were a bird sanctuary here, or a place that could teach him how to live and survive on his own, I would gladly hand him over.
Until then, he lives here with us where he eats like a king, and rules over the other animals.

Milla said...

"The moral of the story so to speak is that wild animals should stay wild, or in the case of rehab - should be put back in the wild. They should not be pets - as wild animals are exactly that - wild. "

You said it right, Gardenia!

BTW, Zorro read your post and he liked it very much and thanks you for sharing your memories.

Say It said...

I have a hard enough time having cats and dogs as pets. But the cats are indoor/outdoor and the dogs seem to really like the warmth and love of the indoors. I think if something needs a cage to be a pet, it shouldn't be a pet.

Gardenia said...

Biddie, there are exceptions I think, don't you - your blue jay is not a threat to anyone, he/she is warm, fed and happy. Also Wandering Coyote suggested a website to look at - and there is a woman living in Wyo with her coyote pal and that is working out. My uncles coyotes were chained to the outside of his shop - sad.

As children, we also had a pet skunk, Sloopy. We even took her to the wild once, released her and then got to thinking she wouldn't know how to make it, and we drove back and the poor little thing was sitting where we left her. So we took Sloopy back home. Nothing existed back then in our area to re-introduce her to the wild. Her mom had been killed and the babies parceled out as pets. She was like a pet cat mostly. A little dumber. haha. She preffered my sister - when she got old she started biting everyone except my sister.

Gardenia said...

Biddie, there are exceptions I think, don't you - your blue jay is not a threat to anyone, he/she is warm, fed and happy. Also Wandering Coyote suggested a website to look at - and there is a woman living in Wyo with her coyote pal and that is working out. As children, we also had a pet skunk, Sloopy. We even took her to the wild once, released her and then got to thinking she wouldn't know how to make it, and we drove back and the poor little thing was sitting where we left her. So we took Sloopy home. Nothing existed back then in our area to re-introduce her to the wild. Her mom had been killed and the babies parceled out as pets. She was like a pet cat mostly. A little dumber., haha.

jIhAd PuNk said...

If we had cougars around here Caz would have at least one in the house. Thank you for small mercies.

Vicki said...

She (the skunk) was the funniest thing! She played by slapping her feet on the ground and "charging" at you and flipping her bottom around taking aim to spray, then scooted backwards repeating this display until she ran full throttle into my lap for a tickle. She did prefer me, I do not know why..perhaps because she slept with me. Right under the covers on her back, her feet stuck up.
She did get cranky when you picked her up a certain way..I think it hurt her and that was why she bit.
She mysteriously disappeared one day while I was at school. I believe my mother holds the bag on that caper.
Oh, yes she had been descent-ed!
I think my mother had her put to sleep..I hope she was not so thoughtless to put her back in the prairie with out her natural defenses.