Wednesday, April 02, 2008
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?
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.