Yikes! Big cat encounter
Sept. 30 was my b-day. We went out for the eve and returned late. This means critter care in the dark, which is not uncommon in these parts anyway since evening comes so early.
I have a flashlight apparatus that straps to my head and keeps both hands free. Very handy! Its a halogen light or something and has a surprising ability to reflect retinas. Eyes in the dark simply glow. I can spot an owl (or a rat) from a long distance, in fact itÂs so bright (and annoying), I try not to look at my own critters directly.
Cut to Sunday nite Â The geese are clumped next to the paddock fence whimpering Â theyÂre probably hungry. In the adjacent pasture, about 30 ft from the goose paddock, is a tree and an old stump. I glance that way and see two eyes. Oh thereÂs Elliot, our house cat sitting on the stump, me thinks Â I better rescue him before a marauding band of coyotes come thru. (Believe me, if anything ever happened to that cat, RJ would be brokenhearted!) As I head toward the stump, the eyes flicker and disappear. Elliot must have gazed away or jumped to the ground. 14 ft to go - I donÂt see the cat Â so maybe itÂs a coon, which I ought to scare off just the same. 10 ft from the tree, I didnÂt hear anything scramble off Â must be the cat after allÂ."here kitty kitty". Eight, maybe even six feet from the stump, a big face moves into view Â big eyes, round ears Â HOLY CAMOLE Â wrong cat!
Some how I gather my nerves and begin to back up very, very slowly, keeping the headlamp directly on the face of that cougar. Lord, please donÂt let me trip on that pile of rocks! I somehow achieve a position with the goose paddock between me and the big cat, whose eyes are still pierced on me. No growl, thank goodness. Door #1 or door #2? Do I enter the goose paddock and dive into the crate? Or keep backing up until I can make a break for the house? I evaluate my options while my tongue explores the contours of my heart which is now so deeply embedded in my throat I canÂt utter a syllable. I opt for #2 and keep backing up.
Safely inside I explode! RJ (in PJÂs) saunters off to get the rifle. I return to the safety of our deck and aim my trusty headlamp out to the stump. Yep! Still there! 2-mins. pass, 3 minsÂ5? The big cat finally Â EVENTUALLY retreats. I watch, amazed as its big gray body literally floats toward the neighboring farmstead. RJ FINALLY arrives. Why so casual? Awe, probably wasnÂt really a cat. Probably a big coon, maybe even a bewildered deer. By morning Â even IÂm no longer sure. It was dark out after all.
The fish & game commissioners were sure! They responded in person to my, "IÂm pretty sure I think I sawÂ" phone report. They ran the dogs along the property and found plenty of evidence to support my claim. Wow! I was told not to worry too much. It may have been passing through. Judging by our flockÂs behavior the past 2 weeks, in retrospect I donÂt think it was a first time visit. IÂm now wondering if the cat is keeping a string round his toe about our locale in case he needs some late night take out.
Since Sunday, IÂve learned to trust the geese. Most times theyÂll happily hit the pasture and graze. Occasionally however, theyÂll bunch up at the fence line honking, but refuse to step foot into the pasture. IÂm following their lead.
Anyone out there with any similar experiences? Any Midwesterners with some familiarity with big cats? What might I expect from here? RJ (law enforcement official) returns to the training academy for 2 weeks starting Monday and IÂm on my own. Time for rifle lessons? So far no losses, but IÂm a little jittery as you can imagine.
Needless to say, I've learned not to assume in the dark but this was defintely NOT in the Basic Farming manual!