California's Uppity Cougars

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The cat gnawed on fresh, bloody meat when I spotted him. He seemed in bliss, smacking his lips and licking his bloody chops in delight. But the feast distracted him as danger closed in from behind, in the form of an enraged predator — the one who slew the prey. Nature’s brutal imperatives made ME the rightful owner of that meat, and the cat a scavenger, a thief.

The look on my face as I closed the distance said the cat would pay dearly for his theft. Closer….closer….finally I was upon him. The cat finally turned around and gave me that look of theirs — that glower that combines equal parts indifference and scorn.

But my daughter’s cat misjudged badly. I was in no mood to take any crap. He was mauling my backstrap! I’d arrowed the fat little four-point the day before. The glorious episode was still vivid in my mind…..I’d climbed into my stand with a glow on the horizon and the swamp just coming alive. I was pumped.

Suddenly — HOLY S**T! — a deer broadside at 23 yards. The shakes started as I came to full draw. The sight pin wobbled crazily as I held on his rib cage….”calm down, Humberto!” I admonished (inaudibly.) And I took a deep breath. The pin…..finally…. steadied — WHUNK!!

Anyway, I’d just skinned and quartered him, lovingly trimming the luscious tenderloin from either side of the backbone and upper ribs, my own mouth watering as I anticipated my family’s feast: these luscious tenderloin steaks, seared in butter but pink and juicy on the inside, then smothered in a mushroom-burgundy sauce.

I’d gone inside for another brewskie and returned to the gazebo to find Diablo, my daughter’s big black, battle-scarred tomcat, atop the cutting board and munching away, laying claim to my meat.

“HAH!” I snarled. “We’ll see about THAT!” Remember Jack Nicholson’s face as he gripped the ax in The Shinning? Next to me as I took the final step he looked like Art Linkletter. I reached down and grabbed the wretched beast by the neck — for a millisecond, that is, because — WHOAAAAAH! He spun around in a lightning attack, four fangs perforating my hand and ten claws gouging my forearms, which felt like they’d been plunged into a roaring fire.

“G*DDAM! YOU MISERABLE!…I OUGHTA!! GET THE G*DDAM!” It was a thundering, brutal scream and it brought my daughter, Monica, and wife, Shirley, scrambling out the back door, just in time to see Diablo airborne, spinning through the air towards the back fence like a field-goal, screeching and clawing the air manically on his involuntary, hunting-boot-powered flight.

“DA-AAD!” Monica shrieked from the porch. “ARE YOU CRA — ZY??!! ..How COULD..?!”

“HUMBERTO!” Her mother chimed in. “What ON-EARTH! You OUGHTA…I CAN’T believe….!”

“LOOK!” I turned resolutely to face them and help up my bleeding arms. “See! — SEE??!! I shoulda DROWNED that MISERABLE animal LONG AGO!”

“Well whaddaya EX-PECT, Dad!” Monica pouted.

“Yeah Humberto!” Her dear mother added. “Leaving that meat out in the open like that! You oughta know BETTER by now!”

Nice, hunh? According to the women, it’s all MY fault! And here I thought I was doing everything right?! I’m dutifully preparing a family meal from scratch — lest I pry them away from Queer Eye for The Straight Guy. I’m fetching my own beers — lest I pry them away from Friends reruns. I was even planning on cleaning up — lest I wrench them away from Will & Grace. But NOOOOOOOO — turns out, I’m STILL at FAULT! Oh, what’s the point? Drop it. You can’t win with women.

They reminded me of the greenie-weenie chorus after the recent Mountain Lion attack in California.

“The lions were here first!” whines the Sierra Club. “We’re encroaching on their habitat. We don’t have a lion problem we have a people problem!…blah…blah…blah.”

The little scrap with 8-pound Diablo made me wonder what a California woman went through when a cougar jumped her last year. While bike-riding with friends in a wilderness park in Orange county California, Ann Hjelle had a 120-pound version of Diablo jump on her back and rip into her head, neck and face with his two-inch fangs and claws.

“This mountain lion jumped on her back and started dragging her off!” her friend Debbie Nichols told the AP. So Debbie jumped off the bike and sprung to the rescue, grabbing Ann’s legs and tugging away. “He dragged us about 100 yards into the brush, and I just kept screaming. This guy would not let go! He had a hold of her face! I just kept holding on and screaming, just screaming!”

The ruckus attracted other bikers who ganged up on the beast, bashing it with sticks and pelting it with rocks until it finally let go and fled.

Who’d a thought such pluck resided under those cutesy striped spandex shorts, matching helmets and granola-crammed backpacks of California bikers? Guess I better lay off these people.

Later the cops followed the lion’s trail and found the body of another biker partly covered in dirt and brush. 35-year-old Mark Reynolds had fang marks on his neck and his chest ripped open with his heart and lungs eaten out…You know how greenies always wag their fingers at us: “man is the ONLY animal that kills for sport! Other creatures hunt only for food!”

Easy to say from a stool at Starbucks. Tell it to the rancher who found a Killing Fields when a cougar got in his sheep pen. Ask the chicken farmer about the proverbial fox in the henhouse. It’s a slaughter.

And ask Ann Hjelle. That lion had a nice cache of meat already squared away. But he wanted more fun — like me on a deerstand.

Anyway, no sooner had the cougar attacked than the reflexive chorus from “experts” started.

“There is a better chance of being struck by lightning than being attacked by a lion.” That’s John Updike “Lion specialist” with California Fish and Game Department. “Including Thursday’s incident, there have been only 13 mountain lion attacks on humans in California over the past 110 years.”

Fine, Updike, but you’re omitting an interesting datum: 90 per cent of those attacks came in the last twenty years — coinciding with California’s hunting ban on cougars. Interesting, hunh?

“Wealthy trophy hunters, many from out of state, will pay for the pleasure of shooting a lion so they can hang mountain lions over their mantelpieces.” Thus ran, word for word, the scientifically-based campaign to ban cougar hunting in California.

“The haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be enjoying himself.” Did H.L. Mencken nail these people when he defined Puritanism, or what?

And here’s the craziest part: more lions are killed now in California by (taxpayer and hunting-license fee salaried) wildlife officers than were killed previously by (tax and hunting-license paying) hunters!

Ah! But at least none get hung over a mantlepiece, hunh greenies!

And apparently that number of dead cougars isn’t enough. With all these recent attacks the cougar preservationists started taking a little local heat. Here’s their retort straight from the Sierra Club’s California Mountain Lion page: “the California Department of Fish and Game has been derelict in its duty to manage mountain lions to protect public safety.”

So apparently they want the state to kill EVEN MORE! But ah, the trigger-pullers will all sport frowns, be supported by taxpayer funds — and best of all — no lion will get hung over a mantlepiece!

Instead they’ll be dumped in an incinerator! Yippee! Happy, now Greenies?

Diablo now flees at my approach — like California lions when they were hunted. That’s more like it. “For half a million years man has been the enemy of every mammal, including the largest.” This from the book Man The Hunter compiled at a symposium at the University Of Chicago in 1967. “The human notion that it is normal for animals to flee, the whole concept of animal being wild, is the result of man’s habit of hunting.”

It’s not nice to fool mother nature, California greenies.

Humberto Fontova [send him mail] holds an M.A. in History from Tulane University. He’s the author of the newly-published Fidel; Hollywood’s Favorite Tyrant, as well as The Hellpig Hunt: A Hunting Adventure in the Wild Wetlands at the Mouth of the Mississippi River by Middle-Aged Lunatics Who Refuse to Grow Up and Helldiver’s Rodeo described as "Highly entertaining!" by Publisher’s Weekly, as "Terrific!" by Salon.com, and as "Just what the doctor ordered!" by Ted Nugent.

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