Editors note: We were all affected by the loss of the magnificent mountain lion in this area of Texas. It is hard for most of us to understand why this happens. Greg Tonian put his thoughts to pen.
The Last Cougar
By Greg Tonian 1/3/2021
Your paws were as wide as a pancake,
tamping out the sound of your passage,
Through scruffy fields and dense forest patches as you made your way across the ravaged plains of North Texas.
They hid retractable keratinous daggers,
Prepared to snare the haunches of fleeing whitetails,
They belayed you up steep limestone ridges,
And carried you safely across fallen oaks in the brambles.
My feet, though calloused,
Too tender for gravel and stones,
Asphalt or concrete,
Dry grass and sandspurs, require manufactured coverings.
Your treads had lasted some six autumns of wear and tear.
On a December morning, soon before your demise,
I journeyed to the Grasslands again.
Enroute, warm in my metallic hovercraft,
I drove in the dark, listening to news of vaccines.
Only arriving at Black Creek Lake as the sun began to reveal a vaporous, hoarfrosted tangled landscape,
With hues of copper, silver, golden straw, ghostly gray charcoal turning to brown.
Delicate oak leaf puzzle pieces were scattered in slight depressions in the parking lot,
Birdsong echoed intermittently through the chilly air.
I don’t have your winter coat.
I require layers and coverings:
Socks, cleats, skull cap, shirt and jacket, gloves made from a variety of fiber sources, petroleum, plant and animal.
A loud report shatters the stillness from the nearby woods, shock wave sound wall, then silence, before only the shivering leaves hiss quietly under their breath.
Deer Hunter, likely. Rifle, one shot.
Bullet against bone or buried in the loam?
A pang of sadness in the breast. I was once a hunter.
I clatter away upon my aluminum steed,
across course chunks of limestone gravel, each bump jarring the bones, icy needles of air piercing my fingertips.
Two deer bolt through the woods close by as I climb a hill, hopefully the same two I saw on my approach,
Spared from the hunter for now and heading away from his stand.
My breaths deepen, the blood flows to the extremities in violent pulses, the sun begins to break the chill as I pump onward through the Grasslands.
I roamed over 60 miles that Saturday morn.
They say the range of a mountain lion can be 100 square miles or more.
As I rode, you were several counties away, heading to your final destiny in Hunt County, only 40 Miles left on your pedometer.
Now you were a Wanted Creature.
Caught on film, you were the talk of the Metroplex.
“There’s a cougar on the prowl”.
“Save your pets, the women and the children”.
Hunters had visions of pelts and braggin’ rights.
Perhaps you too had wandered through these same Grasslands.
Do you remember the bumpy asphalt, the gravelly backroads?
The scattered patches of bluestem, the skittering coveys of meadowlarks, robins, juncos and sparrows, the flashing cardinals?
The steaming cow patties,
the staring, wooly, ear-tagged beasts?
Hissing metallic boulders, seeping benzene vapors,
Corrugated steel and plywood habitations, chain link fences every few hundred yards.
Did you see the odd flags and banners looking like sheets of bark, fluttering in the wind?
Could you see they were red, white and blue, did they illicit any response, perhaps a change of course?
How many mongrels, sounded the alarm at your approach, how many roaring metallic beasts nearly struck you on your journey?
Did you ever take advantage of fresh roadkill? I saw plenty of it today.
Today, we mourn your passing from our vanishing Prairieland home.
No longer will you feel the loamy earth between your paws.
Your fiery ember eyes have been extinguished.
Your nostrils will no longer flare to inhale the scent of herb, mineral and musk.
You will no longer savor or need the hot pulsing flesh of the hind, the pulsing blood and sinew, the sweet marrow and crunching bone.
On your last day,
You sensed something was wrong.
You smelled that familiar odor of fear and death,
An acrid cologne of musk and sour grain.
A sharp, far off metallic sound had caught your ear, the crows and jays had gone mute and still on their sentinel perches.
A loud report, then an explosion from within your chest, a flash of electricity jolted your entire being…the sun exploded…silence…then darkness.
I don’t feel safer.
The bullets continue to fly.
They are inseparable from our human experience.
They kill our brothers and sisters too, poisoning our animal soul.
They possess us.
Nature can set us free, if only we let it be.