The Farm on Oak Creek

Here kitty, kitty, kitty


The Willow Tree

Well, it’s been one of THOSE weeks again.  It kicked into high gear on Thursday morning.  Just as I finished morning chores and went inside to brew tea, the dogs went crazy, barking and going on. This isn’t unusual and I figured it was a critter walking on the hillside across the road (which it usually is). But after 5 minutes of non-stop barking, I decided I really needed to check.  So I sauntered out the kitchen door.

To my surprise, I found the two of them under the huge willow tree that sits at the upper corner of my property, right on the fence line, or more to the point, right where Page Springs enters my property.  That’s why it’s so big.  It has a constant source of water.   It is a beautiful tree, that is, as long as you don’t mind walking through its trailing branches which are often home to some odd looking spiders…white ones.  Shudder.  I make it a point to give it “haircuts” every so often so I don’t feel like I’m hacking my way through the jungle to reach the gate that lets me visit my neighbors.

Bear was standing directly under the tree, his front paws braced on the nice teak bench I placed under the tree but never use (see above about the strange spiders).  For all the world, it looked like that 120 pound canine thought he might just give tree climbing a try.  That’s pretty un-Bear-like.  I mean, we’re talking about a dog who responds to my whistle with a look that says “I have to come right this minute? I don’t think so.”  On the other hand, Moosie is dancing circles around the tree trunk, his gaze fastened above him, looking at something I couldn’t see behind the screen of draping branches.

I grimaced.  Another raccoon.  Dang it!

Although my neighbor Al has given me a rifle to keep in my house for just such occasions, I don’t know how to work the thing.  I’ve used a rifle once in my life.  I was twelve and weighed in at 65 pounds.  It knocked me for a loop, literally.  Thus, Al and I agreed that I would keep the rifle for him, cutting minutes of our trip to wherever the dogs had their critter trapped and thus giving the coons less time to escape.  But Al was on vacation.

That left me only one option.  I was going to have to convince the boys to let this one go.  There was no way I was going to listen to them bark for the next few hours. Or days.  Moosie doesn’t like to give up on raccoons.

So, I duck under the sweeping branches and lift my head to see where the coon was, only to stop dead in my tracks. 

HOKY SMOKES!  It wasn’t a raccoon.  It was a kitty.

A very very big kitty.

That’s right, my wonderful livestock guardians had treed a mountain lion.  The same lion, I’m sure, that has taken at least twenty-five of my sitting turkey hens over the last three years.  The same lion that all three of my neighbors have seen, but I have never caught so much as a glimpse of.

I froze where I stood, some two feet of so away from the trunk of that tree and stared up at that kitty perched on the lowest branch, about three feet over my head. It–she, I think–stared back.  She was about the size of Moosie, without her very long tail that is, so about eighty pounds. That’s forty pounds less than Bear.  It was a pretty sure thing that she wasn’t coming down as long as Bear was right beneath her.

By now, my heart was pounding.  All I could think to do was grab the dogs and drag them into the house.  And drag them I had to!  Bear was not giving up his new kitty toy and Moosie, well, we all know what Moosie wants to do with the things he traps.  

It took me a good five minutes before I had the boys locked in the house.  Only then did it occur to me that I should document this moment with a picture. From behind the glass of the kitchen window. 

I grabbed my phone and moved to the window.  It was instantly clear I had no reason to fear the lion coming for me.  She was down from the willow and dashing back and forth in obvious panic along the fence line. Argh!  Right through my tomatoes!

I poked my head out of the kitchen door and watched her make the journey from willow to tomatoes to willow seven times, moving so fast that the one photo I finally thought to snap only shows a tawny blur.  On that seventh trip she must have finally remembered that she knows how to jump.  Over the fence she went, moving at top speed away from me. 

That, I’m pretty sure, is the last that she and I will see of each other.

© Denise Domning, 2023