02 July 2009
The Cat Who Loved BBQ
The above picture is a puma, mountain lion, cougar ... take your pick for the name used in your neck of the woods. It is a hunter and a killer. It is the top of the food chain in virtually every environment and its habitat runs from Canada to South America. For the most part, it hunts in the early hours or after the sun goes down. It can leap upwards over 15 feet and it can pounce laterally over 30. This is not an animal you mess with. For the most part, it wants nothing to do with human beings unless it is very, very hungry, has it's habitat threatened, or is a mother protecting kits. It's awful of me, but every time I hear of some jogger being taken out by a mountain lion, I root for the cat. Stupid human imitating natural prey by running in puma territory without wearing bells. For the record: Always make noise in puma land.
Now what does this have to do with me? Well whoopie folks, it's back to the Baja. When you cross the border there are two possible ways to go south: The toll road and the free road. The toll road is a lovely freeway that has off ramps to Rosarita Beach and all tourist enclaves down to Ensenada. Easy drive with beautiful Ocean views on your right that will cost you in several places.
Then there is the "free road". This is the one the residents use. All of the farms front on the free road. It leads to tiny roads that go to tiny enclaves of people and orphanages and ranches ... all the way to the tip at Cabo San Lucas. If you want to know the Baja, you take the free road. Fair warning. If you see a sign that says "Cuervo Peligroso", please slow down if only because the road ahead will kill you.
Most of the time when going south, I drove my car, hit the free road, and turned off at the ranch just past El Tigre (The Tiger). Now why would they name a town "El Tigre"? Why they did it because there was a very, very big cat that had always been there. For the most part it was content with rabbits and vermin or an occasional pet. Very very rarely a domestic animal such as a goat. The cows were big and a lone cat rarely tackled one. The humans and the cat recognized the natural balance. We all have to eat and if you stay out of my way, I'll stay out of yours.
Then came the weekend when my car was in the shop and the trip south had to be made. My life has one motto: "Deal With It". Take a greyhound down to edge of Mexico. Walk across the border. Go find the Tijuana bus station in the dark. Step over the passed out drunk to get inside. Buy Ticket and get on board. There we are in the midst of crowds, chatter you can't understand, various small infants and animals knowing only that you have to holler "ALTO" when you want the bus to stop.
Now it is very, very dark. You look out the window in a semi state of panic, looking for land marks ... okay passed the major peligroso curve ... orphanage on left ... OMG, that was the rancho... alto alto alto. and about a mile past where you needed to be, there you are in the dark (they don't do street lights in this part of the world) walking back to find a road in the middle of nowhere. You know there is a puma in the neighborhood, you can hear if "huffing". You know this sound from outside your bedroom window because you have been told not to leave the house once the lights are out unless you turn them back on and make a lot of noise.
Keep walking, move slowly, straight ahead and then the lights of a truck come from behind and some lovely people who can't understand a word you are saying except that you shouldn't be where you are, offer you a ride. Climb in because ax murderers, for the most part, only happen in movies and they rarely have a wife and two children to shift around to make room. Safe and almost where you need to be. Let out at the rancho gate and you only have a hundred yards or so ... huff huff huff ... oops. Walk quietly and steadily towards the house, pray the door is open ... YES!! Fall into bed SAFE.
Now the next day you get to regale all and sundry about your bravery in the face of almost overwhelming danger that would have paniced a lesser being than your wonderful self only to have everyone start giggling. But I was alone. I was out in the dark. There was a very big cat out there. I heard it, I tell you I heard it...
Honey, it was making the rounds of the BBQ pits. Huh? Say What? It seems everybody in the areas considered this particular beast as "their kitty".... Well I don't know about you, but any "kitty" that weighs in at 150 pounds that can kill you with one pounce .... Anyway, they would dump garbage in the BBQ pits and the puma would make the rounds. The next day, whatever the cat hadn't taken was burned. It was a sharing deal. You leave the pets and livestock alone and we will make sure you are fed. The ranchers knew it. The big cat knew it. I didn't know it. And there is another lesson from one of my favorite songs: The world Goes Round