Monday, December 12, 2016

Mountain Lion Hollow


male cardinal on winterberry


It's good to see the sun after several gloomy days, which had closed in on us like grey felt in a flower press. The hunting season finally over, Barley and I have taken to walking in the hollow below our house. Where the trail makes its final descent into the hollow, winterberry trees have put on their Christmas decorations, bright red candy-colored balls. Birds flee at our approach, receding as waves into an ocean of weeds, or wildflowers, depending on one's perspective. I stand still, holding my breath, and the birds return, one by one, drawn by the fruit, devouring the ornaments like a child who can't wait for Christmas.




Barley holds his breath, too, standing motionless several paces behind me.




The hollow is quiet this morning, except for the twitter of birds, but this place is not always without drama. One October, in the early morning dark, Don walked down the trail and set up with his bow in a tree facing the valley, overlooking the creek. As the first rays of light streamed across the hollow, he noticed movement in the tall amber colored weeds, about 75 yards away. He fixed his gaze on the area for a short time before a tail appeared, swishing slowly back and forth. Then the steely eyes of a mountain lion came into focus, staring straight at him. A chill went down his spine.

Don remembers thinking that he’s always preferred to deer hunt alone. It was more true that day than ever before. Looking down at his bow, he calculated his chances of getting off a clean shot at a charging cat. Not good. He decided to begin his retreat. Then, if the mountain lion charged, he’d have time to get his back against a large tree and pull out his hunting knife. He got his feet on the ground and took one step sideways up the hill, keeping an eye on the path, and one on the predator below. The mountain lion didn’t move. Its tail twitched, but its eyes were steady.

Don continued to sidle up the hill, judging, with each step, the distance to the next tree. He was home before he could breathe easy. 

I think about that mountain lion once in a while when Barley and I are walking in the hollow, and my fingers tighten, momentarily, on the knife in my pocket.






15 comments:

Lady Fi said...

Gorgeous shots! How amazing - and a little scary - to be so close to a mountain lion.

Breathtaking said...

Hello, and Good Morning,:) I'm glad your hubby didn't freeze, and managed to escape unharmed. What a terrifying experience. Your dog Barley is beautiful, and it's a great photo of him caught in the autumn light.

pens and needles said...

What a story! Don has had some amazing experiences, but that one surely tops the list of close encounters while hunting. And "they" say we don't have mountain lions in the Ozarks! Barley pictures always make me smile. And I love red berry bushes, too -- my favorite part of the winter landscape. Hope you have a blessed Christmas, Connie! You, your photos and your writings are a gift in my life.

Felicia said...

Your hollow is a beautiful place but dangerous too. Please think about carrying a handgun instead of a knife and be safe.

Madge Bloom said...

Wow, that was quite the hair raising encounter your husband had!

Don Smiley said...

The Missouri Department of Conservation, which is usually a very good source of information, was slow to acknowledge that there were mountain lions in Ozark County, until a few years ago, when a man hit and killed one with his car on Highway 5 north of Gainesville, MO. Following that, they did verify some other reports of sightings in our county.

Rajesh said...

Very beautiful and scenic place.

Jedidja said...

Brrr ... but thank you for your story and wonderful photos.

Brian King said...

Gorgeous photos! I've never seen a mountain lion in the wild, but it would have to be a bit unnerving to be that close!

June Caedmon said...

Very scary, Connie. Barley and the birds would likely clue you in to a predator like that being around, but I think I'd want more than a knife in my pocket. {shudder}

Mary Cromer said...

You always write so poetically, as if you are singing. Happy to be able to stop by. Merry Christmas Blessings Connie~

Ginney Camden said...

What a beautiful place and a beautiful description of it. I'm not sure I could feel comfortable there though now that I know you share the space with a mountain lion. Hopefully he'll find some other hollow in which to spend his winter months.

Jenn Jilks said...

Gosh what a story! Do they go after humans? Gosh!
We have lots of coyotes, but they keep their distance, and tend to come out at night.
(ツ) from Cottage Country Ontario , ON, Canada!

Anita Johnson said...

Beautiful pictures...what a beautiful place!

Stewart M said...

Nice shot of the Cardinal. I do miss winter woodlands - our never change colour or shed their leaves - makes for less of a month by month changes.

Hope you have a great Christmas - Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne