Ah, Youth!

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Bobcat 018 (Small)

I’ve been writing almost exclusively about books and politics and Second Amendment issues lately and much of that is due to the aftereffects of the horse wreck, my not being able to do some of the things I used to do outside.

One of the things I used to do that I do not miss in the slightest is weed whacking the critical areas around the property that must be cleared in case of fire. Fire is an ever-present danger in these mountains, and clearing one’s property is required by both law and common sense. Behind our house the hill rises steeply and weed whacking is limited by natural obstacles: a property boundary fence here, boulders there, a sudden rise in incline in this area, more boulders in that area, a natural cut, trees… You get the picture. The men I hired to do what I used to do followed pretty much the same boundaries I would have followed: above that area the weeds are dangerously thick this year; below it, everything is cut down to the dirt.

So I was standing with my back to the window, talking to my bride, when she suddenly yelped and pointed out at the hill. For a moment, what I thought I saw was one of our ridiculously overly-domesticated and overly-pampered indoor-only cats trotting across the cleared area. Then I realized it was a bobcat kitten. (Not the bobcat in the photo above; that one is a fully grown bobcat, with attitude, and in a bad mood.)

Not a kitten exactly, as much as barely an adolescent, a very young bobcat hovering in that awkward stage between childhood and adulthood. He had probably only within the last week been kicked out of the house for talking back to his mother and he was now boldly exploring his world with no thought to either danger or his next meal. There are ground squirrels galore in the boulders back there—I have been shooting them with monotonous regularly, but every time you kill one, twenty more come to the funeral—but no bobcat ever caught a ground squirrel by trotting blithely along in the open.

We watched him trot up at an angle to the base of one of the groups of boulders where he threw himself down on his back in a dusty spot and wriggled as hard and as thoroughly as he could. I know what he was doing was taking a dust bath to discourage fleas, but something about the way he did it, the youthful energy, the joie de vivre, the quality of making even a necessary toilette something of a game, made my wife and me both laugh. And when he got up, he didn’t just “get up;” he bounced up, shook himself vigorously, and vanished into the long weeds above.

That youthful exuberance reminded me of a boy I knew half a century ago, a boy whose boundless energy and sheer joy of living in his own healthy body used to make both his parents alternately laugh and tear out their hair. Unlike Mama Bobcat, they were patient and forbearing enough not to throw me out on my own.

I wish that young bobcat well.

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