Not The Cougar I Was Hoping For
It is only 14 years ago, but it seems like a different life entirely and that may be because for me, it was. I was a new homeowner, single, and preparing for the end of the world. In 1999, the news was dominated by the pending Y2K disaster, when the worlds computers would suddenly not know what to do with the two digit years that every lazy programmer had coded into suddenly sensitive and important systems. Overnight, the media was predicting we would return to the Pliocene era when the year 2000 rolled in. It was hyped during every evening newscast.
Before Deadspin, before Twitter and Facebook, the internet was still defined by dial-up or DSL and Windows 98 on desktop PC's. Cell phones were the size of a McDonalds Hot Apple Pie with monochrome screens and no camera. No iPads. Print film still ruled the day.
This is where I begin, in my Colorado neighborhood with a job that was the digital equivalent of a salt mine. In the summer of 1999 I was working to stave off the pending doom by updating my company's databases to a four digit year.
My neighbor, who also helped inform me about the bear cubs, is a self employed house painter. He is a nice low-key fellow who would normally come back to his house during the day to have lunch and take a smoke break. One afternoon as he was driving back down the main street that intersected with our street, he spotted what he initially thought was a large tan colored dog slowly ambling away from him down the sidewalk.
He slowed his truck down and as he neared the dog, he noticed that it had a very long tail and moved with a gait that was more feline than canine. !! Suddenly it clicked that what he was viewing was NOT a dog, but an adult mountain lion and he slowed till his truck was directly across from the cougar. At this point, he told me that it didn't seem to be concerned with him or his truck and just casually glanced his way before turning to cross my lawn and head to my front door. There, it stood like a gate guardian for a few minutes before heading to lay down in between a pair of juniper bushes directly beneath my kitchen window.
Thinking quickly, he rounded the corner and pulled his truck up in front of my house and reached for his camera that he used to photograph the work he had done on houses. He managed to get a shot off before he noticed an older neighbor walking toward him and drove off to stop him from getting any closer.
Meanwhile, I was ending my workday and headed home to relax and have a beer. I was greeted by a scene that bordered on chaos when I got to my house. All I could see was Colorado Division of Wildlife trucks, a couple of cop cars and what constituted half of my immediate neighborhood all gathered in front of my house. "Ahh jeez...fuck." My first reaction was to try and recall anything illegal I might have done, regardless of how improbable it was, and I somewhat panicked when I could not think of anything.
I had to slowly coast my car through the sea of humanity to park in my driveway and I was quickly surrounded by DoW people and law enforcement before I could even open my car door.
"Are you FunkFactor5?"
"Can we have a word with you?"
"Sure." [cold sweat]
They proceeded to tell me about the mountain lion and how they tried to tranquilize and capture it and failed. My neighbor had called 911 and that prompted the response, including the police contacting the DoW folks. They told me that when they arrived, the mountain lion was still basking between the junipers and when they attempted to shoot him with a dart gun, they fucking missed and it pissed him off. The cougar then took off across the street to a greenway with the DoW guys in trail. They took two more running shots and missed both.
They said he was a young male and were convinced that the mountain lion had taken up residence at my place and was most likely staying under my deck in my back yard....the same deck where I would grill my food and generally lounge after work. My-back-fucking-yard! That got my attention! My stomach dropped as I envisioned myself cluelessly farting about with him just under my feet. The DoW guys were convinced he would return, since they can be territorial, and warned me about going outside of my house. Seriously!? WTF?
They gave me a hotline number to call and patrolled our neighborhood for weeks thereafter, with no sightings.
I didn't grill for the rest of the summer.