Wednesday, February 06, 2008


The family was getting up, making its way around, when elder son said, “There’s a wildcat out there.” I wondered if it were a wild cat (like, a neighbor's cat, or one someone had dropped off) or a wildcat (which here would either be a bobcat or a panther). I’ve seen a bobcat here, not too long ago and boy was he beautiful, but I’ve only ever heard tales of panthers. They were the scariest tales of all tales when I was a child -- how a panther screamed like a woman, and of course it was always eating a woman right after that. When we first moved out here we actually picked up a hitchhiker, an old and fairly drunk man, who at dusk was standing in the middle of the road flicking his bic, over and over. He said a panther was after him and he sure was grateful that we’d picked him up.

When I heard husband calmly say to son, “Yep, that’s a wildcat,” I fairly knew it must be the bobcat. And sure enough we could stand in our living room windows and look out and see him as he relaxed amongst the trees. He was just like a cat on the back of your couch or something. He’d wash himself a bit, lay down, look around. We watched and watched to catch a glimpse of his tufted ears, he tail-less hind-end. When he sat up you could see how big he was -- husband and I both estimated he weighed at least 40 pounds. I commented that he’d weigh forty pounds until you tried to hold on to him and then he’d weigh a lot more.

Finally I had to go milk. The cow is only so patient and she doesn’t care a thing for bobcats. The cats on my porch didn’t seem to care that the big cat was only ten yards away if they were even aware of him. I walked down and he sat up, tall, and took a good look at me, and me at him, and it was a magnificent protracted moment. Then he turned and walked, did not run, did not even hurry, the same path that I’d seen the other bobcat take. I was wondering just how close he lives to us.

When I was milking, the whole goat herd came up. We’ve been meaning to kill the biggest wether but one thing or another has delayed it. I sent word by a daughter that the herd was here. With the drought they sometimes wander far and wide. A couple are skinny and while the wethers looked to be in good shape, there was some concern that we’d be killing them in a weight losing cycle which could make the meat tougher. After breakfast husband went out with the gun and sure enough, in a few minutes a loud bang to let us know the white weather was history.

Now, this goat, the white wether, was one of three born spring two years ago I believe but am not certain of. When that set of boy triplets was born down in the woods, the horse was very curious as to what this was and went up and sniffed a lot. In his sniffing he stepped on the white one’s back leg. The baby goat didn’t put the foot down for a week but when I examined it, it didn’t seem broken so we just left it, and sure enough, a week later the goat put the foot down and used it normally ever since. I remember holding that baby and his brothers. We’ve known him all his life. We’ve loved him well, although he was not a tame goat and would not come to you even for corn in a bucket. And so that bang was a bittersweet goodbye.

We have usually hung meat carcasses before skinning and cutting them up but we’d decided to do this one a bit differently. We’d kill it, and pretty much leave it laying. All the good parts would be cut off -- the loin, the ribs, the quarters -- but the offal and the rest of the body would just lay there. The cats would eat their fill. Then the buzzards. And within a couple days it would all be gone except the bones.

So husband got to dismembering it and the girls brought the ribs and loins to me. When the first girl came in holding a loin she said, “It’s twitching.” And it was. I rinsed it and put it in a little brine in the fridge to age. When the ribs came I rinsed them, cut the whole into two pieces so it would fit in the pot, and put it in water on the stove to cook all day. It really twitched when I poured hot water over it. And they were fat -- no worries for tough meat with them. Husband took the legs and put them in a freezer to cool, and from there they will be put in a cooler, then back in the freezer, back and forth for 3 or 4 days to let them age. Then they will be cut to roasts and stir-fry.

I do not know what the bobcat had for supper. I don’t believe it was one of our chickens although that might have been what he was after. But we had barbecue goat ribs with (freshly dug turning to sugar spring) mashed potatoes and a pot of red beans for supper. Husband got a taste for chocolate cake so I made that while he made the butter with which to make the icing.

Oh man, the opulence of country life.


dND said...

What a lovely post.

I would love to see a wildcat, I love cats of all types, I think you are so lucky.

I also love your attitude to them. As long as it's not causing you problems it has the right to exist alongside. It's so good to have give and take, that's what makes for a sharing, caring world.

Kitt said...

Good telling.

Anonymous said...

I love bobcats. Had one come up on the porch with me one day, then became enamored of my female calico & started leaving her "presents", usually heads of things a lot bigger than her! Sadly, my mom has lost about 15 pet cats to a disease that bobcats carry & give to domestic cats. (yes, she had them ALL tested). Wild cats usually do not harm domestic livestock unless they are starving or have kittens to feed. They prefer hunting & eating wild meat. We have one living in the woods behind our chicken coop & it never bothers the chickens. Love your site! - maridian

Teri said...

Yep, we did in both wethers this fall. We were tempted to keep them as a matched pair and train them to pull a cart. In the end, we just didn't have the money to spend on hay. I still think of those boys up on the hill, coming up to scratch the spot between the horns. There are new kids now and a couple more boys for eating this winter. At least I've got some girls to keep and last year's wether that was a bottle baby. No way we're eating him!