The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

My Love Affair with a Mountain Lion

By Cathy Ferguson © 1987

Issue: February, 1987

We were very young when we first met. The morning was cold, rainy and the forest was still except for an occasional rifle shot heard in the distance from hunters. Neither of us knew exactly what to expect from one another, but I suppose that didn't matter as our naiveté brought us standing in front of each other. Thus began my love affair with a mountain lion that I later called "Mush Puss."

I remember those yellow eyes pulsating with a warm glow of affection, vibrating with a yearning almost unappeasable, with a reaching for things unseen. Those tawny brown kitten spots and most of all, that silly little growl followed by an enormous yawn. I scooped this bundle of fur into my arms and began to search for my father whom I was certain wasn't far as he liked to camouflage himself in the blackberry bushes among the trees so the deer wouldn't see him. I was supposed to be by his side but I had an urge to explore and scare the deer away although I knew that would bring an end to any meat we might have for the coming year. I was sure my dad would be surprised at my great find. By the time I found him my arms were very tired and so was I, but that was not important as my dad readied his rifle to ward off an angry mother cat who was most certainly looking for this little fellow. We waited for almost an hour then we began searching to find the kitten's mother, knowing if we came close she would make herself known. As the hours passed we knew this little guy was an orphan as his mother could be found nowhere. There were neither signs nor tracks of an adult cat.

The little creature was starving by the time we arrived home, so my mother made some oatmeal with raisins, brown sugar and cream. This seemed to satisfy the little kitten as he consumed the entire bowl full. Looking up after his meal, his snoot and cheeks were covered with mush thus we named him "Mush Puss."

Mush Puss found a home with us, as my family and I lived in the country far from people. We were simple people with simple means. Living in the northern region of Washington, ours was primarily what we sowed from mother earth while depending on the logging industry. By the time I was eleven I knew every logging road within five miles. Needless to say, so did Mushy. We felt safe among the lumberjacks as they were a breed of men that seemed to know how to live and let live. They always took time to say hello to Mushy and me, often giving me a cookie from their lunch. Mushy and I filled each others needs as I had no playmates, brothers or sisters and he had no mother, so we grew up together sharing everything from the dinner table to sleeping in the same bed.

Mushy played marvelous games of hide and seek. Often he would pretend not to know where I was hiding and would search for me in places he knew I wouldn't be. He watched over me like a watch dog and as he grew older he protected me from harm. I shared my most intimate secrets with him and showed him my secret hiding place where I kept my treasures consisting of jack-stones, spider legs, pencil, paper, several different sized nuts and bolts, rocks and my assortment of marbles. Sleeping with this mountain lion was quite an experience, as Mushy always purred me to sleep after giving me a kiss with a tongue as big as my face. He had so much affection, love and devotion. He never once hurt or snarled unpleasantly at anyone.

After a winter and summer had passed the tawny spots seemed to disappear and Mush Puss had started growing into a beautiful cat with cinnamon brown fur, a black mustache and a very long tail which seemed to get in the way of his big feet. I had grown a year older, which is no big thing as I felt the same, but as the years passed I found both of us had grown older and bigger with Mushy at 250 pounds and I had reached my adult growth at thirteen. I stop and wonder now where the years have gone. One day we were but children and then yesterday we were all grown up. I suppose because we were all grown up the inevitable had to happen. The countryside where I was raised had grown with people, cutting of trees, the tracking of land so developers could build. One thing led to another and soon we became a city. One day the city officials decided my cat would be much too dangerous loose should anything happen to me. My family, Mush Puss and I were served papers to appear in court and through the so called channels of justice; my Mush Puss was taken to the zoo where he later mourned himself to death.

At the end of the court hearing I saw for the first time since Mushy and I met, those yellow eyes pulsating with a warm glow of affection, love and vibrating with a yearning almost unappeasable with a reaching for things unseen. I knelt, wrapping my arms around his huge neck squeezing him with all my might and in return he gave me one of his famous kisses. Somehow he knew he must be the stronger of the two and he went quietly without looking back.

Upon his death my father and I returned his body to the virgin forest where I found him so many years before. There we put him to rest under the twin birch tree. I stood for a moment letting the past ten years float through my memory while my tears mixed with the falling rain. When I looked up I saw no less then twenty lumberjacks walking past the grave leaning their axes against the birch tree, paying their homage to a friend.

Today I own that property where the land still remains dense and beautiful. One axe was left behind and it too remains against the tree now covered with time. Though time and distance has separated me from this place, my fond and loving memories of a mountain lion named "Mush Puss" lives on.