And one of them is pumas.
Well, okay, not pumas per se. It's really more of a fear of the dark. I always get anxious when I walk into unfamiliar, dark rooms, or nooks outdoors, or expansive fields shrouded in pitch. The thing is, this fear of the dark manifests itself as a fear that an unseen puma will spring forth from the darkness to pounce on me and rend my flesh. I equate dark rooms with killer cougars.
Last year at Stanford there was a killer puma loose in the foothills. It was attacking horses and mutilating livestock. There was a big mystery surrounding these attacks. Pumas aren't supposed to attack animals so much larger than themselves, and they usually don't come down out of the mountains so close to town. Feeling simultaneous dread and duty, I posted the following message around campus:
Y'all know me. Know how I earn a livin'. I'll catch this mountain lion for you, but it ain't gonna be easy. Not like going down to the pond and chasing bluegills and tommycocks. This lion, swallow you whole. No shakin', no tenderizin', down you go. And we gotta do it quick, that'll bring back your tourists, put all your businesses on a payin' basis. But it's not gonna be pleasant. I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, chief. I'll find him for three, but I'll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you've gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don't want no volunteers, I don't want no mates, there's too many captains on this island. Ten thousand dollars for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing.
So, armed with a large tree branch, my intrepid best man and I set off into the hills in search of the creature. We wandered for hours, sticking diligently to the well-populated, paved path. We never encountered it, but I think we really scared the puma away. Soon after, a mountain lion (we cannot be sure it was the same one, but circumstantial evidence suggests so) meandered down out of the foothills into Palo Alto, where it was shot to death by the fuzz. I wasn't entirely convinced, however, and I told the newspaper so...
What I am saying is that it may not be the mountain lion. I don't wanna get beaten up for this. Look, Daily, there are all kinds of cats in these parts, you know? Cougars, pumas, catamounts. And the chances that these bozos got the exact cat--it's a hundred to one. A hundred to one. Now I'm not saying that this is not the mountain lion. It probably is, Daily. It probably is. It's a man eater. It's extremely rare for these parts, but the fact is that the bit e radius on this animal...is different that the wounds on the victim. I just--I wanna be sure. Now what I want to do is very simple. The digestive system of this cat is very, very slow. Let's cut it open. Whatever it's eaten in the last 24 hours is bound to still be in there. And then we'll be sure.
The horse mutilations stopped after that cat was sacrificed. But I still lose sleep thinking that the true killer might be out there, in the dark, lurking.