A stroll through my journals from my game warden days brought back memories, and a few chuckles.
Yes, I did a silly thing this past week. I pulled out one of my old work diaries to renew some old memories. Boy, was that ever a mistake, mainly because it revealed many of the truly silly things I have managed to do. I’m talking about actions that have no basis whatever in either reason or common sense. But you can be the judge.
Oh, I know that lots of us guys have done the same general types of things, which our wives thoroughly enjoy mentioning to us and anyone else who might listen. And it is fortunate that I have managed to hide many of the silly things I have done, thereby dodging the many verbal slings and arrows that might otherwise have been tossed my way by the little woman.
For instance, back in 1974 when I was a fairly new federal game warden I was patrolling the more remote parts of Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge when I caught sight of some movement way off across a flooded marsh. Using binoculars I observed a guy who appeared to be cutting down some brush. And, he was trespassing on a part of the refuge that would not be open until the duck season also opened, about a week later.
It appeared obvious to me that this guy had to be building a brush blind, getting ready for the coming season. So, donning my hip boots, I started walking across that marsh to where he was located, a distance of at least a half-mile. Now, anyone who has ever tried to walk in a flooded duck marsh knows there are holes, and soft mud, and all sorts of other obstacles that tend to trip up duck hunters and game wardens.
I do believe I found every single hole in that marsh, stepping in each as I moved along. And I managed to trip on submerged logs more than once, too. By the time I finally managed to reach my quarry, I was soaked from head to toe with smelly swamp water and duck “deficant,” slimy mud, and lots of sweat. And, I also made three important discoveries.
First, unbeknownst to me there was a refuge dike road that led to within 50 yards of where my “target” was cutting and stacking brush. Second, he was wearing a refuge shirt, which indicated he probably worked for the refuge. And third, I was not nearly in as good physical shape as I thought I was.
Well, he naturally asked who I was and what I was doing traipsing around in a closed area of the refuge. Naturally I identified myself, and advised him that I was just scouting for the upcoming waterfowl season. Then I mosied on up to the dike road and, acting like I was still checking things out, made my way back to my truck and got my mud-covered butt out of there.
Now, I fully realize that a single radio call by me to the refuge headquarters before I began my stalk, er, I mean my scouting trip, would have probably saved me an entire morning of sweat and toil. But it was such a beautiful day, and I really needed the exercise, too.
On another occasion I was peacefully sitting at my desk writing overdue reports that my boss suggested I get caught up on immediately when the phone rang. It was a U.S. Customs officer who informed me that his inspector had just found a truck driver returning from Canada that had a “pet” cougar inside his cab. A what? Yeah, a live cougar. What should he do? So I told him to hold it and the driver and I would get there just as fast as I could.
Do you know what expedite means to a law enforcement officer? Yeah, it means red lights and siren and full speed ahead. And that is exactly what I did from Canandaigua to the Thousand Islands Customs facility. What a drive that was.
Well anyway, I arrived while still in one piece. And I met the truck driver, who told me he had purchased the cougar in New Mexico and had been transporting it all over the country, including at least three trips into Canada, completely undetected by any law enforcement officers or Customs officials.
The cougar was still legally a kitten, only weighing around 40 to 50 pounds. It was very friendly to humans, and would have pegged the needle on any “cute meter.” But still, what could I do with that cat when I didn’t have a carrier or other any means of restraint beyond a 10-foot leash?
So, after considerable debate with myself, and after finishing my interview with the driver, I let the cat jump up into my Blazer and off we went, heading for the home of any acquaintance that owned a legal cougar and who had proper cage facilities. And that cougar sat close beside me all the way, rubbing it head on my shoulder and softly humming contentedly.
I arrived at the house and filled the owner in on my dilemma, and he immediately offered a nice shelter for the cat until I could make suitable arrangements. But then he asked if the cat might be hungry. Well, the driver had given me several cans of cat food, so we took that critter inside and opened one of them.
I learned another valuable lesson when I went to give that cat his meal. Never, ever get between a cougar and its food, even when you are giving it to him. Before I could get the spoon from the can to the dish that little “muffin” laid into me with teeth and claws. Never had I ever witnessed such speed and anger as that cat demonstrated so forcefully in the blink of an eye.
Well, the can of cat food fell into the dish. The spoon landed some feet away. I did an immediate retreat from that area, holding a bleeding hand and being thankful he went after the food and seemed to forget about the big human he had just chastised so vigorously. And he ate every scrap of that food, all the time growling a low warning that I respected completely.
I recovered from my injuries rather quickly. A few days later, Rascal was transported to a first class animal care facility in northern New Jersey where he remained until his death 16 years later. And the truck driver paid over $2,300 in fines for his sins against cougars.
Oh, and here is another important outdoor tip. If you have skunks coming into your back yard to feed on the garbage in your compost pile, never do anything silly like trying to scare them off by yelling real loud and running directly at them while waving your arms ...
Len Lisenbee is the Daily Messenger’s Outdoorz Writer. Contact him at email@example.com.