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Lee and Eva Phipps 2001
 
Lee and Eva 2001

Lee and Eva Phipps

In 1999 Lee Phipps married Eva Strickland. They live south of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. They are both singers and musicians. Eva does children's crusades in churches.

Lee has been playing guitar and singing all his life. He has written several songs and stories.

COUGAR

A true story by Lee Phipps

"Come on, we've got plenty." They called into the fading Light of evening. I barely heard them. I looked up, and saw that they were quite a far distance from me now. They were leaving and were nearly out of sight. Why had this eerie dreadful feeling suddenly come over me? I never was afraid to be by myself -- especially not when there was someone still within seeing distance. Although I was just a skinny little kid about ten years old, I felt like I would have been considered a coward, or a wimp, to have been afraid; even though it was getting dark, and the others were going back to the house and would soon be out of sight.

My brothers and I were going to go fishing the next morning, and we wanted to get up early so that we could hike up to a creek in the mountains about 8 or 10 miles away, and be there pretty early in the day. We had dug our worms for bait, and had our fishing poles all ready, but we wanted to get some grasshoppers to take along, just in case the fish might bite on grasshoppers better than worms.

It was along in the evening, just getting dusk, and the grasshoppers were all starting to gather on the bushes for the night. That made it easy for us to catch our grasshoppers by just grabbing them off the bushes just before dark, rather than chasing them during the day time. I was finding bushes that were just loaded with grasshoppers, and I was so intent on my grasshopper harvest that I had not noticed that I was wandering quite far away from the others. Pretty soon I heard them hollering at me that we had enough grasshoppers, and I looked up to see them all going back toward the house, and I was there by my self.

Suddenly I was overcome with a dreadful fear of being there by myself. I couldn't understand this sudden dread and fear, because I usually never got frightened so easily. I would often spend a lot of time by myself, and never gave fear of being alone a second thought. This time, though, I was completely overcome by a dreaded feeling that started right in the bottom of my stomach and roared like a wild fire up to my heart, which started beating so fast I could hardly get my breath.

I didn't understand why I felt that way, but I did know one thing. I wasn't going to stay there trying to analyze my fears, I was going to get back down with the rest of the gang where I would feel a little safer.

I had turned around from the position I had been in, and was facing toward home and the others, who were not waiting on me. They were almost out of sight on their way toward the house.

With my heart pounding, I started to run. Since there was a big bush right in my way, I just jumped right into it. That was something I wouldn't have done if I hadn't been nearly scared out of my socks right at the time, because it was far too big of a bush for such a skinny little kid like I was to jump over.

Suddenly, I knew why I had the sudden fear and dread. Just on the other side of the bush, crouched and ready to pounce on me, was a huge mountain lion. I was jumping right in the middle of it. As I came into the bush, right into the jaws of the big cat, it raised up and drew back like a big kitten getting ready to slap a ball of yarn, only the snarl, and the teeth, and the claws were not like those of a kitten. Nothing I could have done could have kept this big cat from getting me now. It had been slipping up to attack me, and was behind this bush that had been right behind me. Now I had turned around and ran right to it.

There had been many times that mountain lions had come very close to attacking us while we lived there in Colorado. Whether it was just one lion, or several, I really don't know, but, we had encountered some close calls where we had realized afterward that the lion, or lions, had been considering making a meal out of one of us.

There was one time that Dad had been working for a neighbor, an older lady who was unable to do all the things that needed to be done around her place. As Dad was working with a little ditch of water, getting the water to run down where he could irrigate some of her flowers, and her lawn, he was using a hoe to clean some of the rocks and gravel out of the ditch so that the water could run more freely. He suddenly had an eerie feeling as though something was watching him. He turned around and right behind him, crouched and ready to spring was a huge mountain lion.

Too stunned and shocked to do anything, Dad just stood there looking at the big cat. Then, as he gathered his thoughts as to what he should do, he realized that he should definitely not run. While he was standing there trying to decide what would be the best thing to do, the mountain lion did not sense any fear, so it raised up, and slowly walked away.

There was another time when two of my older brothers, Warren who was about nine years old, and Lavern, who was about six years old, went about a half mile up the creek that ran by our house, to try to catch some fish.

There was one particular fishing hole that had some good sized trout in it, and it was fairly easy to get to. A person could slip up and drop their fishing Line over the edge of the bank without scaring the fish, and could usually catch several fish right there out of the same place. There was a big cottonwood tree that grew up right close, and had grown in such a way that it leaned out over the creek at a gradual slant. It made the perfect spot for a couple kids to sit under the tree and fish.

With several fish already in a bucket of water to keep them fresh, Lavern was beginning to tire of fishing, and was ready to go back home. Warren, however, was very intent on trying to catch one more big trout that kept taking his bait, but was evading the hook in it.

Bored, and getting impatient, Lavern stood holding his willow fishing pole, watching over Warren's shoulder, as he sat there trying over and over again to hook that one more big fish.

Suddenly, from the big tree reaching above them came the most bloodcurdling scream the two boys had ever heard. For someone who has never heard a panther scream it would be hard to imagine the fear and terror the sound can invoke.

They knew what it was that was making the noise, and it was such a frightful sound that it made Warren forget all about the fish that he was so intent on catching. Without having to give it too much thought, the two boys decided they wouldn't try to tame the lion right then, since it was so close to supper time, and they might ought to head for home in case supper might be ready by that time. However, they did leave the fish for the lion. In fact they even dumped them out where they could flop around so the lion would be sure and see them. Of course that was a last minute thing they took care of as they were leaving for home. They both tripped over the bucket and dumped the fish out in their hurry to Leave.

The two boys had suddenly become homesick so the fact that they were barefoot, and there was cactus and sand burrs all along the trail didn't bother them that evening. I remember them running into the yard so scared that they could hardly talk, and telling Dad about it. Then while Dad took his gun up to investigate, Lavern and I went in and crawled under the bed.

When Dad got back a little Later, he told how the tracks of the lion indicated that it had jumped down out of the tree from right above where the boys were, and had chased them a short distance. But the flopping of the fish had evidently caught it's eye, and it had turned back to eat the fish rather than take up pursuit of the boys.

I heard that terrifying scream that the cougar makes, a few years after that, one time when several of us boys, along with Billy and Ronnie McKee from down town were camping out up the creek from our place. We had gathered leaves and piled them up in the shape of our bedroll, and had rolled our blankets out. Then after we ate our meal that we cooked on the campfire, we took turns telling scary stories about mountain lions and bears and bobcats. Finally, along in the night sometime we either ran out of scary stories, or got too sleepy to stay awake to listen to them anymore, so we pulled the blankets over us and went to sleep.

The mosquitoes were so bad that night that I didn't get to sleep very long before I woke up with my lips all swelled up from mosquito bites. When I slapped a mosquito on my face the noise caused some kind of an animal to scamper away from where it was just a little way from our camp. It sounded like it was a rather large animal, so I got up and put more wood on the fire. When we had been talking before we went to sleep, someone had said that if you keep a good fire going it will keep the animals away.

My moving around in the camp woke a few of the others up, and when they asked me what I was doing, I told them about hearing the animal. They laughed at me and called me a scaredy cat, and told me to go back to sleep and quit rustling around so that they could sleep.

Just then we heard the panther scream. It couldn't have been very far away from us, just over across the creek from our camp. They didn't say any more about me being a scaredy cat, and they kinda just kept talking back and forth most of the rest of the night. No one said anything about being quiet so the others could sleep.

I didn't camp out with them the next night. I told them I didn't like the mosquitoes biting me, and I thought I would just stay home. I noticed that they took a gun with them when they camped out the next night.

There was also the time that Ronnie McKee, Lavern and I were going to do some fishing along North Crestone Creek. Dad offered to take us up to the Spillway, and then we were going to fish the creek down to our place. Dad let us out, and then took the pickup and went on home.

We hadn't been fishing for too long of a time until we heard Dad calling us. We answered him back, and when he got to where he could talk to us he told us that there had been a mountain lion right there at the house trying to get our chickens in broad daylight. He got his gun and tracked the lion for a ways and it was coming right up the creek toward where we were. He had lost the trail after a while, but just came on up to get us. We quit our fishing and just walked on down the creek. It had ditched him when he was tracking it, and then came on up behind him We saw where the lion had stepped in Dad's tracks following him up the creek. We knew it was right close, and I remember being able to smell some kind of an animal. I'm sure it must have been the lion. I remembered smelling that smell many other times when I was out in the woods, but, didn't know what it was until then. No wonder horses get spooked when they smell a cougar.

My brothers tell about one night when we were all sleeping, and we were awakened by what sounded like some one walking around on the roof with bedroom slippers on. We were living in a little flat roofed house at the time, and we were sure that someone was up on the roof. of course I was quite young at the time, so I don't remember all the details, but, I think Dad was away working at the time, so Charlie, my oldest brother was going to go out and see who was walking around on the roof. I guess Mother wouldn't let him go out there at night, so the next morning we went out, and there were mountain lion tracks there in the snow on the roof, and on the ground where it had walked.

There were many other times when our paths crossed with the big cats, but for me none had bean so frightening as this time when I found myself jumping right into the cougar's claws, and jaws.

The cougar had evidently been sneaking up closer behind me as I was catching the grasshoppers, and was right behind me ready to attack. There was no way I could have gotten away from it there, because it was close enough to catch me even if I had tried to run away from it. If I had tried to run it would have easily got me before I could have gone ten feet. I would not have been able to bluff it out by pretending I was not afraid of it, because that would have made very little difference to it, whether I was afraid or not. One thing was for sure, it wasn't afraid of me.

As I jumped into the bush, this huge cat drew back and snarled, it's claws ready to rip me into shreds. But, then, since I couldn't stop, but just kept coming right toward it, it must have thought I was attacking it, and to my surprise, it jumped and ran.

The only thing I can think of is that the Lord made it happen just that way so that the lion would think I was turning to attack it, and cause it to run from me, because I can't think of any other way I could have gotten out of that situation.

I ran on and caught up with the others just as they got to the house. I was too out of breath and scared to talk, so I didn't say anything about the lion. Besides, everyone was talking about other things. After I caught my breath, I decided not to say anything, because I was afraid if Dad heard about the cougar he would not let us go fishing the next morning.


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