Friday, September 18, 2009

The Lynx

[While looking for some old papers in my ancient file cabinet down in the basement, I came across this short piece that I had written decades ago when I was a teenager and going through a Jack London and Jim Kjelgaard phase. I still like tales of men and their dogs against the wild. It's been a very long time--decades--since I've read anything in this genre, so when I recently watched the movie The Snow Walker, I was transported back in time to a lovely place during my childhood. Watching the movie led me to find the book, and I just finished reading Farley Mowat's book The Snow Walker and thoroughly enjoyed this (for me) escapism literature. Then this morning when I found this old, short piece that I had written as a teenager, I thought it might be fun to share it. I've typed it as I wrote it "back when," without making any of the many corrections that need to be made. Be kind; remember this was written by a rather romantic teenage girl!]

"Be careful, Major," Mike said as he walked stealthily through the forest of Kentucky. It was the Fall of the year and Mike's brown buckskin shirt and leggins blended in perfectly with the splotched background.

Major, Mikes' rust-colored dog, now only five months old, already a good tracker and showing remarkable intelligence for his age, was tracking a lynx that had been killing animals and leaving them--not for food, but for the sheer sadistic pleasure of killing something. They had been tracking the lynx for five days now and had not even seen it--just the victims of its demoniacal game.

The forest floor was matted with brown, red, and orange leaves, which prevented the lynx from leaving a distinct paw-print in the soft earth except in a very few clearings where there weren't as many leaves and so provided space for an animal to leave a print. But the lynx was too smart to wander into a clearing. Instead, it led Mike and Major through the thickest part of the forest where the abundance of undergrowth and trees supplied enough leaves to form a carpet on the forest floor four to five inches deep.

It was mid-afternoon, but the light in the forest was already dimming and the cat was beginning his nightly prowl. Flowing quickly and easily through the dimming light, the lynx hunted--first a deer for food, then a fawn sleeping under a bush. The lynx seemed to not be satisfied until it had killed something that it knew couldn't defend itself. Tomorrow night the lynx would go to the other side of the forest and salve his demoniacal urge to kill on the week-old litter of wolf cubs that lived under a huge rock at the base of a hill. The mother wolf, the lynx knew, would be sleeping with her cubs; but he would go just as the sun first blazed in full strength on the forest. By then the mother wolf will have traveled far away in her search for food.

Meanwhile, Mike was quenching the last spark of his camp-fire as the first light of dawn slid over the hill and crept modestly through the trees. Today, Mike felt that he would surely meet the lynx. Last night, just when he had made up his mind to camp, he had found a tuft of fur clinging to a bush where the lynx had crouched too quickly when he caught the quick movement of a rabbit hurrying to its hole.

Mike and Major walked all day and did not see the lynx. About noon, Major's neck-hairs bristled and he let our a low growl toward a lower-than-usual bush. Mike, thinking his search had finally ended, stole around to the side of the bush away from Major. Carefully without stirring a leaf, Mike looked under it--and saw the mutated form of the fawn. The heavy scent of blood and the lynx together confused Major.

Sighing, Mike left the fawn and continued his search. He was gaining on the lynx and was just a little behind it when dusk began to fall. But he decided to go on a few hours longer since he was so close.

The moon was full and the air was clear, which, Mike knew, would give him a definite advantage over th lynx. Major began to trot and Mike knew that they were closer--very close. Then Major stopped, sniffed the air and whined. This meant the wily lynx had back-tracked and was probably stalking them at this very moment. Suddenly, a shadow flicked behind a tree and Mike saw the lynx at the very same moment it saw him. Major, sensing the danger to his young master, roared and charged at the lynx. Mike barely had time to whip his gun up to his shoulder and aim--straight at the cat's head. A split second before Major and the cat met, Mike fired. But Major, unable to stop, tore right into the cat. The cat's reactions, although the bullet had hit its mark, were to tear a long rip in Major's right shoulder. Then the lynx fell dead in a heap at the surprised pup's feet. Mike rushed over and examined the slash in Major's shoulder. It went with the muscle, so it wasn't as serious as it might have been if it had torn across the muscle. Major would be all right when Mike could get home to put something on it to stop infection.

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