The Annals of Country Life: Boxer, Bobcat, and Barbeque

February 15th, 2014 17 Comments

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Bobcat two

The East is in the grip of yet another icy winter storm, but here in California were are not only experiencing the worst drought in years, but we are also experiencing the earliest spring I can remember. It’s only the second week in February and already the Flowering Pear trees in town are in bloom, while the Flowering Plums we planted in front of our house are pink with blossoms. The southern Sierras are noted for a relatively mild climate, but this is ridiculous. February?

Taking advantage of the mild weather, I was barbequing pork loins the other night under the watchful supervision of Pete the Beautiful Big Brave Brainy Bouncing Brindle Boxer. Supervising is what Pete does. After mature consideration and close observation, Pete has come to the conclusion that Darleen is not competent to do anything without his supervision, especially if it involves going somewhere in the car, and that while I am reasonably competent in the barbequing department, there is always the chance I might drop the plate. If you’re a Boxer, when it comes to food, hope springs eternal. Hope, and a marked tendency to lie about when or even if you last had a meal.

Pork has to be watched closely, so the two of us were outside doing the watching, when I saw a bobcat working his or her way through the tall grass on the hill behind the house. (Note I said I saw the bobcat; Pete doesn’t get easily distracted when watching barbequed meat.) The cat was only about thirty yards outside the fence walking slowly and steadily along, neither hunting nor hurrying. Since Pete and I had been talking, and I had been rattling the barbeque grill, opening and closing the top, turning the loins, and moving around on the patio, there is no way that cat couldn’t have been aware of us, barring hearing impairment and a visual handicap. He, or she, walked past the stumps of the dead pines I had to have cut down, across a wide open space, over a large boulder, never looking down at us, and only as he began to wind through some smaller boulders did my watchdog extraordinaire finally see him. Bobcat four

One of the wonderful things about Boxers is that they don’t get hysterical. They don’t frighten easily, or possibly at all, but they don’t bark unnecessarily either. In fact, the only way I could be certain Pete saw the bobcat (he wasn’t about to leave the barbeque) was that his entire energy changed and his eyes hardened. I know that may sound strange, but Boxers have marvelously expressive faces, and now his normal goofy eat-play-love expression was gone and he was back on active duty.

The two of us watched the bobcat pick his way through the rocks, across another open space, and when it finally passed the twelve o’clock position relative to us, Pete trotted out toward the far end of the fence. For the first time, the bobcat glanced down. He was clearly so completely terrified and caught off-guard by seeing a vicious, bloodthirsty man and a ferocious Boxer thirty yards below him that he had to sit down and scratch vigorously behind one ear to relieve his feelings. Then, with that curious mixture of languor and grace peculiar to cats, he jumped up onto a large flat boulder, reclined elegantly on his side looking down at us, and began a lengthy toilette, grooming himself carefully from ears to tail. Pete sat down in the gravel below him, the two of them watching each other, Pete with interest, the cat with magnificent unconcern.

Just then I saw Darleen through the window and signaled to her to bring the binoculars. She looked at the cat through binoculars and we talked in normal tones until the pork was done. Taking the meat off the grill and putting it on a plate finally drew Pete away from his observation post—after all, it’s all very well being a loyal watchdog and protector, but let’s not get our priorities skewed—and we all went inside. But what stayed with me, what especially delighted me, was the complete unconcern of the bobcat: man, wife, dog, barbeque, conversation, opening and closing of the door, none of it bothered him. I hope he stays close by. I hope he kills some of the damned ground squirrels that are coming out of my ears. Hell, I’ll happily barbeque some of them for him.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Here in Michigan we are still under four feet of snow and we would be happy to send California some.

    That bobcat probably smelled the meat and came to see if there was any thing for him or her. Every time we have dinner or any other food our cat will come over to were we are and look up and stare at us. She will sit there and keep looking because she wants what we have. In the morning as soon as I get out she will come meowing at me to feed her. So, I guess house cats and wild cats have some similarities. Our cat will also scratch behind her ear.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for sharing that story I could see both the bobcat and Pete staring at each other with your beautiful descriptions 🙂
    Were they your photos?

  3. Anonymous says:

    *lick, lick*

    “Dog? What dog? Oh, him?”

    *lick, lick*

    “Well, I suppose if he hops the fence, I might bound away.”

    *lick, lick*

    “No sense risking injuries all round, just to impress the humans.”

    *lick, lick*

    “No. Then I’d just have to sit up in a tree all day tomorrow. Or all week.”

    *lick, lick*

  4. Anonymous says:

    On the world news they keep saying the California mountains are getting a lot of snow. Why do you have spring like weather and the other part of California doesn’t? I was just wondering. Also, what is the difference between a ground squirrels and the kind of squirrels we see in the suburbs?

    • Ground squirrels, as the name implies, live in burrows they dig in inappropriate (to us) places. Their burrows can break a horse’s leg or a cow’s leg, or if they are allowed to burrow near a building they can literally undermine the structure. The mound of dirt created by the burrowing can damage farm equipment. (It has mine.) Another more important noxious difference is that they are the primary host of the fleas that carry bubonic plague. California urges people to get rid of ground squirrels whenever they can. Of course, the state has also banned the only poison that was effective, as well as all lead ammunition, and since no one makes non-lead .22 caliber ammo, it makes getting rid of the prolific pests, ah, shall we say, challenging?

      • Anonymous says:

        Being a ferret aficionado(I have 4 presently), I’ve always wondered if might be possible to “ferret” groundsquirrels. Illegal I’m sure(as I believe even KEEPING domestic ferrets is in California), but certainly as “interesting” an activity as “ratting” with ferrets is(and yes, I LOVED D. Brian Plummer’s book “Tales Of A Rat Hunting man”!)….L.B.

        • Anonymous says:

          They sound similar to the moles and groundhogs that Michigan has
          The moles burrows into the ground and leave holes. They also make
          the ground soft and lumpy. I have never heard of them damaging
          structures though.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Springtime in Michigan. What’s Springtime? Barbeque? You might be able to do that on Memorial day if you are lucky. Other wise you’ll have to wait until the Fourth of July.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Hey, Look a Squirrel!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Les saisons sont vraiment bizarre maintenant. Nous n’avons pas encore eu de grands froids et nous n’avons pas encore vu la neige. Les fleurs de mon jardin commencent à fleurir.
    Je vois aux informations que certaines régions des Etats Unis sont ensevelies sous la neige !!!!
    La France et la Grande Bretagne sont balayées par de fortes tempêtes et de nombreuses maisons sont dans l’eau et sont sans électricité !!!! Une tempête se termine et une autre arrive. Les personnes habitant ces endroits sont découragées à force de nettoyer.
    Les pêcheurs ne peuvent plus aller en mer. C’est beaucoup trop dangereux.
    Je ne me rappelle pas avoir déjà vu ça et surtout aussi longtemps……

  8. Anonymous says:

    JP you and Darleen do have the adventures! Glad you saved your BBQ as the bobcat might have had your dinner! Here in Nova Scotia we have been having a blizzard a week, I kid you not! The first one my hubby got stuck with his supervisor on the way home with a flat tire!

    Every date night we planned has been indoors as the snow just keeps coming. And when we watch the news from Boston, they get the storm and we get it a week later. The track just seems to want to head to Halifax.

    Tena French Halifax, NS Canada please call mother nature and stop the snow!

  9. Anonymous says:

    My guess is that bobcat had probably been observing you guys from secret for a good while before it determined you were not likely to be a threat–what a SPLENDID experience! I’ve seen a few bobcats in my day, but only fleeting glimpses at best. Stories like this would make a GREAT BOOK, J. P.–collected in one volume with more California history nuggets like you had in “An Accidental Cowboy”–something I really enjoyed about that book!(Is this a book plug? Where better than the author’s blog?). Working title could be “California Ranch Tales”–you could even put yer epic horse wreck in it! But QUICK! Make PAPER copies before they get sucked into and lost in the great computer black hole!!!….L.B.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Hello JP,

    thank you for sharing this episode 🙂 I enjoyed it very much!!
    Did I already say I envy you for having nature and wild animals so close to your place? YES!!!!
    I could really see the bobcat grooming before my mind´s eye. Of course he/she knew the boxer would´nt come to close to him/her 😉 All cats can be decidedly perky. You´re right the facial expressions of boxer´s are incomparable. They have lots of temperament and play up until old age. On the other hand they have a really high threshold of stimulation and are well aware that growling mostly does it. Their main motivation is protection. I grew up with three of them and one must simply love them !!! 🙂
    A foto would have been nice …?!
    What I don´t envy you for are the ground squirrels. They seem to be a veritable curse…. I favor the idea of using ferrets very much because I thinks it´s a very natural way to decimate them. Actually I didn´t know it´s prohibited in California. That´s not comprehensible to me.
    But don´t think you were the first barbecueing this year ;)….
    My husband is a fan of low-temperature cooking and has self-built a smoker. The start of the grilling season is january 1st…. 😉
    (each year)……………

    Best wishes

  11. Anonymous says:

    …..And yeah, we got quite the snow here in North Carolina, too–more than we have in quite awhile! There was about 6″ around my area, but just a few counties to the north and west of me, they got 19″!!! Luckily I was already scheduled off from work; didn’t even have to attempt driving in it. Just got to stay home and play! I love to get out and go “tracking” whenever it snows, to see what wild critters are about and what they’re up to. Those secretive lives that go on all around us all the time. Along with the usual rabbit, squirrel, coon, possum, and deer, saw both red and gray fox and coyote sign all on my 8 acres! But alas, no bobcat, though they are around here…..L. B.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story with us. So how do you write, we can feel as a spectator.Pete is a good dog.


  13. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for such a beautiful story about flowers blooming and the thoughts of once again being able to BBQ outside, as we here in central Pennsylvania are experiencing our 5th snowstorm since February began. There’s no place to go with all the snow. Everyone is sick of it and ready for spring. So this story helped to add a pleasant distraction from the dark and dreary days of winter. Hope all is well with you and Darleen. By the way, how is Snoopy doing? Have you been able to ride him again?Can’t wait for your next blog.

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