Watching the news these days is enough to send anyone with two functioning brain cells into a spiral of depression. The recent elections, the steady stream of lies from both politicians and the press who are supposed to keep the politicians honest, various factions slaughtering each other in various parts of the world, every mother’s son trying to develop his own atomic bomb, moronic Taliban members shooting little girls because they don’t want to be morons also, drug lords butchering entire families because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time…
And then, just about the time you begin to think God really didn’t get it right, you have one of those experiences that give you hope.
A bobcat has been working the hill behind our house. We saw him—he looks like a muscular young male—several times today, hunting back and forth through the boulders and oak trees, padding silently along through the tall grass, his camouflage so good he vanished with the mere cessation of movement, then appearing again with just the flick of an ear or turn of head. Cats, all cats, move with such exquisite economy of motion that it’s hard to imagine them ever doing anything clumsy. They occasionally do, of course. I once saw a bobcat make a pounce at some little rodent, miss, fall on his head, and do a complete and completely ungraceful somersault down the slope. But it’s not the norm.
I didn’t get down to the barn to clean stalls until late afternoon, and when I finished, I stepped outside and out of the corner of my eye I saw movement in the southwest pasture. It was one of my neighbor’s semi-feral cats hunting gophers. I am greatly in favor of anyone or anything that hunts gophers on my property, goddamned gophers, the most pernicious pest in the West, undermining fences and pathways and trees and even—or so I’m told—foundations of buildings, killing everything man plants for food or beauty, creating tunnels that cause the horses to stumble, digging homes around the bases of the trees so that watering during the summer months involves endless hours of work with a shovel just to get the water to the damned tree, and reproducing at a rate that is truly awe-inspiring. When they’re not killing my roses, they’re clearly having x-rated bacchanalian orgies on a massive scale. You kill one, and fifty mourning family members come to the funeral, get drunk, and start having indiscriminate group sex. I imagine their burrows as having mirrors on the ceilings, red velvet wallpaper, heart-shaped beds, video equipment, and copies of Fifty Shades of Grey and The Story of O. So my neighbor’s cats are welcome on my property anytime. I stood still by the barn door, not wanting to interrupt him or her in his or her work, and out of the corner of my other eye, I saw movement on the hill, but very close to the house, literally just outside the chain link fence of the dog yard.
It was the bobcat again. The two felines were over a hundred yards apart, and unaware of each other’s presence or my presence, so for about five minutes I stood and watched two of the world’s greatest predators going about their crepuscular business and it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps, just possibly, after man has finished with the slow and sordid process of annihilating himself, perhaps there will still be cats going about their sleek and deadly work. That thought cheered me right up. Of course, the damned gophers will still be there too, having sex.