Sunday, March 19, 2006

Tall Tales

West Texas is the home of tall tales and West Texans are genetically programmed to tell harmless, brash, off-the-wall lies. They are very good at it and love to compete for the most outrageous stories, all of which they deliver in an almost reverent manner. If you look incredulous the tale-teller takes on a wounded and confused look (are you indicating that you might doubt me?).

Gary has one of the best tales, and he’ll swear it’s absolutely true even though today’s version only vaguely resembles the story he told six months ago. That telling went like this:

Gary, shaking his head, serious frown on, faraway look in his eye - I like to take photos of just about anything. I happened to be frequenting this one small canyon and I saw sign of mountain lion. Very fresh. Every time I walked the area there was more scat. One day I saw the lion heading up a trail to a cave in the canyon wall.

The next day I get my camera and walk the canyon rim, checking for the cave, thinking that I’d be in a safe position to get a shot when the lion came or went.

I found the cave and laid down at the edge of the cliff. The cave was 30 feet down and I had a great view. As I was settling in to wait I see this tail sticking out of the cave - the lion’s at home. Man, I’m excited! I get a little closer to the edge of the cliff, lean over a bit. Out of the cave come two baby mountain lions, just playing around with each other. Beautiful, magnificent, you can’t believe it! I edge a bit farther out over the edge, just to where I’m balanced and I’m about to start shooting pictures when the cubs scramble inside the cave. Geez, man I was disappointed but I stayed there figuring they’d come out again. Remember, I was hanging way out there.

Hell’s bells!! Suddenly that cliff edge gives way and I’m flying through the air, camera and all. Now I know how to fall, done it dozens of times, so I kind of somersault in the air. But I’m thinking that when I hit I’m going to be face to face with a couple hundred pounds of mighty mad mamma. I just made it. I hit feet first and was about to run like hell. But, here’s the thing - when I hit, I landed both feet on that lion’s tail. The lion just shot up going full speed vertically and cracked it’s head, WHAP!!, on the ceiling of the cave and knocked itself clean out. The babies shot off deep into the cave.

Well, I didn’t have any idea how hard that lion may have hit the ceiling so I tore off outta there as fast as I could. When I got back down the canyon I remembered - damn, I forgot to get a picture. I swear, I almost walked back up that canyon. But you know, I’m not all that lucky most of the time so I thought, Gary, you’d best get your sorry behind back home and dwell on how lucky it was that you landed on that cat’s tail.

He’s giving me that sad-eyed, "don’t you believe me" look again. I’d say he was lucky to have landed that cat’s tale.


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