‘I never saw that happen before!’

Published 9:43 pm Friday, October 6, 2006

In the gleam from the big four-cell flashlight I held across my shoulder, I could see a set of eyes flaming back at me, strong enough that they actually reflected off of the small pond in front of me. They flared even wider, obliterating any outline of a body behind the shining eyes. I held the pistol steady, inching closer. What was it? Had to be a cat, I figured, but what size? A bobcat? A wild housecat? Of course, I never considered a panther, since I fought that battle years ago with the High Muckety-Mucks in the state wildlife department; everyone knows that, officially, we do not have panthers – or cougars, pumas, mountain lions – here in the Magnolia State.

The eyes disappeared for a second, and I moved quickly to my right to focus the light back on them, even though if it was the prey I sought, I was going to have to shoot across the water. There! It was a cat, a big housecat. I passed up the shot, wiggled the flashlight, and it scooted off into the roadside bushes.

Night hunting: it can be interesting. I’ve been doing a lot of it lately. Yes, we’ve finally gotten a good general rain, couple of inches, so the fire ant beds are reappearing around the yard, Swimming Hole, and pasture — even on top of the Mammy Grudge ditch bank behind Betsy’s High Place where the lion lies down with the Lamb. Up until then, though, the only ground atall soft enough for the armadillos to root in was the ground that had been watered: in this case, Betsy’s flower beds. She finally declared war on the tribe that Joe Street calls “Armored Possums.” I was the executioner.

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Many years ago I was closely involved with people who practiced sneaking around at night, hunting for other people, who were doing the same thing. That was not a healthful occupation, tip-toeing around in the dark hoping to shoot at someone else before he shot at you. Here at Brownspur, the opposition is not armed, unless you happen to stumble across a copperhead or stumptail moccasin, or maybe a neighbor couple skinny-dipping. However, it can be hazardous to your health – well, my health anyway. These type things don’t happen to normal people, just to me.

I had spied an armored possum rooting around in the cane thicket next to my water well, and was circling for an unobstructed shot, when it registered on me that the well had clicked on, then clicked right back off. As I stood and listened, it did it again. Then again: click on, click off. That ain’t good. I hied me off to find a phone and called Mr. Billy Schultz, who said, “You’re describing to me a waterlogged well tank. Flip the breaker, take off the pressure gauge to give it air, and drain the tank. After it’s completely empty, screw the gauge back in tight, and flip the breaker back on.”

I did the first part, though it took awhile to drain the 500-gallon tank. Finally, I was ready, stood in front of the breaker box on the light pole, and flipped the breaker back on. There were sparks, a sizzling sound, then the back of the box erupted into flames! I mean, it looked like the pole was burning up! I reached in and flipped the breaker back off, losing some wrist hair in the process, as it blew slap out of the box.

My own son-in-law once asked me, “Uncle Bob, how come it is that everything you try to do seems so hard?” I’ve gotten so tired of folks saying, “I’ve never seen anything like this before – except out here at your house!” On Memorial Day weekend this same Delta Electric lineman had to come cut a tree off of the wires by the road, and not only were the top tree limbs burning, but the base of the pole where the tree had leaned to was smoldering, and actually flamed up, too! “Never saw that before,” George commented as he mounted the bucket to cut the limbs free.

Now George just gave me that, “Oh, it’s you again” grin as he pulled the meter base off, to let the Shudco man replace the breaker. By now it was afternoon of the next day. We finally had water again.

But the armadillo had escaped in all the excitement of flaming light poles. I don’t hunt out by the cane thicket any more. I’m afraid I might hear something clicking. There’s a rule: “If a tree falls in the forest, Neill must have been somewhere close!”