I like Critters
And Crud Eaters
And Cats, especially Big Cats
The Summer of ’77 (sounds like a movie title)
I was living in Lake Charles with one of my best friends from high school, his Girl Friend, a Vietnam Vet (who did three tours with the First Cav as a chopper pilot), and his wife. The husband and wife owned a pet shop. The wife ran the place and the husband flew roughnecks back and forth to offshore oil rigs.
One day the wife, let’s call her Barbara, since that was her name, brought home a cougar. She had named him Charley and he was the size of a large house-cat. It was love at first sight for me as Charley was the only pussy I had yet seen or would see, turns out, during the entire six or so months I spent in Lake Charles.
Charley and I started sleeping together (since the other two beds in the house already had reached capacity and since I was so very good with animals and since I really wanted a roommate. Therefore I took over the care and feeding and raising of Charley the young ‘un Cougar.
Charley grew rapidly on a steady diet of raw hamburger, flank steak, catfish, eggs, tennis shoes, and the occasional Budweiser. We would wrestle and play tug of war for several hours every day. The house had a long narrow hallway leading to the three bedrooms. Our favorite game was “Charley The Flying Cougar.” I placed an ottoman at the entrance to the hallway and Charley would stand at the other end. On my cue he would race down the hallway and Mary-Lou-Retton-Like, hit the ottoman like a launch pad seriously becoming airborne and landing on my shoulders.
We continued refining this sport even after he had grown to about a hundred pounds. Of course at that point when he hit my shoulders we both tumbled to the floor. He was always gentle with me and I never felt his claws or his teeth. Sorry to say I cannot say the same for my old high school buddy. He just did not understand animals. When Charley was still house-cat size he would play too roughly with him.
So, I warned my buddy one day, “You’re gonna make that cat hate you, and when he grows up he’s gonna seriously tear you a new asshole, Asshole.”
“Naw, he likes it.”
“Okay, but you’ve been warned.”
Sure as shit, couple of months later, said high school buddy got his ass handed to him by Charley. Buddy only bled for a little while, but that ended their relationship as far as ‘heavy petting’ was concerned. When Charley got to be upwards of 120 pounds he started taking his half of our bed out of the middle. Barbara suggested we make a bed for him in the garage, and since I was not getting enough sleep anymore, I concurred. She brought home the biggest doggy bed she had in her shop and we laid it out for Charley in the garage along with his favorite toys, food and water dish and a small portable radio thinking he might get a little lonely at night.
‘That radio will keep him happy,” Barbara said.
That night we put him to bed in the garage just before we all retired; he was fine. For about thirty-five minutes. Then the Cougar Wails began. If you have never heard a hundred-twenty-pound cougar cry late at night, well you have missed something of nature. Everyone got out of bed and Barbara said, “Let’s just let him cry for a bit. I’m sure he’ll give up and go to sleep.”
About an hour and two bottles of wine later… We all gave up. Charley just would not shut up. I couldn’t stand it any longer.
“Please let him in Barb,” I said
She opened the door. Charley came bolting in; knocked me down, pinned me on the floor with his big paws on my shoulders, licked my face, then ran into our room and jumped into the middle of our bed.
“Well, we tried. Goodnight y’all,” I said as I picked myself up and headed in to join Charley.
Barbara had provided a collar and leash for Charley and we used to have great fun taking him out to the night clubs in Lake Charles. (Lake Charles was a really cool town back then, and Louisiana folks really did not seem to find it at all strange when someone walked into a bar with a cougar. But I will say this: when we did, the crowds always parted, making it very easy to belly-up to the bar. Charley became a regular guest at our most–frequent hangouts.
And he was the most awesome chick magnet in Calcasieu Parish.
But I still never managed to get laid in that town—very puzzling to me—but I did have a theory:
Since all the places we hung out were Greek Joints (My high school buddy was a Kappa Alpha, and insisted we only hang out with the ‘Brothers’ an’ ‘Sisters’), and since I was an ‘Independent’ and actually despised everything “Greek,” there was just no way any self-respecting sorority girl was gonna give it up for me, Cougar or no Cougar.
“Well, screw ‘em,” I finally decided. (Although, I was a little disappointed, ‘cause I found some of girls very appealing & screw-able in demeanor.)
If I could have just found Farrah… We had Cougars-in-Common.
Summer turned to fall and one day my buddy and I had to leave Lake Charles in a hurry (for reasons I cannot disclose until I check the ‘statute of limitations’), and head back to Texas. I hated to leave Charley and my other good friends, but I had a mind to leave the U.S. altogether and there was just no way I could take Charley with me.
I reapplied for the Sinai Field Mission gig I had wanted ever since I was eighteen and had first heard of it. As luck would have it, they agreed to hire me (Since by then I met their minimum age requirement of twenty).
About a week later, Halloween 1977, I arrived in the middle of the Sinai Desert.