In 1987, I was in seventh grade. During the winter, my after-school hobby was to go rabbit hunting on the railroad tracks behind our house.
Despite being surrounded by woods and rice fields, we were in the city limits so I had to carry a pellet gun. It was a .20 caliber Sheridan that was as powerful as a .22 at short distances, so it made a perfect rabbit gun in an environment where stealth was the key.
My only problem was the last house in the neighborhood on the edge of the tracks had a Doberman pinscher that loved to chase people. So, you had to sneak past it to get to the good hunting grounds on the edge of the rice fields. One day I slipped past the house with no dog chase or sighting and made it to the edge of a Chinese tallow tree thicket and an abandoned rice field. I was going to cross through this field and look for rabbits along the edge of the trees, but then I heard something.
There was no wind, so anything that moved made sounds in the dry leaves and dying grass. I thought I heard faint footsteps in the brush. I took a position beside a tallow tree, raised my gun and clicked off the safety. I worried it might be my Doberman nemesis at first, but whatever it was sounded as if it were gliding through the brush.
My heart pounded as a large cougar walked slowly out of the brush and into the field. It had a medium-brown coat, a long tail as big around as my fist and a muscular, chiseled frame. I was more fascinated than scared as the cat turned around and looked me directly in the eye.
It was a look of complete confidence, almost as if it was saying that I was going to need something bigger than this Sheridan pellet gun to do it in. The cat then turned and slowly made its way over a levee.
Once I knew it was gone, I ran. Running from predators is never a good idea because it excites them. So I waited until it was out of my line of vision and took off.
I flung our door open and shouted, “Cougar!”
Mom and Dad believed me right away because I was already an expert at wildlife identification, but they suggested I call our neighbors down the road who had a cougar named Sandy for a pet. This cat was bigger than Sandy, but I called anyway.
“Hey Cher, did Sandy get loose?”
“Hold on Chester, let me check.”
“Nope, she’s on the runner in the back yard. Why?”
“I just saw a cougar back on the railroad tracks. It was bigger than Sandy, but I wanted to check anyway.”
“Oh that must be the male. She went into heat last month, and a male was calling out to her at night from back there.”
If you have had an exciting cougar sighting in Texas or have a photo or video of a cougar, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to share them in a future feature on this extremely popular topic.
—story by Chester Moore