WOSTER: Mom knew mountain lions were on the looseIf my mother had lived to read a news story that said 70 mountain lions — 70 snarling, clawing, blood-thirsty, man-eating mountain lions — were killed by hunters in the Black Hills, she’d have gone plumb bonkers with worry.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
Not many times does a kid — an old, gray-haired kid, to be sure, but a kid, nonetheless — not want his mother to still be around, but the other day might have been one of those rare times.
I was reading the Rapid City newspaper (hey, my little brother works there. I have to show him a little family support) and I stumbled on the story about the end of the annual mountain lion hunting season.
I don’t normally pay a whole lot of attention to hunting or fishing seasons, but the lion story caught my eye.
That’s because the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission apparently sets a quota on the number of mountain lions hunters may kill each season, and that number had just been reached. In fact, the quota had been reached and a couple more lions were bagged before the news spread throughout the hunting community.
(Should have had my granddaughters put it on their Facebooks, gang. You’d have had instant, worldwide awareness).
I know absolutely nothing about quotas and next to nothing about the size or shape of the mountain lion population in South Dakota. But I saw that the quota for this year’s hunt was 70 lions.
Here’s what I do know about that. I know absolutely if my mother had lived to read a news story that said 70 mountain lions — 70 snarling, clawing, blood-thirsty, man-eating mountain lions — were killed by hunters in the Black Hills, she’d have gone plumb bonkers with worry.
And she’d have stifled just the smallest hint of an “I told you so’’ smirk.
That’s because she always knew the Black Hills were overrun with creatures like mountain lions.
She figured the hills were overrun with creatures like grizzly bears, too, and tigers and packs of marauding wolves that would chase stray old Nash Ramblers through the logging trails like those wolves in that crazy scene from the movie “Dr. Zhivago.’’
She also suspected that those bright, clear, happy streams running over pebbles were home to killer trout and maybe the occasional shark or whale.
My mom, bless her soul, found herself quite a lot to worry about in the world around her.
When I was a kid, the family traveled to the Black Hills most summers the way some folks in the cities on the East Coast go to the shore or the Catskills. We went summer after summer. We stayed the same places, ate at the same places, took in the same tourist attractions and stopped at the same roadside turnouts, summer after summer.
When we’d stop, the kids — and it must be said, our dad — would shuck their shoes and socks and wade into the shallow, chilly water of any stream that happened to be nearby. Our mother would stand on the shore yelling at us to get back to land, to watch for the drop-offs and to be wary of biting fish and snakes and other aquatic what-not.
All the while, she’d be watching the hills, peering through the thick stands of trees for signs of movement, shadows that seemed to slink from behind one rock to another, tell-tale signs of the presence of wild beasts. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the Black Hills!
My big brother, Jim, once — presumably while his mother was distracted by the thought that a land shark was going to attack my wading sisters — snuck away and climbed way, way up a granite-faced hill.
He lost his nerve at the top and seemed unable to find his way back down. There he crouched, no way up, no way down. My mother was beside herself, alternately yelling at him to stay put and then advising him to get out of there in case a bear or mountain lion should emerge from the spruce.
And that was when we had zero evidence of lions, or bears, or tigers, for that matter, in the hills.
Had she read population estimates of, what, 250 or whatever, or seen actual, bagged, lions, she’d have climbed that steep hill granite face to save the kid.
As it was, she sent our dad on the rescue mission. He knew there were no lions in the Black Hills.