I’m lucky enough to live in the most beautiful province in Canada. No, really. This isn’t just some misplaced patriotic sentiment, but given I’ve been back and forth via roads and highways all over Canada, this is my educated opinion. British Columbia (formerly Nova Albion) boasts the perfect climate for wine makers to grow grapes, the Rocky Mountains, ancient rain forests, great weed, rich mineral veins, outlaws, a lake monster in Lake Okanagan, good looking yoga enthusiasts, an almost completely unaffordable world class city, and some great outdoor music festivals.
We also boast a large range of wildlife. Including the last great North American land predators.
I’m not referring to bears, of which we have black and grizzly, but the large cats. Lynx aside, the one that you should truly be concerned about is the cougar. While not unique to BC alone, we seem to have the highest thriving collection of them within our fair province. And given the amount of time I’ve spent in broken down vehicles in the Rockies, or jogging in small Interior towns along the roadside in early morning light that I think how often I might have missed a brush with this apex predator. They are designed, by nature, to be almost completely undetectable until you are under them and being perforated by their claws and having your skin separated from the rest of you.
I recall often having to pull over on tour for an unscheduled nature bathroom break and my compatriots would pile out of the bus to piddle in the scenic splendour. Oftentimes I’d pass on this due to a camel-like bladder and the fear that while in a prone position I might be easy pickings for a hungry cat. Indeed, while the rest of our circus was out relieving themselves, I’d keep an ear cocked for a scream, with the first aid kit and my mace at the ready. Luckily, it never came up, but that’s not to say that there wasn’t cougars patrolling the area, under the radar.
In 1958, my grandfather was helping lay the hydro lines throughout BC in order to unify power in all the small outposts and towns. This meant his young family made up of himself, my grandmother, mother and aunt would move like gypsies from place to place in the wilderness trying to somewhat domesticate this final frontier in the Wild West. It went without saying that a popular pastime for a man in the off time was to go and shoot things, such as deer. Not being a hunter himself, my granddad often would go along and stand there and smoke while his colleagues fired into the brush. On one of these sojourns near Prince George, he gamely took the photo of the hunting party posing proudly with a large buck they had shot. He finished the roll of film and sent it to be developed, not thinking much of it. However, when the photos were printed he got a rather large shock. Above the chummy hunting party on a rocky ledge not a few feet above their heads lay a huge cougar. In the photo the cat appears to be weighing the pros and cons of surprising the group and making off with the kill (or scaring off the bipeds). To see how close this giant cat was to them and all of them completely oblivious to it’s proximity is eerie. Had there not been so many of them, the outcome of the photo may have been rather different.
Fast forward to a few years back and an acquaintance of mine had returned to Vancouver after a weekend of surfing up on the north point of Vancouver Island in Tofino. He was telling me that there was a tree that was a plane up in the branches of an old-growth forest. It rested in the boughs since it crashed there years ago. He and a party of people were walking through the woods to take a look (also tripping balls on mushrooms as well) and take some photos. While there, he noticed the paw prints of a large cat on the ground. He also noticed that in the soft mud they had begun to fill with water. If your of any mind who has tracked game before you’ll know that indicated that the tracks were relatively fresh – which meant there was a big-ass cat still in the area. They party all grouped together, put their arms up and high tailed it out of the woods back to the safety of their hotel. We oftentimes coexist alongside these animals that roost at the top of the food chain and never know it.
The fact that this is something that one living in Milwaukee or Chicago or Los Angeles never have to have as a thought cross their minds blows my own. But there has likely been a large number of times when I’ve been a cunt hair away from death at the paws what’s essentially a North American lion and never known it. I’m pretty certain if I stopped to think about it too much I might go a little crazy. The Algonquins and Ojibwe natives believed that the cougar lived in the Underworld and was a force of evil and the Apache and Walapai both believed that it’s wail was a harbinger for death, which, let’s face it, if you hear a cougar calling you, it’s probably already too late for you. That means you have a large cat merrily spilling your innards out to see what tasty filling you have.
I mention all this because this weekend I’m piling into the tour van again with Sweet Soul Burlesque to do a little roadshow – we’re hitting Salmon Arm and Revelstoke. Which means six ladies in the car, props and costumes, high estrogen and sass levels and also numerous pee stops. The potential for cougar contact is high on this one, but given that I’ve broken down on the side of the road with each of these ladies at least once – all on separate tours – means I’ve learned a few things. But given our high spirits (and usually projecting voices) I’ve no doubt that if a cougar accidentally wandered into our midst, it’d be recruited as a mascot, it’s fur coated with glitter, and Cherry would be riding around on it, leaving the cat dazed, confused and wondering what the hell just happened.
So maybe I might bust out the meat bikini again – just this once.
XO Little Miss Risk