Friday, January 09, 2004

I saw on the news yesterday that a mountain lion in southern California had wounded one person and killed another. I thought it was a crazy coincidence of sorts because on the bus that morning, I'd been thinking about mountain lions in our area. Specifically I was thinking about these 8 year old twin boys I used to baby-sit when I first moved here, and how we would entertain ourselves by going on these fake safaris in the hills, looking for mountain lions. When it was time to go home at dusk (when the mountain lions actually do come out) they would sometimes get all defiant and refuse to go back home (they were a handful, those two). That is when I would have to remind them that we don't have a big chance against a mountain lion, which I had read tend to be particularly hostile to young boys (perhaps because they feel at once threatened by boys and yet confident that they can take them out).
In the hills where we would "hunt" for lions, there are signs everywhere about what to do and how to behave when you see a mountain lion. One thing they say is to never turn your back on it and run. Instead, you are supposed to make yourself look big, so if you have a jacket or something, you should raise your arms and fan it above your head, or simply raise your arms if you are out without a jacket. The signs also say to speak to it in a loud and firm voice (which strikes me as strange, I mean what on earth would you say to it?) and to throw stuff at it.
The mountain lion warning always worked like a charm, until one day when we were walking back home and one of the boys told me exactly how he felt about the whole thing. He just straight up said "I don't like it when you talk about the lions and us". So I was honest with him too, saying that I only resorted to the reminder when they refused to go home for dinner, and that really the chances of us coming across a mountain lion in the early evening hours were pretty minimal. He said he knew all of that already, but that regardless he didn't like it when I mentioned it.
I thought it was really great that he confronted me about the whole thing. I stopped talking about our chances against a lion, but there was no need for it from then on anyhow. We had reached a sort of understanding between us, and the other twin (who was the more hyper and more ill-behaved one) couldn't very well stay out in the hills by himself, so we would all happily go home when the sun set.
All this to say, how strange that I was reminiscing about this episode on a day when a mountain lion actually struck out at people. So in case you live in lion territory, please remember to do all the things above in case you find yourself face to face with one.