Moon Madness - 2, Copyrightę 2001-2006 By
Larry K. Hockman, "All RIGHTS RESERVED"
carefully extended his sheathed claws, exerting only enough pressure to slightly dimple the skin on Vince's beard-stubbled cheek. Vince respected the cat's delicate gesture, but still did not stir. He and Moon had spent many long hours at work and play, and although he knew his companion's usual tactics well, Moon's clever resourcefulness and uncanny instincts never failed to provide an intriguing or interesting show. Many times in the past, he had often exhibited behavior which seemed more human than feline in nature. Vince often wondered if he had been partially responsible since he had played the unlikely role of the surrogate mother from the animal's point of view. Somehow, they had formed a unique bond of love and respect between themselves which they both seemed to realize would endure whatever problems destiny dealt them.
Christmas was exactly one week away. The crisp December days had acquired the biting bitterness of a passing arctic storm sweeping the state. The access roads to the park were iced heavily and ordered closed, along with the park at the start of the previous week-end. After clearing debris around the main office from snapped, ice-laden pine boughs, Vince and Moon left the frozen scene for the warmth and safety of the 4x4 company truck.
Vince stopped a number of times on the way home to pull other vehicles back on the slick roads. Luckily, no serious injuries were incurred in the minor spin-outs; however, they encountered two stuck families traveling together from Florida which had some awfully frightened children. Despite Vince's best efforts, he could not get enough traction to budge the large motorhome.
Moon had opted to stay curled up on the warm truck seat during the pulling operations. Vince noticed him on the top of the seat as he lifted the heavy jumble of chain onto the tailgate. Moon's tufted ears were rotating back and forth as they often did when he was unsure of a sound's origin. The pupils of his golden eyes had opened wide to utilize more of the rapidly failing daylight and focused intently on a cracked window near the rear of the motorhome.
Vince returned to the truck momentarily to deposit his work gloves on the floorboard, and Moon meowed with a special tone of urgency Vince had learned to trust without a doubt. Something was amiss that he was unaware of here. He told his friend to lead the way and watched cautiously as Moon bounded to the rear of the vehicle, then back to the side door.
Vince now thought it rather odd that the driver had not come out after the unsuccessful pulling attempt. He firmly knocked on the door with Moon waiting patiently on the top step. Vince was about to knock again when the door was opened abruptly by the other man in the group. He let out a startled gasp when Moon invited himself in and stared down the hallway and back at his master. The distraught man looked like he had seen a ghost and stammered out that Vince could not let that animal go down that hall for any reason! A child's uncontrolled sobbing could be heard from behind the closed door.
Fearing that the crying child might have possibly been hurt or abused, Vince added some authority to his voice and told the man while pointing a finger toward the closed door that Moon thought there was a problem at hand worthy of his attention.
A profound change of attitude took place at the mere mention of Moon's name. The man had read of the cat's recent fame and shared a scientific interest in the animal with several other colleagues in Florida.
Vince was quickly informed that Moon was right concerning a problem, but that animals had caused it originally and aggravated it constantly; hence, the protective attitude when Moon had suddenly appeared inside.
Moon appeared to be listening intently as the strange man continued the explanation of a young boy's terrifying experience with his own lovable dog. The boy was only four years old at the time of the accident. His parents had bought the puppy from friends whose German shepherd delivered a litter the same day the child was born. The two had started their lives on equal terms. They played together, learned, and grew. A favorite game was "chase your tail." The boy would tug on the dog's tail, and the animal would spin in circles to hear his playmate howl with laughter.
The game turned tragic when the poor animal was struck by a car that broke its back and pelvis. Half dead, the dog had painfully dragged itself back in the yard where the young boy lived. Not knowing the animal was hurt, the boy had playfully pulled his tail, causing excruciating pain. The hapless dog instinctively turned and in a blind panic, savagely bit his tormentor in the face. The animal had been mercifully put to sleep, but his childhood master suffered permanent blindness from a severed optic nerve in his left eye and developed a type of phobia towards all animals resulting from the accident. All types of therapy had been tried to no avail.
Oblivious to Moon's presence in the next room, the child and his mother came down the hall and were face to face with him before she realized it. She immediately shielded her son's face, but he had already seen the great cat. Curiously, the crying ceased, and he reached up and slowly pulled his mother's hand from his face. A strange look of bewilderment replaced the anguish as he silently stared at Moon. Cautiously, the child extended his hand. Moon meowed softly and slowly took one step toward him. The boy squirmed, obviously wanting down. Holding her breath, the confused woman lowered her son to the floor directly in front of Moon. Reaching out again, Moon moved close enough to gently lick the boy's outstretched fingers and started purring loudly. Tears streamed down the mother's face as her son stroked the cat and broke into a broad grin.
The adults talked for several hours while Moon entertained the kids. Everyone agreed that the child's startling change of behavior was related to Moon's odd appearance from the absence of a long tail. The parents were ecstatically grateful for Moon's timely intervention. A warm and lasting friendship resulted from the encounter, and all vowed to
keep in touch. Vince finally waved good-bye when the tow truck managed to return the vehicle back to the frozen highway. The remainder of the trip home was without further incidence.
Vince was worn out and glad to be home. He fixed a hot supper of pork steak, gravy and mashed potatoes. Naturally, Moon was interested only in the steak and curled up at the foot of Vince's recliner in front of the warm fireplace before Vince was through eating. Recalling the events of the day, Vince lovingly admired his remarkable pet and in a soft voice said, "Soak it up, boy. You deserve it."
Vince poured himself a brandy for a nightcap and settled into the overstuffed recliner to watch the news and catch the weather report. Surprisingly, a couple of inches of snow were predicted to fall during the night. Smiling to himself, he thought it would be amusing to watch Moon's reaction to the new experience. He had never seen snow before. Maybe they would be blessed with a white Christmas as well.
Before retiring to the bedroom, Vince had decided to go hunting and maybe find a suitable Christmas tree the next day. Tracking game would be easy in the new snow and
possibly he could kill a deer or a wild pig for Christmas dinner.
Escaped, domestic hogs, crossbred naturally in the woods with the Russian wild boar introduced for sporting purposes from the Old World, had increased their numbers dramatically into a sizable herd during the previous few years. They foraged regularly up and down the river, a scant half mile through the woods behind the cabin. The Texas government looked upon the feral wild pigs as a nuisance. No season protected them, and they were fair
game to anyone who wished to harvest some at any time of the
year. Though he had not had the chance to hunt them yet, Vince
regarded their presence as a welcome addition to his piece of the
great outdoors. As far as he was concerned, variety was the spice
of life in regard to hunting! He had listened to many stories outlining
the special dangers involved with hunting the tough critters on foot
or alone, but in his opinion, the reward of several hundred pounds
of ham, pork chops, ribs and bacon far outweighed the associated
risks. The element of danger from a quarry which may turn to fight instead of run excited him.
Vince planned a hunting trip for the next day. An early start
would be unnecessary, so he decided to rest up by sleeping late.
He knew that Moon would not allow him to oversleep very long, anyway. He left the bedroom door open for Moon and quickly
drifted off into a deep sleep. Moon joined him after the fire burned
low in the living room fireplace and the floor became rather cool
for his liking.
Moon stood up on Vince's chest and rested his front paws on the headboard after the second failed attempt to rouse his master. Vince figured he was only amazed at the white blanket of snow covering his view of the winter landscape. He cautiously sneaked a peek from under his upstretched friend and could tell from Moon's immobile chin whiskers that he was intently staring in one direction only. He intentionally stretched the game out, despite his own curiosity.
Moon abruptly shifted his weight and sprang straight up to the shelf in front of his access door. Vince knew from the slight squeak in the hinges that Moon was headed outside. A scraping sound on the ramp further sparked Vince's interest of Moon's intentions. He opened his eyes and looked up to see Moon's rear end backing through the swinging door. A half second later, a miniature avalanche of fresh, cold snow landed on his face and pillow! Startled at Moon's radical change of intensity, Vince jumped up and said, "Hey! What's the big deal?" Undaunted, Moon continued to stare towards the woods over the new snow.
Vince peered out the frosty glass of the window in the direction of Moon's attention. He was amazed to see a monstrous ten-point whitetail buck accompanied by two does leisurely munching corn at the feeder he had put near the woods a few weeks before the hunting season opened! Looking back at Moon, he said with a sharp tone, "Damn boy! Why didn't you say something? Keep an eye on them while I get the gun." Moon replied with a low "meow" as if he fully understood.
Vince took off for the gun rack above the fireplace clad only in his underwear. In his haste, he painfully stubbed his toe on the bedroom doorframe and hopped the remaining distance to the living room. The deer were still eating contentedly when he returned and jacked a shell into the chamber of the Winchester. With great care, he opened the window just far enough to stick the muzzle of the carbine through the hole he had cut in the screen when he had accidentally locked his keys inside the house.
Moon had wisely not moved throughout the entire sequence. The close-up view provided by the rifle's telescopic sight revealed the buck's swelled neck, indicating to Vince that the yearly rutting period was in full swing.
Vince held his breath as the delicate crosshairs settled squarely just behind the buck's front shoulder. Anticipating the kill, Vince nudged off the safety and firmly
squeezed the trigger.
The report of the gun was deafening inside the cabin! Moon flinched and let out a squall but otherwise stood his ground. The rifle's recoil simultaneously extended the split in the screen another three inches while the stately buck fell to his knees. Vince knew the shot had been perfect and expected the deer to hit the ground dead. Miraculously, he got his feet under him and bounded over the rise in two majestic leaps.
Moon looked at Vince inquisitively, expecting instructions. Vince smiled and said, "I'll be there in a minute. Go find your deer!" Moon needed no more prodding. He leaped off the seven foot exit ramp with the grace of a retriever and hit the snow running.
Vince watched him through the window and busted out laughing when he cut sharply around the big hickory tree, lost his footing in the slick snow, and plowed a patch of it at least ten feet long into a neat little drift. Not to be detained long, Moon shook the snow from his fur and turned to momentarily glare at the tree for causing the "accident" before resuming his pursuit of the deer.
Vince could hardly get his pants on because he was laughing so hard. He took his time, knowing the deer could not run far with the fatal wound. On the way out, he grabbed his camera, his skinning knife and a drag rope.
The fresh snow crunched softly underfoot with each step. The frosty air had a fresh, clean fragrance accented only by the subtle scent of the pines. Cresting the low rise, Vince could see Moon perched defiantly atop the majestic buck at the end of the blood stained trail before him. Moon conveniently struck a classic pose of success with one paw resting on the topmost tine of the deer's trophy antlers. Vince snapped several great pictures for his hunting album from a variety of angles.
Vince felt reasonably sure the deer had a good chance of winning the "Big Buck Contest" sponsored by the county and a local sporting goods store. To enter, he would have to gut the animal and take it to town, have its weight certified, and the antlers officially measured at the store. A possible $500 plus a new rifle for the first prize winner would more than justify the delay in skinning and the trip into town. Second place would get a rifle, and third would receive a $150 prize. Any one of the three would make him extremely happy.
Moon watched curiously as his master filled out the buck deer tag from his hunting license and attached it tightly to the base of an antler with clear tape. Vince rolled up his sleeves and sat down to smoke a cigarette while the cat watched patiently. Turning to Moon, he held out his hand which was normally taken as an invitation to get up on his master's lap. This time was no different. Moon purred loudly as Vince smoothed his fur and scratched the tufted ears.
Five minutes elapsed before Vince snuffed out the smoke in the snow, set Moon down and began gutting the deer. He pulled out the heart, showed his friend where the bullet had passed through and offered the warm prize to Moon. He accepted graciously and started breakfast immediately! It was the first raw meat he had ever eaten without having killed it himself. Perhaps he counted the deer as a partial kill since he had first spotted it. Whatever his reasons, he seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the spoils of the bounty.
After bagging up the liver and kidneys to save for spring catfish bait, Vince walked over to Moon and in a sincere tone of voice said, "Moon ole buddy, thanks. I only got this deer because you woke me up. I appreciate it." With that small confession, he christened Moon's forehead with a customary mark of fresh blood from the hunter's first major kill. Moon seemed to realize that he was being honored and made no attempt to wipe off the blood. Vince finished the gutting chore about the same time Moon finished eating. He tied the drag rope securely to the massive antlers with a slip knot and pulled the deer through the snow toward the cabin with Moon leading the way.
Slightly winded, Vince decide to hang the buck overnight in the old hickory tree for aging purposes. He would take it to town the next day and eventually leave it at the commercial processing plant. At this point, all he wanted was some hot coffee and breakfast.
Inside, Vince stirred the ashed-over embers of last night's fire and found enough live coals to start a new one. He raked them into a pile, adding a handful of kindling, some medium oak sticks, and a small piece of pine heart before piling on an oak log and several lengths of split hickory. Moon quietly observed from the recliner. The smoking kindling suddenly burst into flame while Vince blew softly on the coals to give them some extra oxygen.
The new flame enticed Moon to move to the hearth beside Vince. He scratched Moon's ears affectionately and told him, "It's been one helluva morning, huh? You want some milk while I make me some breakfast? I know you can't possibly be hungry!" Moon's ears twitched slightly at the word "milk." He meowed his reply and trotted to the refrigerator. Vince poured him a small bowl, then took out a pound of bacon, a dozen eggs, and the last of the sausage.
While loading up the coffee pot, Vince addressed his friend again, "Moon, if we were to go out again this afternoon and get lucky enough to bag us a nice-sized hog, we could have part of it and part of the deer made into sausage and have all of the remaining meat cut and packaged at the same time. That would just about fill up all of our freezer space and last us most of the winter. Sound like a good plan to you?" Moon declined to answer. Instead, he jumped up in a chair to sniff the raw bacon. Vince shook his head and told him, "I guess that means yes," quickly adding, "I can't believe you're still hungry after that big deer heart! I think you just love my cookin'. You eat almost as much as I do!"
Vince expertly fried up the honey-cured meat and eggs, poured a steaming, fresh mug of coffee, and sat down to eat. He loved to cook and had become quite adept in the kitchen. Though he could prepare most anything, meats were his specialty. He planned on constructing a small smokehouse out back when he had gathered enough materials. Before breakfast was over, Moon had begged him out of half the bacon he cooked.
Moon reclaimed his spot in front of the crackling fire and meticulously licked his thick fur clean while Vince busied himself with loading the dishwasher before going outside to hang the buck. The deer was too heavy to hoist by hand, so he planned to pull it up with the truck.
The bright, morning sun added a new dimension to the white wonderland as Vince gazed out the kitchen window and selected a good spot to hang their trophy. He hoped the snow would last until Christmas. It reminded him of his sister. Sheryl had always loved the snow. Her friends had nick-named her "Snow-bunny" in her freshman year of high school. Glancing out toward the family plot, he resolved to place a wreath on her grave until the holidays were over. He missed her terribly. They had always spent Christmas and New Year's eve together, laughing, talking, and sharing their deepest secrets and fondest memories of the previous year. Until Moon entered his life, the holidays had only meant severe depression for Vince. He was indeed thankful for his animal friend. Vince's nostalgic train of thought was broken by the ring of his phone. He answered with a cheery, "Hell-O." The pleasant voice at the other end said, "Hell-o, Mr. Casey. I'm Mrs. Kesler. We met in the motorhome yesterday. I'm Danny's mother." Vince replied, "Yes, I remember. How is Danny feeling today?" Mrs. Kesler, obviously elated, said, "He's doing fabulous! I've never seen him so happy since the accident. Your amazing cat seems to have totally cured his fear of animals. He's outside playing with my mother's dog!" Vince told her, "I'm glad for him. Moon will be pleased at the news, also. What can I do for you?" She replied, "Well, Danny has taken quite a liking to you and Moon and insisted we invite both of you for Christmas dinner, providing you haven't any other plans, of course." Vince told her they would be delighted to come and took down directions to the house. Mrs. Kesler went on to ask Vince if he was busy tonight. Vince told her that he and Moon were going hunting but they would be back around dark.
Mrs. Kesler continued to explain that the president of the research foundation, a Dr. Fontain, where her husband, Ray, worked, had become profoundly interested in Moon after hearing about the events of yesterday. Dr. Fontain had previously brought Moon to Ray's attention when the incident involving the little girl had come out in the newspaper. Being researchers of animal behavior, Moon's uncommon actions had naturally raised many perplexing questions among their scientific colleagues. Dr. Fontain would be in for the holidays as well, and had asked her if she could possibly arrange a meeting with him and Moon for that evening just to answer a few odd questions. Vince told her they would be happy to aid the scientific community any way they could. She politely apologized for the inconvenience. Vince told her not to worry about it and gave directions for the doctor to find his house.
Vince hung up the phone and turned to Moon, "Looks like we're going to have company tonight."
The short trip to the back yard required the use of the four-wheel-drive mode to negotiate the frozen ground and snow. Vince raised the deer well above the reach of coyotes or stray dogs and secured the rope to the trunk. with that task accomplished, he would prepare a pack with enough supplies to allow him and Moon to be comfortable out in the elements for the rest of the day. Vince was a firm believer in going prepared for the worst a situation could offer. Food, extra clothes, compass, waterproof matches, bullets, raingear, skinning knife, first-aid kit, a space blanket, a flashlight with spare batteries, rope and a magnifying glass all found their way into the pack.
Vince turned on the television and caught the latest weather report while donning thermal underwear and wool socks. Another blast of arctic air would bring more snow later that day. It would be a prime day for hunting. Game would be on the move in search of food ahead of the front. Vince loved to be in the woods on days such as this. He would be ready for anything nature could dish out. He finished dressing, stuffed a can of cat-food in his coat pocket and grabbed his camera along with the Winchester. Moon was already testing the cold breeze while Vince locked the cabin door.
This space RESERVED For LATER USE--LKH
Author's Note: Feel free to copy/paste the text contained herein to build your personal copy of "Moon Madness". As this is COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL by ME, the ORIGINAL AUTHOR, please DO NOT copy for UNAUTHORIZED DISTRIBUTION in any form or fashion. "ALL RIGHTS RETAINED & RESERVED" by Larry K. Hockman! Please don't hesitate to E-Mail me for permission to use my works in the classroom, etc. ThanX for Visitin'! Hope you enjoyed the story and pass it on to your friends.
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