Saturday, 16 June 2012

Never Surrender 'Cause You Just Might Gain A Friend

Oh my gosh, thank you so much for the support! I'm happy to inform you that I'm feeling loads better about everything and I have my friends and family to thank for that. And you guys, of course.

Today is the final day of Elana Johnson's NEVER SURRENDER blogfest and I'm uncharastically late for the festivities. But regardless of my delay, I'm glad to be able to share a time in my life where I never surrendered.

And oddly enough, it regards my ex-wife.

Psych! Ha Ha!

But in all honesty, my story involves two boys: a lil' dude named Tyson and a cool cat named Oracle...

I grew up on a farm-like estate thirty minutes from the city. My house was medium sized and very run-down but we had chickens, a goat, birds, turtles, a fish pond, two dogs and a family of bats in the ceiling. All of this on a plot of land big enough to occupy three town houses. My back yard resembled a forest because just thirty feet from the house was a cluster of avacado, oak and mountain apple trees. You can imagine how fond I was of climbing them to pick the tasty delight that hanged from their branches. I remember having many pirate and Tarzan adventures with my best friend Whitney under, in and even atop them; ah yes, we had loads of fun with those trees but as thrilling as they were, the thing that truly held my fancy to no end was a mere hop and skip behind them: a river.

When I wasn't playing with my friends, climbing trees in my backyard, doing chores, watching TV or writing stories, you could often find me in the river. I loved it to death. I loved the sound of the water sloshing agianst the rocks, the fresh, fishy smell and, above all else, the peace and quiet. Even as a kid I enjoyed "me time" and I still do to this very day. I used to collect the rocks on the bank and put them on the shelf over my bed; the more colorful the rock, the better. When I wasn't doing that, I was catching black catfish half my size (oh yes I did!), red crabs, eels and even water snakes.

"Stop going down in that river," my mom used to say, "all kinds of wild animals live there. And get that blasted crab off your bed!"

As if. I'd been going there for a few years and I'd never seen anything scary, so I ignored my mom's words and went anyway--what did she know, right? There're no wild animals down there--none at all!

But how very wrong I was. 

One evening after school, I stripped off my clothes, ate some frosted flakes and hightailed it to the river for some "me time." As soon as I reached the little cliff that seperated the river from my back yard and jumped, I turned to the left and saw the biggest cat I'd ever seen. EVER! I didn't stay long enough to compute its features, I zipped back up that cliff as quick as it was possible to be. I must admit, I was pretty scared and I went crying to my mother, who forbade me from ever going back there. And, surprisingly enough, I listened. I didn't want to be eaten by that giant cat, but as the weeks went by I missed my river. One month later, thinking the cat had died or something, I gathered enough courage to see for myself. Unbeknownst to my mom, I sneaked out of the house and went to the river. In less than sixty seconds I was back inside, wide eyed and pale. Turned out the cat was still there. Only this time, it was in a tree.

For many days I thought of that cat keeping me from my river, and the more I thought of it the angrier I got. Who was he to stop me from playing in a place I'd been enjoying for years? Something had to be done! But what? Lucky for me, I had gotten a good look at it the last time I (very) briefly saw it, and I knew what it was: an Ocelot. I had seen one before in a book about animals, so I went to the school library and read about them. Well, as it turned out, Ocelots were scared of people and would quicker run away rather than stand and fight. This offered little comfort because the book said it was afraid of "people", as in folks who-were-not-four-feet-tall. And skinny. The cat was the same size I was and I doubt it would run from a free meal on legs. Regardless, a little voice in my head told me to try, and that's just what I did.

Later that day, around half past five, I went to the river to face it. I brought a bowl of sardines as a peace offering and a machete just in case he decided to eat me instead. I jumped over the little cliff, looked up into a nearby tree and there it was. I began to panic because he just sat there staring at me with those big black eyes. A part of me wanted to run for it but another piece of my being told me to put the bowl down and leave. And I did. I don't know what it was but I knew what to do after that. I returned everyday thereafter to take the empty bowl of sardines and leave a fresh one in its stead ten feet from the tree where he lounged, staring. After about three weeks of the same routine, I decided to take things to the next level. This time, instead of leaving the bowl by the tree and departing, I opted to stay and search for rocks. As I walked up and down the bank, I kept a watchful eye for the Ocelot in his perch. I could feel his stare boring into me, but after thirty minutes or so something remarkable happened: he came down.

Oh my god, you can imagine how fast my heart was racing as he inched ever slowly toward the bowl. I insticntively stopped my pacing (for fear of freaking him out) and watched. He was about three and a half feet tall (he reached my chest), five feet in length and weighed about one hundred pounds. He was beautiful. I got a rush of adrenaline and decided to try and pat him but as soon as I got near he hissed. Translation: "Easy there buddy, let's take this slow."

And so, as the days went by I tried to pat him, much to his disdain; until one day I didn't have to try anymore because he came to me! It felt so good caressing his smooth fur and feeling the vibrations of his purrs against my skin.     

Since that day, I was never alone when I went to the river to play. My "me time' turned into "we time."

They were the best moments of my life.


D.G. Hudson said...

Fantastic story. So why was this ocelet wandering around? Had he escaped?

Liked the photos, beautiful markings on that cat.

T.D. McFrost said...

Ocelots live in the wild. This one was a male and had made a portion of the forest on the opposite side of the river his territory, including the spot where I used to play. To paint a better picture: the river was in the middle, my backyard was to the right and to the left was thick foliage.

The riverbank was the perfect place for him to drink water and catch catfish. It just so happened he chose my spot to do so.

You can have Ocelots as pets but you will have to find one first. They are very, very elusive and flee sight unseen. However, this one was different. He could've very well harmed be but he didn't. I used this to my advantage (a sort of fool's courage, if you will) to see if I could co-exist. Took a while, but it eventually happened, and we were friends for about three years until he disappeared. I suspect he went looking for a mate and found a better spot in the process. Needlesstosay, I was very grateful for the opportunity to befriend a wild cat. :)

That occured when I was ten. I'm going to be twenty three soon, and I still think about my friend Oracle.

ryan field said...

Such a cool story. This might be the outline of a great middle grade short story you could pub for.99 with the Amazon KDP program. I have a middle grade nephew and a niece who both have e-readers and would love this!!

I love these cats! I wish I could get a bengal cat but I have two dogs and it wouldn't be fair to a kitten. The older dog is fine with cats because he grew up with one. But the younger dog would be a problem.

But I digress. It's really a great story. And send me what you mentioned before.

Take care :)

T.D. McFrost said...

Oh wow, never thought of turning this into a middle grade. To be fair, just the other day I got an idea to write about a boy befriending a bear. And carrying it to school and stuff like that, but your idea sounds cool too.

You know what? I'll look into it. :D

Esther Spurrill-Jones said...

What an amazing story. I agree that it would make a wonderful book.

Jo Schaffer said...

Elana is very talented and a good friend of mine. I hope all of her stuff goes nuts!

Misha Gericke said...

Such a beautiful creature. You're very lucky to have a stunning memory. :-)

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