It was November at the Diamond W. Nights were cold and the days were bright and crisp. Me and Vernon had been workin along the banks of Whitewater creek, clearin logs and trees that were blockin the flow. There was one big Walnut log we wanted to carve on, so we figured to rig a snatch block and haul it up the steep bank. While we were foolin with that, we kept seein this big brown tom cat. He lived wild out there on field mice and such, like any house cat without a house will do. The thing about this cat though, was his aggressive attitude toward people. If you got within ten feet of him, he’d attack like he was gonna take you down and eat you. Vernon couldn’t resist playin with him. He’d lock eyeballs with the cat and creep up on him ‘till he pounced, then he’d swat him with a tree branch and run him off. I could see it wasn’t improving the cats attitude any, but it was fun to watch. The cat finally climbed into a Burr Oak and perched on a low limb like he was waitin for someone to pounce on.

  A few minutes later, we saw Shorty come out of the trees on his frisky little paint and head up the bank toward us. Vernon winked at me and started walkin real quick over to Shorty.

  Now, when Vernon winks at someone, it almost always means there’s gonna be trouble, and when Shorty’s involved, you can count on it. He walks up and starts tellin Shorty about this big wildcat we’d seen.

  “I’m tellin you, Shorty? I heard him say, “he could take down a good sized calf. We’re headed back to get some rifles and go after him.?

  “Aw, yer fulla beans? Shorty said, “there aint no wildcats anywhere around here.?

  “If you don’t believe me, just ask Cyclone. He wouldn’t lie to you, would he??

He was right, too. I don’t lie. I’ll tell it four different ways before I’ll lie about it.
Well, Shorty headed his horse right for me, and I could see he was gonna pass real close between that cat and the creek. I saw what Vernon was up to then, but it was too late to do anything about it. Not that I would have anyway.

  Shorty was lookin right at me, so he didn’t see the cat. It let out a low growl like it was the baddest thing on four feet and, just as it leaped, Vernon yelled “LOOK OUT, SHORTY, THERE IT IS!?

  Shorty looked up and saw nothing but claws and fur comin at him. He jerked so hard he unseated himself. His little paint twisted away from the creek and Shorty tumbled off. He hit the ground once and went over the edge of the fifteen foot bank, slidin the last five feet through the mud and into the water.

  The cat lit on Shorty’s saddle. He saw no one was there, lost interest, jumped off into the high grass and disappeared.

  Me and Vernon mounted up and took off quick. We could hear Shorty cussin and floppin around in the creek as we rode away. We knew he’d catch up to us soon enough, and we wanted to give him some time to cool off a little.

  It was more than an hour before we saw Shorty. He came draggin in lookin like some kinda swamp critter. He’d tried wash off in the creek, but only succeeded in makin himself look more comical. His clothes were caked with mud, his eyes looked like tow black eyed peas, and there was something dangling frow his beard that hadn’t been dead very long.

Now, all the boys at the Diamond W were very tactful in situations like this, so Jim pipes up and says “Shorty, looks like you been fishin with your mouth. You use your tongue for bait??

  Stevie C busted right out laughin at this, and I thought Vernon was gonna split his own head, he was grinning so hard.

  “I was attacked!? said Shorty, “by a wildcat!?
  Vernon had to leave. He stepped quietly outside while Shorty explained his predicament; “You can ask Cyclone and Vernon, they was there. It was big as a Puma! Jumped right out of a tree at me! I barely got away with my life!?

  I kept a straight face and just nodded. The boys got real interested then, and Shorty warmed right up to it.
  “His claws must have been five inches long…and fangs…you never seen such fangs…? and so on.

  Vernon stood outside the door and listened for a while, then slipped away real quiet.
  Well, Shorty wound down after awhile, and we all swore we’d go out huntin wildcat tomorrow. He got himself cleaned up and had supper and eventually we all settled down. Shorty climbed into his top bunk, pulled the blanket over himself, and commenced to snoring. I was wonderin where Vernon had gone, and I wandered outside to look at the stars. It wasn’t too long before I heard a horse comin from the direction of the creek. I heard someone dismount and, as he came closer, I saw it was Vernon. He was holdin his arm straight out in front of him with a gunny sack in his hand. It didn’t take a lot of intuition to tell what was in that sack. I could only wonder how he’d caught him, but he sure enough had that cat. He came up easy like to the door, signalin to me to be quiet.

  “Is Shorty asleep yet?? he asked.

  All I had to do was grin, and he stepped inside. He tippytoed up to Shorty’s bunk, lifted up the blanket, and with one quick motion he stuck his hand under there and jerked out the empty sack. Then he yelled “LOOK OUT, SHORTY, THERE HE IS AGAIN!?

  Shorty sailed out of that bunk like a sky diver, all tangled up in the blanket and squawlin like a banshee. The cat was yowlin and wailin and Shorty was screamin and cussin as they both tried to get loose. They slammed around the room like a whirlin dervish. I reached in and turned on the light just in time to see the cat break loose and run out the door. The blanket fell off Shorty’s head and he stopped flailin around. He was breathin real hard and his eyes bugged out like chicken eggs.

  Tennessee Jim spoke up from his bunk; “Dang, Shorty, he was even bigger than we thought he’d be.?

  I turned out the light.
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