A conservative news and views blog.

Location: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Thursday, October 20, 2005

My Birthday Bash

Thanks to all for the birthday wishes!

My birthday camp-out was, well, interesting. My wife has never been camping, and she avoids the great outdoors like the plague. When she SUGGESTED this trip, I was absolutely convinced she had been downing extra-dry vodka martinis, but she was indeed sober, and proceeded to plan a fun birthday party in the wilderness. Because we decided to bring the cats, I went down to the cabin last weekend to install a fence and clean thing up. (I wanted no dead bugs or mouse droppings visible, lest my dear spouse divorce me for good!)

We left early in the morning, and hadn`t gone more than a couple of miles when Blackberry, our 4 year old Bombay, began vomiting all over the back seat. The poor little guy suffers terribly from motion sickness, and was either throwing up or defecating through the entire 3 hour drive. I felt terrible; I hadn`t known it was going to be so hard on him. Goccia, our 10 year old, sat on the floor next to my wife and shed half of his fur by the time we arrived. It was a hard, hard trip.

When we arrived I put Goccia inside the pen I had constructed, and went to get Blackberry. When I came back Goccia had found a way through the fence, and he made a dash for the crawlspace under the cabin. He hid under the cabin for half an hour, and I grabbed him when he poked his head out and put him back in the pen. The pen was an enclosure about 25 feet by 15, with the side of the cabin filling in the U shaped yard. We have several pallets for a deck and a firepit, and this was our primary outside area. To seal off the crawlspace I had covered the gaps with plastic trellising, and foolishly believed that this would prevent the cats from getting under the cabin-wrong! Goccia wanted to get under again, and he got his head stuck in the latticework! My wife panicked, and poor Goccia struggled so hard that I suspect he hurt his head.

He climbed onto a chair and didn`t budge for the rest of the trip. At night I put him in the cabin, and he immediately bolted under my cot and refused to come out. We worried that he may have hurt himself, but it turned out that he was just angry and didn`t want to be there! (Yeech! What a grouch!)

Because it was unseasonably warm, we suffered a plague of sweat bees, which buzzed around everywhere, getting on our food and generally annoying us to no end. I tried valiantly to assure my wife that this was not a normal camping experience, but I have no doubt that she thinks bees and locusts and fireants are the inevitable consequence of human beings spending time in the outdoors, and that only someone completely deranged would voluntarily engage in this practice.

At night it became cool, and I was forced to light a fire. My fireplace smokes horribly when first lit, but I had a glass enclosure to help keep it to normal forest fire levels. Unfortunately, my enclosure shattered and I was forced to remove it. Oxygen was only available up to 10 inches or so above the cabin floor, and the cats even coughed and gagged! (They really aren`t happy with me for this!) I was busy making this fire around 2 a.m. (it was getting quite cold) and the wood I used was rated xxxtra smoky! It took an hour to catch, and my wife and I discovered the joys of black lung disease all the while. (Eventually it DID catch, and the chimney draft sucked the smoke out.)

Of course, Blackberry vomited during the ride home.

I know this may sound miserable, but we actually had a decent time. I cooked a pot of chili over an open fire, and we drank an 11 year old bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon we had bought in Napa years ago. We had a cake, and tried to get the cats to sing Happy Birthday (no luck), At night, we played cards and listened to music. It was fun (at least, for me!)


(Bonnie, I hope you know the answer!) I heard the strangest creature while we were down there; it sounded like what I would imagine a dinosaur would sound like! It had a high, melodic bird-like song which dropped down into an evil growl/roar like a bear or lion! This creature made this call several times, then quit. It scared my wife, and she asked if I knew what it was; I acted nonchalant, but I have to admit it scared me, too. Across the valley from my property lies Bear Mountain, and I wondered if it was a bear? There are a few mountain lions in the area (or so I`ve read). Could that be what it was? (It didn`t sound like a bear or mountain lion to me-more like an Allisaurus!)

Does anybody have any ideas? I suspect it was some kind of mating call.



Blogger Always On Watch said...

An interesting vacation, to say the least. Many cats don't travel well; others do. Guess you'll have to some shampooing of the interior of your vehicle. Places like Petco and PetSmart have special solutions, as does Neutron Industries.

About that creature...I've never heard such a call. But I've heard that mountain lions have a wide range of vocalizations.

You might ask Dymphna from Gates of Vienna. Her email address is available at her profile @

9:27 AM  
Blogger Aussiegirl said...

Tim, when I wished you many happy returns of the day, I hardly realized I may have inadvertantly issued a curse -- just kidding. Your vacation sounds like it would make a great comedy screenplay -- just the right touches of sweetness and sentiment to leaven the horror or it all -- :-)

Cats are indeed highly territorial, and unlike dogs do not take kindly to travel. And they didn't know that you were only going there for a visit, for them this was a nightmare of a new place they would have to get used to, to establish a new territory, to discover if there were other animals or cats whose territory they might be poaching on. I think they'd be much happier left alone in the house for a weekend with plenty of food and water and each other for company. But, it makes a great story. I remember years ago my husband and I would spend weekends in the country at the house belonging to my boss, who was kind enough to let us use it. We always took our cat, she used to howl all the way up and all the way down, and usually peed on my husband's newest down jacket. Once we got there we kept her inside but she did get used to the house and after a while she started to like looking out the windows at all the animals (it was a farm so there were horses and cows grazing in the nearby fields). I'm sure she wondered what kind of weird animals they were. Every time we got ready to leave we would draw the blinds and I remember she would race from window to window as the shades came down in order to get her last glimpse of the cows. Nice memories. The air was so clean up there, and it was SO dark at night. I never heard a scary sound like you did, but we used to camp in the mountains and often hear a screaming sound that I was told once by a park ranger was a kind of owl. I remember one summer night there was the largest profusion of lightning bugs I had ever seen -- it was magical. Hope you have some more lovely times up there together, minus the exploding fireplace and the sweat bugs. Delightful reading!

8:35 PM  
Blogger TJ Willms said...

This "vacation" story is illustrative of exactly why I won't mess with cats. While I have to admit that a dog is just as capable destroying the interior of any car with the afore mentioned “vomiting and defecating”, but at least most dogs will come when you call them. A cat would never demean itself by responding to your frantic calls.

Were the two of you by any chance singing “Smoke gets in your eyes”, last week it does sound as though it would have been strangely appropriate? I have the lyrics if you would like to be prepared for “next time.”

As for your animal sound, from your description of its call it could very possibly be the Great northwestern spotted ferret bat. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? It thrives on eating puppies, kittens, and small bunnies. I have an old real-player file with its haunting mating call on it if you would like to compare it to what you heard. Let me know and I’ll send it along in an email.

It sounds like your wife is a trooper and the two of you had a memorable vacation despite the xxxtra smoky wood products. I think you recovered well with the 11-year-old bottle of Cabernet and a pot of chili cooked over an open fire, hell I’d go camping with you anytime! I even promise not to shed or throw-up in the car either but that plastic latticework sounds like a fun place to stuff my head, I might not be able to resist.

5:56 AM  
Blogger Alnot said...

I almost never take my cats anywhere unless unless they are certified as not merely dead but sincerely dead. My little Chihuahua I take with me everywhere and on a leash since I have lost so many full grown cats to great horned owls. Asher is smaller than most cats and grew up from being a very small pup with a kitten for a play buddy since I had to spend so many hours away. The kitten is now a very friendly cat and lives on a buddy's farm. Asher chases cats but when he corners them it just for play. They seriously take a swipe at him and he dodges artfully. He sometimes knocks them over by running into the very surprised and usually much larger cat. When I sit on the patio reading a book while the cats come in for their night time feeding on a bench about six feet away Asher sits on the patio table watching and waiting. When a cat tries to hog one of the food bowls Asher is waiting for the command "get the kitty". The offender when it chooses to stand it's ground gets bowled over and soon learns to share. Whut can I say, it keeps us entertained here in rural Arizona. I am glad you enjoyed parts of your birthday outing. It sounds like it was never boring and even educational.

1:53 PM  
Blogger BonnieBlueFlag said...

By the time I had read your post about your birthday camping trip with your cats, it was too late to suggest that you might want to rethink including them on your adventure.

But, then all of your little jaunts to the great outdoors, seem to turn into great adventures.

As fond as I am of my kitty cats, my dogs would be my outdoor companions. I have heard of the occasional cat protecting their people from an intruder, but my dogs always make me feel just a little safer. Of course there was that one time that they tangled with a skunk.

You did earn many extra points though, for going down the previous weekend to tidy things up for your wife, even if you are subtly trying to convince her that life among the bugs, and other critters can be very enjoyable.

Actually, who could not love a big open fire after dark? Watching the dancing orange flames and sparks is so hypnotic and romantic.

All and all it does sound like you had a very nice birthday celebration, even if the cats refused to sing, "Happy Birthday to You."

Speaking of "sounds," the one you described could very well have been a mountain lion. There have been a number of sightings in Missouri.

Bear Mountain was probably named in the very early days by Missouri settlers, but then the bear population was thinned to almost none, by those same settlers for food and the hides.

Some time back, Arkansas brought in something like a hundred black bears. They have been doing well, and are believed to be moving back into Missouri too.

By the way, the Allosaurus was a little before my time, but hurricanes Katrina and Rita could have forced the Pawpawsaurus, to leave Texas for the higher ground of the Ozarks.

7:46 PM  
Blogger Timothy Birdnow said...

Thanks to all for the comments!

Actually, our younger cat Blackberry (so named because a blackberry cat was what the old English called an enchanted cat; that`s why you don`t want a black cat to cross your path-it might be a blackberry cat and you might annoy it!) had a pretty good time once he got over the car ride. Goccia (named by his former owner-this is Italian for a drop or a drip) is 10 years old and didn`t like all of the trouble.

Tom, if you ever come to Missouri I`d be honored to have go camping with you-and I`d be happy to let you get your head stuck in the latticework!

Believe it or not, Bonnie, I actually SAW a wild bear in Missouri once. This was 12 or so years ago. I had been canoing on the Meramec river, and I went up a side creek which ended in a spring. Above the spring was a cave, and I foolishly approached it`s mouth where I heard a rumbling growl. To my utter amazement a small black bear wandered out! I hadn`t known there were ANY bears in Missouri until then. As bears go it was very small, and may well have been an immature specimen, but any bear is a dangerous critter. I hightailed it out of there fast.

As I was leaving, two canoes overflowing with very drunk people came up the stream. I warned them about the bear, and they laughed at me for my troubles. We stopped the canoe to watch as the drunken yahoos walked up to the cave, then came tearing down into the ice-cold spring. One very large, very intoxicated woman fell and rolled all the way down to into the center of the spring! Her friends thought it was the funniest thing they had ever seen-they were overcome with fits of laughter. (I have to admit, it WAS very funny in a three-stooges kind of way!)

I haven`t heard of anyone else seeing bears in Missouri, although a guy I work with has property nears Owensville, and he says locals claim to see bears occasionally there.

Anyway, thanks to all for the interest. AOW, thanks for the tip; I`ll check Petsmart for something to clean my seats. Aussiegirl, thanks for the wonderful story about your own country visit! And thanks for your story, Al!

2:12 PM  

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