Stealing a Cougar’s Bed

By Dante DeAmicis

 This year I lost two jobs.  My taxi job was squeezed out by a ruinous regulatory scheme.  Then after six weeks of frantic hunting I got a job driving the transit bus.  Shortly after, the drivers went out on strike and I lost that job even though I wasn’t one of the strikers.   Since I was getting hungry I was willing to take anything.  I spent a couple hundred bucks to get my guard card back and took a graveyard post at the top of Socrates Mine Road working at Calpine.   I do not have a registered vehicle.

 After several experiments I settled on the following strategy to get to work.  First, take the last bus out of Clearlake at 4:45 pm to Middletown.  Hang around town for awhile.  Then I ride my bike which I loaded on the bus to a point two miles up Socrates Mine Road.  I have to push it up the 16% grades.  Now I try to make up some of my sleep deficit before work.  Where am I?  I am at Lincoln Rock, 1.4 miles below my post.  The rock is 60 feet high jutting out of a flat space used as an emergency parking lot for Calpine employees.

 The rock is a landmark on some maps.  It is ancient and cracked, allowing small shrubs of oak and bay to scratch out a meager existence in its crevices.  On the backside there is a narrow path etched in the volcanic sculpture.  Although the prominence is mostly straight up there are suggestions of small ledges with no obvious access.  After weeks of part time exploring before work, I found a difficult passage up and over one side of the spire.  There I found a small ledge shielded by an old stump that had given up the struggle to survive on what water and minerals were doled out by the miserly stone.

 It looked like someone else had regularly used this alfresco room with a view.  There are no wild goats in the area.  Garden variety homeless usually don’t wander into the high country.  This leaves (gulp) cougars.  Cougars love ledges to watch future meals promenade by and settle in for hours after they are finished hunting.  The big cats are regularly sited in this area but the general consensus among them is humans don’t taste good.  If the two leggers are on the run they attain the guilty pleasure of junk food.  I figure I am safe in my sleeping bag unless the deer get all hunted out for three miles.

 The stars are diamond bright.  Hopefully, pissing on the rocks is a no vacancy sign for late arrivals.  Only the yipping of foxes, night birds, falling pine cones, and the distant hum of Calpine’s power plants can be heard.  I set my alarm for two and a half hours.  I wake on my cougar ledge an hour or so before work.  I roll up my bag and slide down Lincoln’s face.  After strapping every thing on my bike I start the 45 minute push up the mountain to Post 3.  Whether a displaced lion “hot sheets” back into his bed I’ll never know.

 Soon the winter snows will come and turn Socrates to ice.  Workers without four wheel drives will park their vehicles in the dirt lot around my sky nest and car pool the rest of the way up.  As if I weren’t a curiosity already, I will be shaking off my new fallen blanket and emerge through the rubble at the base like some clean shaven Yeti to beg a lift.  The Lincoln Rock and its occupants will watch the show from their front row.

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