Thornton's Great Adventure
by Michael Lanty

The weather in West Texas had been rather different in 2007. The spring was wetter than usual and here it was in early June and there had been enough rain to keep the vegetation green and thriving. Combine the moisture in the ground with a spell of moderate temperatures that even had the old ranchers happy and looking forward to a great hay season and much fatter calves for market, and things were looking up in the Orient area. This had been Thornton's home all his life, and he was content with his little lean-to, his friend and companion Baby D, and his seven acres of grass and flowers. His daily bucket of fresh pellets mixed with some steamrolled corn and a large tub of clean, clear well water had made this old goat quite content.

Little did Thornton know that all the wet, cool weather that had made life so nice this spring had also driven a cougar down from the hills. The cougar was slowly making his way south enjoying the tasty morsels he found on the ranches along the way. Chickens, ducks, and the occasional small lamb or goat were keeping him well fed. He got brave one late afternoon and went after a horse in a pasture just south of Tennyson, but in this instance he had literally bitten off more than he could chew. The horse got away with some good scratches down both flanks while the cougar found that a horse's kick was no laughing matter. Actually the kick had cracked two ribs and left a pretty good bruise.

The cougar decided that the horse was not worth chasing and headed south again. In a couple of days he had reached Orient where he found a virtual paradise of small ranches with chickens and even a few ducks. He feasted for about a week and soon had cleaned out the easily available stock, much to the chagrin of the locals who had put out traps and even had an impromptu hunting party, neither of which produced any results.

Then came the fateful afternoon of June 21st, the first day of summer. After crossing a fence, which put the cougar on the RM Ranch, he sensed the odor of goat not far away. Since it was still early afternoon and warm he decided to lay down and take a nap until sunset when the hunting would be easy.

Not suspecting any danger, there had never been any before, as the sun was setting in the west Thornton curled up in his lean-to for a little sleep. Baby D, as was her habit, jumped up on top of her little shelter rather than go inside. She enjoyed the fresh evening air her rooftop perch gave her. And this is what the cougar saw as he stood just behind the last tree before the goat yard, a healthy female goat curled up on top of a platform, perfect for a quiet evening meal. But what he didn't see was Thornton curled up behind the wall of his lean-to.

As the cougar slowly crept out of his hiding place Baby D looked up and saw danger approaching. Looking about she saw nowhere to run and her only hope of protection, Thornton seemed to be sound asleep. She began to send out the warning cry that she instinctively knew how to do in hopes of being rescued. The cougar stopped for a second to survey the area, no other animal or man in sight, and then proceeded to slowly creep forward. Little did he know that Thornton had been watching all of this through a space between the boards of his home and was rapidly working on a plan to save his friend. A frontal assault would be very dangerous and would probably save Baby D by substituting himself as the evening meal. Then a great idea came into his mind and he slowly got up on all fours very quietly so as not to alert the cougar to his presence. Meanwhile poor Baby D sensing that things were not looking good at all began to seriously cry for help.

With about twenty yards to go before dinner was served the cougar sprang forward. His timing was perfect and he planned his final leap to put him right on top of her, but he never got there. Thornton had also timed his charge perfectly. Knowing that a frontal attack was not a good idea he had planned a flanking movement of sorts. He charged out of his lean-to and leaped upwards using his head as a battering ram into the side of the airborne cougar. This caught the cougar by surprise and flung him into the tree beside Baby D's perch instead of on top of her. The initial hit had landed right on the already bruised and cracked ribs, and the slamming into the tree had further knocked the wind out of the cougar. Thornton lost no time with another quick head butt to the side of the downed cougar. Then standing back he let out with a deep bellow and prepared for another attack if necessary. The dazed and battered cougar knew he had met his match and stumbled to his feet and rather painfully worked his way back through the trees and over the fence, his only protection from Thornton.

For the rest of the night Thornton stood guard in front of Baby D's perch where after a few minutes of agitated excitement she drifted off to a peaceful sleep. The cougar spent the night licking his wounds and the next day began his long journey north to his old home range, determined to never again venture south where the food was easy to catch but the thought of once again running into that crazed old brown goat was to much for his aching body to take.