Kitty Kitty Bang Bang
Any tale involving three 16-year-old nimrods, a car, playing hooky from school, and guns is destined to become a memorable legend. The following is no exception.
My cousin John Mitchell, friend Jim Refi and I got the idea to skip school and go hunting during the small game season. We had full intentions of getting an early start, shooting a few squirrels and returning in time for football practice later that afternoon. [Author’s note: At that time, there were no rules stating students had to be in attendance for at least one half of a school day before they could participate in after-school activities.]
Our destination was an area near the Cambria/Bedford County line along Route 869 between Beaverdale and Pavia. We entered the woods before daylight with flashlights, then separated and settled in our chosen spots well before the sun came up over the horizon in the distance. I’m not positive how deep in the wilderness we were, but to our knowledge we were far from any towns or dwellings.
As dawn broke so did the silence. From Jim’s shot gun, we plainly heard the blasts and retorting echoes. Bang! Bang! The reverberations seemed to resonate as the sound caromed off the hillsides.
Almost immediately, Jim called to us to come over to see what he had shot.
The indescribable expression on Jim’s face was such that it was tough to distinguish between euphoria and embarrassment. “I’m not sure what it is,” he said in a perplexed tone.
As we looked into the bushes, John and I weren’t sure what he had just shot either. We knew it was a member of the cat family but that’s about it. The creature was over four feet in length with another 18 inches in its tail. That alone ruled out that it was a bobcat. Its markings were strikingly similar to a bobcat though, and Jim swore it was hissing loudly as it ran full speed over a rocky outcrop, heading towards him with teeth and claws bared.
Was it a small panther? We didn’t know.
The feline’s teeth and eyes seemed eerily demonic – resembling a cat that returned from the dead at least 8 times in Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. So, we unloaded our guns and decided to take our kill back to town and my house to see if anyone could identify our trophy.
The trek to the car was not easy. We three “great white hunters” took turns draping that cat over our shoulders like hunters on a safari. We even debated whether we should cross-tie its legs over a long post and two of us carry it out just as those primitive natives did on the plains of Africa. We nixed that idea and when we finished the hour and a half journey, we tossed the atypical animal in the trunk of Jim’s Volkswagen. It barely fit.
Our excitement waned somewhat as we tramped out of the woods. The ride home knocked out more of our exuberance. By the time we got home and hung the cat from my mom’s clothesline post, most of our excitement was gone. We were not only exhausted physically; we began to feel silly at just how hard we had worked. And for what reason had we toiled? We weren’t sure.
As we admired the length of the beast (its tail touching the ground and front paws attached to the cross bar of the post), we heard a man’s voice from behind us.
“What have we here?” It was our Stroehman Bread delivery man, in his blue uniform and cap, smiling from ear to ear. Then he knocked out the little wind left in our sails as he inquired curiously, “Did you boys go to someone’s porch and call, ‘here kitty, here kitty – bang, bang’ and then shoot their cat?”
He felt compelled to grab himself in the vicinity of his bladder as he questioned us, and he could barely continue as his smile turned to loud laughter. “I honestly think you shot someone’s pet cat,” he explained. “No doubt some poor little kid is crying now, asking his mommy what happened to his beloved pet.”
His final question was directed at me as he asked, “Did you show this to your dad?”
He left us in the back yard and went in the house to deliver the bread order. I could hear him howling with hilarity as he spoke with my mom.
We, the three exhausted hunters, briefly glanced at each other. Then, without much debate, we carried the carcass over a steep embankment where we dug a hole large enough for the corpse, and buried it.
I figured one grown man laughing at us was enough so I didn’t tell Dad about the massacre until years later. He got a chuckle out of the saga never-the-less.
We spoke very little about our slaying in the years that followed. And to this day, we’re still not sure about the species’ identification. Maybe it was a cross between a wild feline and some domestic cat, or a bob cat or panther carrying a genetic mutation. Either way, both the tale of the creature and the creature’s tail are permanently scratched in my mind.
Also, to this day, I can’t think of, read, or hear the words, “here kitty, kitty” without reliving that episode. I sure hope kids living somewhere near the county line didn’t cry themselves to sleep that night years ago, over our embarrassing “big game trophy” turned to trash.