Bubba & the Bobcat


     I’m not sure I can do this story justice, so I’ll relay the facts as best I can. One really had to be there, in the woods of Northern Alabama, sharing conversation and campfire-cooked wild animal, to truly appreciate the enormity of the event.

     “The Event,” of course, was a loud and boisterous man, all too appropriately named Bubba, a “flatlander” from central Alabama, conveniently deposited to our front porch one Friday afternoon as a friend of a friend joining the night’s camping trip. He emerged from a new model dark blue pickup truck with an open Budweiser in hand and an unlit Pall Mall in the corner of his mouth. In his substantial shadow, a diminutive woman in a flannel shirt and Victoria’s Secret sweatpants followed: Bubba’s Old Lady.

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     As the camping party arrived, gear in tow for the short hike to the site, Bubba merrily relayed stories of past hunts and wilderness expeditions, making no move towards preparations for the night. As sunset approached, he disassembled and cleaned a shotgun on the porch steps, all the while talking around the cigarette permanently perched in his mouth. Sunset approached, and Bubba was suddenly moved to prepare himself and his Old Lady for the overnight. His pack, an army surplus behemoth, included the remains of a 12-pack of Budweiser, a bottle of Wild Turkey whiskey, two sleeping bags and a tent, a military issue first-aid kit, cast-iron cooking gear, a bag of yet-unidentified meat to be introduced later in the evening, and his collection of fossils (Fossils. Seriously.). His Old Lady, in contrast, hiked out with a water bottle of pre-mixed pineapple juice and Malibu coconut rum, cookies, and gossip magazines.

     The other guests pale in comparison and girth to Bubba, but are worth mentioning. There was Aaron, sweet boyfriend of mine and bemused spectator of Bubba’s frequent theatrics and overt displays of manliness; Dave, a naturalist who sported a t-shirt naming the arachnids of the South, and carried only two guns and a deer hide; Justin, dressed in full camo, efficiently packed, and fond of disappearing into the woods frequently; and Jen, a fellow Northerner, along for what was sure to be an adventure, and the supplier of hard-boiled egg sustenance throughout the night. But, I digress. This is the story of Bubba.

     With our long awaited arrival at the camping spot in the last minutes of daylight, we rushed to set up camp. Bubba stowed his whiskey and bagged meat in the running stream, nestled safely between rocks. As sleeping pads and deer hides were unfurled, Bubba’s Old Lady dipped her toes in the stream and professed her dislike of bugs, darkness, and camping.

     Whiskey was passed and hard-boiled eggs consumed as we seven relaxed around the fire. Justin prepared meat over the fire, Aaron stirred a flavored rice dish, and Bubba poured wild turkey and Malibu into the bag of meat, then added wild onion procured from the campsite (as well as the soil clinging to its roots), all the while boasting of his much celebrated cooking skills.

     As the meats cooked, Dave introduced his own assertion of manliness: yet another gun. That’s three, for those of you keeping track at home. A pistol the size of his palm, introduced with a shot into the woods behind me. I jumped, then shuddered, wary of the combination of whiskey and firearms.

     “Every time I walk into a Wal-Mart,” Dave began, with his Alabama drawl, “I look around to see who might be packing, too.” He looked around, now, for effect. “I’m just waiting for someone to pull a gun, rob a lady, whatever. I’ll pull this baby out and save ‘em.” He waved the pistol over his head and whooped, imagining his heroism. I noticed that the spiders on his shirt glowed in the dark.

     Justin, wordless, pulled both slabs of meat off the coals.

     “Bobcat!” Bubba exclaimed, looking around for praise. I eyed the blackened strips as they were passed around. Bobcat, I gathered, is not eaten with a fork. As Bubba crowed about his valiant hunt of this particular beast, it was met with positive reviews. I opted for a small bit of cat; a chewy but not altogether unpleasant bite, overwhelmingly onion flavored.

     I reasoned that the non-traditional and liberal soakings in alcohol have gone a long way towards sterilizing the flesh, but passed the plate and reached for another hard-boiled egg.


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