Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Tails From the Farm

Screams in the Night

As I’ve mentioned before, I love to sleep with the window open at night. It’s not like in some countries, where the window is wide open to the air. We have screens over our windows to keep the insects, and I suppose birds and bats out. I love to feel fresh, country breeze on my skin, and the aroma of the trees is wonderful. The horses might call to each other, a coyote yip, or fox shriek for its kits, all of it is amazing. Once in a while, the sound of clip clopping hooves would echo on the night air as a neighbour’s horse or two would come to visit. Yet other times, we would hear the sound of dogs barking at something off in the distance. Barks that were often answered by our own dogs, until either I or hubby, would warn them to hush. The sounds of the night would return, and sleep continued.
One beautiful, May night, the family was all contentedly in their beds, a lovely, most refreshing breeze drifting through the open window to waft it’s fragrance over us, when something completely unexpected shattered the soft sounds of night birds and the other peaceful sounds. It was a scream. A scream unlike anything I had ever heard. I scream I’m sure my husband had never heard before either. It was the kind of scream that made the fine hairs on the back on the neck rise, and a shiver run through and through your body. We both leapt from bed as if catapulted from a Cannon, both on our own, frantic missions, hubby to fumble for the light, me to the window. Though the scream was akin to something that might come from a woman being axe-murdered, somehow, I immediately knew what it was. Every book I’d ever read, every nature documentary I’d seen with the maker of the sound, said what it was … a cougar.
At the top of my lungs, I yelled out the window at it, “SHUT UP AND GET OUT OF HERE … GET … NOW!”
Instead of responding like most wild animals would and fleeing, the cougar screamed again, so loud, so piercing, it made ones skin crawl and a shiver run through and through me. All the while, hubby was frantically looking for some means of arming himself. “Where’s the gun? Where are the bullets? Where’s the key gone? I can’t find the key. I need the key to the trigger lock,” he was frantically searching for said items, not that a mere twenty-two wouldn’t done much to a cougar. More than likely, it would’ve pissed it off, even more than it already was. There was no way he was going out with a small calibre rifle like that.
“You’re not going out there,” I sternly said, even as the bloodcurdling screaming, continued outside, “it’s dark, and it has the advantage. Besides,” ever the person who doesn’t see the reason to kill for no good reason, I added, “the mare and foal are inside. I doubt it’s going to go after any of the full-grown horses, especially since they’re in herds. We’ll go out if we have to, but not yet.”
During all of this, the usually extremely vocal dog, had for once, wisely chosen to remain silent. Clearly no dummy, it wasn’t about to bring the ire of the big cat upon itself. Nope, the dog was quite wisely glued to the house. As suddenly as the screaming had begun, it stopped, leaving us unsure of what to do, and what might be going on outside. For ages upon ages, I stayed by the window, just listening. Nothing else happened, and I eventually went back to bed. After all, the mare and her new foal were safely in a shed, and the pony was in the barn. All the other horses were big and healthy. They weren’t the sort of prey cougars should be going after. On top of that, I had seen some deer in the field just that morning. A huge buck, more fitting of the term stag than buck, he was that big, and that impressive, as well as a few, smaller does. They had to be what the cougar was following. The big cats could have a range of about a hundred square miles. It was probably just passing through, following the deer.
In the morning, we found giant paw prints. They went all around the shed where the mare and her foal, were locked up for the night. Manitoba’s own cougar specialist came out to make casts of the tracks, and to measure the stride, eighteen inches by the way, and that was the end of that. We definitely had experienced a cougar prowling about. It’s illegal to hunt or shoot them here, unless it’s caught attacking livestock, so we made sure to keep our animals securely housed and safe from predator attacks. Erring on the side of caution, I continued to lock them up every night. There was no point in inviting an attack, and a foal would be an easy invitation. A responsible owner, makes sure their animals aren’t targets, so this is what I did. The cougar returned about every three weeks all the rest of that summer and fall, and always after we saw deer grazing in our field. It never screamed like that again. It did, however, make this odd, coughing sound, as well as strange noises that said it was calling cubs. Our big cougar was a mama with little ones.
I don’t think I could, or would ever hear a scream as chilling as hers, on any Hollywood movie. It was most definitely, a one of a kind. The memory of that scream, will stay with me always. So will the sight of my husband, running around in his birthday suit, trying to find the paraphernalia that creates a functioning weapon, even if it wasn’t a cougar-worthy one.
Of course, the photo isn’t of the cougar that roamed our farm at night. It’s compliments of Marnie Robinson and was taken at Beaver Creek which is on the outskirts of Port Alberni, British Columbia, Canada.

  1. scary, glad all your animals were okay

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About Trudy Andrew

Trudy Andrew lives on a small farm just east of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she enjoys her Morgan horses. A dreamer since she was a child, its no surprise to those who know her well that her imagination would find an outlet in writing, as it has in the past through artwork.
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 Oakbank, MB