COLUMN: My cougar town script is a cat-astrophy

This is my weekly column for the Sunday, Sept. 4, 2011 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune. I hinted at elements of this column in a recent radio essay, but this is markedly different from what I broadcast.

My cougar town script is a cat-astrophy 
By Aaron J. Brown

On June 11, 2011 a mountain lion was struck and killed by a car in Milford, Connecticut, far from any place where big cats like this should be. Using DNA evidence, scientists concluded this summer that the cougar came from near the Black Hills of South Dakota and walked more than 1,500 miles before meeting its tragic fate.
The Star Tribune’s Jim Anderson confirmed that the cougar spent time in Minnesota, earning headlines and media attention back in 2009.

I am struck by this story. As a writer, I can just picture a (breakthrough!) novel or TV script from the concept. Unlike me, a midlevel multi-genre hack writer laboring a day job in the Midwest, this mountain lion went out and did something. Granted, the last part wasn’t so good for him, but he was living life!

If you strip away all the human emotion, you can imagine this big, young male cat striding east along waterways just outside congested human villages. Every place he sees is new. His mission is to seek, and because he seeks in crowded, dangerous pleases he never rests easy; he must always continue, until one day he is stopped by the cold paw of fate.

SCENE: The mountain lion leans up against a decorative rock in a suburban yard. It is the afternoon. Birds chirp. An animal control officer approaches.

OFFICER: Hey, kitty cat. You can’t be here.

COUGAR: (Draws cigarette from furry pocket, lights and puffs twice) You don’t even know where you are. Your tiny little mind can’t comprehend how big this world is, man. I aim to see what I please.

OFFICER: Are you going to move along, or do I have to take you in?

COUGAR: (Snuffs out cig, picks up knapsack) Your bullets are rubber, dude. Everyone knows. (Cue: acoustic pop song expressing angst, cougar is seen walking past industrial skyline as cars whiz by. Later he is seen in burnt husk of car, crying self to sleep).

It also works as a sitcom. What madcap adventures that cougar must have had on the way! Did he have a squirrel sidekick? He does now!

COUGAR: Nutty, why are you spending the last of your money on snacks?

NUTTY SQUIRREL: I know you said our next stop was Buffalo, so I thought I’d buy a bag of chips.

COUGAR: Why would you do that, Nutty?

NUTTY: Well, mom always told me not to eat Buffalo chips, so I thought I’d buy some here in suburban Pittsburgh. (laugh track)

Perhaps the cougar met an attractive lady cat whose sophisticated East Coast ways run at odds with his mountain upbringing?

ESMERELDA: Why you can’t last an entire dinner party without driving me up the walls?

COUGAR: Because where I’m from, dinner climbs up the walls and you have to go get it. Baby, I’m just trying to help! (Laugh track).

I know you’ve got your doubts, but this show will put up monster ratings among predators aged 4-9.

Each leg of the mountain lion’s journey provides a chance to include regional jokes and dialogue. I can already picture the episode in which the cougar challenges Adrian Peterson to a foot race to save the local youth center. And when that car runs the cougar over in Connecticut he can just wake up from a dream back in the Black Hills. That is much more palatable than reality, that this cougar’s death was sudden and gory, that his body was dissected by scientists and that his very life will forever be regarded as an oddity.

Maybe I’m just jealous. That cougar got people to notice him and he didn’t even have to finish a novel. Or a fully formed television script.

Maybe the cougar can sing pop songs? Or play funny cat videos he saw on the internet? The possibilities are endless. RIP, random mountain lion.

Aaron J. Brown is a writer who teaches communication at Hibbing Community College. He is the author of the blog and the book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range.”


  1. Last week a cougar was spotted at the end of my driveway leaping over a fence with an entire deer carcass in his mouth. I wish this random mountain lion could read your column, get inspired by it & explore the world in places far, far away from my front yard.

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