Although I hunted Bambi and other sundry game animals for about 50 years, I still consider myself an animal lover.
Just ask my wife Freida. She spots a rat snake in our backyard and invents a new dance craze right there, jumping around and screaming at me to come kill it. Instead, I bring a Styrofoam ice chest, catch the snake, and take it out a ways in the country to release it.
She will see a spider in the house and demand that I exterminate the offensive arachnid immediately. Instead, I will pick it up on a piece of paper and deposit it safely outside, away from my wife’s wrath.
If I see Jiminy Cricket inside a building, I will pick it up and take it outside. I’ve already described in previous stories about cutting loose a coyote caught in a barb wire fence and stopping to carry turtles across the road.
However, I have chanced upon various other animals that really did not endear themselves to me. To be exact, they were more threatening.
My sister Melba possessed one such beast that got on my bad side in a heartbeat. Years ago, several months before Thanksgiving, she bought a white turkey to fatten up and serve for dinner on that auspicious day. Well, wouldn’t you know it?
Melba had grown fond of Tom the turkey and refused to kill it. I really did not understand why she spared its life — the knothead thing chased her and any female in a skirt anytime they stepped in the yard.
One time it began chasing my 9-year-old daughter Cindy, and I punted that rascal like a football, booting him about fifteen yards away. For some reason, though, Tom would not chase men or boys. Who knows? Maybe he was an early misogynist.
However, I once had the opportunity to rid the world of this useless critter and call it an accident. That stinker would even chase cars. Late one August, with the temperature over 100 degrees, fate gave me the chance.
As I was pulling away from Melba’s house after a visit, here came that turkey out on the gravel road and began flogging at my left front tire. Well, I thought I would have some fun and get a little revenge on ol’ Tom. I slowed down so he could continue making a run at the tire.
Then I stopped and backed up slowly. Here he came after me, flapping away with his wings. Then I stopped and pulled forward. After doing this five or six times, Tom just collapsed in the road, totally exhausted.
Here was my chance — a little twist of the wheel, and we would be rid of this nuisance. As I started to gun my car, though, Melba saw what I was up to and hollered at me to stop. Lucky turkey!
I had a run-in with a much larger animal some years later when I was visiting LBJ Ranch down in central Texas about 50 miles west of Austin.
As I was walking around the site, I saw this huge longhorn in a sturdy wooden pen all by itself. It was standing in the middle of the enclosure, and I wanted it closer for a real good picture, so I started clapping my hands, trying to get its attention. Sure enough, it swung its massive head around with those giant horns about eight feet long apiece.
Then he began to amble slowly over to the fence where I was standing. This was going to be a superb picture. Then the bull stopped right up against the fence. I was just about to snap the picture when the bull suddenly lunged forward at me, thrusting its horn through the poles of the fence, trying to gore me! Unfriendly cuss!
On another occasion, I had an encounter with some longhorns, but this time it involved an entire herd. My family and I were driving down Highway 77 east of Waco, heading south to Port Aransas.
Off to my left, I spotted a herd of about twenty or so longhorns, and again I wanted a picture. They were about a hundred yards or so from the fence, so I just carefully climbed the five strands of barb wire and began walking toward them. I wanted to get within about 20-30 yards for a great picture.
As I got closer, I heard my wife and kids yelling. I looked back at the car and then looked in the direction they were pointing and screaming. There was a longhorn bull trotting not really at me but at the location at the fence where my car was.
It was as if he knew plane geometry and knew that the shortest distance between two points was a straight line. That demon was going to try to cut me off before I could get back to the safety of my car!
Man, the foot race was on! You know, fear is a wonderful impetus — I don’t believe I ever ran so fast in my life! I swear I could just about feel that bull’s breath on the back of my neck as I placed my hand on the top of one fence post and vaulted over the fence, leaving some of my shirt and skin behind. O.K., O.K. I admit I’m a slow learner when it comes to doing dumb stunts.
One last encounter took about five years off of my life. There used to be a restaurant between Rockport and Aransas Pass that featured large cats like African lions and Bengal tigers staring through windows at the patrons inside while the latter were eating.
Imagine partaking of a fine meal while you are staring eyeball to eyeball with a lion, separated only by a thick pane of glass. Of course, each of the cats was in a sturdy cage outside, but each of the outside walls, which contained about four windows each, had a large cat of various species staring at the eaters or pacing around and around each cage.
I have forgotten the name of the restaurant, and Google was no help whatsoever. It has been closed for years, but I do remember my first trip there back in the 1970s or 1980s.
My wife and kids had already filed inside as I stepped up on the porch, but I immediately stopped and went back to the car for my trusty camera. I had seen on the porch half of a large cage with the other half protruding into the restaurant. There in the cage, peering into the restaurant, was my favorite large cat, a magnificent black panther, hence my needing my camera.
After retrieving it, I walked back up on the porch and got right up against the wire of the cage, prepared to take a sensational shot. I even kneeled down so I would be level with this beautiful creature.
As I was focusing my Nikon, looking through the lens, I saw the panther slowly turn from staring into the restaurant and focus his attention on me. He was about ten feet away from me, and he sank down into a crouch, narrowing his eyes and flattening his ears.
I thought, “Wow! What a shot this is going to be!”
And it would have been a memorable shot — if I had gotten to take it. Suddenly the panther leaped at me, filling my entire lens.
Instead of taking the shot, I yelled and threw myself backward in a somersault, thinking my time on earth was about to end. Some people just stepping up on the porch saw my acrobatics and died laughing.
I just died from embarrassment. Meanwhile, I swear that the cat just sat there on its haunches, grinning at me.
Weldon Reed is a Cleburne
resident who recently
returned to his hometown.
He can be reached at