My son got off the bus after school with a painted face. His class had held some kind of party. He looked something like a warrior, although maybe closer to a football fan on bowl day. I didn't realize how fitting it was going to be.
Once we got home, the kids piled out of the pickup and wandered around outside looking for the cat. It wasn't waiting to greet them like it often is. It came trotting down the hill to their calls, mewing emphatically and carrying a mouse. It sometimes brings the kids mice in a devoted sort of way. This time it was live. He placed it in front of them and let it go, seemingly wanting them catch it. Maybe to finish it off. I suppose he was 'teaching them to hunt on the pride.'
After a scramble, the mouse managed to squeeze between a log and the ground, mostly out of reach. The cat didn't seem to mind, he just looked on approvingly as the two kids poked and prodded around the log. Cooper stood up, an idea obviously forming, and asked enthusiastically through his face paint "Can I get the BB gun?"
"Sure," I said.
When he came back with the air gun I used a stick to ease the mouse out. It moved down the outside of the log, seemingly hesitant to leave the only structure within sight.
Cooper fired a few rounds as Cadi cheered him on. Then she begged for a turn and pumped a few of her own into the mouse.
The happy hunters collected their prize and walked up to the back patio. They posed for a picture - Cooper in his war paint, Cadi with the fearless 'hound,' and the mouse stretched out on the concrete like a bear.
After the picture Cooper mentioned that he'd like to tack the hide to the wall of the shed.
"Huh?" I said. "Skin a mouse?"
"Yeah. We should hang it up."
We'd read Where The Red Fern Grows aloud during Christmas break. He had liked it so much he'd immediately read the whole book again when I finished. I'm sure he was likening this to a coon hunt.
I did my best to skirt the issue. Skin a mouse? Did I have to?
But I couldn't think of a good reason to get out of it. Nothing came to mind that would outweigh his enthusiasm.
"All right," I said. "I'll get a knife."
In an effort to prepare expectations for a less than stunning outcome I said "I'm not sure this will work all that well," wondering if a perforated mouse skin would be fragile like a rabbit or hearty like a squirrel, "but we can try."
I dilly-dallied my way into the house and back again, toting a small pocket knife and wondering how I'd allowed myself to get talked into this. I was still pondering ways to get out of it.
I chuckled at the idea of maybe using the skin to tie up a mouse pattern for chucking to nighttime browns this summer. Couldn't get more realistic than that.
And then, problem solved. There sat the cat, gulping the mouse down just as I came back onto the patio. Two nods of the head and it was gone. The kids didn't see it happening, and Cooper was beside himself when he discovered his hide no longer existed. The war paint was in serious danger of getting tear-streaked.
I guess the cat had achieved his goal. The kids had recaptured and dispatched the subject. Lesson concluded for the day. And since they obviously weren't hungry, there was no need in letting fresh groceries go to waste, even if they tasted just a bit like BBs.