Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sixth Grade Sleep-Over, Montana Style

When I was in the sixth grade, the classic sleep-over was a standard occurrence. It seems like I was always spending Friday night at someone's house or inviting a bunch of friends over to mine. We didn't do very much sleeping at those events, of course, so it was a bit of a misnomer, but terming them as they really were, all night parties, probably wouldn't have gone very far with our parents.

We would sit around and talk about everything, play Truth, Dare, Double-Dare, Promise or Repeat, and occasionally even wander outside to play Hide and Seek, Kick the Can or something similar that was equally interesting under the cover of darkness. But mostly, we just sat in the house and talked.

My daughter's own sixth grade sleep-overs are a little more active and exciting, it seems.

Last night Lizzie came over to spend the night with Ellie. The two of them are very imaginative when they get together and invariably end up in costumes, playing one role or another in a detailed and complex drama that can go on for hours. Sometimes it is themed on a book they are currently obsessed with; sometimes it comes purely from their imaginations. I'm not exactly sure what was going on last night when they found themselves in formal dresses (one formal from this current era and one from about 1865) to tramp through the snowy woods at ten o'clock. That doesn't seem out of character for them, though. It's certainly not the surprising part of this story.

It does present an interesting mental image, though, doesn't it?

As they trudged through the snow, they heard a noise--a crashing noise of something very large and heavy being startled from its hiding place by their intrusion. This was not a scampering field mouse (although they later caught one of those, too). They swung their flashlight beam in the direction of the noise and saw a large, tan colored body running away from them. They assumed, at first, that it must be just a deer, as we have no shortage of those on our property.

But then it took a flying leap. High up into a tree. Deer don't do that.

The girls looked at each other, wide-eyed, for only the briefest second and then screamed, "Ohmigosh, ohmigosh, ohmigosh!" repeatedly as they sprinted back to the house, picking up their long skirts (and in one case, ruffled petticoats) to keep from tripping on them as they ran. They burst into the house breathless, hearts pounding, tripping over one another's words as they spit out their story.

They went back out to that same spot this morning and found unmistakable cougar tracks in the snow.

Not many people will ever get to see a cougar in their lifetimes. They are reclusive creatures who prefer to stay hidden out of sight. We knew that we are in cougar territory, as we have seen tracks in mud or snow a few times over the years. This made me nervous at first, until I was told that they really prefer a steady diet of venison, so I needn't worry. As long as we have an abundant deer population, we would likely never spot more than tracks.

But now we've had a sighting. I'm not sure who was more startled, the two girls tramping through the woods, lost in their world of imagination and coming upon a cougar by surprise; or the big cat himself, out for an evening stroll in the moonlight, shocked to encounter two young girls in frilly dresses.

Ah, rural life.

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