Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: CAT (11/08/18)
- TITLE: Too Big To Chew
By Jack Taylor
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The African sun had hardly started licking the plains dry when the wheat colored feline crept on her belly out of the wadi. Six miniatures, already several hundred pounds, snuggled in beside her as they eyed the thousand massive Cape Buffalos grazing on the savannah grassland. A breakfast provided by the Creator but almost too big to chew.
The bulls, sporting curved horns with a four to five-foot spread, munched warily as they guarded the dozens of newborns wallowing in the dust behind their protective shield. They stood shoulder to shoulder in a circle, head facing out toward the threat. Their sad eyes and wide flickering ears evidenced the endless responsibility to deal with horseflies, ticks and predators.
Red-billed Oxpeckers hopped along the backs of the buffalo, feasting on ticks, parasites and even diseased tissue. The hissing of the birds kept any hope of surprise an impossibility.
An alternative meal, antelope, zebra and wildebeest munched contentedly in the shadows of the buffalo and kept a wary eye open for the small pride trying to stay invisible. Each of them would be far too fast for her young cubs so the cat stayed focused on her target.
The lioness, six foot in length, maneuvered on her belly around the herd looking for a weakness to the bovine fortress. Her three-foot-long tail flicked back and forth and one of the cubs batted at the tuft with his paw.
A few young buffalo bachelors, straying toward more tender grasses, looked promising. Her coaching done, she charged at 50 miles an hour cutting one of the strays from the herd. The buffalo ran desperately trying to regain contact with the larger group but the hunter knew what she was doing. A thirty-foot leap, with her three-hundred-pound body, onto the backside of the bull slowed it down enough so that two of the cubs caught up and helped wrestle it to the ground.
The rest of the full-grown cubs joined the encounter, one clamping her mouth over the bull’s snout to cut off breath. One began to gnaw on the tender underbelly. Another sank her teeth through the two-inch-thick skin at the neck. The bull continued to thrash and call as other members of the herd kept an eye on what was happening.
The roar of a male almost five miles away reverberated through the plains. The lioness was too busy to reply. Half an hour had gone by and the buffalo refused to submit and die. The cubs lifted their heads but the buffalo herd ignored the distant sound and started to drift away toward a watering hole.
Vultures and tourist vehicles began to circle and the first hyenas appeared, waiting for the inevitable. Camera flashes and video footage captured the event and disturbed the teaching moment.
A child’s cry from the back of a van momentarily distracted the cubs. A wildlife guide tried vainly to keep the tourists from talking. Their chatter continued. “Look at that one who has to hold the tail … Yuck, that little one is chewing the belly out … The poor buffalo can’t breath … Did you get that video shot? Send it to the family, they’ll be so jealous… How long do we have to sit here? They’re taking forever to finish it off … Do you think God meant for life to end so harshly?”
The cub with her teeth firmly planted over the snout of the buffalo got weary of the task and let go. Two other cubs had already tired of trying to chew through the tough hide and seemed to envy the cub who had the tender underbelly.
Sensing a chance, the young buffalo gave a valiant kick and a shake of his horns knocking off the lions. He struggled to his feet and turned to face his attackers. None of them even moved after it. They were bored of the teaching moment. Two of the cubs pounced on a third and they began to wrestle.
The buffalo trotted off calling after the herd, its entrails hanging from its belly. The lioness glanced at the lost breakfast retreating over the plain and laid her head down. She knew the weakened buffalo would be available for dinner later on.
Like a cat, playing with a mouse, she had instinctively done what she was created to do. Another generation of her kind would survive to feast and fight.
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