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I don't normally recommend things to other people like recipes or films or anything similar because I have very eclectic tastes and find things fascinating that other people often just find kind of odd. In fact, I find almost everything interesting from astrophysics to obscure ancient civilizations and all the way back to the history of knitting, which just makes me a gigantic super nerd and probably a deadly bore. Having said this, I am going to recommend a book, and I can swear on anything you like that if you read it you will be anything but bored.
I am currently reading a new book called, 'The Tiger – A True Story of Vengeance and Survival', by John Vaillant, who is an amazing writer. It is a non-fiction account of an incident that occurred in 1997 in the farthest regions of Siberia in the east near the Chinese border, a region so harsh and so remote that it makes our wilderness in Maine look like lower Manhattan. The few people who live in this region and have for generations are tough, gritty survivors who manage in ridiculously impassable terrain and winter temperatures that average around 30 degrees below zero. (That's before the wind chill factor, by the way). The three principal characters are a local beekeeper living in grinding poverty who decides to poach game, a large, fierce warrior who is an ex Russian commando turned game warden, and a Siberian Tiger. The story is true, and so compelling and terrifying that nothing dreamed up in the fetid imagination of Stephen King has ever approached the horrible fascination of this book. I won't go into detail except to say that reading this book will make the hair on your neck stand up, your skin crawl on your bones, and give you a whole new understanding of nature that will leave you in awe.
Reading this book and learning about the magnificent Siberian Tiger got me to thinking about cats, large and small, in general. Siberian Tigers can get up to 500 lbs of thick fur, rippling muscle, and terrifying teeth and claws. Unlike us, they are perfectly designed to live where they live and do what they do; they can cover 40 yards in 4 seconds from a dead stop, leap 35 ft horizontally and vertically over a basketball hoop. They are remarkable swimmers and actually like water, plunging into sub-zero lakes and streams without hesitation or notable discomfort. 60 degrees below zero bothers them not at all, they are so warm that their paw prints leave puddles in the snow. Pick your best, biggest, fastest, most agile NFL linebackers, put three of them together, arm them with razor sharp claws, teeth, and jaws powerful enough to snap a tree limb, give them astonishing eyesight, incredible hearing, and the ability to detect and remember scents that is almost supernatural, load them into an industrial refrigerator, and you have a Siberian Tiger. Oh, and make them able to plan strategically, be absolutely silent, infinitely patient, and able to feel and exact ruthless vengeance.
I grew up among dozens of cats, my mother loves animals and rescued countless strays and motherless kittens over the years, so I know about as much about them as any other clueless human. I had one cat, Hardy, who I inherited when I got married, who was the most remarkable domesticated animal I have ever known. He was huge, 30 lbs of orange fur, and uncannily smart. He rarely made a sound, but when he wanted something he would jump up on a table, plant himself like one of those Egyptian god cats, and look me straight in the eye. If I turned my head he would take his paw and push my chin towards him so that I had to look at him. Did he want me to pet him, feed him, clean his pan, let him out? I had to use the process of elimination to be precise, but he always needed one of those things. He was fat, no doubt about it, but I saw him move as fast as lightning despite it, chasing down squirrels and leaping into the air to snatch birds in flight. He adored my two oldest children when they were little and never hurt them. He slept with them as babies and allowed them to lie on the floor and take a nap with their heads on his stomach. Hardy was incredibly protective of them, planting himself between them and strangers until I let him know it was safe. When they awoke from their naps he would seek me out wherever I was, tap me on the leg with his paw, and lead me to their bedroom. He was amazing. The kids never pulled his fur or tail, even as babies. My oldest son says it was because they somehow instinctively knew that he could take them out like baby rabbits if he wanted to. It is my theory that all cats look at humans as if to say that if they were the size they should be they could kill us and eat us in a heartbeat. That is why so many people fear and hate them. They are the most perfect predator on earth.
There are only about 400 Siberian Tigers left in the wild, mostly because sick people want tiger skins on their walls and some Asians think that certain tiger parts will heal them or make them sexual gods, (a myth that tells you something about people). They say that the Siberian Tiger is the only animal on earth that feels no fear during a thunder and lightning storm. Instead, it raises its gloriously beautiful head and fearsome gaze to the skies and roars back. If you can't respect that, there's something wrong with you.
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