White Fright

Just before the door slammed shut, the last words I heard as I was running outside was my Aunt Myree saying, “Jon Howard, (back then, all young Texas boys had 2 front names), you be careful and don’t play with that dog!”  The dog in question was a terrier mix, on a leash attached to a clothesline in the backyard of my aunt and uncle, Myree and A.C. Turner’s home in Huntsville, Texas.  It was tied up because it had been acting “funny”, wouldn’t drink any water and was trying to attack everyone!  The backyard in Huntsville was one block off of old Highway 75 and Mom, Dad and I had gone up to spend a weekend with them and their two, young sons, Bill and Roy Peyton, known then as “Bubba”.

Once outside, being 5 years old, the first thing I did was go right up to the dog and try to play with it and it responded, not very playfully, by jumping up on my chest and biting me!  Inside I ran bleeding and crying, impervious to all of the “we told you so’s”.

This event occurred on a Saturday morning and the first thing Monday the dog was euthanized, my uncle took its head to Austin, and sure enough, the dog was rabid.  My family got the results on Thursday and Friday morning found me, Mom and Dad in downtown Houston at Dr. Talley’s offices, in the old Medical Arts Building, for the first of 22 rabies shots, spaced around my navel, timed every other day.  It was the biggest needle I had ever seen, and thinking back, it must have held an ounce or 2 of an unpleasant looking, green serum.

The shots saved my life, but by the third morning, I resisted it so bad, that before it could be administered, it took 4 adults to hold me down.  This went on for the next 19 shots and scarred me forever.  And now, whenever I go into a doctor’s office, I have a terrible case of white fright.  My blood pressure goes up 20 or 30 points, my heart rate jumps up 20 beats or more per minute and the past, I have even fainted getting a shot in my arm.

One day while talking to Mickey Donahoo and his wife, Doris, I was laughing about my “white fright” and my rabies shots, when Mickey said, “You know, Jon, I have had rabies shots too,” and then began one of the most bizarre hunting stories I have ever heard!

Below, Mickey and I are pictured at the 2007 Senior Softball World Championships in Phoenix, Az.

Mickey and Doris were spring, turkey hunting on their lease outside of Ozona, crouched down in a makeshift blind trying to lure a tom turkey into range.  Mickey had a shotgun and Doris her trusty .243 and, with no success, he was calling, making soft clucks imitating a hen.  They decided to move along a nearby game trail and find a new spot, but as they walked down the trail they heard a noise in the brush and were shocked to see a bobcat running down the trail toward them.  Bobcats are normally shy, mostly nocturnal animals, but this one kept coming and was soon almost on Mickey.  As the cat closed on him, Mickey kicked it under its chin as hard as he could, knocked it up in the air.  Then the cat surprised them both, while still up in the air, before it hit the ground, it spun around and viciously attacked Mickey!

Some times, my big, house cat, playing of course, will try to grab me around the knee and wrap his paws around my leg, but this wasn’t playing, this bobcat meant business! It attacked Mickey’s knee area, wrapping its paws around, then planting its razor sharp claws, firmly into Mickey’s leg and then began biting at his knee.  When going for a kill on large game, cats will, almost always, try to disable a leg joint, slowing the prey down. Someone famous once said, “If you want to study lions, but think it may be too dangerous, study small cats first.  Cats are cats.”

Mickey continued trying to grab the cat’s throat, but in the melee he dropped his shotgun.  Afraid of hitting Mickey, Doris couldn’t shoot the cat with her rifle nor could she use it as a club.  Her next choice was taking off her ball cap and whacking the cat with it.  This whacking and Mickey’s continued pressure on the bobcat’s throat forced it to let go and retreat into the brush.

Through his shredded pants, along with the blood, he could see, and feel, numerous puncture wounds and they both knew that he needed medical attention quick, the closest being a clinic in Ozona.  Driving to the clinic and recounting the attack, they thought it strange that the bobcat smelled like a skunk and that it had no fear of them. Rabid animals have no fear of humans!

At the clinic Mickey’s wounds were cleaned and bandaged and the Nurse told both of them, “Based on both your all’s story, the bobcat was probably rabid, you can’t take a chance and should start rabies treatments within 72 hours!”

Today, treatment for rabies consists of 5 shots into a muscle, which he had, just like a normal shot, but in his case, to prevent infection and assist healing, each of his, over 100, puncture wounds were injected with gamma globulin, a thick liquid that doesn’t “spread out” like a normal injection, is painful when injected and remains so for hours.  I hate all shots, but having had a gamma globulin shot myself, I can only imagine what over a hundred would feel like.

Mickey and Doris have hunted big, dangerous game for years, having made, at last count, 10 trips to Africa after lion, tigers, cape buffalo and elephant, but the encounter with the bobcat, and the following rabies treatment are etched forever in their memories!  Do you think Mickey has “white fright” now?