Encounter with a Wild Cat

It has been several months since I last have last published on my blog, for which I apologize. I hope to be more consistent in the future, but my publications may as yet be infrequent due to the demands of several upcoming conferences presentations, and work in general. I have several blog posts in various phases of research and development, and you can look forward to some interesting tidbits and surprises in the future.

For today, however, I thought I might share a story from the ancestry of my paternal grandfather, Frank Alan Woodbury. Earlier this month in our local community of Provo, Utah, a hiker was stalked by a mountain lion while running in Slate Canyon. The video footage of the experience has gone viral and has made national news. This news item reminded me of one of the stories of my own ancestors. From the Deseret News on 30 April 1862: [1]

“A few days since a young lad, son of Mr. Charles Lambert, of this city, while riding over the prairie west of Jordan, came in contact with a large wild cat, or California tiger, as they are frequently called in this country, which immediately showed “fight,” and attacked a large dog which was with the boy, and was in a fair way to use him up, when the lad, who is an adept with a lariat, and had one with him, but was not armed with gun, pistol, or knife, succeeded in taking a “hitch” on the ferocious beast, but not around his neck, the top at the same time passing through a sage brush, so that in drawing it up in the usual way the animal, which still held fast to the dog, became fastened somewhat to the bush. The boy then got down from his horse, and applied the heel of one of his heavy boots to the wild cat’s head, until it released its hold upon the dog, but subsequently got disentangled from the bush and made fight with the lad, who sprang into the saddle and started off under whip and spur, the wild beast making efforts to seize him, jumping higher than the horse several times, just missing him, as they were moving swiftly over the prairie, the horse gradually gaining ground, and the wild cat falling behind, till the lariat brought him up and he was dragged by it for about a quarter of a mile, when the boy, supposing him dead, held up his horse. On dismounting, however, he found that the animal was yet alive, and having no other means of dispatching him took off one of the stirrups from his saddle, and beat him therewith till life became extinct.

The animal was one of the largest size, the body being over three feet in length, and was taller than a greyhound. From the boy’s statement, it fought most desperately, and it was certainly lucky for the lad that it did not get hold of him, for if it had the boy would not have been able to have disengaged himself from its grasp, and would have been killed.

That kind of carnivorous animals and other ferocious wild beasts, including wolves, have been lurking about in the valleys in greater numbers the past winter than usual, owing to the vast amount of snow that has fallen on the mountains where such beasts make their lairs and principally inhabit. They have been unusually ravenous and destructive to sheep, lambs and young domestic animals generally, when found unprotected on the range, while prowling about in search of food, and in more than one instance have animals belonging to the feline species made assaults upon persons with whom they have come in contact unawares; but so far as known, no one has been hurt, although several, as in the case above stated, have had very narrow escapes.”

The article described the animal as “one of the largest size,” but then reports that it was the height of a greyhound and that the size of the body was more than three feet long. Three feet is actually quite small for a mountain lion, but if the description was referring to just the body of the animal (excluding the tail and head) then this would be a more representative description. Also, the “height of a greyhound” is more representative of a mountain lion rather than other wild cats.

Though this article does not specifically name the “lad” who was attacked by the wild cat, it seems most likely that it was one of the three oldest sons of Charles Lambert: Charles John Lambert (16 years old at the time of article and my own direct ancestor), George Cannon Lambert (almost 14 years old at the time of the article) or Richard Greaves Cannon Lambert (11 years old at the time of the article). Even if this was not my own direct ancestor, the event surely was a defining moment of his family’s early years in Utah.

Charles John Lambert (1846-1924) and George Cannon Lambert (1848-1917). Sons of Charles Lambert (1816-1892) and Mary Alice Cannon (1848-1908)

[1] “A Combat With and Capture of a Wild Cat,” Deseret News (Salt Lake, Utah), 30 April 1862, https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/, accessed November 2020.

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