A fascinating thing happened last week in Connecticut: people started reporting spotting a mountain lion – also known as a cougar – wandering the state’s southwestern towns. A couple of guys driving an ambulance saw him jump out in front of their vehicle. A homeowner called in a sighting. The cougar even made an appearance near a fancy schmancy private school in Greenwich, hearth and haven to the wealthy and fabulous who still sport cravats and speak in that oh-so-Mr.-Howell Connecticut Lockjaw accent.
To give you an idea of how unlikely this all was, consider for a moment that the eastern cougar was declared extinct earlier this year. And though officials remained skeptical even as the reports continued coming in, by Saturday all speculation had ceased. The poor cougar allegedly was hit by a car and killed, and the evidence of his presence in the Ralph Lauren State was finally there for all to see.Observant reader, I expect that you noticed my use of the word “allegedly” in that last sentence. You see, I’m not so sure that this cougar lost his life because of a car accident. I’m from Connecticut, and while drivers there are as prone as other staters to hitting animals that jump in front of their vehicles unannounced, I suspect a more sinister plot at hand. I suspect… wait for it… that this poor cougar was shunned to death.
“What??” you say. “That’s impossible!” If you believe this, you have never lived in Connecticut. The official state motto is “He Who Transplanted Still Sustains,”* but the unofficial motto, passed down from generation to generation of Connecticutians and immortalized by The Far Side, is “Dress Nice.” And this, I believe, is what ultimately sealed the fate of our friend, Mr. Cougar.
Connecticut-folk can be real sticklers for standards of propriety and tradition; they would not appreciate me referring to them as “folk,” for one. They are a steely, assertively preppy bunch, ready to pit their plaid against your plaid and to give you a hefty once-over to see if maybe, just maybe, you purchased your Nieman Marcus off the sale rack (as if). And they know. Do not doubt it for a moment.It is my theory that the fine citizens of the C and the T noticed that the poor cougar in their midst was not only not appropriately attired – not attired at all, if you can stand it, the nudist hippy – but also very likely had allowed his coif to become just a bit too ruffled and unkempt to be tolerated. It’s possible he didn’t even color his grays. He also had the audacity to wander hither and thither without any respect for boundaries or real estate investment tax shelters or ancestral property customs. Seriously. He was making a mockery of the state, throwing tradition to the wind. If he had been a descendant of one of the Founding Families, a bona fide member of the Mayflower Society, perhaps the good people of Connecticut could have overlooked his antics. But he was not. Thus, he needed to be stopped. Permanently. And oh, he was.
But Connecticutians have a special manner of doing away with those they deem unfit to stroll their neighborhoods. They shun you. They walk right by and don’t look at you. But it’s not that simple. They all learn at a wee young age how to erase your very presence with their non-acknowledgement. It’s awe-inspiring and frightening to behold. In other areas of the world, when you walk by someone who doesn’t notice you, it feels like walking by another human being who, well, doesn’t notice you. But when you walk by a Connecticut person who is actively not acknowledging you, actively shunning you… well… you know the Dementors in the Harry Potter series? It’s kind of like that. Or more specifically, it’s like they psychically tear off a piece of your soul and tap dance on it, all while never looking at you. That is what I think they did to the cougar. I think they collectively shunned it. Perhaps they found it in a field or by a little creek or perusing the window of a Gap store, and en masse, they began walking by it again and again, actively not acknowledging it until its little cougar soul was mush under their psychic feet. Then they made up the trite story about it being hit by a car, and the world fell for it.If you are one of the Connecticut friends of my youth, you may outwardly scoff at this theory. You may shake your head and laugh and say to your non-Connecticut acquaintances in as non-lockjaw an accent as you can muster, “She’s insane to believe this. Who would kill a cougar intentionally over poor fashion sense? And with a Hyundai SUV? Who in Connecticut would want it in the news that they even set foot in one of those? Puh-lease.” But I know, people. I once lived among you, and I know.
* Other fun Connecticut facts (you seriously can’t make this stuff up):
· State Song: Yankee Doodle
· State Animal: Sperm Whale
· State Folk Dance: Square Dance
· State Fossil: Eubrontes Giganteus (yes, CT has a state fossil)
· State Heroine: Prudence Crandall (the name is so apropos, but if you have a chance, read her Wikipedia entry… I think CT got it right officially naming her a heroine)
** For the record, let me state that I drive a Hyundai SUV and absolutely love it.
*** UPDATE: A friend of mine read this and emailed me that he agrees there is foul play afoot, though he credits the evildoings of "those 'professionals' who declared the beast extinct. 'You're extinct NOW motherfucker!!' I can hear them shouting at its carcass."