Friday, June 16, 2006

Katy and the Cougar

One of the pleasures of working in alternative media was meeting young interns from the local university's school of journalism. As the editorial advisor at a bi-weekly print newspaper, I had the privilege of briefing them on topic background, showing them how to use the archives, and helping them develop a story using unconventional perspectives and interviewees.

My favorite intern during my two-year stint at the Bellingham WA Every Other Weekly, Gene Metrick, was also the student editor of the WWU Western Front. Gene, by the way, has gone on to garner numerous awards as a reporter and editor in his new home of North Carolina, where he and his ex-wife Katy had once planned to move when she completed studies at Northwest Indian College.

Katy was from the Eastern Cherokee tribe living in the mountains of southern Appalachia, which, as a matter of fact, were the same clans my Irish immigrant grandmother's grandfather's grandfather lived and traded with two centuries previous. In the summer of 1997, Gene was busy helping us do a feature series on the Wise Use/Anti-Indian Movement at that time personified by Washington State's US Senator, Slade Gorton.

When Gene graduated, Katy and her sister threw a party at their rented cabin on a bluff overlooking Lake Whatcom, surrounded by towering pines and sandstone caves. Penned up below the outside deck where we sat were her numerous dogs I remarked on as a formidable security system.

Katy laughed, and then proceeded to tell me about how they all cowered and refused to come upstairs to her loft bedroom when she called them one recent afternoon, only to discover when she rose to use the bathroom that a mountain lion was bounding out the bathroom window and springing off the roof into the limbs of a nearby tree. Looking at the destroyed window screen and broken toilet tank lid on the floor, she noticed the cat food bag had been shredded and that big cat tracks led into the bedroom where she'd been sleeping moments before.

As she told us the story, Katy recalled dreaming that afternoon that something was watching her and smelling her breath. Needless to say, this brought chills to her and us as we listened.

I've manged to stay in touch with Gene over the years, but, unfortunately, have lost contact with Katy. I imagine she has returned to the Smoky Mountains, but it would sure be nice to hear from her.


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