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More than just another ‘cat’ video

by | Feb 17, 2023

I was at the Corbeil hacienda tickling the keyboard on Wednesday afternoon, trying to write my last column. The intention was to cap off what I hope is my first Village Media series that lasted 85-straight weekly opinion pieces. To be honest, I actually stopped the week prior but didn’t announce anything officially, although a few friends knew it was coming. The editor, Jeff Turl, and I met on Tuesday morning to talk about my decision.

It was a tough thing to express because there are many moving parts to this fourth leg of my journalism career. Mostly, this stage is about being somewhat independent and wide-ranging in approach with an emphasis on video interviews, podcast-like conversations and social media mixed into the soup.

Read the column HERE and you’ll get a sense of what is on my mind while closing this chapter with the intention of starting another down the road.

I was taking a break from the computer screen, with my head beginning to pulse with a weird headache that has hung around for almost two months, when my eyes popped out and jaw dropped – a rare sighting of the elusive lynx popped up in my favourite real-time screen: the kitchen window. The big cat was a mere 50 feet directly in front of me in the backyard and traveling west to east as he/she walked slowly and deliberately behind my sauna.

There was zero time to locate my Canon G-40 camcorder, thankfully it was sitting in its bag on the dining room table with a full charge and plenty of available memory on the SD card. In one instinct-driven motion I picked it up, turned it on, switched down the lens cap and zoomed in even before reaching the back deck window. That only comes with 35 years of work practice trying to capture sports action and breaking news on the fly.

I had hoped the magnificent cat, something I’ve never seen before, would veer a bit south after going behind the building so I could get a broadside view but she/he had already turned north to cut through the safety of the bush rather than my wide-open space in front of the far gazebo.

By the time my shaking hands found it in the frame, the lynx was walking into the brush and giving me only a back view. My heart pounded. Would a knock on the glass cause it to pause on its giant, furry paws and look my way? Should I open the door to move closer and risk scaring it off? One step on the deck might cause a loud and regrettable creak. I kept silent behind the glass, hoping the lynx would veer east again down the roadway behind the gazebo. There was about 40 feet of open space it would traverse.

Just the day before, I had inspected the area and noticed fox tracks following a rabbit trail (wild hares are all around the Corbeil hacienda and no doubt the lynx is familiar with the food available.) I had seen lynx tracks during my 20 years living between thick bush and swamp that defines our Northern Ontario landscape, but never seen a live one in the wild during all of my 57 years.

I managed to hold my breath long enough to capture some of its casual stroll by the open space before disappearing behind the gazebo. Still in my skivvies and slippers, I dared going out and down the stairs, tip-toeing east in the hopes of catching the lynx before it crossed the back driveway and into the bush again. I think it heard me and quickened the pace and there was nothing more to record, the ghostly creature lost in the poplars, birch and conifers.

There I was, standing the middle of my parking area with little more than a smile and holding my camera, a happy hobo heaven camper with golden and possibly once-in-a-lifetime video. I totally forgot about everything else on my mind for the entire 60 seconds, a minute that felt like a lifetime.

In my column, I was explaining how this isn’t the first time I’ve put the brakes on a column series to gather my thoughts, energy and focus before diving headlong into another series. As the pattern goes, there is a slight change in dimension and scope to build on what I’ve learned and direct my efforts toward where I want to be.

‘Lu the lynx’ appears to be often heard but rarely seeing within its range here in Corbeil, according to the comments under the video post on the members-only East Ferris Post It Facebook page. I considered the visit to my property a gift and omen that bolstered my confidence in the decision I had made.

The lynx is a quiet but powerful spirit with an independent character. That’s how I feel about myself (maybe not the quiet part) and it was a thrill and honour to share this experience with all my friends, relatives and readers who have stuck with me through thick and thin.

Life is full of challenges, joys and heartaches and there are times I feel very grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had. February 15, 2023 is one of those days.

Of course, ‘cat’ videos are the most popular thing online. They “purrduce” more clicks than everything but cute puppy videos, making it impossible for reporters and columnists to compete when it comes to “driving numbers” and page views. Below are the analytics for the first 48 hours of the short 30-second video on my YouTube channel @davedalessmalltowntimes

The first wave is when I posted it and shared with a link to my Small Town Times Facebook page and then shared that to my personal page, as well as putting a separate post on the East Ferris Post It Facebook page, generating about 950 views in about 20 hours. After putting it in my BayToday column at 2 p.m. February 16, there were another 650 or so views generated (with probably about 500 and counting from the Village Media readership).

Usually, most of my non-cat or non-animal videos only generate 250 to 350 views, on average, with the better ones with political spice generating 500 views.

A recent interview of two old hockey officials in North Bay, Dave Saad and Ken Miller, was viewed about 350 times, including 100 after it was included in an unrelated BayToday column.

One of the highest view counts since starting the channel seven years ago comes from a video of another elusive creature, the Fisher, which visited my backyard two winters past and seen by more than 16,000 people.

Dave Dale
Dave Dale

Writer, photographer and proud father. My mom’s family is from the Soo with its Algoma Highlands, dad hailed from Cobden in the Ottawa Valley and I spent my teen years in Capreol. Summers were at the beach on the Vermillion River and winters at ‘The Rink.’ Born in East York but Toronto never was my thing. Ever since a kid looking out the window on long trips, I imagined living on the highway in a little house with a big yard and trees growing all around me.

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