Let me clarify this point: I like to be called saber-toothed cat. Do not call me a Smilodon, that pompous academic name thrown at us by humans who’ve lived such a short time compared to the millions of years various branches of my family survived and flourished in a world far more beautiful than the hellish one I’m visiting today in a place named Red Rock Canyon some eighty miles east of Bakersfield, California. You may not want to listen to my memories of the good old days but since I weigh several hundred pounds, substantially more than lions and other pipsqueak cats, and am armed with iconic canines several inches long that resemble tusks or fangs, I trust you will pay attention.
I’m a reasonable and adaptable creature – that’s how I so long endured – and will not rebuke humans for the horrific state of my old home. I understand that geologic forces beyond all of us are responsible for the holocaust, and will merely tell you that when I lived in this place, about ten million years ago, we enjoyed lush land watered by twenty-five inches of rain a year and blessed by shallow lakes and abundant food provided by creatures resembling elephants, rhinos, sloths, horses, antelopes, and camels. These plant-eating pussies, if you will, were quite vulnerable to all saber-toothed cats.
Do not believe speculation that I could singlehandedly take down only small or medium-size creatures, which were indeed helpless when I overwhelmed them with speed and power. I wasn’t always averse to hunting in a pack, but that arrangement also required me to share fresh meat. I generally preferred to hunt alone, and relished the challenge and reward of felling the largest creatures – sloths, elephants, and rhinos. After stalking and making them nervous and interrupting their opportunities to eat, drink, and rest, and generally wearing them down, I charged and tackled them, much like a linebacker grounding a halfback, and then plunged my canines, two long wicked daggers, into their jugular veins and tracheas, at once strangling and bleeding them to death.
This was a rich and just world so appallingly different from what now exists. With burning eyes I today behold a parched and deteriorating landscape that receives only four inches of annual rain and offers not a thing to eat lest I consume rocks and dry earth. I grimace at the wretched red cliffs that appear to have been clawed by some by devilish force. I suppose we must blame nature, the very nature that over millions of years destroyed the beautiful, life-giving Pacific Ocean that once graced the Central Valley of California. Only wicked nature would’ve made the ocean floor rise while the western shore, the Sierra Nevada Mountains, relentlessly rolled sediment into the water and turned sea into a desert marred by asphalt and shrouded in smog.
Sources: My trip to Red Rock Canyon and the small museum there; Geologist Tim Elam’s lecture at Buena Vista Museum on March 3, 2012; Wikipedia – Red Rock Canyon and Saber-Toothed Cats.