New feature! I’m calling it Music Memoirs. Like a lot of people, every once in awhile, a song will make me think of some random event in my life. Maybe the song was playing at the time or maybe it just reminds me of that event because of the lyrics. I kind of did this before, although I didn’t know I was doing it at the time, when I talked about “Poke and Destroy.” So this isn’t just going to be “Oh! This is the song that was playing during my first kiss!” I’ll keep this feature more interesting than that.
So let’s get into it! Today’s Music Memoir involves the song “The Tigers Have Spoken” by Neko Case, from her live album of the same name. It’s a great song, very Neko in its nature/animal themes, but a very sad one too. It’s self-explanatory from the first verse: “They shot the tiger on his chain.” Its a true story – not necessarily in that Neko read about one particular incident in the paper and then wrote this song, but in that this is something that happens on occasion. People keep exotic animals illegally, even big dangerous ones like tigers, and when things go wrong, the animal is killed.
I know this because it happened right around my home town. Ten years ago, a tiger escaped from an illegally operated animal sanctuary in a town called Moorpark, about an hour northwest of Los Angeles. I wasn’t living in Moorpark, but I was going to school there. I was a freshman at the time, and I was only in my second semester when I heard about this escaped tiger. It was all over the news. I don’t remember being particularly worried since the sightings were all in the hills around horse ranches, parks, houses at the edge of town, etc. My house wasn’t anywhere near the sightings and the school was in a busy area. It was backed up against the hills as well, technically, but I figured a tiger would have no interest in wandering around a giant paved area, i.e. the parking lots that surrounded the school. Still, others remained on alert. Years later, I would learn from a friend who was living in Moorpark at the time that she was extra vigilant because she owned a dog.
The tiger kept the entire town on edge for weeks until one day it showed up in someone’s backyard and they called the authorities. I guess it wound up wandering too close to a school (I remember it being in the morning) and they figured it posed a threat, so they shot it dead. It was incredibly disappointing to learn that that was how it ended.
All the other animals in the sanctuary were transferred to other sites and the couple who had owned them were arrested and charged. The whole affair ended up being a lot more dramatic than I knew (or at least remembered) at the time. It wasn’t just an escaped tiger – it was spooked horses running onto the road, one of them being hit by a car and causing a human fatality. It was a wife who allegedly attempted to shoot her husband during a domestic dispute (they owned the tiger). And it wasn’t just one tiger, but two more, as well as three lions, a snow leopard, a lynx, a bobcat, and more running free around the property rather than in enclosures. It was probably one of the most dramatic events to ever happen in that sleepy little town.
And now I think of it every time I hear this song.*
*(Includes a funny story by Neko at the beginning before it punches you in the gut with sadness! Wahoo! You’ll probably turn your volume up during the speaking part, but right after she laughs and says “But we’ll still play it for you,” you’ll want to turn it down again because the song is a little louder by contrast.)