Duma grew to an extraordinary size for his kind. He stood three feet tall at the shoulder, and the length of his body measured six feet of muscular power—not including his long tail. The deep paw prints he left behind were eight inches at their widest point, contributing to the growing number of myths about him. Cattlemen and sheepherders came to know him as he made his way along the water traces of the region. Drawn imperceptibly to the Yuma Valley along the Colorado River from the delta, Duma cared little about from whence his nourishment came. To fuel his large body, he would as soon eat a frog or fish as a mammal or bird. But the local people formed their own beliefs about his coming: he was a ghost of times past come to take retribution for humankind’s sins; he was the white buffalo of the region come to lead tribal people to their rightful place among men; he was a marauder—a demon predator—of cattle and sheep, taking his revenge on the ranchers who had invaded his territory, and so on depending on who was telling the story.
Duma had found a place along the river with ready access to fish and fowl and there seemed no reason to leave. Now that the river’s banks were denuded of forest, his pale color, which matched the mottled white and yellow colors of the desert pavement, afforded him more cover than the green of his Sierra Madre birthplace.
He’d made his way to The Crossing and thus joined the conflagration of living forms at the edges of the Colorado River. He was a creature of the times, struggling to stay alive, in need of sustenance and habitat to keep himself going. This was also the state of humankind, unmasked for the first time—finally freed from its technological haze.
In an oddity of circumstance, Bob Minor discovered the white jaguar on his property one evening. It was standing behind an old stand of prickly pear as high as Bob’s shoulders. Bob was spellbound. He raised his rifle but could not get a good angle and was fearful he’d only injure it. And so, Duma ambled down the plateau and into the fields of broccoli where he crouched low and rested by the gurgling irrigation ditch.
Bob called Fish and Game to report the sighting.