May 1, 2015

How I Was Bitten by a Jaguar

Tyler Mahan Coe

My bio on the Show This website mentions that I've been bitten by a jaguar. People ask me about it quite often. This morning, I typed out the story in private correspondence and I may as well share it with the public.

My father was a pretty eccentric person.

From the years of 1987 - 1989, our family lived in a large house on a great deal of property in Eldon, MO. Now having the means and the inclination, my father took the opportunity to come into possession of several exotic animals: two jaguars, several mountain lions, a tiger, a young chimpanzee, many tropical birds and some horses.

Having been born in late ’84, I was young but still retain a few memories of that time and place.

The chimp, whose name was Rocky, was the best. We were often dressed to match (in diapers) and my father later insisted that I believed Rocky to be my actual brother. Of course, I now realize that allowing a human toddler to spend that much time with an incredibly strong primate was reckless parenting and I’m fortunate to be able to tell the story with a light-hearted tone. I’m also fortunate that Rocky seemed to enjoy my company; he never was fond of my mother and was given to frequent displays of churlishness toward her, culminating in a shit-throwing episode which led to his departure from the home. He was taken to an exotic animal reserve, where I’m sure he lived the rest of his days in an environment more suitable to his nature.

David Allan & Jody Coe with Lulu the Jaguar
Jody & David Allan Coe with Lulu the Jaguar

I was fascinated by the “big cats,” as I and everyone else called them. Feeding time was a spectacle that I enjoyed watching without really understanding what I was seeing. Much as the average 4-year-old will enjoy a cheeseburger without realizing what it meant for some cow somewhere, I simply had no frame of reference for bloodlust. When the big cats saw the caretaker coming to their cages with the huge chunks of raw meat, they would react in different ways: the mountain lions whistled; the tigers basically reacted like gigantic house cats, “meowing” excitedly and becoming animated; but the jaguars silently paced back and forth just behind the chain-link fence, never looking away from the meat until it was thrown into the cage.

I was actually terrified of the mountain lions. Their whistling I found deeply disturbing, in the context of knowing that theirs were the screams I heard in the night. Those screams would enter my dreams and transform them to nightmares. The whistles seemed their way of saying, “Hey, kid, come here. How did you sleep last night?” To this day, the eyes of a mountain lion are the first image that come to my mind when I consider the possibility that Evil may exist in this world.

The tigers were just big cats, as I said above; not that interesting.

The jaguars, though… Their silence was a great mystery to me and their movements were more graceful, more obviously purposed. The jaguars were my favorite to watch at feeding time. I would need to always be reminded to keep distance from the fence of the cage, as my feet would carry me closer…

One day I got too close, that’s all. Nobody was watching me for those few seconds, nobody except for Lulu the jaguar, as I walked up to the fence and reached my hand in to touch her. Of course, the caretaker looked over just as my hand went into the cage and gave out a frantic yell. It’s possible his yell frightened Lulu into thinking my intention was to harm her. It’s possible she would have taken my hand completely if the caretaker hadn’t yelled when he did. As it happened (and considering what could have been), her bite wasn’t severe. I was carried into the house, screaming and bleeding, frightening my mother to Hell, of course. As the wound was dressed, it became clear that the volume of blood was deceptive, there had been no loss of digits or nerve damage and I would be fine.



  1. Anonymous11:15 PM

    Enjoy reading about your memories...

  2. I remember visiting your homestead when I was 7 or 8. Wish I could find pictures of me with the tiger

  3. My wife and I saw your Father perform last night in a tiny place in Staunton VA.It brought me back to my young days back in the 70s when you could stop in a randum Roadhouse and listen to Fabulious music from "Some Band" you never heard of but think of often when telling stories of my youth who look at me with blank expressions when I tell them about working at a bar at 15 where the Pagans MC hung out and listening to Blackfoot(Who i still havent found anyone else who ever heard of them).Anyway had a great time and my wife and I danced and had PDAs for the first time in like 4 years so tell him thanks.10/30/2016
    Joe Lake