Friday, April 25, 2008

Country Life

For the most part, life in th country is awesome - no traffic noise, just coyotes and cows. No bright lights, just the moon and the stars. And no city code enforcement, so the grass in our front yard can be six feet tall if we so desire. I must admit though that this really is not a good idea because the down side of country life is that there are many critters that share this land with us.

The other night after one of our violent spring thunderstorms, our big dumpster was blown over. When we lifted it to its proper position, several little field mice (rats?) had taken refuge under the upended dumpster. They were not too happy that we had disturbed their tornado shelter. I don't mind these field rodents as long as they maintain their residence in the field. I don't want to meet any of them on the way to the bathroom or at the dinner table. Fortunately (knock on wood) we have not had a problem with them coming inside. Perhaps three indoor cats make our house bad real estate investment for them.

The dogs also do their part to maintain rodent control around here. When Adidas was just a wee puppy, our then thirteen year old Golden Retriever took him out in the front and showed him how to catch a field rat. I'm not sure how she did it because by that point in her life she didn't move very fast. I didn't think Adidas paid much attention to his hunting lesson, but apparently he did. He has brought us several "former" field rodents this spring. Fortunately, he drops them on the back deck before he comes in. Being a good big brother, Adidas taught Harley this skill. She on the other hand, likes to bring her catch of the day inside so that we can all admire it. I wouldn't be surprised if she has one mounted above the mantel any day now.

The dogs have not stopped with rodents on their hunting expeditions. They have found a headless snake. I'm sure it was headless when they found it; they are not responsible for the decapitation. They are also fond of turtles. Actually, they like abandoned turtle shells. These smell a little bad and make a lot of noise as the dogs play hockey with them on the deck, but in the grand scheme of things, it could be a lot worse!

All and all, we have been fortunate in the domestic critter verses wild critter realm. No skunk encounters. No raccoons. No deer. No coyotes or mountain lions. For all of this, I am quite thankful.

I have been waiting for an unfortunate meeting of the animal kind. Every now and then we hear something under the deck outside my bedroom late at night. What we hear is not a growling or hissing like you might expect from a raccoon. It doesn't smell, thank God. It sounds as though something hard is hitting the underside of the deck. I have been convinced that it was an armadillo. Last spring we had one that would play out in the yard in the late afternoon. I think, however, that he lived over in the brush around the stock pond. And, I have not seen any armadillos around here since then. I will admit that I have been a little (no, a lot) reluctant to go stick my head down there and peek under the deck. As many nights as the dogs have gone out and barked and stood watch over the back deck, if it were something terribly dangerous, I think we would have had a problem by now. But, maybe not. So, I have been living by the philosophy what I don't know can't hurt me. Intellectually I know how stupid this is but the prevailing wisdom here is not based in smarts.

Yesterday, while I was doing some chores, the dogs were outside playing. They had been out for what seemed like forever. Usually they want to be inside, especially if they can do something to insure that any given chore takes three times as long as it should. I decided to look out the back door to see what they were up to, perhaps collecting a family of rodents?? When I peeked out the door, there they were - three dogs - Harley, Adidas and J.D. (the neighbor's dog who would rather live at our house. So he does.) And, in the middle of the circle of dogs was a huge turtle. Its shell was probably 14" in diameter. All the critters were enjoying the sunshine and warm spring air, and not bothering each other.

It was quite a sight. No, I do not have pictures because I decided that it was probably better to move the turtle, who was indeed still alive, to the pond. BK carried him over to the water. The last time she made me play the good Samaritan and move a turtle from the middle of the road, it turned out to be a snapping turtle with a REALLY long neck. She owed me this one. As it turned out, this guy was not a snapper, which is probably why all the dogs are still in one piece.

It dawned on me after the turtle was safely returned to the pond that he is probably what we were hearing under the deck. We may now be responsible for breaking up an amphibius family. I guess if he wants to take up permanent residence under the deck, he will find his way back. I would much rather him be our nearest neighbor than some of the other characters that inhabit these here parts.