Friday, July 22, 2005

wild kingdom

Our home was a battlefield this morning.

I awoke to the sound of frantic fowl. It wasn't possible to distinguish between the cries of the rooster, the hens or our eleven ducks--I only knew that cumulatively, they were screeching for help.

On occasion, we've seen eagles overhead (we saw about a dozen flying together three weeks ago--such an incredible sight), and once, a lone eagle landed in our front yard down near the chicken coop--on the hunt, no doubt. Only the netting over the chicken pen saved them that time. Raccoons have left paw and claw prints in the dirt leading under the coop. But I don't usually think "eagle" or "coon" when the hens set up a ruckus. Our first thought is always, "coyote."

There may be people out there who find a certain beauty in coyotes. I'm not one of them. I think they're mangy, creepy, slinky, cowardly beasts. Even if I could get past the long, no-meat-on-them-bones legs and the ribby sides and the skinny faces, I'd still have a disdain for their characters. They're unredeemable. They run in packs, like woolly, woodland gangs, always looking for a quick steal. If they had opposable thumbs, you can bet they'd soon learn how to hold a can of spray paint, and would leave blood-red C's and paw symbols at the scene of each crime.

A couple of times a year, on nights when earth holds its breath and even the moon seems to be waiting for something, you can hear the pack running the trail beyond our woods. I've been lying in bed, near sleep, when the first cries ascend the treetops and shiver their way into our bedroom. Goosebumps rise on my arms and I shudder involuntarily to hear their hysterical, maniacal, yipping. There's a wicked glee to their yelping. It's the sound of creatures drunk with their own nastiness. That sound has never failed to scooch me closer to my husband.

This morning, on the heels of the frantic cacophony outside, I heard Larry pounce against the door. I jumped up and peeked out our bedroom window, not yet clear-headed and wondering who he was fighting out on the porch. Dave said, "He's inside," which instantly explained the sound of claws on tiles I heard from the other side of our bedroom door. He was in such a hurry to get outside and launch a counter-attack that he could barely stand to get out of the way long enough to let me unlock and open the door. I've never seen him run that fast. I didn't really know he had it in him.

As near as I can tell from counting, one of the hens is gone. Larry didn't stay away from the house long, and there wasn't a sign of coyote hide on his teeth, so I'm pretty sure no contact was made. But five minutes later, checking the other side of the house, I saw him freeze in step, stare at the woods below our patio, and take off again. He saw what I hadn't, before that moment--another coyote staring at us from behind a bush. I saw those lanky, hideous legs loping off with Larry in pursuit. I lost sight of them as they rounded a giant maple, just feet from where I hid myself yesterday with a book. Dave's prayer bench is out there, and sometimes I borrow it when I want a half hour of uninterrupted reading.

It's a wild place we've got here, in the middle of a wilder world. One day, our home is as serene a spot as you could hope for: gentle breezes whispering through the woods, ducks quacking at me for chunks of bread and bits of cheese, Larry and Lucy (our pregnant-again cat) sleeping in a companionable heap on the patio. It's all ice tea and sunshine and laughter. The next day, death visits.

Keep your eyes open today. And stay clear of the woods, okay?

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 1 Peter 5:8-9 (NIV)


17 Comment:

At 7/22/2005 9:57 AM, Blogger Macromoments had this to say ...

Shannon, I wish I'd written this:
"...on nights when everything holds its breath and even the moon seems to be waiting..."

Beautiful word painting!

At 7/22/2005 10:39 AM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

Oh, thanks, Bonnie--I hadn't yet seen your comment when I went in and changed it slightly. You'll have to tell me if you like the edit better. :)

At 7/22/2005 11:16 AM, Blogger Fran had this to say ...

Wow! You amaze me with your writing! Can I claim you as my mentor? Is it possible for me to ever write like that? (Even if I haven't been blogging lately I am still reading those books you gave me and writing in my notebook.)

I'm glad your ducks are okay. Now that I've seen you standing in your yard calling "babies!" I would be sad to think one of them would no longer run to you for chunks of bread. (Just for the record, coyotes freak me out too!)

At 7/22/2005 11:53 AM, Anonymous OldGuy had this to say ...

Hi Shannon

I'm glad things turned out mostly okay.

As usual your writing is awe inspiring and I can picture everything :)

At 7/22/2005 12:35 PM, Blogger Michael had this to say ...

Superbly done.

Take Care

At 7/22/2005 2:17 PM, Anonymous joe cool cowboy poet had this to say ...

Great post. Beautiful writing

At 7/22/2005 7:19 PM, Blogger Fishkrisser <> had this to say ...

Great writing Shannon! I wish it didn't have to be about something that happened like that though. :-( I know how you feel. I live on about 2 acres with fields and when I was young my sister incubated some chickens for a science project one of them was our favorite. His name was Heathcliff and regardless of the fact that we had wire around the coop the little demon dogs managed to get Heathcliff along with about 4 others. They still come onto our property but we don't have anymore outdoor pets. So the most they can do now is go after our neighbors pets and wake us up with the howling. I have gotten back at them since though. My father and I hunt and every now and then we go to Eastern WA, and "take care of the excess population" while were there. ;-)

At 7/23/2005 12:55 AM, Blogger Ginger had this to say ...

Besides meeting up with coyotes in the wild, they also lurk in Places of People. When I lived in Southern California they trolled the orange grove just beyond my subdivision. I have a feeling they had something to do with the disappearance of my beloved kitty.

Thanks for a beautifully expressive post.

At 7/23/2005 5:00 AM, Blogger Kim had this to say ...

If I say "Awesome post, Shanny" one more time, I'm sure you'll skim right past it. lol But it is true each and everytime. Awe-some post! ;)

At 7/23/2005 10:17 PM, Blogger Cristie had this to say ...

Just wanted to thank you for visiting my blog and commenting about my friend. Nice writing by the way.

At 7/24/2005 5:56 PM, Blogger thequeen had this to say ...

You are a brilliant writer. It surprised me at the end when you didn't have something astounding and wise to say about loving the coyote even though you think it is an unredemable creature. I don't think I could make it out there living on the edges of humanity. If we weren't creeping into there space like mold they may not be so skinny.Always on the run from shot gun pellets and fireworks and dogs like Larry. Scrounging for food, always on the brink of death. The coyote is a true survivor.

At 7/24/2005 6:35 PM, Blogger Sherri had this to say ...

A painter of words. You are truly a master!

I am with you on the distaste for coyotes. First nite after moving to the country and what to I get awoke by...a pack of coyotes screaming their banshee yell as they moved across our property. It's unnerving to say the least. The only other animal sound I can equate them with is hearing a panther yell. Really does sound like a woman screaming. Gives me the heebeejeebees just thinking aboutit.

At 7/24/2005 9:16 PM, Blogger shannon had this to say ...

Bonnie and Fran, you've both written many things I wish I'd thought of first.

Thanks, OG, Michael and Joe. Joe! I've liked the forwards you've been sending me. :)

Fish, you keep commenting things here that I can see you easily turning into posts. How about it?

So sorry about your kitten, Ginger. It's hard to love a creature that steals something you love.

Kim, you're funny. :) Hey! Guess what I found out today? Zac's coach is Mike's dad!!! Of course, I'm sure he told you that on the way home from church. I am just amazed at how small this world is.

Hi Cristie. I've been thinking about you since learning of the loss of your friend. You're in my prayers.

Hello Denise! Thanks for your nice comment. Sorry to disappoint you at the end. :) I suppose there's a small part of me that understands the coyote's plight, but it's overshadowed greatly by all the losses I've been dealt by them. I've been up early and watched one of them snatch a hen in a heartbeat. They always seem to be laughing at me as they slink back into the woods.

You hit it exactly, Sherrilee--they sound like banshees! And it really is unnerving. Thank you for your kind words.

At 7/25/2005 9:17 AM, Blogger weniki93 had this to say ...

Hi, I just stumbled upon your blog and have been enjoying your writing!

At 7/25/2005 8:53 PM, Blogger Kim had this to say ...

Yep, Mike told me on the way home. That's so neat. We'll see you at a game, I'm sure! Last year he was Kramer's coach at Grace. It is a small world. ;)

At 7/29/2005 4:12 PM, Blogger Stephen had this to say ...

I had to laugh at this: "If they had opposable thumbs, you can bet they'd soon learn how to hold a can of spray paint, and would leave blood-red Cs and paw symbols at the scene of each crime." That is too funny!

At 7/29/2005 4:16 PM, Blogger Stephen had this to say ...

Shannon, you describe the world around you in a way that pictures or video never could. I always enjoy visiting your blog. Thank you for sharing your gift of writing with us. God bless you!


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