I am not a light sleeper. Back when I worked as a summer camp wrangler, I was not the one who was wakened by horses stepping over me on the overnight camp trips. Few wilderness noises manage to rouse me from slumber. Fewer still merit the kind of notice that take you from dreamless sleep to instant wakefulness. But there I was, leaping out of bed with mere seconds between unconsciousness and the ability to sprint up a flight of stairs!
The beginning of this tale is a little further back in time. The chickens had been disappearing. This happens occasionally. Mom had finally managed to build the flock up to five hens and a rooster from a lone female who had been spared the enormous blood lust of a dog the hired hand left behind after a day of work. Now the little flock was being whittled down again. Two hens were still hanging around, but the rest had vanished in the last several weeks. Puzzlingly, there was no evidence of a struggle to be found anywhere. No squawking had been heard, no feathers scattered on the ground, no trails, nothing. Until tonight.
“Yip, yip, yip . . . .” My eyes shot open! Was that really? “Yip, yi, yiii, yip . . .” That thing was close. Close enough to be near the . . . . run, Mara!
I covered the hall in three strides and took the stairs two at a time, letting out a warning cry as I burst through Mom and Dad’s room on my way to the office. Poor Mom must have thought the sky was falling – she didn’t understand a word of what I yelled! Leaping onto the cluttered desk, I pulled a rifle from the rack hanging above it, a box of ammunition from a drawer, and rushed back out the way I’d come.
“Mara,” I heard, “what are you doing?”
“Coyote!” I shouted again, “out by the chicken coop!” And this one wasn’t howling at the moon.
Telling my city-dwelling friends this story is enormously entertaining! Their eyes get big at the thought of a “dangerous” predator lurking just outside, looking for an opportunity to snatch away the innocent. The idea of running out to meet such a vicious animal without a flashlight, barefoot, and carrying a single-shot .22 rifle is a little beyond their realm of normal. To be honest, it doesn’t happen regularly out here either. But when your animals need protecting, you don’t really think about what is or is not normal.
Turned out the coyote was across the road instead of at the chicken coop. By the sound of his yipping, he was challenging my dogs – who, it must be pointed out, were nowhere to be found on the guarding circuit. Not wanting ANY wild animal feeling free to challenge my property, I shot off a few rounds just to let Mr. Coyote know who was boss. Convinced that he was gone, I went back to bed. Haven’t heard from the scoundrel again. Guess my “bark” was more intimidating than his J
More later . . . . . .