Saturday, June 20, 2015

Walk on the Wild Side

Lily and I like to take a walk in the cool of the early evening--maybe around 7:00ish. It's not dark outside, but it's quiet and everybody is pretty much tucked away inside their houses. Occasionally you smell onions cooking or see the blue flashes of a television. Once you get farther up the road, past the farm where I rescued the baskets and beyond the multi-million dollar Rustic Acres housing development where I "parked" the bag of poo, the houses grow sparser and the trees grow denser. Suddenly, we're walking through a green, sweet-smelling corridor lined with ferns. Along the way, as we climb a hill, there are the remains of an overgrown, old mini-farm--a small barn, a chicken coop, falling down fencing. The mini-farm's days are long gone, but the boulders they had to build the mini-farm around look exactly as they did hundreds of years ago and as they will still look hundreds of years from now. The road gets as "forest primeval" as a suburban road can get.

Wednesday night, we were out a little later for our walk--around 7:15 maybe, and we were doing our usual thing, snuffling along in the ferns (Lily) and veering sharply away from smushed, shocked-looking chipmunks (me). As we reached the top of the hill just past the mini-farm, I heard some dogs barking. I'm always a bit worried that a huge dog will come bounding out at us. I know how lame that sounds. It just can be tricky when an unleashed dog feels like you're on his turf and your leashed dog is kinda small and inclined to be protective and defensive. So, I said, "Let's call it a night, Lily," and we whirled around and started back down the hill.

When we got halfway down, Lily got really interested in smelling a rock. So, I stopped and stretched and lazily looked back up the hill behind us.

A coyote was standing in the middle of the road, at the top of the hill, sniffing at a squooshed squirrel and looking down at us. It was very scrawny.

In that moment, I didn't think a thought, but my eyes bugged out of my head like a cartoon.

There were no houses around, no cars. Just me, Lily, and the coyote. Lily was all passionate about the rock and she didn't see the coyote. That is very good because if she had seen the coyote she would, as we all know, have become very emotional.

As I noted last September when I took a picture of one in my friend's back yard, I have nothing against coyotes. I  kinda feel like we're encroaching on their territory. I don't assume that they are rabid. The fence in my back yard is too high for them to get over if they get the munchies for mexican food.

Yet, as I hustled Lily down the hill I didn't think about the more positive aspects of coyotes. I just thought, "Damn. I better get us the hell out of here." As I frog-marched Lily along (I think it was good for her--she was shocked because usually she's the one who tries to pull), I ducked down on the fly and picked up a very large, thick stick. And, I began to talk very loudly to Lily about nothing in particular. From time to time, I peeked back over my shoulder and I mentally mapped out the driveways up ahead that I could run down if worst came to worst. I know: All this for one scrawny little coyote. The trouble is that one coyote might mean more coyotes.

What's the rest of the story? We got home just fine. And now, the thought is in the back of my head that if we go back up the road for our walk we might meet up with the coyote and/or coyotes again. I'm not sure how else to prepare. Someone said I was supposed to whistle loudly and aggressively at coyotes, but I have very poor whistle performance under pressure--my lips grow limp, I can't pucker, and I just kinda blow spit bubbles. I guess I can take to carrying a whistle around my neck. I'd feel pretty stupid, but it's a possibility. But, what if the whistle just really pissed the coyote off? What if it whistles back at me insolently, mockingly and then charges at us? I wouldn't blame it--I mean, I wouldn't enjoy being whistled at loudly and aggressively? It would give me gym class flashbacks. Okay: Off to make some full-body armor for Lily and me. We'll move a little more slowly, but it seems like a logical course of action. Clanky, sure...but duly armamented.*

*I just made this word up; I do not think it's real, so proceed with caution if you deploy it in conversation.