It was, as I have said, a fine autumnal day; the sky was clear and serene, and nature wore that rich and golden livery which we always associate with the idea of abundance. The forests had put on their sober brown and yellow, while some trees of the tenderer kind had been nipped by the frosts into brilliant dyes of orange, purple, and scarlet.... As Ichabod jogged slowly on his way, his eye... ranged with delight over the treasures of jolly autumn. ~Washington Irving, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"
Friday, June 11, 2010
A Mysterious Farm Story
Something horrible happened out here the night before last. Right where my little grandson was walking and playing last weekend. These are the unexplained things that happen when you live in the country, surrounded by wilderness and wild critters.This is one of many incidents without the wherefore.
Wednesday night I let the dogs out front for the last time before bed. It was almost completely dark, except for the porch light. This is the enclosed area called the front garden,where there is a small lawn and it's completely fenced so the dogs are confined to only this small "playground" area when we let them outside, especially at night.
The minute they got out the door they started acting funny. Both ran out to the lawn, lifted their heads to some scent in the air, and became very quiet. Cutter sat down and Carl walked over to the big iron fence that looks out toward the driveway. There was absolute silence.
Now, when I sense that something is dangerously close to the Corgi pups I usually spring into action, picking up one and calling the other to "Come get a biscuit" and we returned to the house immediately. They are so conditioned that they usually do their "duty" and come right back in. Not Wednesday night.
Before I could walk over to Carl I heard something up near the chicken house. A rustling movement and then a horrible animal scream and growling. It was like nothing I had ever heard before... a piercing scream of something being attacked by another animal. We hear lots of night noises and recognize most of them. The foxes mating, the crunch of deer walking through the brush, the owls, the coyotes, crickets, frogs and birds, all making their night cadences that flow into the songs of darkness.
But this was a song of attack. The lyrics were clear and the style was death metal.
I grabbed Carl, who was, as I picked him up, growling low under his breath. I ran to the porch and called Cutter who, by the grace of dog saints, came up onto the porch with me. I opened the screen door and put Carl down inside, reached around and grabbed Cutter. We all went into the safety of the living room. I could still hear the horrible sounds. I yelled to the Prospector, who was getting ready for bed, told him what I had heard and ran out the back door to see what this was and if the goats were OK.
This is never done in complete foolishness. The area between the house and garage (and where the goat house is) has always been a safe zone. It's completely fenced and the only way we can see the area above the chicken house is to go out to a gate between the garage and the goat house and there we have a clear view of what might be happening. And, USUALLY, the Prospector is right behind me with the rifle.
When I reached the fence, I could hear the horrible screaming and an undercurrent of growling. I could see... nothing. The attack was happening up the trail above the chicken house far enough that I could not see into the darkness. I listened, knowing that Annibel was in the garage where we put her every night and that the goats were standing at the door of their house looking at me and being completely silent..
The noise moved up the hill.... became more distant and then it stopped. You could have heard a pine needle drop.
Nothing moved, nothing made a sound. I realized that I was holding my breath and I let the air out, taking another deep breath in. I was actually in a state of heightened awareness probably from the deep breathing. It was probably what the youngsters call an "adrenalin rush". The goats were still watching me silently. The Prospector was NOT behind me with the gun.
Later on, as I fell asleep, I listened to the night sounds outside the open window. We never heard the screaming again. Whatever happen, it was fast, efficient and primal. I never saw them. I have no idea what the conclusion was. They were gone without the usual leftovers, without signs, without explanation.
Annibel was still in a state of high awareness and wouldn't walk with me to the orchard. She kept looking around and up the hill, sniffing the rocks, walking cautiously and had a fearful look on her face.
I have no idea what happened. I doubt that this was a mountain lion because there would have been some signs of the attack.... fur, feathers, footprints, scratches, etc. There was nothing. Maybe I'm fooling myself. A friend, up above Pioneer said that a lion killed a neighbor's Llama recently.
My guess is that it was a fox. We have had two feral cats coming around here and have not been able to catch them. They have been hanging around for water and we have seen them in the yard at night. I think it might have been a fox attacking one of the cats. Or... two foxes fighting over some cat food that we forgot outside on a table. Or... a coyote attacking something. Or... as you can see, I really have no idea. Only my imagination and the memory of that awful screaming. Oh, that screaming. It's a reminder of where we live and how much we take it for granted.
I lost the romance a long time ago when we had the deer eat my roses to the ground before we had fences. I lost the "Bambi" attitude the first time I took a walk, at dark, and had a deer stomp its feet at me and make a huffing noise like a steam train from the bushes, as I walked by. I know how dangerous this place is where we live. Every once in a while we are reminded of this. I respect the creatures that were here first. I know that we are the intruders.
The Prospector said that he heard the noise, thought it was two foxes, and didn't follow me outside because he knew I wouldn't go past the fence. He said he was at the window the whole time until I came back in. I still think he should have been behind me with the gun. But, I always did love a good western adventure story... where the cowboy saves his woman and there's a happy ending.