Who says rural life is boring? There's never a dull moment in the country.
My beloved rooster, Roy, went missing two weeks ago and I've been in a terrible funk. I thought I found him in a pen a half-mile away, and yes, I was creeping on other people's property looking for my bird.
I hollered, “Roy, is that you?” and he crowed and flapped his wings. I debated knocking on the door of the house—“You have my boy Roy!”--but people in our town already think I'm crazy, so I decided to return with Widdle later.
“Later” wasn't soon enough. The next day the pen contained just a couple of forlorn hens. No sign of Roy. I suspect he was sold on the side of the road, which is how he came to us: Witnesses say he escaped the seller and ran across the highway to our spread. (Which finally answers the question, “Why did the chicken cross the road?”)
I loved Roy, but he's gone and my heart must go on.
Which brings us to the latest critter.
Widdle keeps an automatic dog feeder in the shed out back for Molly, his ancient Lab. A few nights ago he walked in looking puzzled and said, “Either Molly is now eating five pounds of kibble a day, or a varmint is raiding the feeder.”
Now, I couldn't care less what goes on in that shed. It's dark and cobwebby and I stay away from it. So I said, “Mmmmmmm,” and kept reading “Garden & Gun.”
The next day Widdle checked the feeder about 7 p.m. “The raider struck again. The top was knocked off, so I tied it down with cord,” he announced.
Twelve hours later he came roaring in the back door like someone slapped his mama. “It's untied! And half the food is gone!” Widdle does not like to be bested by man or beast, so he was furious.
He rooted around in the spare bedroom closet for a few minutes, and emerged triumphantly waving a length of electrical fence string. (I feel about the spare bedroom closet the same way I feel about the shed. But that's another column.)
Widdle went back outside and tied that lid shut with every Boy Scout knot he could remember.
The next morning the string was untied and neatly coiled beside the feeder, which was empty. “What the heck could it be?” Widdle fumed.
“Maybe it's Sasquatch,” I said, giggling at my own wit… until I saw his face. Then I quickly began baking his favorite cookies.
That day he borrowed a friend's trail camera, which takes photos when motion is detected. He hung it above the feeder, whose lid was now strapped down with approximately a quarter-mile of duct tape.
The next morning Widdle went out and downloaded the photos to a memory card. He forwarded the file to me, without comment. There they were: sharp, color images of a huge raccoon patiently trying to unpeel the duct tape. This coon was gigantic. And hungry.
Later Widdle texted me: “Did u c the big she-coon? I'll get a live trap & relocate her this wknd.”
I texted back: “U can't do that. In 1 pic, u can c she's a nursing mother.” He didn't reply, and now I'm writing this column.
I don't often defy my husband, but he's not going to relocate Mama and leave her babies to starve. Maybe we'll use the trail cam for that spat, and u can c it 4 yourself.
Julie R. Smith, who just remembered that raccoons carry rabies, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.