Tag Archives: wildlife

How I Survived “__?__NADO”

by Coco Ihle

“What IS that?” I said out loud, as a flicker of movement outside my office window caught my eye. Something was moving in the middle of my backyard. The grass hadn’t been mowed for almost a week and it had grown a lot since torrential rains had been pummeling the neighborhood for most of that time.

My desk is against the window and I stood leaning over toward the glass, to get a closer look. I could see something black, but the grass was too high to make out what it was. Since I live in a nature preserve, I’ve learned to expect all sorts of wildlife during the years I’ve lived in this area of Florida, but this was a real puzzle. It wasn’t big enough or the right color to be an armadillo or possum or any of the larger animals I’ve seen. It moved again. Maybe it was an injured bird.

My vantage point was too low and the bottom half of the window was screened, which made visibility difficult, so I decided my step ladder might help. I set it up alongside my desk, got up on the third step with one foot, straddled the desk and placed my other foot over on the window sill so I could look down on whatever it was. I still couldn’t see well enough. I got down, went into my living room and grabbed my opera glasses, went back to my office and back up the ladder.

While I was trying to focus the binoculars, the phone rang. I glanced over my desk and my caller ID said it was my son, Rob. I climbed down and answered. Before he could say anything, I started telling him what I was doing, and he started chuckling. He said he was picturing me straddled over my desk looking out the window and it was just too funny. I was glad he couldn’t see a video of me then.

Anyway, I asked him what I should do. He suggested I go out and look. Duh. But, I didn’t know what it was! Maybe it was a snake or something equally creepy. I climbed back up the ladder to look some more, all the while answering Rob’s questions. “How big is it? What does it look like? Is it still moving?” I didn’t know. By the time I got my opera glasses focused again, whatever it was, wasn’t where it had been. Eeeek!

I finally spotted it closer to the house. What the heck was it? It was slithering through the grass. My heart was really pumping at this point. My son suggested I get a large container and capture it. Easy for him to say! He lives forty minutes from me and he was safe and sound in his house. But he had planted the seed. I had to find out. I told him I’d call him back.

Gathering my courage, I went into the kitchen, found a large plastic mixing bowl with a snap-on lid and went out the patio door, all the while telling myself I could do this. I tried to get a grip on my pounding heart and heavy breathing. I certainly didn’t want to pass out now and have that thing, whatever it was, crawl on me! Cautiously, I crept along, searching, and finally spotted it around the side of the house, deep in the wet grass. It still wasn’t recognizable. By this time, my imagination had me one hair short of terrified, but despite that, I crept closer.

When I got about a yard away, I leaned forward as far as I dared, without losing my balance, and teetered above it on one foot. I couldn’t believe my eyes! It was a catfish! A catfish in my yard? Seriously?! It was about a foot long. I could see its whiskers. I’m not a fisherperson, so I didn’t know if they bite or have poisonous barbs or something, so I decided to try scooping it up into the bowl and taking it to the pond at the end of the street, two houses away.

I’m glad there wasn’t any video of this endeavor, either! You see, I have this problem. All my life I’ve never been able to scream. When something scares me and I open my mouth, a weird guttural sound comes out. It’s nothing like a scream. It’s a low pitched, breathy “Auuuuunnh!” After a couple of those sounds sort of slipped out during a lot of writhing and slithering, I finally was able to get him in the bowl and snap on the lid. Shouting, “Eeeeuuuuww!” all the way, I ran down the street to the pond, tore open the lid and threw my arms in that direction. He flew up in the air, arced downward and splashed into the water. Then off he went, swimming as fast as he could.

Exhausted, I called Rob back and described my ordeal, which sent him into gales of laughter. He kept saying, “Stop, stop!” I could picture him grasping his side in laughter-pain. When he finally calmed down, he said he could just see me “screaming” and dancing around with arms flailing, trying to get the catfish into the bowl and then running like a maniac to get to the pond to release it.

By this time, my heartbeat was getting close to the normal range and I could almost breathe without panting. Through his chuckles, Rob said, “Just think, Mom, you saved a fish’s life! What an original fish story.”

With a weak smile, I answered in my defense, “Well, at least my story is true.”

***

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric, traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.
Join her here each 11th of the month.

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Filed under Humor, musings

Out My Back Door — by Norm Brown

My backyard consists of a five foot wide strip of San Augustine lawn that abruptly drops away down a rocky brushy hillside. Sometimes it’s surprising what appears just beyond my rear deck. Over the years I’ve spotted deer, raccoons, armadillos, and coyotes from the porch or through my kitchen window.

Twin Fawns

Twin Fawns

Usually this requires seeing the wild animal before it spots me and runs away. This spring, however, I had a brief visit from a little critter that apparently came to my yard specifically to see me. It was a bit strange, but touching in a way. Outside the light was dimming as the sun was about to set. I had just settled down in my easy chair to search for something worthwhile on television, when motion outside drew my attention. I stood and looked out through the glass backdoor. At the bottom of the steps to the rear deck the fuzzy little face of a gray fox was looking back at me. I turned and went for my phone, thinking I might snap a quick photo before he took off. When I turned back I was amazed to see the little gray and tan animal actually walk right up to the glass door and briefly look at me inside. He turned and went back down the steps as I approached the door. At this point most wild things would be long gone, but when I quietly stepped out onto the porch, I was shocked to find him sitting peacefully on his haunches beside my birdbath. I moved right up to the wooden railing and tried a couple of shots with the cell phone. The light was too low to get anything but a fuzzy blur with the phone’s camera, but the fox continued to gaze calmly back at me. I hurried back inside and upstairs to retrieve my Nikon camera. Unbelievably, when I returned to the deck he was still sitting there, as if posing for his close-up. We were not more than fifteen feet apart. I snapped away, even talked to him. The usually invisible focusing beam from my camera twinkled brightly from the eyes of this nocturnal forager. Even when I used the flash, the little animal never flinched.

Evening Visitor

Evening Visitor

As the light completely faded he finally got up slowly and strolled into the brush down the hill. It seemed to me the fox had been trying to communicate something to me, sitting there looking me in the eye like a puppy. Later, while uploading the photos to my computer, it occurred to me what this visit had been all about. The day before I had decided to throw away a loaf of white bread that had been in my freezer for weeks. Before it hit the trash can, my son suggested I put some of it outside for the birds to eat. Nothing seemed to touch it during the day, but the scraps were all gone the next morning. It was pretty clear then that it hadn’t been a bird that scarfed down the tasty treat during the night. The fearless little fox had returned in hopes of getting more. Although I don’t make a habit of putting food on the lawn to attract who knows what, I couldn’t help but regret that I hadn’t understood what my patient visitor was trying to communicate to me: “Got any more of that stuff?”
A few weeks later I saw the fox once again during daylight hours, trying to catch a squirrel or other small rodent behind the house. He must live somewhere nearby. I hope to see my tiny neighbor again.

Fox from kitchen window

Fox from kitchen window

 

“Bother me tomorrow.
Today I’ll bear no sorrow.
Doo…Doo…Doo…looking out my back door.”

John Fogerty and the Creedence Clearwater Revival

Norm Brown is the author of the suspense novel Carpet Ride, published by Secondwind Publishing, LLC.

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Filed under life, photographs

The War On Bunnies

Bob’s War on Bunnies occurs every spring in our suburban neighborhood. It’s disgusting, violent and shocking like an outtake from some TV nature show. Worse, Bob leaves it to Mom to remove the inedible body parts–gall bladders, tails, bits of fur–from the porch. Mom’s Aunt Juliet in Ohio reminds her about the dangers of allowing intermediate vectors into one’s home on a cuddle-me basis. Bob spends his evenings with his head in Mom’s lap while she watches The Big Bang Theory and Jeopardy. Late at night, when she should be sleeping, Mom fears she may become the Typhoid Mary of the next global pandemic. She also remembers the kid’s book Horror Classic, There’s a hair in my dirt! by Gary Larsen.

 Bob cleans house—out-of-doors. Although he’s grown a bit timid about attacking squirrels now that he’s no longer a hungry stray balls-out Tom Cat, he still likes to eat bunnies. Along with bunnies, his hit list includes darling chippies, birdies, mice and voles. Voles are the loss leader among the daily offerings; even when there’s nothing else to be out-smarted and slain, there’s always some poor bastard vole ambling near-sightedly past. Yes, my rescue cat is the bane of the local wildlife, except for the fine assortment of parasites he picks up from the guts of his prey. Then it’s time for Mom Picks Up after Bob and Mom does laundry for Bob, along with a trip to the vet for the tablets to de-worm a 13 lb. cat. 

He’s good about swallowing the first pill, but his dose is 1 ½ tablets, so he puts a paw down, or, actually his jaw closes, on my fingers as they attempt to deploy the second half.  That, he seems to believe, is pushing his goodwill in a shameless, numb-nuts duh-human way. He sets about explaining this with saber-like claws and shiny, clean white teeth.  He’s semi-polite, not quite ready to rip my arm off, but he’s firmly in the negative. Mom often has to give up.

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Filed under writing