it's been about two weeks since i heard what was indeed the most disconcerting noise i've ever heard come from the mouth of a living creature. i was sitting at my kitchen table a few days before halloween working when, from what sounded like it was just outside the window of the pantry, there came a scream that sounded like a cat running over an electric fence line while a bear clubbed it with a salmon it had just caught out of the river; the animal was simultaneously fearful and befuddled.
when i got up to see what i expected to be carnage in my backyard, there was nothing. no trace of anything. no animal limping away in pain. no other animal enjoying its place in the food chain. no phone calls for me to make to my neighbors about how their precious little mittens or tess or fill in your favorite southern author's name here was in my yard motionless of no fault of my own, but rather something resembling manbearpig.
now i know what you're thinking. you're thinking, "dude/broseph/sir/beardy, no animal makes that noise you described so eloquently and then vanishes without a trace in a manner of seconds. you, dude/broseph/sir/beardy are a liar."
well sir or madam, you haven't seen many horror movies, have you? this was textbook thriller cinema minus the fact that i didn't run into the attic or take an impromptu shower in the middle of the day or go looking for the 1/2 bear, 1/2 man, 1/2 pig that certainly just ate a cat in my backyard. yes, aside from my brilliance, this was halloween 13 quality horror: noise. fear. silence. return to normalcy. continued fear. continued silence. extended fear.
(okay maybe there was a little less fear on my end. maybe, but i'd like sasha mitchell of kickboxer 4 fame to play me in the movie version given his acting chops and ability to bring a series to a screeching halt.)
this, however, was not the last strange encounter with rural fauna that i've had since then. a couple of days later, biz and i took an early morning walk through town. there are about three ways to walk through town, and luckily enough for us we chose the path littered with dogs, many of whom were homeless or at least appeared so and in dire need of attention.
at one point, i counted 14 dogs on all sides of us, some ferocious 7 pound dogs with more bark than bite, some dumb chocolate labs who don't understand anything but their need to retrieve something even if they already have it, and one overfed basset hound bringing up the rear.
if you've ever been surrounded by 14 dogs, it's not exactly easy to move quickly. if you've ever been surrounded by 14 dogs with an combined iq of 14, it's nearly impossible to move. and if you live out in the boonies like us, then you know that at least half of them are strays. they just wander wherever, so they might as well follow you. oh, and they probably have a cocktail of diseases streaming through their veins. the joy of rural life.
as we walked i could only think of two things: 1) how i wished i'd had a stick of some sort to shew them away and 2) will ferrell and john c. reilly's psa in talladega nights about the packs of wild dogs that were taking over america's cities and how it had only taken them four years, but they had started to take over rural america as well.
not to be outdone by stray dogs and disappearing, cat-eating predators, though are the chickens. that's right i said it. chickens. our neighbors have chickens. they had four until sometime friday when that lovely pudgy basset hound and his west highland terrier friends broke into their coop and snatched two of them away, leaving me to transfer the other two to another coop while the neighbors were out of town.*
let's be clear about one thing. chickens are wily. in the midst of the transfer one decided she didn't really want to move so she just flew out into the yard and ran around, wings tucked in, head bobbing away, making me look almost as graceful as the llama at right as i chased her into and out of the bramble, the coop, and the yard.
i kept running over the joke my dad used to play on me about catching birds in my head as i panted across my neighbor's yard. he said all you have to do is get really close and pour a little salt on their tail. while that's an absurd task, after about ten minutes of chasing that wonderful, beautiful member of creation in and around the yard, i began to wonder if wouldn't be such a bad idea. about that time it ran into the hole and got trapped, so i guess we'll never know.sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.
animals of all kinds are on the brink of absolute freedom out here, and sometimes when they walk that line between freedom and the domestic life, they add a little flavor to life even if it's not always the one i'm craving.
*after much consideration and moderately scientific research, i have a working hypothesis that the pudgy basset hound and the terriers fashioned themselves into a sort of three headed trojan horse that struck both fear and wonder into the cat outside my pantry just before halloween causing the scream heard 'round my kitchen. i also think such a plan would work well the theatrical stylings of sasha mitchell, allowing him to be both kickboxing "stud" and lovable idiot cody all while searching for this mythical beast.
photos from here, here and here.