Monday, June 27, 2011

Coyote Ugly

This morning, barely awake, I heard the panic button cackle. The coop had come to life with the sounds of death. The dogs started whining and scratching at the door and I bumbled around looking for shoes and slung open the door. We all ran towards the chicken house (some, um, faster at 630am than others) the dogs were on to something and growling and snapping and I had that sinking feeling that I was about to encounter 'it' and I was unarmed and the worst of flip flops. I often think about footwear at the strangest times. How will I get out of this earthquake, this flood, this fire---in THESE shoes. As if I have winged ones back in the closet. And by unarmed I mean I forgot to grab a stick.

I have opened the door to the chicken house before and been greeted with blood, a mass of feathers and disemboweled birds staggering around. The work of a sneaky and murderous raccoon or El Mapache as the Guatemalan called it. I've gotten a little more used to the cycles of nature in the three years that that happened, but definitely check the rafters every night before closing the door to the coop. And if the rooster doesn't give me the all clear, "bok, bok, bok" I know something is up. Silent chickens make for suspicion. Loud chickens means terror is trying to be avoided.

I see nothing. But something is barking back at my dogs out of the woods. Normally I'd say, oh that's good. Just a dog. A wild feral been left in the woods like folk do up in these parts to fend for its hungry self rabid pit lab hound cross. Back on our side of the livestock fence my dogs go and the barking continued and then I saw it. A WOLF!!?? A barking wolf! But on closer Planet Reality I see it's a golden coyote. She has come out of the woods aggressively to bark at my dogs without fear through the wire fence. I ran out and made my crazy river dance spaz hands in the air run which scares most things away and it took off.

Holy cats, we gotta get a rifle. That coyote is clearly rabid, coming out of the woods to eat my dogs! And my chickens! And next will be ME!! I saw the carnage. No more evening strolls to the coop. Surely they were after me. I went to the pawn shop and talked to the old timers. Could I use a BB gun?

Er yuh shootin' canz?

No, a coyote.

They laughed and showed me to .22 rifle 'aisle'. After a quick tutorial (I have been to the shooting range with my brother, I think it's silly, because targets don't bite or run) and I (sorta) know how to handle a weapon...I simply have never gotten one because it seems that when you need it, you won't have it. Just like those winged shoes.

I got the gun anyway. "Homesteaders should have a rifle..." everyone says. But if I made it 15 years in Atlanta without one...they told me that they we need to shoot all the coyotes. I should sit on my back porch and wait till dark and pick em off to save---what exactly? And that is going to cut into cocktail hour.

And then it hit me. I am but a guest at this table with nature. What makes me think I'm going to control any damn thing. With a gun. Or a coyote. They are trickier and more adaptable than I'll ever be. The coyote clearly has a purpose in the ecosystem. A little research with Wildlife and Game revealed that killing coyotes actually RAISES coyote population because they fill in where there is a loss and make another litter instinctively. Aha. Remember who was driving the Titanic. People.

Could she really have been menacing around the coop in the daytime after this many years trying to find a secret doorway to free chicken? Maybe. But more probably she was catching rabbits and rats to bring back to the pups. And that's fair. In fact encouraged because the field mice and the rats are eating me out of $50 a week in grain. And with my dogs encroaching on her territory, she was chasing them off her meal time.

Fear. It is our first natural emotion, defense, modus operandi. The Motivator. And you know what?  I just won't go to bed with it. I flirt with it, and then I realize it's a really crappy suitor. People ask me all the time if I'm scared. Of what, I'm not sure, and neither are they. Bears? Lions eating me? Bogey men? Sink holes? Weather? Death? Taxes? Thieves? Living alone? Dying alone? Poverty? Loneliness? Fat? Snakes?

I guess not. Or maybe. But worry never fixed anything. Preparedness I'm a fan of, but without a careful eye, that can breed a slippery slope mentality. What ifs. You could dangerously cross the line over to paranoia town.

So I'm not saying that I won't shoot a coyote if she's eating my next chicken dinner because well, that's just rude. Or maybe I'll let her take one, they are after all delicious and I have plenty. If she grabs more than five we're going to have to talk. But for now, the rifle is just a prop at the Hacienda. And I hope never to have to use it.