I’m at the home of my very lovely friends, Terry and Nancy Clark enjoying a little rest between a women’s retreat at Twin Peaks (which was wonderful) and my flight home tomorrow night. We spent a lot of time talking about the animals in my life this weekend … which brought this story to mind:
Our home was a battlefield this morning.
I awoke to the sound of frantic fowl. It wasn’t possible to distinguish between the cries of the rooster, the hens or our eleven ducks–I only knew that cumulatively, they were screeching for help.
On occasion, we’ve seen eagles overhead (we saw about a dozen flying together three weeks ago–such an incredible sight), and once, a lone eagle landed in our front yard down near the chicken coop–on the hunt, no doubt. Only the netting over the chicken pen saved them that time. Raccoons have left paw and claw prints in the dirt leading under the coop. But I don’t usually think “eagle” or “coon” when the hens set up a ruckus. Our first thought is always, “coyote.”
There may be people out there who find a certain beauty in coyotes. I’m not one of them. I think they’re mangy, creepy, slinky, cowardly beasts. Even if I could get past the long, no-meat-on-them-bones legs and the ribby sides and the skinny faces, I’d still have a disdain for their characters. They’re unredeemable. They run in packs, like woolly, woodland gangs, always looking for a quick steal. If they had opposable thumbs, you can bet they’d soon learn how to hold a can of spray paint, and would leave blood-red C’s and paw symbols at the scene of each crime.
A couple of times a year, on nights when earth holds its breath and even the moon seems to be waiting for something, you can hear the pack running the trail beyond our woods. I’ve been lying in bed, near sleep, when the first cries ascend the treetops and shiver their way into our bedroom. Goosebumps rise on my arms and I shudder involuntarily to hear their hysterical, maniacal, yipping. There’s a wicked glee to their yelping. It’s the sound of creatures drunk with their own nastiness. That sound has never failed to scooch me closer to my husband.
This morning, on the heels of the frantic cacophony outside, I heard Larry pounce against the door. I jumped up and peeked out our bedroom window, not yet clear-headed and wondering who he was fighting out on the porch. Dave said, “He’s inside,” which instantly explained the sound of claws on tiles I heard from the other side of our bedroom door. He was in such a hurry to get outside and launch a counter-attack that he could barely stand to get out of the way long enough to let me unlock and open the door. I’ve never seen him run that fast. I didn’t really know he had it in him.
As near as I can tell from counting, one of the hens is gone. Larry didn’t stay away from the house long, and there wasn’t a sign of coyote hide on his teeth, so I’m pretty sure no contact was made. But five minutes later, checking the other side of the house, I saw him freeze in step, stare at the woods below our patio, and take off again. He saw what I hadn’t, before that moment–another coyote staring at us from behind a bush. I saw those lanky, hideous legs loping off with Larry in pursuit. I lost sight of them as they rounded a giant maple, just feet from where I hid myself yesterday with a book. Dave’s prayer bench is out there, and sometimes I borrow it when I want a half hour of uninterrupted reading.
It’s a wild place we’ve got here, in the middle of a wilder world. One day, our home is as serene a spot as you could hope for: gentle breezes whispering through the woods, ducks quacking at me for chunks of bread and bits of cheese, Larry and Lucy (our pregnant-again cat) sleeping in a companionable heap on the patio. It’s all ice tea and sunshine and laughter. The next day, death visits.
Keep your eyes open today. And stay clear of the woods, okay?
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 1 Peter 5:8-9 (NIV)