Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Coyotes in the Mist

A few mornings ago, I stumbled from the front door into yet another thick fog.  These clouds we live in are so heavy, we can't even see any neighbors some days.  And they can't see us! Which means they can't criticize: relief!

One bucket of hot soapy teet water in the left hand.  Two empty sterilized buckets for milk in the right hand (two, because if she kicks one with a poopy hoof, we've got a back up).   The air smelled wet, earthy. Thick and cold on my skin.  The smells of early morning, the aroma of a blank new day.  Half way to the barn, a middle-school girls slumber party erupted around me: hooting, laughing, howling, yipping.  I know this racket now.  No, it's not a lost summer camp.  Not the ghosts of a two-drink minimum comedy club come to haunt us.  No.  I was surrounded by coyotes.  I could not see them but they were close.  I'd walked right into their exploratory romp.

The first time I heard coyotes up close, was in Grand Tetons National Park.  They ran through our camp site, singing out their ecstatic language.  Calling.  Responding.  It seemed easily translatable: "half a hot dog at 2 o'clock".  "I've got grill drippings at straight up noon."  "Roger that!" "Check this out!  Here's some tofu, I'll leave it for you."  "Holy Crap!! Massive cooler left out at 10 o'clock."  "Yippeeee!!!!"  "Yahooo!!!!"

A group of us, kids and couples, hiked up high onto a hill in Idaho.  Below us we heard spastic laughter and shrieking.  What was that?  Someone had seen a sign for summer camp nearby. Must be some 12 year old girls whooping it up.  I suggested someone had been pantsed. What else could cause such a thrilled ruckus among girls? But then, I couldn't make out any words.  We creeped closer, peered over the ledge.  Below us a family of coyotes mid-debate.  And they vanished.

The pack usually roams through around 3 am.  I wake up.  And account for all the little animals: the chickens, the cat.  Check, check.  And I go back to sleep.  This was the first time I'd physically interrupted their conversation.  I'd stumbled into the middle of the pack. like a family member.

Coyotes don't scare me, sneaky kids, unless they've got anvils.  Even then, I'm pretty sure I'm safer than they are.  I did meet up with a wolf once, cara a cara, while riding my bike on a rails-to-trails in Idaho.  I was alone and so was that predator.  We stared into eachother's eyes.  I swear I fell in love at first sight.  So wild.  So full of lust was that beast.  I couldn't believe my luck!  I did pick up my pace, however.  I knew it wasn't a coyote, it stood so tall and sure. Coyotes are small slinkers.  Sure enough, I read in the paper the next day... wolf sightings!

But these were coyotes, little hungry mutts.  I saw one in the field across the road later in the day.  The free-range neighbor dogs chased it away. Counting my chickens and road runners both now.

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