Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In the Country, Close Encounters of the Wild Kind

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In the Country, Close Encounters of the Wild Kind

Article excerpt

One of the most enjoyable benefits of country living is the never- ending parade of wildlife that saunters, lopes, hops, flits, buzzes, and slithers through our backyard. From dawn to dusk, in any season, our guests and permanent residents pursue their various goals. They're undeterred by our presence on the swing that hangs from an ancient apple tree, or on the enclosed porch in less clement weather.

Among our permanent residents are a stately old woodchuck who lives in the front wall by the mailbox and another who has claimed a den somewhere beneath a beautifully built wall that's been there since long before my birth - or my father's. It runs along what some local historians say was once Proprietor's Way, a wagon trail now mostly vanished.

They're good neighbors, these roly-poly animals, content to saunter out and sit stolidly munching on plantain weed, rearing up on their hind legs occasionally to sniff out possible danger. Never once have they overstepped the bounds by trespassing among the cabbages of our vegetable garden. They share with innumerable rabbits, who don't even pretend to be afraid of us, as they dine nonchalantly on the lawn's clover blossoms.

A chipmunk has made himself quarters under our back porch. Despite our efforts to dissuade him (or her) through fruitlessly filling in the holes, he remains.

If we push in rocks, he pushes them out again. If we use dirt as fill, he simply digs another passageway. All day, the tiny brown bundle of energy, marked with a bright black and white stripe, streaks back and forth across the yard, tail erect. Should we disturb his passage, he scolds us in a high chipping tone.

Deer bed down in the wild rose thickets beyond the apple orchard. They seem like family now. Every year, the doe produces twin fawns. We watch them grow up as the summer progresses.

At first, awkwardly following their mother across the lawn with small white flags of tail quivering nervously, they soon learn the knack of crossing the street to slip into the trees beyond.

We know we should cut back the wild roses, which have run rampant everywhere, yet their bright red hips provide winter sustenance for the deer.

Raccoons aren't shy either. One evening, we watched, muffling our laughter, as one solved the problem of a covered barrel.

It contained dog biscuits in four colors - red, green, brown, and black. He lifted out one biscuit at a time with delicate paws. Deciding the black ones were not to his liking, he'd drop each on the ground and reach for another.

Our rapping on the window had no effect on his equanimity. Keeping a haughty eye on us, he ate his fill before ambling away into the dusk, having thoroughly put us in our places.

Countless generations of garter snakes have lived around one of our old wells, slithering down into the stonework at any approach. …

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