Monday, April 9, 2012

Okay, Now You're Freakin' Me Out

the Pond Mountains
I grew up in the country….on a gravel driveway at the end of a dirt road. 

There are not too many aspects of country living that I don’t appreciate… or that I can’t handle.  Although, I must note…I am not always (or ever) calm, cool and collected. But, I learned to drive on a stick-shift FORD pick-up, I don’t get squeamish about “processing” animals, and The Boss taught me to shoot a long time ago. I am a country woman clear to my core. I love it way out here…and sometimes wish we were further out in the wilderness. But, there are times when things get to me.

 Life in the country is far different than life in town. The sounds, the smells, the way of life are foreign to most folks from more urban areas.  A case in point: my “townie” grandfather stayed with us for a while when I was a child.  His biggest complaint?  It was TOO quiet!

Lately, I would have welcomed some quiet.  For some time now, we have been hearing the foxes call to one another in the night.  A vixen calling to potential mates is a very creepy sound, particularly when it comes from the complete blackness that is a moonless country night.

There are a lot of pleasant sounds in the nighttime.  The spring peepers have all begun singing their little song.  It’s a nice “background” type noise provided by the tiny frogs that live near the creek.  Occasionally, a bull will hoot…there is nothing like an Angus bull’s nocturnal love call to let you know you are no longer close to town!  There are the night sounds of various birds and owls, that once identified, are quite interesting to hear. Until 10 o’clock on spring/summer nights, we can hear the sound of contact between the bat and ball, and the cheers of the crowd that float up from the ballfield in M’brook. Country life is something special!

The calls of the foxes do not fit into the pleasant/special category at all.  I have been unable to capture the sound on video (dogs barking, doors squeaking).  So, I borrowed this from Youtube.   Keep in mind, the night is pitch black, and you can hear these sounds IN the house, WITH the television turned on. Scary!

Okay, so the foxes make a bunch of noise.  Then the dogs take issue with this and cause their own noise.  So much for quiet nights in the country! I was not too concerned with all of this until the Boss and I noted coyote tracks down the road a bit.  Then we noticed some scat on the side of the lane.  I have been unable to determine the species, although I suppose it could be coyote.  I am hoping it is NOT! I began to get more than a little nervous.  Then it was time to put the sheep out on pasture.

When we first turn the sheep and lambs out on grass, I always have a few restless nights.  The lambs are dumber than rocks, and scream whenever they lose sight of their mothers.  Unfortunately, their night vision also seems to be impaired. Sometimes, the amount of nighttime screaming is truly astounding! Occasionally, although very rarely, there is an issue that needs human intervention.  The problem is…you never know!  So, I make a lot of nocturnal trips to the sheep paddock.  A quick shine of the flashlight, count the glowing eyeballs, listen for any other problems and go back to bed.  That’s just part of springtime as a shepherd.
Between the coyote tracks, the vixen calling, and the lambs’ bleating, I     finally…completely…utterly….freaked out last week.

 The dogs woke me from a sound sleep.  There was a lot of commotion in the field across the lane.  (for the record…all those sounds on the Youtube video…yep, heard ‘em all!) When I shined the “big” flashlight (million watts) out to check out the noise, there were FOUR sets of eyes shining in the neighbor’s field.  Two of these sets rapidly fled as I panned around with the light, but the others stayed still, blinking fixedly in the glow of the spotlight.  But, all the noise had stopped…although the dogs continued to bark ferociously. I figured the “glowing orbs” were probably foxes’ eyes, but a quick headcount showed a missing sheep/lamb. I counted again…and again.  The number kept changing, but those eyes in the far field stayed there. The memory of those coyote tracks lingered in my sleep-deprived mind.

Next thing I knew, I was walking down the lane, clad in my pajamas and rubber boots…. (in the country, FASHION is everything!) and armed with TWO flashlights.  I was ready to battle those eyes.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to rest until I figured out what they were. I didn’t hesitate, despite the fact I didn’t have my glasses…or my Leatherman! It wasn’t until I was crawling under the neighbor’s fence (yes, in the middle of the night…in my pajamas and rubber boots) that I realized I had finally….completely….utterly….lost my mind.  Just as I had this thought…the big, blue eyes blinked again.  Before I could react, two deer shot up from their resting place and bolted up the hill, white-tails flying like flags in the night.  I’m not sure which of us was more startled. Well, that mystery was solved! The dogs went ballistic.  They feel it necessary to “protect” us from the deer pressure, or at least alert us to their very real presence.

I clambered back under the fence, wondering at my sanity.  Then, I caught more glowing orbs in the beam of the flashlight.  This time, it was in the middle of the lane.  This time, it was smaller.  This time, it was calling out….”me-ow….me-ooooowwww!”  Yes, Booooyyy, the mighty hunter (!) had followed me and was now in need of a ride back to the farm.  As I scooped him up and headed home, the sheep and lambs all started following along the lane and down the drive.  A quick headcount (again) and all were present and accounted for. The dogs happily escorted me down the driveway, happy that Mama had come out to play again in the dark of night.

You know, I really need to learn to relax!

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