Saturday, August 7, 2010

Crunch... crunch... *pause* ... crunch

There's a saying that 'when the cats away the mice will play', yes? It does hold some truth. Generally speaking, some of my weirdest experiences have happened while I was home alone. For example, when we were living in a motor home outside our earthquake damaged house, my sister and parents went to a friends house for dinner. I stayed home because I wasn't feeling good. They leave. It got quiet. Then the storm blew in, and the next thing I know there's a bay tree leaning on the motor home, which is up on blocks to keep it level. Visions of the home on wheels going over the side of the embankment with me inside did not fill me with the glee one finds on an amusement park ride. Rest assured the sturdy little box on wheels stayed right were it was, but my parents did get a slightly panicked phone call from me.

There was also the time that the kitchen nearly caught on fire due to someone turning on the wrong burner on a stove. That was NOT me. Someone wanted tea and turned on the burner under a pan full of bacon grease instead of the burner under the tea kettle. Ah... please note that when you do as you were taught by very serious firefighters in grade school "You can use baking soda to put out the fire by dumping the box on it.", that what they do NOT tell you is that when you have a fire shooting three and a half feet into the air, and you dump a box of baking soda on it, that the fire briefly and surprisingly, shoots out three and a half feet to the sides before being extinguished. Yes... That would've been handy to know. Earlier. ehem...

But I think the 'home alone' instance that tops all others (so far, that is) was when my parents were visiting my uncle in AZ. This was the year that we'd had out first trouble with a critter getting at the chickens while in their hen house. Right at the beginning of summer we'd forgotten to close up the door before it got dark, and of course, the one night we forget is the one night something decides it wants chicken for dinner. And of course it isn't something small like a fox or a bobcat. Nooooo. We end up with a yearling black bear in the hen house. We lost two hens to the bear eating them, and one just plain vanished. That's still a mystery. No feathers, no nothing. Bears are messy eaters, and would have left some evidence behind. I'm wondering if the bear had been accompanied by a fox that night. Fox are often seen puttering around near bears. Anyway, that was a first... actually there were a couple of firsts. First time we lost chickens to a predator, first time we forgot to close the metal door on the chicken coop, and the first time I've ever seen my father grimly loading a revolver to go shoot whatever it was that was in the chicken coop. Actually that was the last time I've ever seen that last one.

So, here we are later that same summer, while my parents are out of town, and I'm left home to take care of the raptors, and the dogs. Not a big deal because I couldn't get out of work anyway. It was hot that night so I had all the windows wide open so we'd get a breeze. No central AC of any kind here in the boonies. I prefer it that way, considering AC dries out my nose something fierce. The dogs were sacked out on the floor, sprawled really and attempting to pretend that panting wasn't a necessity. As for myself, I had plotzed down on the sofa and was watching some show on TV that has obviously done bad things to my brain cells, as I can't recall what it was.

The volume wasn't up high on the set, because the house is a lot quieter with just one human and two dogs in it. This made it easy for me to hear anything going on outside. I'd been half listening to a couple of Western Screech Owls call back and forth to each other, and there was the general faint noise of neighborhood dogs barking.... and there was the...

*Crunch* *Crunch*.. pause.. *Crunch*

...noise of something approaching the house through dried leaves. .... which failed to register completely on my radar until the dogs both sat up with ears perked. Growling ensued. Alrighty then. They don't do that for deer. Being paranoid my first thought was "Sh!t! Someone's going to rob the place." Except the dogs weren't barking in a "There's a HUMAN we don't know out there!" They were growling in a "We're not sure what it is, but its not pleasant." sort of way.

The sleepy part of my brain that only wakes up to tell me I'm being a dolt for not seeing the obvious, clobbered me with a mental pillow before rolling over and going back to sleep, saying,"Its the bear you exquisite fool." Don't ask me why I smiled. The Bear, I thought. Well! Its not getting the rest of my chickens! NOT TO-NIGHT!

Muttering highly unflattering remarks about said bears heritage and upbringing, I went out on the porch and made a lot of racket with two metal dog pans. The bear, (yes it actually was a bear; the sleepy hind brain is rarely wrong), was already in the driveway, halfway between the house and the chicken coop, and it didn't seem to care one wit about me and my noisy shenanigans. It paused in lazy fashion to stare at the strange creature making all the noise, then turned again to pursue its late evening snack.

I was incensed! How DARE he ignore me. So, I threw one of the metal dog pan at him, and of course I missed. He didn't even pause as he looked over his shoulder at me with a grade school smirk as he mosied towards food. I'd been trying to spook him, but now I was pissed. My second throw was hard and aimed with precision... the rim of the dog pan smashed into the bear's head, and made a sound like a gong. The bear stood still for a second, then sat down and weaved a little bit. After a few seconds he got up, shook off, and started for the hens again. This bear was WAY too used to people, and I didn't have anymore dog pans to hurl at him. I ran back in the house and got my car keys. The chickens were locked up, but he'd easily peeled back a couple of sheets of thick plywood the last time he'd visited to get at the chickens. I had no illusions about the wood surrounding the metal door. He'd go through it like butter.

I stormed out of the house and across the driveway to where the car was parked, my hind brain pointing out lazily that the bear could easily run me down before I got to the car. "Shut UP!" I said, and got into the car. My car at that time was an 1981 Oldsmobile Omega. Basically an 80's commute car. It was old, and not terribly pretty to look at, but it made a hell of a lot of noise, and its actually made of metal instead of spiffy, shiny plastic! And I'd learned through experience that cranking it over while little old people were walking past tended to scare the hell out of them. I couldn't see why it'd be any different for a fearless yearling bear. And it wasn't, especially after I chased him all over our 3 acres at speed, with headlights, and horns, and a blasting radio and me behind the wheel laughing like a madman. When I couldn't find him anymore (I lost him in a cloud of dust as I wheeled hard into a magnificent spiral... He must have jumped the fence in a panic) I drove back to the hen house and idled in front of the door for an hour. When I got back in the house the dogs eyed me warily for the rest of the evening. My evil streak was showing that night I guess.

It dawned on me later that my neighbors must have thought someone over here had lost their mind. It turned out that the neighbors who would've had a front row seat weren't home that week, and the other was also away. I had a laugh though. Never had another bear on the property that went after the chickens. Now we don't have any bears to speak of at all thanks to an international poaching ring. Nor do we have cougars, bobcats, otters and most of the fox are gone too. The fact that we've had a fox eating our chickens this spring and summer is a GOOD thing. I'm glad they're not gone completely. I haven't seen a bear up here in two years, and that's just sad.

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