Lions and Turkeys and Skunks, Oh My!

I swear I’m going to stick to my previous schedule of early a.m. writing — sitting at my computer beside an upstairs double window, where I have a tunneled, limited view.  Where it’s safe. And I don’t know what’s going on around me. No more six o’clock walks! It’s dangerous out there!

The Crossing is under construction. I was the fourth one to live on my street. Three other neighbors moved in weeks after I did. Now, there are three more houses, one sold but not occupied yet, two not sold. There are houses going up all over the neighborhood, and there are some empty lots — with tall weeds, Johnson grass that loves this drought and shoots up higher and higher after a rain — and things lurk in those high weeds! (We all have to keep our yards looking nice — not sure why the builder doesn’t mow the five-foot weeds!)

Walking this morning, I saw turkeys. Just across and down the street. I’ve seen them feeding across the intersecting street at the end of mine, in the cleared fields that butt up to a creek and woods. Dozens of them. But this morning they were in the middle of the subdivision. They walk through empty lots with high weeds, cross streets, and go into yards. Nicely groomed yards, with low grass, cut to perfection, flowers, shrubs, all clean and well taken care of. Wild animals! There were about six that went into my neighbor-from-Missouri’s yard. Three more paraded through the high Johnson grass in the lot next to hers and … disappeared.

I’ve seen feral cats in our neighborhood. They live in the sewers under the street and then feed off what the construction crews throw out. McDonald’s leftovers, cantaloupe rinds, sweet sugary remains in Coke bottles, tortillas (yes, you heard me!), chips, and all sorts of menus remain on the ground for weeks, or until the house is finished. Yep, nobody’s mama of all the men who work for this builder taught them to throw their trash in a garbage bag and dispose of it properly.

My friend down the street tells me that deer walk up our street at night. “It’s about one or two in the morning. And they have these big horns.” Coyotes, too. I hear them when a fire truck sounds its siren. Looks like they could catch the feral cats. Crows, they’re here, too. They fly in every morning to see what the construction crews have left them for breakfast.

The worst of it, though — skunks. My next door neighbors say they see skunks at dusk when they walk their bulldog, Spartacus. I’ve smelled skunks in the night. My neighbor, Jim, told me a skunk lived in a lumber pile in my backyard during the time my house was constructed.

As I rounded the circle on my morning walk, I saw movement in the Johnson grass in an empty field to my right. Black and white movement. A skunk. Hell. Yes. A skunk. Twenty feet from me. Damn. What do I do? Keep walking. No, run. I turn around and run backward as it is crossing the street. It is standing up watching me. Will it chase me? I run a bit further.

I stop and watch. The skunk runs between an apparently occupied house (I’ve never seen anyone there) and a house under construction. It runs all the way around the new house and then into the crawl space. Those construction crews have probably been throwing food under there.  Come Monday morning, those men are gonna wish their mamas had taught them how to throw away their garbage!

Then, next door! Turkeys. Nine of them, that I could see. Some might have been hiding out in the tall weeds on the adjoining construction site. There were young ones! Those birds have been having sex in the Johnson grass! Male turkeys mate with as many hens as they can. And there are many out there! They’ve got the best of all worlds here. Privacy in the weeds for making love. A creek only feet away. Woods as shelter to sleep in. Rubbish, or um, dinner, provided by the building team on a daily basis. Turkeys also eat insects, amphibians, reptiles like lizards and snakes, seeds, nuts, berries, roots, and even from backyard bird feeders! Thank God, I have a fence! Well, but I hear they can climb a bit, or fly a bit. Oh my! Turkey populations can reach large numbers because of their ability to eat different types of food — from a Big Mac to frog legs to a juniper seed. What more could a wild animal want?

Me, from now on, I’m staying home, inside, and working on that book!

Getting Down the River

I’ve been on vacation, and I’ve learned something about myself.

I went on the trip with my sister and her husband, his sister and her husband, and my friend, Neil. Last day was a rafting adventure down the Snake River near Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

We’d seen all the youtube videos beforehand–the white water, the ominous music, the raft tossed up in the air, people flying out of it. One son told me we were too old for this kind of thing. “You can’t do that; y’all are so screwed,” he said. The other son said to be sure and wear a helmet and a life jacket.

We were six of eleven people in our raft. Neil volunteered to be lead paddler. With my kayaking experience, I should have been lead paddler, but no, I hung back and instead volunteered to be a side paddler. We took the rapids well, and when we got to the biggest one, Lunch Counter, a photographer was on the bank set up to take our pictures as we met the most formidable thing the Snake had to offer.

Later that afternoon we went to look at proofs. In every one, my head is down, not looking at the wall of water coming at me, but busy at the work of paddling — trying to get through it successfully. Everybody else in the boat is looking straight ahead at their fate, at this wave coming to splash and swamp them, and they all have their eyes wide open and they are laughing expectantly.

Not me. I’m taking care of business. In any crisis, I fear, feel, plan, worry, and shoulder into it to ensure I get through it upright.

I went down the river like I go through life.