|The Glitter Globe/S.R. Karfelt|
My house is in the middle of ten acres. Half of it is woods. It's surrounded by forests, hills, lakes, and farmland. There are deer, bear, fox, coyote, and more. Know where they all poo? My driveway.
Maybe living off the beaten path is partly due to my introversion, but I swear my husband started this living in the country thing years ago. We were in the south when we bought our first house. I remember a map of the Dallas area spread on a table as we debated where we should house hunt.
Where would there be open spaces? How far away could we go and still get to work in an hour? We ended up where the suburbs met the coyotes and ranches.
I had this idyllic vision in mind. It's not quite like that.
I remember beavers taking down every little over-priced tree we'd planted, in one day.
And armadillos rooting through my flower beds.
Cattle regularly escaped from a nearby ranch and grazed in my yard. Sheriffs would come chase them home.
When I called them because a rabid skunk tried to chew through the fence surrounding the dog kennel, they refused to come. They said, "He's a varmint, Ma'am. Shoot 'em!"
Sometimes an entire colony of bees would land on my house. We couldn't even go outside. I unknowingly called an exterminator. Don't worry, he wouldn't come.
"You don't kill bees. Just stay inside until they leave."
That was his advice and exactly how I dealt with it.
You might think you get more fresh air living in the country. That's probably true, but you do have to figure in those times everyone needs to run inside and shut all the windows.
I remember learning about living outside city limits. It can sometimes mean less regulation and building permits. It was an expensive lesson.
It's not a good thing when a contractor walks into your attic and looks around and says, "Guess we're outside city limits here. None of this is code."
I remember fire-ants covering the walls inside.
There were always mice. I kept all food in the freezer, safe from ants and rodents. I'm talking flour and cereal too. When my husband trapped one I got upset. Don't kill them! They're so sweet!
I also remember flipping on the light in the kitchen one night and discovering half a dozen of them playing inside a dollhouse (one was in a little Coupe car), and another half dozen were eating the erasers off the art table.
Death to all mice! I want them out!
My kids found an orange cat. We named her and took her to the vet for shots and fixing. She vanished right after. I suspected coyotes. They always walked the street and gorged themselves on garbage day. If anyone tried to chase them away, they just flipped us the coyote middle-finger and kept on tearing through the trash.
My husband insisted the cat probably went home. He insists you don't claim stray cats, that they fake their homelessness. He also said if Godzilla walked through the backyard I'd feed him and get him neutered.
Well someone has to!
I'm not sure I would have been surprised had Godzilla walked through my backyard.
One morning my little boy toddled into the bedroom.
"Snek!" he said, hopping onto the bed.
Without my glasses I squinted into a far corner certain he couldn't be right. Thanks to his 20/20 vision my husband got up and caught the young rattlesnake and removed him.
Yes. I said rattlesnake. That is country life.
A group of us would walk early in the morning to avoid the heat. Now and then we ran, but only if someone left a gate open on the bull pasture. Once we passed a poisonous snake on one of the walkers' driveway. She got a shovel and insisted he needed a fast-track to snake heaven, then proceeded to piss him off with that shovel.
I took the shovel and whacked him once with everything I am. He laid there looking like something out of a cartoon, partially flattened in the shape of the shovel.
Damn, she said, Remind me never to make you mad.
I never knew I had it in me either. It took a while for the cold chills and hot flashes to pass. Writing this they're coming back.
It's true though, I am a spider and snake assassin.
But only if one hit job makes me a snake assassin.
Raves were popular then. Sometimes thousands of people would go to wild parties in the country. The music and drugs would last until dawn. I know this because the bass and police sirens went all night. Also, the arrests would be in the newspaper the next day.
Here in the shire where I live now with my poopy-driveway, we don't have raves. We have pig roasts and firecrackers, maybe some terrified dogs certain the noise means the end of the world. Sometimes there are road races or snowmobiles. There are free-range chickens, roosters, and an occasional pen of pigs.
In the spring fields are fertilized and you hope for the wind to change direction. Meanwhile you keep your windows closed. Deer eat your landscaping, including all those plants that are supposedly deer-proof. They eat the jack-o-lanterns off your porch at Halloween. They jump in front of your car and sometimes land on the hood.
You learn that deer hit you more than you hit them.
You get calloused living in the country.
The first time I hit a deer I cried. The police came and shot it. It weighed on me the second, third, and forth time one again hit my car. By the fifth time I will admit I swore. A lot.
When my little girl and her friends abandoned the swing-set and ran inside claiming there was a bear, I didn't really believe them. It didn't take me long to believe and rethink—for about the thousandth time—the whole living in the country thing.
Nobody told me there'd be BEARS!
At first I worried about bears. My kids were small. Even if they were inside, would bear come through the windows? Does glass deter bears? By the time I saw them trashing my bird feeders I opened the back door and yelled at them.
"Those are my mother's day present! GET OUT OF MY YARD!"
The feeders were eight feet high with steel poles set in concrete. I watched a bear grab the pole, pull it to the ground, and lay down to shovel seed more comfortably into his mouth.
I gave up on feeding the birds. Yelling at bears isn't wise.
They did leave when I did it though. Not right away, but with a grunt and a dirty look they heaved to their feet and lumbered back into the woods.
I knew they'd be back. Like when I realize there's a stash of ice-cream in the freezer, animals don't forget a food source.
Last year I gave up on all landscaping. Between the deer standing against my house eating everything, shrews digging under the house so they could live where the food was, and the brutal wind freezing roots to death every winter, it always looked like a brush pile anyway.
Now it's all been replaced with marble chips. This is my country-friendly landscaping. I've considered a nice heavy concrete fountain, but I'm pretty sure it would backfire. I picture four-hundred Canadian geese moving in.
Currently there are fox living under the garage. They have babies so of course I won't deter them even if I could. Because babies. There's a groundhog too. He I'd deter if I could. The thing looks big enough to saddle.
Every year my better half plants a garden. He has a six foot fence around it. Every year I watch the deer hop in and out like Santa's magical reindeer. They don't even need a running start. Squirrels rush from plant to plant and take one single bite out of everything that grows. Rabbits use the garden as a nursery. They like the fence. It keeps predators out.
Only the fence works about as well for predators as it does for rabbits. My dogs, who I always thought were the best dogs ever will snack on baby bunnies. I will cry as hard for baby bunnies as I used to for deer. I've tried chasing the dogs, yelling like a maniac. They just chew faster.
In the city and suburbs you can pretend life is Disney. It is not.
Robins move into the porch rafters every spring. You might think that'd be cool. I mean they do have those lovely blue eggs and the babies are cute. Know what? Robins potty train their babies to poo out of the nest. I kid you not those little punks scoot to the edge of the nest and hang their birdy bums over it and do their doody. Know where that poo lands? All over your porch.
Other assorted little birds move into the the eaves all the way around the house. If I cave to domesticity and put a wreath on the front door they nest in there too.
No matter how many times you tell people not to use your front door, eventually your father-in-law will open it and you'll have a distraught Mama Bird flying around your living room. The cat will go berserk. A kid will sob every time the cat lunges for the bird. It will land on your ceiling fan and, you guessed it, poo even while it's riding in circles squawking.
Hornets and wasps will nest in your eaves too. There will be so many carpenter bees that even the exterminator will be impressed. Friends with bee allergies won't even come to your house in summer. Stinging insects will chase you if you try to wash your windows. There's really no point washing them though, because every time the exterminator sprays they'll be covered in streaks of poison.
When you knock hornet nests down it attracts turtles. There's nothing not to like about turtles. It's kind of freaky to see snapping turtles emerge from the muddy ground like some prehistoric baby dinosaur. It's very nature-channel to watch them lumber around snacking on hornet nests. They eat the larvae in them.
At night the toads come out. You can't drive on your driveway on summer nights. You can't even drive down your street. It'll be covered in toads too. Toads are like remote controls. No two of them are the same. Some of your kids will run up and down the driveway with their friends collecting toads. It will make you think about how if you lived in the city they'd be going to museums right now.
Instead you have an aquarium with a snake living in it inside your house. On rainy nights the fishermen in the family will go outside with headlamps on and collect worms to fish with.
You don't really have to worry what the neighbors think. They haven't spoken to you in years.
There are thousands of worms on the driveway when it rains. The fishermen will race the cat (who's eating them while you try to collect him and stop him) to keep them in foam coolers in the garage. They know you'll lose it if they try keeping them in the refrigerator again. One of the things you've learned about country life is that worms and that dang snake are escape artists.
Another thing you learn about living in the country is that there's nothing Disney or Hallmark about it. Nature is not very user friendly. Something is always trying to kill and eat something else. They're always fighting for more land too, and they all have a beady eye on your space. Those cute little animals bite, and up
|S.R. Karfelt floating down the Nile|
Fireflies light up the night. Bats zing through tree branches with the wind. Frogs peep. Coyotes howl. So do the animals they take down in the middle of the night. Living in the country is nothing like I thought it would be so long ago. It's rough and real. What I have learned is to respect it.
Do I wish I'd known what it was going to be like? Nope. I wouldn't have done it, and where's the adventure in that? Are you ready to join me?