Four-legged Furries

by Clara Detweiler | Nov 1, 2022 | 0 comments

Every Monday and Thursday morning my co-teacher and I meet on the road somewhere between her house and mine for a pleasant walk to school on the opposite end of the community.

Every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday evening, we tramp a mile up the road, in the lane, over the gate, across the fields, over the stile, and through the creek. One last gate, and we cross the lawn, enter the house, drop our belonging, and share the news.

The antlered buck, the doe, and the fawn grace the ditches and fields as we travel. A red fox flashes for a moment at the edge of a distant woods and hops into the underbrush, dragging its white-tipped tail after it.

A coyote paraded through a large cattle field. My co-teacher and I observed, debated, and decided to do by day what we had practiced in the dark. We howled. He fled. Obviously we did not speak his language.

Then there was the skunk. I had just started down the road to meet my ride when the little fellow showed up. As I paused to give him the right of way, I thought, Strange. I thought skunks had stripes, unless…

There IS more than one kind of skunk. However, striped skunks, according to Kauffman’s Mammals, do not always have stripes, which explains why this one did not.

One morning I sat down behind a tree and began squeaking, hoping to attract birds. As I rose to go, my gaze drifted to the “Alligator Pond.” He stood there, alert, watching, a healthy coyote. I wonder if he was as surprised over his big rabbit as I was at my big bird.

The morning I chose to walk an easterly route turned up a husky ring-tailed raccoon loping through the grass. When I circled the bushes to meet him at a closer range, he was not there. Nowhere. The grass, the bushes, the nearby woods stood silent, not a rustle of movement.

The “Alligator Pond” was also the home of the Wood Ducks. I had made a game of trying to steal up on them and observe them as they went about their activities.

Then the muskrats came. I saw them first one especially lovely evening—a little brown head cutting a perfect “V” in the water. I stole back to the woodsy side of the pond and seated myself within two arm’s lengths of a fallen log.

Intent on watching the muskrat swimming among the branches of a fallen tree, I almost missed the squirrel. When I turned around to see if my squeaking had attracted any more coyotes, or perhaps a fox, a flurry of movement caught my eye as the squirrel nearly fell over himself in his hurry to get off the log. I studied the log a minute longer, and amusement welled up within me. The squirrel had fled, but a bold Carolina Wren was peeping out at me from behind the log.

One morning as I stood quietly, observing life on the pond, a shadowy figure glided into my path, unseen. When I looked forward, the deer stood there, alert, calm. I stood watching quietly. The delicate muzzle dropped to the grass and nuzzled around. I stepped forward softly. The deer lifted its head, considered, raised its white flag, and disappeared into the nearby woods.

The muskrats proved to be very entertaining. I spotted a splendid male Wood Duck among the branches of a fallen tree. Out of habit, I lifted my Hawkes to get a better view…and there was a muskrat. I lowered my binoculars. It was true. There, where a duck had been before, was a rat. My mind flashed immediately to a recent scenario on the pond.
I had caught both the Wood Ducks and the muskrats active on the pond. A pair of ducks floated peacefully through the algae. From the far side, one of the rats began swimming, cutting across toward the ducks. There was something uncanny about it, and I followed its movements, trying to evaluate the motive. When the rat reached the ducks, they began swimming toward the woods. The rat immediately changed its course, and it was now obvious that the ducks were trying to avoid the rat, and the rat was deliberately chasing them.

The muskrat caught up with the ducks; there was a flutter of wings…a splash. The ducks swam on. So did the rat. Upon reaching the bank, the ducks waddled out, disturbed, but as far as I could see, unharmed. I am left to wonder, Why did the muskrat chase the Wood Ducks? Was he simply bored, did he like duck feathers, or was there some other reason?

Muskrat chasing Wood Duck
Muskrat and Wood Duck. Photos ©

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