Hide and Seek in an Orchard

by R. Weaver | May 13, 2021 | 0 comments

Rosene sang as she pinned diapers on the wash line. It was such a beautiful June morning. Dew sparkled on the grass blades, and birds were singing. It was good to be alive and healthy. She smiled down at blond-haired Titus, who was handing the last diaper to her. “You’re finished! Now you may go play. Thanks for helping me.” The 3-year-old dashed off to the sandbox.

A merry whistle reached her ears, mingling with the soft warbling of the Purple Martins. Aaron appeared around the corner of the house. “Hey, do you have anything special planned for supper?” He grinned teasingly.

“No, I really don’t,” Rosene responded, shaking out a heavy towel. “What do you have up your sleeve?”

“I’ll make supper tonight. Don’t you worry about a single thing. You can go watch birds instead!” Aaron promised.

“Sounds great!” Rosene was enthused. “I’ll look forward to that.” She watched as her black-haired husband walked away, resuming his cheery whistle.

“Well,” she addressed a nearby House Sparrow, “What do you think of that for a birthday treat?” Apparently unimpressed, the sparrow snatched a piece of straw and flew away.

That afternoon a shower passed through. Finally around 5:00, Rosene put Baby Samuel into his car seat. Five-year-old Seth climbed into his seat.

“Where will we go first?” Seth wondered. He liked going bird watching.

“We’ll try the old orchard first,” Rosene decided. “Maybe we’ll go back to the woods too. We have nearly an hour.” She noticed with pleasure that Samuel was already falling asleep. This was going to be fun.

Several robins hopped out of the field lane as they approached the overgrown, brushy area that used to be a thriving orchard perhaps fifty years ago. Vultures circled lazily overhead. An occasional “killdeer, killdeer” was heard.

The area appeared deserted. After scanning the empty, gnarled trees for a while, Rosene was nearly ready to move on. But wait! What was that? A furtive movement 20 yards/meters away caught her attention. All was still. She quietly pulled Seth onto her lap so he could see better. “Be very quiet,” she murmured in his ear. “I saw something move in the weeds beside that fallen tree over there.”

Suddenly a full-grown rabbit burst out of some weeds and bounded across a small clearing. It was obviously frightened, and no wonder. Seconds later, a slim black form popped out of the same weedy spot, nose to the ground, running effortlessly.

Ah-h, this explains why the birds are silent, Rosene realized. She spoke in a barely audible monotone. “Did you see that, Seth? Think it’s a weasel? He’s after that bunny we just saw. Just keep very still. Don’t move your head. Let’s see what happens.”

Together they watched as the chase continued. The rabbit paused only a few feet from the van. Its sides were heaving as it tried to catch its breath. As the enemy came nearer, the rabbit took off again, zig-zagging through brambles, under fallen trees, around trees. It was a desperate run for his life. Sometimes both animals would leap over an obstacle, then be lost to sight for a minute or two.

Mink. Photo © Unvaikoaap/Dreamstime.com.

Finally one spectator had seen enough. A brave mockingbird came to help. Again and again he dove at the weasel as though he intended to peck him. The lithe, merciless hunter merely ducked and kept going, but each tiny interruption gave the rabbit a little more time to escape. To the watching people, it seemed that each bound would surely be the rabbit’s last as the weasel kept relentlessly on.

Once more, the rabbit came running toward the van. Oh, would they see the race end right here? The weasel was right on his heels.

“Oh, no,” Rosene noticed. “It’s time to go home for supper.”

The rabbit had momentarily disappeared, and the weasel raised his funny round head above the grasses, fierce eyes glittering hungrily. His sensitive nose tested the breeze. He was only about 5 feet (1½ m) away.

Impulsively, Rosene leaned out the window. Clapping her hands sharply, she shouted, “Scoot!”
Hunter and hunted alike flew into the air, then scuttled in opposite directions. The hunt was over—for now anyway.

Back home, Seth ran into the house. “Guess what we saw!” Barely waiting for a response, he rushed on. “A weasel! We saw a weasel. It was chasing a bunny!”

Rosene entered the kitchen, carrying the sleeping baby. “Yes, it was a weasel,” she confirmed, seeing all the question marks. “At least, I’m fairly certain it was one. Little and thin and all black or dark brown. It was quite entertaining. He was tracking every move that bunny made! And we hardly saw any birds.”

The discussion continued at the table as everyone enjoyed pizza, carrots, chips, birthday cake, and ice cream.

Editor’s note: It is now thought the animal was most likely a mink, which is in the family Mustelidae. Weasels, otters, and ferrets are also in this family.

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