"You know what? The bastard blows me out of the water. This guy writes Maine like Ardai writes New York. If you're not reading him, you don't know what you're missing." --Chris F. Holm, author of The Big Reap, The Wrong Goodbye and Dead Harvest.

"Bagley's got the poet's eye, but that doesn't mean everything is prettier in his work. It means the ugly stuff is more vivid. More intense. Like a sudden switch from analog to HD. And that's a trait to very much admire in his work." --Anthony Neil Smith, author of Hogdoggin', Yellow Medicine, The Drummer and Psychosomatic.




Wednesday, September 10, 2008

In Which I Make Ready to Go All Davy Crockett on Some Coyotes, or “You Damn Varmints Get Off My Lawn!”

Wild animals are a fact of life out here in the sticks. After twenty-five years of living in Maine, I’m still excited when we see deer, moose or a group of wild turkeys crossing the yard. One summer day not so long ago, I watched a snapping turtle lay her eggs in a sandy bank along the side of our dirt road. But sometimes our encounters with the animals are unpleasant: squirrels and raccoons raid the garbage, a skunk sprays the dog or the dog tries to bite a porcupine, turkeys and deer tear up the corn patch, a fisher eats the cat (okay, that last one isn’t too bad).

I’m talking about coyotes. The howl of a coyote in the night is a sound you’ll never forget. A whole pack howling and yowling together brings a chill to the back of your neck. It’s creepy and beautiful at the same time. There has been a pack of coyotes denned up in the woods just beyond the lower field for years. They don’t usually bother us, though some nights they run close to the house. No big deal. I’m a live-and-let-live sort of hillbilly.

For the past week or so, the coyotes have been running right across the near field. When they start howling, it’s so loud that it sounds like they’re on the porch. Two nights ago, they began howling about an hour before sunset—something I’ve never known them to do. Just after dark, they crossed the yard, singing as they went. I flipped on the outside light, and they went quiet. That’s how close they were.

We keep chickens for eggs and meat. The barn is still under construction, so the birds are kept in a makeshift pen for now. A coyote would not even get winded breaking into that chicken pen. The pack came back three more times that night, each time howling just beyond the edge of the yard. We didn’t get much sleep Monday night. I got good at loading my shotgun in the dark (I also have a rifle; it hits harder, but I’m a lousy shot so the twenty-gauge is a better choice). The chickens still have all their limbs and feathers. No shots were fired.

It rained last night, and we never heard so much as a yip from our noisy neighbors. Today is cool and clear, so we’ll have to see what the night brings. I hope their boldness has reached its peak and the coyotes have enough sense to stay out of the yard. Feral dogs tend to mix into coyote packs and crossbreed with them, which—I suspect—is what happened to make our group start coming so close to the house. Always a few troublemakers…

2 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

I never imagine coyotes in Maine. Stupid, me.

Patrick Shawn Bagley said...

They moved in after the wolves were all killed off years ago.