Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Two Tenderfoots

Seamus came up lame today. Jeremy called me in a worried voice to report that our steer was walking gingerly around the pasture. When Jeremy worries about an animal then I know it's pretty bad. I went down the list of all the usual suspects to look for when considering infection: swollen limbs, lethargy, lack of hunger, runny nose and eyes, etc etc. Aside from the tender foot, it appeared all was well with our Seamus so I decided to hold off a visit until later in the evening. Behind my parents house sits a shed full of doors that I've collected over the year(s) patiently waiting to be scrubbed and primed for their spot in a house someday. To think I had that whole year(s) to make them pretty! But I've never been known to get things taken care of ahead of time - life's just not as exciting without a little panic. So in my panic I decided that, today, the doors were priority over the steer's bad hoof.

After a full day of sanding, washing, painting - bent over crusty old doors (asking myself why I couldn't bear to just buy the cheap, clean ones from Home Depot) - I finally made my way to the land. Not a half mile from our driveway, a gigantic German shepherd trotted out of dense woods and onto the road. I slammed on the brakes and realized that the shepherd was actually just the largest coyote I'd ever seen. We made eye contact long enough for me to see it smirk, eyes twinkling, with an expression that could only mean one thing: "Your city chickens' days are numbered, sucka!" The fate of our chickens has become a constant and pressing worry since the country move became a reality. I'm so paranoid about the process, and the reality of how quickly they may perish, that I've conjured talking wildlife that taunts me. But still, the indisputable fact remains that the largest coyote in Texas lives down the street and was ballsy enough to smirk at me before ducking back into the woods. The smirk really did happen. It did!

As I pulled down the long driveway, evidence of another kind of carnage lay everywhere. In response to the electric company's recent visit, Jeremy has cut a brutal swath through our trees to make way for the electric poles (!!). After the electrician staked out the path this week, he sat down with us in the shade to talk about next steps for setting up poles. I pleaded with him about the trees; made my case for the life of each. He chuckled and said that it's "always the women" that want the trees - but they want their houses too. Then he tossed a shiny new bottle cap remover/key chain combination across the table at me, emblazoned with his company's name, and said, "You cain't have it both ways ma'am! So welcome to the country, and welcome to the Bluebonnet Electric Company!" Since his visit the trees have fallen like dominoes and tiny little pieces of my heart are broken. But there it is.

I drove past the fallen limbs and pulled on boots so we could go into the pasture and properly inspect the patient. Seamus has always been a Ferdinand the Bull character come to life, content to smell flowers under a tree. He's a big 'ol Labrador with horns. His only flaws are that he burps too much and smells like cud. Lucky for him, I find both of these traits endearing. As I attempted to inspect the hoof without receiving a kick to the head - a gnat somehow made it's way up my nose. Through several sneezes and gasps, I accidentally sucked down a gnat through my mouth. So there we were together in the pasture, Jenna and the gentle giant, me flapping my arms around uncontrollably as I both sneezed and hacked: a gnat up the nose and one in the throat. Wearing my skirt and rubber boots - not yet quite conformed to this new life - all the while glancing this way and that for signs of the rattlesnakes that we know come out at dusk. Seamus shifted his weight pathetically, wary of his owner's histrionics. And the both of us stood there together, two tenderfoots at dusk unsure of our next, respective moves.

I suppose that someday there won't be any cause for stories about coyotes crossing the road or the sacrifices made to bring civility to this wild space. But it'll be a long time yet before I'm fully accustomed to what we're getting into. 'Til then, I'm just a ninny. Soft as a marshmallow and naive as a spring chicken. I'm still excited by the sound of whippoorwills at dusk, the luxury of drinking beer in the pasture as the sun sets, the sight of a hawk on a fence post, and the yellow eyes of coyote through the trees.

sketch courtesy of Kunzai

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