West Tennessee Critter Magic

in My Take On Things

critter surprise“What kind of critters do you have here?” asked the lady from a northern city after she had settled on a home in a Martin neighborhood.  How many times had I heard that question?  Rolly-polly oppossums, raccoon families, deer, as well as a screech or a barn owl and one big, black snake have all made an appearance at some time or another in my Martin backyard, I told her.  Of course, that is in addition to domestic critters, like the strutting, independent tomcats who visit and the sweet, older neighbor dog who got caught out in a raging thunderstorm once and ended up cowering from the thunder in my garage.  These tame ones aside, it’s those unusual creatures that are a novelty to see when they are way out in the yard, but a closer look?  Well, that’s different.

Let’s see.  Our baby girl was still young enough to be sleeping in a bassinett in the master bedroom on the night of our visitor.  I was propped up on pillows reading.  Tim and the boys were all asleep.  Newton, our big, 80- pound briard, was in the den, and the cats were in the garage where they usually slept.  The house was calm.

Newton in the snow (2)Just as I reached to turn off the light, Newton ambled through the bedroom doorway, and I caught the slightest glimpse of a furry ringed tail stuck in the air and headed behind the bassinett and our bed.  Newton was calm with ears alert.  He wasn’t barking.  He ran up to the bassinet and stood there looking at the bed.  “It couldn’t be the cat,” I thought.  Our cats were altogether white.  Of course, in typical southern girl fashion when it comes to wild critters, I immediately sought out my husband to handle the situation.  I shook him awake.  “There’s a raccoon in here,” I whispered, trying not to wake the baby.  Tim, groggy with sleep, assured me it was only a cat and mumbled for me to turn off the light.

Hesitantly peeking under the bedskirt, I saw two wide, black, closely-set eyes staring back at me.  None of my cats looked like that.  I still can’t remember how I was able to snatch up our daughter in her crib and vault through the bedroom in two seconds.  My words trailed behind me as I hit the door, “Okay, if it’s a cat, you sleep in here with it. We are moving to the den!”

Newton, in the meantime, was prancing all around the bed nosing under the skirt trying to see what this visitor could be, but he never barked.  I could hear his paws on the wood floor.  Several long minutes ticked by, and I heard my husband get up, pause, (I assumed he was looking under the bed) and then walk down the hallway into the den.  “You’re right,” he said, wide awake now.  “It is a raccoon!”

And so began the saga of extracting a frightened, young raccoon from our bedroom to his outside home.  After first building a blockade of chairs and blankets to cordon off both Newton and the den, Tim and our son, Harrison, used broomsticks to corrall the creature from behind the bed and through the propped open back porch door.  They beat the floor with their sticks, yelling whatever guys yell at times like this, and pretty much drove that poor raccoon into a hasty retreat.  The last we saw of him was his little bottom and tail waddling as fast as his legs could take him off into the night.

We think our little, nocturnal creature was exploring the roof and fell down through the stone chimney into our den.  Newton simply followed it.  Since that night, our family dog has considered it his prime duty to sound the alarm and chase every raccoon that unfortunately found itself in our backyard.  Barking furiously and leaping at the door, he valiantly would protect his family.  Even now, aged and infirm, he will still stand at the window and issue a gruff warning.  But, that night, magically, he kept calm and close to the baby.  He didn’t knock over the bassinet trying to get to the raccoon.  He didn’t go nuts barking.  A pretty sharp critter there, wouldn’t you agree?  And, the baby slept through it all.

We didn’t have another close encounter with a wild animal until I looked across the street one morning right before school and spied a breathtaking creature in our neighbor’s front yard.  A startlingly, all white deer was regally standing before me.  It had these huge,  flat, broad antlers, I promise, like reindeers in Santa Claus movies, not the typical rack you see on West Tennessee deer.   It stopped for a few moments and then bounded down the street and back into a neighboring field.   I thought I was hallucinating until I ran outside, and my husband and sons, who were leaving for school, also confirmed the sighting.  (Several neighbors also saw the deer, just in case you think we all had something stronger than cereal and coffee for breakfast.)   Was it an escaped pet?   I believe it was, but I like to think of it as a moment of fairy-tale magic right here in my neighborhood.

Critters abound in our area, and every once in a while some get close– even in our town’s neighborhoods.  If you are from the city, just relax, get used to it and enjoy the surprise.

One of my good buddies, newscoma, told me yesterday that she liked to write about critters.  We decided everyone from around here probably has a critter story.  What’s yours?

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