Sunday, January 27, 2008

Betsy's Big Little Friend

The farmer came out the other day to see what is always an alarming sight: the tail ends of 13 goats in the down-below pasture, all lined up at the fence, bunched together, and staring as one at something down in the gully where the creek comes along the bottom of the hill. (Actually, to be precise, the tail ends of 12 goats; I wisely jumped into the hay feeder, a much better fortified position.)

Because the creek is in a dip, the farmer couldn't see what we were looking at, so came running - or, should I say, "running," since the farmer's style of "running" lacks speed among such other things as style, grace, and dignity - down the hill. When the farmer got close enough to see over the hill, the farmer saw an extremely large coyote, possibly the largest ever seen around these parts.

The farmer "ran" back up the hill to get the gun, and came "running" back down again, even more winded, even less graceful, and at an even slower pace. Nonetheless, the coyote had not left: he stood staring boldly at us and licking his chops, like a greedy guest at a lavish wedding reception, with an expression that said "should I start with hors d'oeuvres or dessert?"

The farmer hollered for Atty all this time, and Atty finally hove into view (he only works nights) just as the farmer got the gate open to come into our pasture. Right at that moment, little orphan Betsy - who is, after all, half Nubian - broke into a friendly trot toward the gargantuan coyote. She had apparently recognized him as a former neighbor or chum from school, and was halfway down to greet him by the time the farmer "ran" in front of her and took off the safety and swung the gun into position and fired off - well, nothing.

The gun wasn't loaded. So the farmer began yelling and waving the gun overhead and "ran" closer to the coyote, now followed by Atty, and we all watched as the coyote finally, grudgingly, turned and demonstrated how running is really supposed to be done.

The coyote, which was nearly as big as a German Shepherd, turned and coursed away effortlessly in artful zigzags - they know you are going to be shooting at them - across the wetland, sometimes ducking down into the canary grass and sometimes leaping mockingly above it, streaming out a long bushy red foxlike tail behind him.

And the farmer kept yelling at him, but somewhat admiringly I think, and threatened him with seven kinds of destruction should he ever return - sentiments echoed by Atty in a much more convincing tone - and stood and watched him for several minutes, until he disappeared into the big woods.