Do you live in the country now? Did you grow up in a rural area? If so, you know that if all the world’s a stage, the country is high drama. I awoke early one morning last summer to hear what sounded like someone scraping a metal colander with a fork. A very unique smell accompanied the sound. My wife Sally’s usual early morning activities are making coffee, printing off newspaper crosswords, and putting the dinner dishes away. Colanders don’t feature, usually. Still, I clung to my bed.A voice penetrated my return to the Land of Nod. “Just so you are aware, I think we have a bat. It’s clicking. Arthur was sniffing under the stove with interest. We’re going out for his walk now. I was going to leave you a note, but I thought better of it.” Arthur, a terrier mix, turned on his heels and trotted after her.
Abandoned, I dressed with lightening speed, found the butterfly net we keep handy for such exigencies, and pulled a baseball cap on. I closed off the kitchen as securely as I could, all the while listening to the metallic clicking in the midst of the miasma (did bats smell? I hadn’t remembered that they did). I found the note (and kept it) and waited in another room. Once they returned, we three ventured into the kitchen and followed the sound and Arthur’s twitching nose to a little cabinet next to the washing machine. We pulled the cabinet out. Sally peered in and I held the butterfly net at the ready.
“Do bats have necks?”
“Necks?” Did they? I’d never fainted, but I thought about it.
“It’s like a pencil. It’s shaped like a pencil.” Sally raised her index finger in demonstration.
Craning my neck around in order to see the critter, I saw its little face. “It’s a weasel, I think.” Consultation later with a nature book led us to conclude that she was an ermine wearing her brown summer outfit. We imagined her gender due to her delicacy.
At this point, it’s only fair to confess that we are both city born and bred (although I suspect that the real country people have guessed), only removed to the country life in maturity. I won’t pretend that we came up with a successful plan immediately, but eventually, Sally took Arthur into another room and I opened the back door in the hopes that the weasel would see her chance. Within seconds, the clicking stopped and the smell evaporated. I’d had my back to the door, pouring coffee (well, really, there’s only so much stress I can take first thing without coffee), and it must have zoomed outside to freedom.
Looking out our country kitchen window one morning last month, I saw a fisher cat, possibly rabid, running erratically and too close to the house. Sally and the dog had driven off in the car for the usual morning walk. While watching the cat run around, bucking like a bronco, I watched for her car to return, so I could warn her. When she pulled in, I checked for the cat and finding its absence, ran to the car, dressed in pajamas, robe, and tall LL Bean rubber boots (ever the fashion plate, even in a crisis).
By the way, if you’re thinking “kitty cat,” in response to the phrase “fisher cat,” think again: at 30 inches and 9 pounds (although ours looked much, much bigger), the fisher cat is the largest weasel in the Northeastern U.S., one which has the ability to deftly flip porcupines to attack their spineless bellies. Death is never far away in the country, and the fisher cat, which can run, swim, and climb trees, is the memo that makes your spine shiver.
For another and wonderful take on things weasel, read Mary Bonina’s poem “Wild” at http://www.marybonina.com/poems-from-living-proof.html. Be sure to enjoy her other poems under “Excerpts” while there.