Friday, October 16, 2009

Reflections From Beyond The Back Forty

~Sia McKye~

I laughingly say, I live out beyond the back forty, which isn’t far fetched, considering my two (2) human neighbors live a half of a mile on one side and almost mile on the other. The rest is hundreds of acres of pastures and forest. It’s actually a peaceful place to live and after living in cities, towns, and suburbia, I love it.

Most of my neighbors are wildlife or domestic animals. We have Bobcats although I rarely see them. Then there are the Armadillos that get the dogs barking. Our creek has a family of Beavers. They don’t think of us as good neighbors since we have to open up the waterways and there goes their houses. We also have a pair of Groundhogs down by the barn. They can usually be spotted sitting on a wooden fencepost or on the small manmade hill we have near the barn (I won’t tell you what we used to make said hill, suffice to say, I have horses).

On the north side of the property lives a fox. I’ve only caught sight of her with her half grown kits twice. I do see her or her mate several times a month.

I have at least three different packs of Coyotes traveling through my property. One is living at the backend of the property. The Alpha female has a den there. I’ve never gone too close, but I’ve seen her when I’ve been out walking, with her little pups and she’s seen me. We’ve agreed to an accord of peace—I don’t come too near to her house and she doesn’t come too near mine. So far, it’s worked. I suspect that all three packs are related but the others don’t live on the property. This year will be a dangerous time for the packs as Missouri Conservation has reinstated money for Coyote pelts, so it’s open season on Coyotes.

I also have two other neighbors I’m fond of—two mama deer that have their fawns on the property. One usually has twins across from the front of my house on five acres I have over there. One of the fun things is to watch these little fawns gambol and play like pups in the sun. Mom is never two far away and usually she is in plain sight near the grove of trees that ring the small pond. A snort from her will have the fawns running for cover or dropping into the tall hay on the edge of the field. The other Doe has her fawn down near the big pond. She usually has a couple of her previous girls with her. Interesting to watch the family dynamics and the caring for the newest baby. This year there were two, the matriarch’s current fawn and a grandbaby.

Any unexpected excitement in my life usually involves wildlife or domestic animals. The Coyote packs are becoming bolder and coming closer to the house, which is a matter of concern if I have a litter of new Dane pups on the ground or for my three older cats that hunt between the house and the barn. I have to grab the CO2 pellet gun and shoot off a round or two to remind them they’re too close. The pumping action sounds real enough to make them leave as quickly as they came. Make no mistake; I may love animals, but I have no compunction of grabbing a shotgun if I need to do so.
The smaller things like skunks or possums on the porch eating the cat food. Or, the night two love struck possum that thought my breezeway was a motel for some hot nookie. Under my patio chair no less. I’m afraid I’ll never look at that chair quite the same.

Then there is the multitude of squirrels that are now playing or eating in my yard since we lost one of our cats that was the mighty squirrel hunter. The time one of the baby squirrels was so startled to see me walk out to feed the birds, it ran to hide under Chardean, my cat. The look on my cat’s face was priceless. She doesn’t hunt them but she is a cat. She kept moving away and the baby kept following her, trying to crawl under her belly.

The sight of the squirrels climbing up or down the trees or bringing their babies to the drinking water set up under the huge front Oak tree sends my Cocker Spaniel into a frenzy of barking and popping between bay window seats to track the enemy. The way she carries on, you’d think foreign armies were invading us. She now has Gidget (my 160lb Great Dane) thinking they must be a danger. Two barking dogs can drown out any music playing, although Gidget is not a bad as the Cocker, or there would go the bay windows. I think Gidget thinks they’re cats, of which she is fond. Still, if Jax is barking then there must be a reason, right?

Of course, most of the things that happen are just normal life set around family, relationships, town gossip or the raising of Danes or horses, and spotting wildlife. Occasionally, like Sunday night, we have more excitement.

Waking up to all hell breaking loose, the hair-raising sound of my Danes going into attack mode. The yelp of a wounded canine. The frightened cry of this year’s Coyote pups calling to the pack and the answering cry of concerned adults coming closer and closer.

You stumble around grabbing clothes and guns and stagger out the door. Your adrenaline pumping, flashlights spearing the blackness of a cold autumn night, walking through ground fog, guns fully loaded and ready to use, humans in hunting mode and dangerous dogs in protection mode. Eerie eyes where there shouldn’t be eyes.

The clear blood trail from the open pasture to the Dane pen. Later investigation of the trail showed the tale of the fierce fight between the two fleeing Raccoons and the leaders of the pack. We suspect they were the pack’s yearlings with a few of this year’s pups a fatally wounded Raccoon ran for cover into my Dane pen to escape. The sound of battle through the fence between my Danes defending home ground and the Coyotes determined to get their meal. The added din of a cornered and terrified Raccoon entering the mêlée and protecting its mate. She escaped, he, unfortunately, did not.

Unforgettable sights, sounds and smells. Things like this is the stuff of movies or books.

Upon reflection, you can imagine all sorts of things out there in the dark. Things that grab at you from the ground, shape shifters, vampires, home invasions, an army on the move, anything your imagination can conjure up could be there in the night.

So, as a writer, how do you use the moments of life? Do they stir your imagination? Do they find their way into your writing?


Anonymous said...

I have to admit; I'm tempted to write something on possum nookie :) Thanks for sharing a glimpse of your earthly paradise.

And happy happy bday, BTW!

Jessa Slade

Other Lisa said...

Aside from the bloody tooth and fang stuff, this sounds like a wonderful place to live, Sia! Thanks for sharing it with us, and once again...


Kat Sheridan said...

Great photos of all your "visitors"! Squirrels or rabbits is about as wild as it gets around here, which is fine by me. My life is nice and boring and never makes it into my writing. Lacking coyotes and possum nookie, I just have to make things up!

Judi Fennell said...

Wow, Sia. My DH would absolutely love living where you are. Me? Um... I could come for a nice long visit, but then stick me back in suburbia.

Happy Bday again! :)

Anonymous said...

Sia, vivid descriptions of your many acres and the creatures that call it home. In the dark of night, there is so much we can imagine, yet the same land is more sanguine by day. As writers, our experiences do find their way into our work in ways direct and subtle.

James Rafferty

VA said...

Life is inspiration, but rarely is it the new that echoes through my mind when I'm searching. In fact, it is the old almost mythicized memories that get transformed into today's writing fodder. I suppose that makes today's events the far future's writing fodder. It is as if the distance allows it to metamorphose.

Certainly some vivid moments with the recent run-in. I would think the sounds and smells would be extremely useful for recording for using later.

Conda V. Douglas said...

My goodness, Sia, your home sounds a lot like ours--we're about 500 feet from the preserved Oregon Trail--so we get all sorts of beasties, most of which I adore (and the rattlers are part of the ecology, so I accept them too). The main thing being so close to nature has taught me is to expect the unexpected, so what "unexpected and yet reasonable" elements can I put into my writing?

Sheila Deeth said...

Wow! So wonderful.

Magdalena Scott said...

Did our birthday wear you out, Sia? I'm tuckered!

I live in a small town, so don't have quite as much excitement going on as you do. I've definitely had that OH I GOTTA WRITE ABOUT THIS type of moment. Those are such fun!

Elle J Rossi said...


Awesome! My daughter spotted a very large coyote the other day and we sat in the truck for quite awhile staring at it while it stared back at us. On another occasion, I was out for a very early walk, turned the corner and came face to face with a smaller coyote. People always say they'll run away but I didn't stick around long enough to find out. I wouldn't say I ran away but I turned into an Olympic Speed Walker lickity split!


~Sia McKye~ said...

I do the same Magdalena. The cool thing about our imagination is we can use the emotions of a situation and build a story around it. I'va actually incorporated actual scenes with MC reacting to them. Whats more *real* than real life!

As for birthdays, there was entirely too much happening yesterday, sheesh. Hope yours was good. Hubs is taking me out to dinner on Sunday for some time alone date. Looking forward to that.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Conda, there are quite a few critters I look at the same way. :-D Part of ecology therefor, I must except them.

Did you notice the Doe nursing her baby? Isn't that cool?

~Sia McKye~ said...

Elle, they're beautiful animals, they're also curious and cautious. Yes, the curious ones will watch you to be sure you're not a threat. Some, who no doubt have been shot at or have reason to fear humans won't even stay around more than a second before flashing away.

Still, while many are used to living around humans, they're WILD animals. Always wise to err on the side of caution. Especially females that may stand their ground to defend pups you might be able to see, or a nearby den.

mynfel said... know, I may just have to come live with you. ;-)

I used to work at a wildlife vet hospital, and I remember those days very clearly. Pretty magical time being able to hang so close to the wild ones. :)

Pat Bertram said...

Gorgeous photos, Sia! We mostly have skunks around here, including some of the human variety. I don't use either version in my writing, though I do use descriptions of some of the flora I've seen or smelled. We have native roses that smell like oranges, and they figure predominately in my WIP. I've also used a gate that screeched in the wind, views that showed me what my fake county would look like, and a greegage plum thicket.

glenys said...

Your home sounds like a paradise, Sia! Thanks for sharing, and the wonderful pix. You and your family have such great memories - and interesting story settings! Someday soon, I hope, we'll be able to return back to country...we've made our way from farm to city to stop, the back forty!

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Sia, great description and pics! Love it. Laughed at the opossum nooky, and got a little scared by the fog and the night and humans with guns and bloody Fabulous!