Thursday, September 10, 2009

Roughin' It

I’m a third of the way through a three-week farm-sitting stint in the middle of 225 secluded country acres, and I’ve got to say that (despite the wireless Internet access and very nice modern commodities), I’m starting to miss the comforts of home. Or maybe it’s just that I’m getting sick to death of all of my roommates.

I can hear them scuttling around at night. One was so loud and sounded so big that I was certain that it was a mouse or perhaps a wombat. I was too afraid (and too tired) to turn on the lamp and look. The worst ones are the giant black beetles, which seem to multiply exponentially every night. Naturally, they’re attracted to the light of my computer screen and dive-bomb me when I’m typing late at night. Or they crawl right into my bed, prompting me to abandon my philanthropic “live and let live” philosophy and hurl them forcibly into the nearest wall. Yesterday morning I awoke to discover that a veritable herd of giant black carpenter ants had discovered the orange juice concentrate residue in the sink and taken up residence there. Then there are the plethora of multicolored moths that cling to the walls and ceiling, but they don’t bother me too much. The only thing that really alarmed me was the cockroach that crawled out of my hoodie when I went to pull it over my head. A person can only take so much.

The critters are perfectly welcome, as long as they stay outside. There was a lovely large brown mantis hanging around my door the other day, but Maggie the beagle quickly incapacitated it with a chomp and left it mortally wounded on the deck. Three bright green tree frog sentinels guard the doorway, perfectly spaced and arranged by increasing size. They can stay. Maybe they’ll do away with some of my other visitors.

The wall hangings inside my domicile are nice, too. There’s the cryptic alien cactus landscape and a framed copy of the Standing Orders of St. Thomas’s Hospital (dated 1699-1752 and including such pearls of wisdom as “Patients shall not Swear, nor take God’s name in vain, nor revile, nor strike or beat another, nor steal Meat or Drink, Apparel, or other thing, one from the other” and “no Person shall be received into the House who is visited, or suspected to be visited, with the Plague, Itch, Scald Head or other Infectious diseases”). My personal favorite is the perplexing embroidery of the lovely medieval couple posed in front of their castle; the countess sporting a rather unnerving one-sided wardrobe malfunction.

The mornings are misty and humid as I fumble around with weekend chores, carrying sloppy buckets of wetted oats to the stallions, dishing out the dogs’ morning chicken and rice, and flushing the algae out of the stock tanks. When I arrive late at night after a day at school, the curving country roads are thick with fog and the eyes of cats and raccoons glitter from the creek. And there are frogs everywhere, crossing every square inch of asphalt, a parody of that videogame I used to play. I was never very good at “Frogger,” and frequently got smashed by cars right around Level 2. I’m afraid I’ve taken out quite a few of these guys in the past few nights, too—but I can’t help it. They’re everywhere, and they jump so fast and so far and right underneath the wheels.

But nothing could prepare me for the sight I saw returning home in the late morning last weekend. Driving between two big barbed-wired pastures, I caught a glimpse of movement out of the corner of my eye. I slowed and turned to look, and my jaw fell in what I’m sure was an impressive display of incomprehension and incredulity. Deer aren’t exactly uncommon out here—dead ones dot the highway during breeding season, and there are several does that frequently pay a visit to my own pasture. But a buck is a rare sight—and here were six of them, all big, all sporting a fine rack of antlers, all just on the other side of the fence from me and running together in a tight group. None of them was monstrously large, but they were all very good sized, full grown, and certain welcome trophies for even the most discerning hunter. I don’t know a thing about whitetail social structure, but I’ve never seen a herd of big bucks moving together as a unit. As I watched, they returned my gaze, then loped off and hopped a fence in the distance.

Of course, as with everything, there are frustratingly heartbreaking ethical issues and mounds of stress to deal with out here. But, on the plus side: the work isn’t hard at all, I’ve gotten some pretty cool shots in the misty mornings, and the pay ain’t half bad.

1 comment:

secret agent woman said...

I'm happiest when i am somewhere with plenty of cool wildlife. But I'm with ou - they need to stay outside.