Possumhaw: It's a wild world out there




Shannon Bardwell



"Rural Americans greatly value animals (wild and domestic) for what they provide, and dislike them for what they take or harm."


-- Julia Corbett, "Out of the Woods: Seeing Nature in the Everyday."




The Prairie has been unusually wild in the past week. A full-grown doe feeds in the middle of the sedge field in broad daylight. Her red hide shines in the sunlight. She ambles and nibbles, raising her head now and then as she stares with doe eyes. I move a little closer, not wanting to scare her off but wishing I could get close. She moseys toward the tree line and slowly disappears from sight. It's not altogether a bad thing. I must go out into the field in search of the Pekin ducks. Hilda and Helen, at 6 years old, have decided to nest. Daily they are making nests in the field and laying one to three eggs. These eggs will not hatch into little ducklings, so there is no future in sitting on the nests in the field where danger lurks. Though it isn't easy to find the ducks, it is very easy for a predator on high to find two white sitting ducks.


Day after day for days, I find the ducks, the nests and the eggs. I collect the eggs and shepherd the ducks back to the lake, only to do it again the next day. The eggs are larger than chicken eggs and the yolk more yellow. I will end up cooking them in some fashion.


We've also had a raccoon build up. One bird feeder was found smashed to the ground and rendered unusable. The squirrel-proof feeder was locked to the shepherd's hook. The lock was broken and the top of the feeder pried open. I imagined a raccoon putting its long arm down into the food tunnel, hoping for a meal. Out at the big lake the ducks' feeding tray was dragged several feet away from its usual place. We were overrun by raccoons. So it was, I set out no-kill traps. The results were one, two or three raccoons a night. On the night I trapped three raccoons, two were in the same trap.


Sam walked with me down to the big lake to see my catch and to feed the bream and the ducks. Casting the feed to the bream, there was a big splash. "Probably a bass," I said. Bass are opportunist, seeking to catch a small bream come to feed. But it wasn't a bass.


A very large-patterned water snake shot out from under the dock sporting a huge bulge in its body; then it quickly returned under the dock. Not knowing what the snake might be, Sam sent for the .22. Between the dock's planks, he shot the snake. Whether or not it was fatal, we don't know. An internet search shows the snake to possibly be a non-venomous diamondback water snake.


On a fuzzier note, the pretty doe with the red hide showed up again, only this time with two spotted fawns. We watched them nurse before they headed back into the tree line. All seemed well with the world.



Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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