The Thing in the Yard
(From my Duck Hunter Diaries.)
June 11,1973 — Tallahassee. Harry barking got me out of bed. That little beast from next door — civet cat, anteater, sloth, I don’t know — was making for the dogs. They were up on the ends of their chains in fevered anticipation. Wanda, in the kitchen at the other end of the trailer, let out a shriek: “That thing’s in the yard!” I bailed out the kitchen door and chased it past the raving dogs after drop-kicking it off the big green crate where it took refuge. I saw its long curving claws and how fast it moved, deceptively fast, like an armadillo — and chased it to the fence and through.
Then I brought Harry inside and put on my Tijuana gun belt and the Colt .22. Let it attack Maud — who is growing up to be not the pointer-cross the Pound advertised. Broad head, funny tuck to the ears — and she’s a notable scrapper; I recognize Pitbull blood from my long-ago contact with the breed. She’ll handle it herself until I get there to pop a long-rifle hollow-point into its skull.
Later: All my fierce paranoia for naught. The damn thing came back. He and Maud touched noses and signed a mutual non-aggression treaty. He stood up on his hind legs, bracing with his forepaw on her withers and she wagged and sniffed like crazy. I put up the gun with that worry gone. I put Harry back on his chain while the critter watched from the green crate, which it now seemed to regard as safe haven. Then I made two peanut butter sandwiches out of Buttercrust Bread and Deaf Smith unhydrogenated peanut butter, purchased at the health food store over Wanda’s incredulous sarcasm.
Before long, Harry and Maud had their chains hopelessly tangled and Mr. Ringtail was right there with them, one arm and his tail draped in comradely fashion over Maud, the other paw patiently washing Harry’s drool off his face. He was sitting in Harry’s shade to beat the awful heat and seemed to think it too big an effort to move from under Harry’s lolling tongue.
As I was writing this there was a scramble along the side of the trailer, claws on aluminum. Junky the cat, who had been sleeping soundly in the kitchen window, opened her eyes — and was face to face with the long clown’s nose and beady little eyes of the critter. Junky was outraged and expressed it with a rolling growl as she strung like a hunting bow to give her forepaws plenty of scimitar room. The creature sank from sight. Junky tried to shove her head right through the screen; no non-aggression treaty here. I could almost read her mind. It wasn’t bad enough you inflict dogs on me? Now this? She stalked off to sleep where apparitions don’t poke their long snouts at the window. My cigar is almost gone. I stub it in the fancy ash tray I purloined from Jerry Wurf’s twelfth-floor Washington conference room to carry cups of executive coffee to the writer drones below. I never did find out what that critter was...