Monday, August 07, 2006

Close Encounters

For some reason, I have always had close encounters with animals. Aside from the fact that I grew up in a place where it was not an uncommon occurrence to see deer in your back yard or turn over a rock and find a rattlesnake, I've had some interesting standoffs with a few friends from the wild kingdom. Maybe it happens because I have always enjoyed watching God's creatures in their natural habitats.

One day, while at Southern U., I was sitting in the car waiting for a friend to come out of the gym. Being the observer that I am, I noticed a couple of birds playing in the tree in front of me. I also noticed that one was the male and the other was the female (this kind of observatory skill only develops through watching countless hours of Marlon Perkins' "Wild Kingdom"...for those of you under 30, this was waayyyy before your time and long before the Animal Planet and Discovery Channel). Anyway, as I maintained my focus on the birds, I began to realize that they were copulating (go look it up) right before my eyes! How many times do you get to see that in real life? And, for those who still might be trying to answer the age-old question of which came first, I think I know the answer.

My aunt & uncle (Big Mama & PawPaw) had horses and cows in the pasture next to our house. I used to stand along the barbwired fence and talk to the horses. Saw them copulating as well...needless to say, that was quite different from the birds.

I've been chased by cows, covered by ants, cut tails off lizards (they keep wiggling when you cut them off, and they grow back), stung by a jellyfish, hit in the forehead by a bat (the animal, not a baseball bat), and I once ate a fly that was in my strawberry ice cream (won't eat strawberry ice cream to this day).

The strange twist to the animal encounters is that for some reason, many have chosen my vehicle as the means to an end. When I was in high school, I used to drive my daddy's Chevrolet pickup truck to school. I would stop and pick up my cousin Tam, and we would head down Hwy 151 to school. Well, it seemed like almost everyday, a bird would fly right in front of the truck and would hit on the front right corner. I'm serious. This happened at least a couple of times a week! I wouldn't tell this if I hadn't had a witness. How many times do you hit a bird in flight in your lifetime? Once maybe. I hit one weekly during my junior year. Still seems unbelievable. Never really had much of a challenge with animals after that, until I moved to Baton Rouge.

There's a raccoon who thinks that he has legal residence in my backyard. I have a motion sensor light on the back patio, and for a while, every night the light would come on. If you know anything about raccoons, they are very ornery. So, when I go to the door to look out, the raccoon is standing there looking back at me as if I'm the one who has a problem! Another night, he was on my patio table taking a bite out of my fake lemons. I waiting for the night that I look out and he's swimming in my pool. I know he's thinkin' about doin' it...I haven't seen him in a while, but I did see a victim of a drive-by on the side of the road not far from my house. Kinda wonder if it was him. I miss that raccoon in a strange way. But, not to worry, as soon as the raccoon disappeared another nocturnal creature took over. A bullfrog.

I have a couple of water features in my backyard and well...Mr. Bullfrog must have thought he was singing in the heavenly chorus. I can handle night sounds. That's all I grew up hearing. Crickets, frogs, you know.... When I was growing up we had a pond, so I know what all that sounds like. The difference is, this frog was right under my bedroom window and was so loud that I literally thought that the neighbors were gonna come into my yard and look for him themselves. This bullfrog (like all the other creatures) was very shrewd. He would make a joyful noise and serenade the community, but as soon as I opened the back door, he would be perfectly silent. As soon as the door closed, his song would start all over as if to mock me! I went looking for him, but he is very elusive and hasn't been around lately. Can't say that I miss him like I miss the raccoon. He was annoying, but something about that raccoon gave me a sense of friendly competition. There's nothing that confirms your sanity like standing in the window in the middle of the night, having a stare-down with a raccoon who is more than willing to play your game.

The first time I really ever grieved over an animal was when I hit 2 squirrels at the same time (I didn't think it were possible either). No, I didn't mean to do it. They were both confused and kept running in circles. I tried to avoid them, but it seemed like whatever direction I swerved, they would run that way. So here we are, doin' a dance, and unfortunately for the squirrels, my car had 2 left feet that day. I was broken hearted. I cried for 2 days. My friends thought it was funny that I was so disturbed about running over squirrels.

Tonight, while on my way to the store, I hit a possum (or opossum if you only know about animals from TV). He was just sitting there, staring at me. I was on a busy highway and I couldn't swerve. The only thing I could do was brace myself and try to go over the top of him, but I felt the bump. I don't have to tell you that it was not a good feeling. Kinda makes your skin crawl. So, I looked for the evidence when I was on my way back, but I didn't see him. Did he survive? Did he walk away unscathed? Did somebody stop and pick him up while he was still fresh? Who knows. What's the point of this story? Nothing really. It just seems like these strange things only happen to me. I'm not the only one who's crazy...the rest of you just won't admit it.

Gotta patio light just came on. Let the games begin!

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