“Man against nature” has been a significant theme in literature for as long as man has set words to paper. I give you, for example, Moby Dick – a classic. “Man against nature” is a reoccurring theme in film as well. Like one of my favorite movies, The Edge with Anthony Hopkins. Love it!
So, it is no surprise that “Man against nature” has found its way into the Blog zone. That is what I am writing about today.
We have a big cage currently housing a pair of beloved rabbits. It is nestled against the pasture fence by the blueberry bush. Yesterday, when I went to feed my horses and check our bunnies I was shocked at the sight awaiting me. The cage was ripped apart. The door was torn from the hinges and the wire mesh and sturdy supports were bent and broken. The heavy nesting box that our rabbits hide in was lifted up and turned on its side. Worst of all, there were clumps of white fur littering the ground underneath the cage, along with smears of red on the grass. One can conclude that our bunnies did not simply find a way out of confinement to hop merrily into the woods.
I went to the worksite to describe my discovery to Mark. He turned to the workers and said, “What can do that? Coyotes?” Damn coyotes.
The workers said, “No way. Coyotes and dogs are not aggressive like that. They wouldn’t destroy a cage. Might be a bear.” Damn bear.
I had this surge of anger, like Anthony Hopkins in The Edge when he said, “We have to kill the bear,” and he proceeded to whittle a spear to do the deed. I like bears and all, but not if they are going to prey on helpless, fuzzy bunnies and leave me with the task of breaking the news to my daughter. (I might mention here that not only does Neva love her pets, but this is going to be a horrible blow to her enterprise. She has been breeding her bunnies and selling the babies at the flea market all summer. She made a killing as a bunny entrepreneur. I am just thankful that we are on a break in the cycle, because at times, we have had up to eight bunnies in that cage; the mom and a bunch of adorable young rabbits -a perfect hor derve size for a hungry bear – like bunny mcNuggets)
The workers said, “Of course, it could be a fox. Them foxes is sneaky and can pull apart any kind of cage when they’s hungry.” Damn foxes.
So, I don’t know what destroyed our cage and the inhabitants. But it makes me mad enough to spit. Now, not only do I feel I can’t have bunnies without irresponsibly putting them in danger, but what am I going to do with my Chickens? I planned to hire someone this week to build a chicken coop. Was thrilled at the idea of getting my poultry settled in our new home. But I can just see a bear tearing that cage apart to eat little Pot Pie and Drumstick. And what about my new Rooster (still squeaking in his little baby crow voice each morning when the sun rises). I can’t endanger my precious Joe Cocker! But, I can’t keep these dirty birds in a cage on my porch either. Reality check.
Damn bear. Damn coyotes. Damn foxes. Damn wilderness.
Mark says we can tie a dog up next to the chicken coup and that will help keep predators away. I looked at him as if he had grown horns. He’s going a little too “country” for me, with a comment like that. Like I’m going to keep a dog tied up all the time? Not to mention that I’d have nightmares of walking up to a leash that isn’t connected to a puppy anymore – like in the movie Jurassic Park when they tied up a goat and a moment later all they saw was a frayed rope and goat parts rained from the sky. Um . . . I wouldn’t expect even a tough ole country hound to tangle with a bear for the rights of a chicken.
This is getting complicated.
Mark looks at me slyly and says, “I guess you can give up on the animal thing.”
Not on your life, Bud. I’m having too much fun with my animal escapades to give up because of one obstacle.
I just need to outsmart the varmints. But how?
I keep thinking about those cartoons I used to watch as a kid. The one with the innocent sheep, the sneaky wolf and the sheep dog that punch a time clock to begin work. They say good morning, the whistle blows to begin the workday, and the dog abruptly grabs the wolf and socks him in the jaw. I used to think those cartoons silly. Now I think they are closer to an educational documentary.
We hope to build a barn this fall when the house is complete. I desperately want one now, before the rainy cold season begins, but it is hard enough getting the laborers to show up to finish the house, so pulling anyone off the job to build anything else isn’t an option, need based or not. And Mark’s workshop is first on the “After the house is done” list, so the barn is a long way off. I suppose, once I have a solid barn, I’ll be able to set up a bunny cage along that structure and it will be safer. And I can put my chicken coup nearby too. The activity near a barn, people coming and going (me), lights rigged to go off with a motion censor, and a donkey in residence, would make predators think twice. No guarantees to stop an attack, but a speed bump to slow them down for sure.
Can you believe this is my idea of trouble now? A year ago, trouble was defined as a costume shipment arriving late or a teacher getting the flu and my having to sub. Then, I was worried about bearish dance mothers. Now it’s real bears. I guess all that FLEX aggravation was good practice for the real thing of outwitting determined wild creatures.
Yesterday, while taking a walk around our mountain, I saw a wild pheasant. They are huge, cool looking birds! Looked like a peacock, only different. When I saw Mark that night, I exclaimed my delight and said, “I think I should raise wild pheasants and when they get big enough I’ll let them go on our land. I’ll populate our world with beautiful birds to see as we go about the day.”
He shook his head and said, “They won’t last. You will just be feeding the bears and the coyotes, and if anything, you’ll increase their population, which is not what you want to do. Give it up.”
I most certainly won’t! For one thing, you can’t tell me that there aren’t areas where nature can balance itself – wild pheasants thrive in wooded areas, so why not mine? Then, there is the idea that if I populate the area with lots of wild birds, perhaps the predators won’t feel so inclined to go after my domestic animals. Insurance, so to speak. And maybe my wild pheasants will repopulate and multiply. They might create an ongoing supply of food for these hungry animals, enough of them so that a few (the smart ones that know to perch in trees) will thrive to awe me with their beauty.
I’m gonna try it.
Is it morally wrong to populate the land with wild animals if I know they might be eaten? I have to admit I am not emotionally scared when an animal meets his demise, at least not the way I was when I first moved here. It’s not like these are abused animals, uncared for or harmed by human hands – a different story completely. When an animal meets an untimely end because another animal has been hunting, well, it is all a part of nature and I don’t deny any animal it’s right to live true to nature. I rather not see it happen to the animals I have named, petted, and cooed to, but I recognize that a part of living deep in the throws of nature is accepting the perils that come with a more natural existence. I think what’s important is that I give everything a fighting chance, supply any animals I mentor with the tools for living authentically. For example, I won’t handle wild pheasants and make them comfortable with other creatures if they will be indeed wild. They need to be alert and skittish to remain unharmed. I won’t let my chickens be free range if I know my dog will use them as a chew toy. I will just strive to be as responsible as I can, do research so I don’t behave in stupid ways which the innocent animals pay for, then let nature balance itself out.
Man has battled nature for as long as time – there is something so base about experiencing this firsthand, not in theory. Makes me feel as if I’m rediscovering my own true nature as a two-legged creature. I feel like a Buddhist, at one with the earth, accepting of the cycle of life while trying to remain passive too. Of course, few Buddhist go around saying “Damn this, and damn that, ” but . . . well, I’m still me, I’m afraid. Wanting (but not getting) everything to go according to my personal agenda.
Anyway, yesterday I lost two bunnies but I gained some insight about what other creatures I’ll be living with soon when we move to our dream house . And it has set my mind aflame with a new challenge. How will I outsmart the coyotebearfoxes? I’m hoping, if I watch more cartoons, I’ll stumble upon the answer. Acme predator spray or something.
I feel like Rocky in a 50 acre ring, determined to win the fight with nature even though I have nothing but sheer determination as a coach in my corner. I need to have the heart to stay standing despite a few sore punches.
Wish me luck.