wallow 0119We seem to have a creature living rent-free in our backyard. I’m guessing a deer, but not being much of a student of nature, I don’t know the housing habits of woodland-living-in-the-urban-interface beings.

I can’t remember what day it last snowed enough to warrant shoveling, and sometimes I don’t always get to the back sidewalk right away. But the last time that happened, I ran into a hole carved out under our large bush (not being a student of nature, I don’t know what it is. Lynn does, but she’s not here to ask) — and all the carved snow had been dumped on my sidewalk.

Other than that, I haven’t found much evidence of habitation, except that when I go out the back door, I keep finding more snow on my sidewalk.

I’ve tried looking out the upstairs windows at night, which, since it’s so often cloudy, makes it easy enough to see, but there are a lot of branches between the windows and this habitat. Last night I tried looking out the back door, but still couldn’t see anything. I contemplated shining a flashlight in that direction, but I don’t really want to evict some creature doing what it can to stay warm.

Awhile back, Lynn and I headed to our lot just in time for a small gathering of deer to head across the highway, at about the widest point and in the worst twilight they could manage. I flashed my lights at the southbound bus (our public transportation system is currently making 25 trips per day to and from Crested Butte, at no charge except your taxes), and we waited while five-six deer strung themselves out as much as possible to maximize their road time.

Then, just as it seemed they were done, here came one more — with a horribly broken leg. There was an entire horizontal stretch just below the shoulder before the knee, although she was managing to put weight on it. Oh, I have trouble watching things like that, especially when there’s not a dang thing to be done.

Given how many deer make themselves at home along and in Gunnison’s roadways, it’s probably amazing that there aren’t more broken animals.

Our yard tends to function kind of like a superhighway, because we don’t have a fence — and we have three fruit-bearing trees (crabapples, all). The Schneiders behind us also have a fence-free portion of yard, so together we offer an easy pass-through. And now we might be offering shelter to at least one. Were it me, I’d opt for underneath the big evergreen out front, and maybe someone is doing that, too, because Oz really wanted to chase that way after something the other night.

Which, I wish he wouldn’t be so indiscriminate. Early in his tenure with us, Lynn took him out one morning and he tore off after something, only to come barreling back, foaming at the mouth and rubbing his body frenetically on the ground.

Now, for this you need to know that Lynn has no sense of smell. It was lost early in the throes of auto-immune issues, and it is gone. Completely. She once toured the peppermint room at Celestial Seasonings in Boulder and caught nary a whiff.

And on this early morning, she and Oz returned to the house for her to wake me up to tell me something was wrong with the dog. “You ran into a skunk,” I said groggily, immediately upon being awakened. “Are you sure?” she asked. Oh, yes, I was quite sure. Oz must have put his nose right up the skunk’s tail — and the skunk was loaded for bear.

Girl got washed; dog got washed (multiple times); laundry got washed; floors and walls got washed; windows got opened . . . that skunk, or the very essence of it, lived with us for a looong time. Plus, Oz’s first bath was not successful (nor was his second or third or the one done professionally downtown), and I compounded the mistake by thinking he smelled better (how could I tell? The entire house was imbued with eau de skunk), so I took him to work, thus spreading the love.

We were saved by the mail carrier, Deb, who recommended I get baking soda, vinegar and Dawn dish soap and make a paste. There’s your Heloise tip for life: to win at an encounter with a skunk, make a paste of baking soda, white vinegar and Dawn. Make sure you save brain cells for that one — it’s a winner.

And that is why I am not in any rush to sneak up on my backyard tenant to see just who it might be. Not being a student of nature, I might be blundering into skunk territory, or raccoons. Bigfoot, maybe.

I nearly learned my lesson the hard way. Once at the rodeo grounds, a cow had gotten herself stuck in a water trough, so I thoughtlessly went to help her. In my mind, I knew she would know I was trying to help. In her mind, she was in a bad situation and now came a person to compound her misery. She weighed a lot more than me and she was much more afraid than I was, and I am darn lucky I didn’t get kicked from here to Sunday. It did motivate her out of the water, and out of the pen and back to where she belonged, without me getting hurt, but I still remember my foolish surprise that she didn’t understand my motives.

But that long-ago experience stays with me, and the notion that a frightened animal is going to respond with more fright may make me a student of nature after all. So I hope some animal is comfortable in its new abode under our backyard bush, even if it isn’t paying rent.

Now, I have been doing my own feral wallowing in the last couple of posts, so let me update those briefly:

Our meeting with Dusty yesterday went well, although it was cold. No wonder we are having problems with dimensions: on the blueprints, the library alcove was measured on interior lines, while the bedroom was measured on the exterior. So the alcove turned out to be 3 1/2 feet wide rather than three. Today, snow be damned, Dusty and his crew will move the bedroom wall nine inches to the east, taking the bedroom to not quite 12 feet wide and putting the alcove at 32 inches.

He did point out that the adjoining bathroom was planned on the blueprint to be much too narrow (I still don’t understand how all this happened), so that wall was pushed north, costing me a foot in the laundry room. And the bathroom still looks narrow.

The other bathroom is not going to accommodate everything Lynn wants, although he assured her the bathtub she wants will fit — with an entire eighth of an inch to spare. She may downsize her tub anyway.

Our next walk-through with Dusty will take place before the plumber goes to work, perhaps in a month (if I was paying attention — my feet were really cold by then).

And at work, Ben finally managed to track down one of the guys at Brown who had failed to return two previous calls (and Ben made sure to mention that). That guy made it sound like the company would have someone in Colorado in two or three weeks who could come fix their installation issues and provide the training we lack. But we still haven’t heard from the other guy who was supposed to call us back Monday, who didn’t sound like he wanted to send anyone our way. And a part on the press broke yesterday afternoon. So we will see.

And — ta da! — while it can’t decide this morning whether it wants to snow or not, my car is safely tucked away in Carol’s garage, probably warmer than it’s been in months. Carol, presumably safely tucked away at her ancestral home, is also probably warmer than she’s been in months.

2 thoughts on “Wallowing

    1. I was going to mention that not everyone loves the local deer, especially not gardeners and people like Lynn, who lose their flowers to the voracious herbivores, but somehow it slid right on out of the post. But I like them, and will miss our “deerquarium” — the lowest level in our house where you can look eye-to-eye with a deer as she grazes in Lynn’s flower beds on the other side of the window.


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