Wednesday, December 31, 2014

"Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day-to-day living that wears you out."     ~ Anton Chekhov

… just got back… from… a walk… up the hill from... our… house………… wait… let me… catch what's left of my… breath. 

Richard does this every day, and I used to. It's not just a 2-mile stroll. You start out from our house walking along the sidewalk that goes straight up the hill leading to wilder hills of brush and two or three California Pepper trees, too. Hundreds of wild rabbits live in what must be a huge warren under the biggest tree at the top of that hill, and the "soldier" rabbits nervously rattle away in the brush that lines the sidewalk as you pass.  

Quail live there, too. I know because, nearly every third or fourth day in the winter, Richard leaves about 20 pounds of wild bird seed up under one of the Pepper trees along the way. When the quail "watch-dog" sees him strew the seed, he calls to the whole crew of quail. They get so excited, especially in the winter, that 20 pounds of seed is gone in 2 days… every single little seed.

I've seen coyotes walk across the flattened out, chained-off portion of cemented-ground at the top of the hill. No explanation of why this splayed piece of cement was ever laid there in the first place. It's chained off with a rusted length of chain-metal, but that's never bothered the coyote population. Or me, either, for that matter. I checked it out just once on an early-summer morning, but I was cured quickly when I saw a snake sunning itself on that cement "patio."

Once I saw the saddest thing… a huge, very long, headless bull snake was laying in a reckless contortion. I looked at it for a long time, trying to understand why anyone would cut the head off the only snake I knew of that had the nerve to kill rattlesnakes! Then I realized… The maintence men, who were charged with trying to keep Wild Nature in line along the sidewalk to nowhere, must have come across him as they were chopping off limbs of the wild tag-team bushes. They chopped off his head, and flung his body out and away. Slithering all over that wild domain, he died one day because he was in the way of "civilization," I guess... in the way of the sidewalk that nearly no one ever uses, along a seldom-used road up a hill.

When you get to the very top of that curved road, there are houses with fences and dogs in the yards. There are green lawns and flowers galore and cars parked along the street. The view northward, behind the houses, is immense. You can see across the wide valley below all the way to the first row of high hills that stand in front of Mount Baldy and his buddies. 

That valley is, of course, filled with towns, cities, people, streets, freeways, trees, and even a man-made lake for fishing. Of course, the "lake" is stocked with more trout than the water can accommodate so that "fishermen" can catch them in record numbers. I betcha I could even catch one of those fish. I think they'd jump at the chance to get out of that ghetto called "the lake." Most of them have probably had enough of shoulder-to-shoulder Southern California living!

The streets are much straighter among those houses at the top of our hill. They go right down from those homes towards the the major roads and racing freeways to get where people want to go. Who would rather take the scenic route along the wild hills that continue and continue into more and more savage land? 

Savage, you ask? Yes, I say. Just listen once to a band of coyotes when they hunt down a deer up there. After all these years in Southern California, the barking of the chase and then the screams of the coyote kill-frenzy still make me shiver.

The way back down to our house is softer and more sheltered. Houses perched on small lots with tamed trees line the rest of the walk, more usual, more civilized, more what you'd expect. Once in a while I see someone from one of those houses taking a walk down "my" street," passing the wild place with a dog on a leash, or a bat in their hand to ward off… something or other, I guess.

I only ever saw the tables turned once on a walk around those 2 miles. As I walked along the populated section of "my" street, down into a valley between two hills of backyards, there he stood! A coyote that looked like a hybrid of coyote and wolf. He was standing right below one of the backyards under a large civilized tree with its huge leafy top, and he was staring at me! 

No fair! This was NOT that wild portion of the 2-mile, curvy street. This was MY territory! I stamped my foot and lunged toward him, confident that he would run away, of course. 

He didn't!

He took 2 strong, confident steps TOWARDS me!  ME! …and he never took his eyes off mine

The wild world is much stronger than the civilized world in these circumstances, I finally realized. He wasn't afraid. It was just a private matter to him, between the two of us, and he knew he could take me out! 

I had two chances, go back up that humungous hill or cross the street like a frightened deer. 

Of course, there was only one thing to do, being the asthmatic person that I am… I crossed the street, keeping my awareness on him without a stare-down. He'd win that, for sure, too, and maybe he'd lunge at me.

I kept walking, and he kept staring at me, and we never met again. It was just one of those things… just one of those crazy things… a trip to my fear that now and then rings, just one of those things…  And I was so glad for the end of it!  


  1. I liked hearing about the road uphill from where you live. I met up with a coyote once, on a walk with Ginger. I was mostly afraid for my dog, but thank heavens the coyote retreated after I stared him down.

  2. I know what you mean, Cindy. Most coyotes do retreat. Bu this one was bigger than I'd ever seen, and, even though it sounds silly, I think he had wolf blood inside of him! Actually, I was walking Oliver, our big Old English Sheepdog, but he never saw the coyote… the wind was in the other direction. That old coyote might actually have been challenging Ollie and not me, but I'll never know. It was scary! Your Ginger is so sweet that I would have been soooo scared for her, too. Glad both our encounters ended happily!