This weekend was beautiful one of those perfect, mid-western spring days. The skies were baby blue with nary a cloud to be seen. The birds were singing. The winds were just a gentle breeze, and the trees were all budding lime green with a sprinkling of leaves waving as I passed by. The air held a slight chill so I had to wear my orange coat unzipped, I never broke a sweat.
Uriah ran up to me panting. He had his worried face on. His eyes bulging out as he tried to walk as close to me as possible, without actually jumping into my arms.
“Come on Uriah! What’s wrong with you?” I patted him on his head and he paced then leaned into me.
I stood up and looked around not yet getting what the problem was. Then I heard it. The call of the, Warm-Weathered-Mid-Western-Gun-Owner and my main reason for wearing a bright orange stylish coat all-year-round. Avoidance of bullets! Add in the fact that I could be seen from miles off. Unless they think that deer, coyote and raccoons shop at Fleet and Farm, I should be safe.
The sound of a gun being fired caught my attention, along with the immediate high pitch ‘Peeeyuuu!” sound traveling behind it. The bullet must have ricocheted off something then headed in my direction.
Sort of ruined that safe feeling of wearing my orange coat!
I continued on with Uriah around the back path, enjoying the warmer spring air, just a little more leery.
Yesterday when we took the same walk I saw one of my neighbors, standing in the farmer’s air field, at the back of the path. He and his two young boys were digging a hole. When I came close we exchanged pleasantries. Then he explained the farmer gave him permission to shoot the chipmunks. He then told me that the coyotes hunt the chipmunks and dig holes making it unsafe for the farmer to land his planes. Okay..
Then he added. “You shouldn’t be walking around without a gun!” He nodded looking around. “There are Cougars in Illinois that sleep in the trees! Just like in California and they will jump out at you. Or grab little kids, like my boys here,” He pointed to his sons and mimicked biting at the kids, “and then they’ll drag ‘em off” He hesitated for effect then added. “And there are Wolves here now. I know a hunter who saw their tracks just on the other side of town.” Hand on hips, he gave me a few seconds for that to sink in then he continued. “And a Wolf pack will hunt you down if you’re walking alone!” He pointed to the gun slung over his boys shoulder. “That’s why you should never walk around here without a gun.”
I responded back. “Wolves eat rodents! Rats, mice, rabbits, chipmunks… not people!’
“They will if they get hungry enough!”
There are certain points during conversations where I think of Lucy and Charlie Brown, the Peanuts Cartoon characters. This was one of those times.
Lucy had told Charlie Brown, the reason a Palm tree is called a Palm tree is because you can get your entire palm around it. Charlie Brown reacts by clutching his stomach in pain.
I know how he felt…
To be truthful he had me a little nervous. I remembered how Uriah was frightened a couple of times at night, and I mentioned that. (see link #3 below)
“Yeah! Probably a Cougar!” This guy is good. He will nod yes, when he wants you to say yes. And shake his head adamantly when he wants the negative reaction. Right now he was nodding and looping his thumbs in his belt loops. ”Yeah! Cougars!”
Okay I have to stop here. I tried to call the county to ask them about this. But no one called me back. Gee! I wonder why…
A couple of Cougars were sited a year or two ago and they were shot. Illinois doesn’t have cougars on the endangered species list because they are so few. Cougars were exterminated in Illinois before 1870.
As for Wolves, according to ‘Defenders of Wildlife’ site (see link #1 below) Wolves; “were killed in most areas of the United States by the mid 1930s”
The difference being, Wolves are on the endangered species list. (See the link #2, below)
Back to my walk: Uriah was bored he wanted to keep walking he didn’t want to stand around and talk. He kept glancing at the guns, then looking away.
I had to ask this question.” How do you know that a coyote was digging those holes? Could’ve have been anything!”
He answered with a wave of his hand. “Well there are coyote tracks all over the dirt. They are really good diggers.”
“I was just wondering, because we have a lot of holes made by Muskrats.” I pointed behind me, about fifty feet away there was a visible mound of rocks.
After that answer I was wondering if he knew what a Muskrat was.
“We also have a couple of irritating rats near the outside kennel that dig a lot!”
“Rats! You sure it’s not a opossum?” He gave me that I don’t believe you look.
“No! It’s a rat. A nice fat county Rat!” I held my hands about half a foot apart.
“Could be a raccoon.” He mumbled.
“Coon! No it’s a rat!”
He kept shaking his head, as if I would change my mind and agree it was something else.
“It’s a rat! I have a picture of it. Unless it was a opossum, and it dressed up like a rat!”
Luckily his phone rang and his wife summoned him to dinner. Or he was bringing it with him. I don’t know! I didn’t look at what happened to the chipmunks they had shot.
When I got back in the house, I told Michael we needed a gun to fend off Cougars and Wolves. He wanted to know what I was drinking on my walk…
#1: Information on grey wolf:
#2: Endangered species list: