Possumhaw: Love and Loss – The Dispatch

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Shannon Bardwell

Nature can be cruel, predators are everywhere. – Emily Thorne, fictional character from the TV series Revenge

Harmony with the earth is like harmony with a friend…you cannot love game and hate predators…the earth is one. – Aldo Leopold, author, naturalist (1887-1948)

Rain fell like manna from heaven. He came in the night with roars of thunder and flashes of light that filled the room. At daybreak, it was still a gentle rain. I picked some plants from the porch to soak up even a little of that nitrogen-filled moisture from the lightning. Wilhelmina and I sat on the porch enjoying the cool breeze. Hummingbirds fed, scurrying here and there. A dominant hummingbird continually chased others. There are five feeders, but the bad bird would leave its feeder and chase the others. The vicious bird continued until no one fed.

Watching the hummingbird event reminded me that life on the prairies isn’t always bliss. There are seasons when it can be quite hard. The ground is hard. In places it would take a hammer to break up the floor. There are cracks exceeding two inches wide. I look into the crack wondering if I could see China. No watering is enough.

We live with wandering predators: eagles, owls, hawks, other birds of prey, coyotes, opossums, raccoons, snakes, and even the occasional alligator. At one time or another, all of this can be found around us.

Just over two months ago, Wilhelmina’s brother and the love of my pet life, Harry, was abducted. My heart is broken and we are confused. We didn’t hear any coyotes. We haven’t seen any evidence. No buzzards congregate. We searched diligently. Harry was no wanderer. We called him Scary Harry, because he was afraid of everything. He was strong, equipped with claws, teeth, speed, excellent eyesight and hearing. He was smart and weighed 11 pounds, not easily carried through the air with the greatest of ease. We don’t have any closures.

Over the years we have lost six adult Pekin ducks from the lake to predators.

Previous goldfish have perished. Each had feathery fins like angel wings. No predators were involved. I raised eight more goldfish the size of anchovies. Goldfish can be very reactive once they understand that you are going to feed them. I often sit on the bench by the pond and watch. Goldfish are playful.

It was early when I wandered into the garden to feed only to find the goldfish pond was devastated. Water lilies have been shredded. The water was murky and there was no sign of the goldfish or the little frog lurking there. Something had torn the pond. Lately we’ve had a build up in the raccoon community. My Google search said, “Raccoons will enter your goldfish pond. They love sushi. I ran the net through the pond and found two lethargic, wandering goldfish; six goldfish were missing.

On my knees, I scooped up the shredded water lilies and mud and talked quietly to the two fish hoping they would recover. I went to town and came home with more goldfish. I came out of Havahart traps even though my heart wasn’t in it. I wanted to strangle the murderer.

Shannon Bardwell is a writer living quietly on the prairie. An e-mail reaches him at [email protected]

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