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Gary Borders: On taking stock of stirring creatures

Gary Borders

’Twas a week before Christmas, and creatures were stirring throughout the neighborhood. This includes a mouse that seems to have taken up residence in the covered area that houses our HVAC units. My wife was enjoying a sunny afternoon when the little fellow stuck her head out between the bricks, which have a checkerboard design with square holes that are mouse-sized. Luckily, they are not squirrel-sized holes. We appear to be especially overrun with those large rodents this winter, likely because of a heavy harvest of acorns.

I’m not worried about the mouse. We can coexist. I draw the line at allowing rodents indoor privileges, an experience a friend who lives nearby recently experienced. It was a genuine rat. It had apparently found a hole in the siding, caused by squirrels, which are notorious for chewing their way into attics and destroying wiring and insulation. My friend and his wife were about to call it a night when the rat made an unwelcome appearance in their bedroom, having gnawed his way into the house. It took a few attempts, but the rat was dispatched.

Critters abound in our neighborhood, besides rodents. A red-tailed hawk resides here, occasionally lighting in one of the trees in our front yard, no doubt looking for breakfast. I suggest squirrels. He is a beautiful creature, so fast and graceful as he takes off after prey. Luckily, our dogs have gotten too fat for a hawk to attack. I once saw a hawk attempt to nab one of those purse pooches (the kind that will fit in a large purse and cost a lot of money) while on the walking trail. The hawk swooped down but thought better of it when spying the human attached to the other end of the leash.

While walking the neighborhood the other morning, a red fox flew across the street, maybe 20 feet from Sam the Dog and me, a baby squirrel in her mouth.

Back when I played golf regularly, several foxes lived in the woods of the course I frequented. Foxes apparently believe golf balls are nicely formed eggs. I was playing the fifth hole, a par-five with a dogleg right, hitting my second shot up the hill toward the green. My ball landed in the middle of the fairway, a relatively rare occurrence. I was playing with a lawyer. That is an important detail. A fox bounded out of the woods, picked up my ball and ran into the woods, the ball sticking out of his mouth.

“Hey!” I yelled. “Drop my ball. That was a good shot!”

The fox complied, no doubt startled by my shout. The ball landed a few feet inside the woods.

The lawyer looked at me and drawled, “You know the rules. Play it where it lies.” I ignored him, of course, and dropped another ball where the original shot landed.

Another time, when I shanked four straight shots, he allowed as how I might want to retain a sports psychologist. I cannot repeat my reply in polite company.

Last Saturday afternoon, I sat in the formal living room, a fire blazing, taking a few hours to unwind. I looked out the large windows and watched the largest armadillo I have ever seen ambling up the incline leading up to that side of the house. This was in the middle of a sunny afternoon. Armadillos are normally nocturnal. I looked it up. Armadillos can contract rabies, though they only have a couple of teeth with which to bite, and tend to use their claws as a defense.

The armadillo left. I watched a redbird hopping along the deck rail, while a couple of squirrels ambled up a tree. The creatures are indeed stirring.

Gary Borders has been an East Texas journalist and editor for more than 40 years. He works now as a freelance writer, editor and photographer. You can see his work at garyborders.com. He has written for World Wildlife magazine, Texas Monthly, Texas Observer and Airstream Life.