Christo wasn’t available. (You will have to read Part 1 for that to make sense.)
But my friend had a .22 rifle that seemed like it would work.
Night 7. My daughter was having a birthday party/sleepover with her friends. After dinner, I bid them all “have fun,” and let them know that I was “off to shoot a weasel.” Their response barely registered. These were all rural girls and most were familiar with fathers and mothers wandering off bristling with weaponry to dispatch some critter. I left them watching “Mama Mia…” the one where Pierce Brosnan sings. Oh, boy. Wow. That’s really all I can say and still be nice.
The night was hot and still. I clambered onto the hood of the Egg truck (see Truckstravaganza, an earlier post) and took up my position. I had a clear view of the chicken coop being targeted by the killer, and a long view toward the animal barn on the lower, western corner of pasture. I was pretty sure that the culprit was coming from a hillside behind the barn. My suspicions had been raised when I was pulling thistles from that hillside a couple of days before and got a strong musky smell coming from an old pile of large rocks. The rocks were tumbled into a pile with lots of cracks and openings perfect for hiding and rearing young. Yes, if it was him I would see him long before he would see me.
I focused on being quiet and patient. It’s noisy in the pasture at night. The animals make noise all night long. Mom-cows moo for their calves, pigs grunt as they shift positions in the sleeping pile, and roosters crow periodically. The chickens in the A-frame coops cluck and fuss in waves…Further proof of the human disservice of selective breeding in chickens. Their cluck and fuss routine broadcasts their availability to all those who would like to eat them during the night. It’s the flashing neon sign advertising to passing predators: “EAT AT DAVE’S!” “FRESH, FRESH, FRESH! ALL WELCOME, NO COVER, NO DRESS CODE.”
And then there are the native noise-makers: crickets and frogs and some bird in the swamp that for all the world sounded like someone hitting a pipe…clank, clank, clank. The sound would have freaked me out when I was a kid…sitting around the campfire swapping the story of the escaped serial murderer who always clanked his pipe right before he ….
It was 11:00 PM, two hours past my bedtime, and an hour without any action, when the door to the house opened and disgorged six girls singing “Dancing Queen” at the top of their lungs. So much for being quiet. Unable to help myself, I switched on the headlamp under my face and shuffled Quasimodo-style toward them from behind the truck. Having gotten the wished-for response of multiple screams from the girls, I crawled back to my bell tower, I mean, truck hood and continued waiting.
Nothing happening. Nothing happening.
I revert to being seven years old, aiming a stick and making gun sounds as I take target practice on the stars of the Big Dipper. They blink out on-by-one as Dead Eye Dave impresses the locals with feats of shooting prowess. Cassiopeia puts up a good fight, but knows when she’s beaten and rotates behind the tree line.
Finally, around 11:30, I am startled by rustling sounds coming from my left. In the darkness I can make out a shape that has crawled out from under my barn, perhaps 10 feet away. I’m half-tempted to whack it with the butt of the gun. It’s that close. I attempt not to make any noise, hoping that the critter, whatever it is, will move into the open field between me and the coops. But the animal is wise, having spotted me with its superior night vision. It turns and, tracing the edge of the barn, wanders away from me. Apparently this is going to be my only chance. I turn on my headlamp and aim and … miss. I attempt a reload for a second shot, but the gun jams and the animal shambles under the outhouse at the back of the barn.
Disappointed, I head for the house, figuring the animal will likely not come back tonight. There is some chuckling when the girls realize that I have missed a skunk from 15 feet.
He’ll be back.