• Mel Jones

Out in the Country

We have a stand of trees on the west side of the house. For years, a turkey has lived there. She has her babies; they make turkey noises and don’t often venture into the yard where dogs and cats frolic, and humans walk. Once, we found a baby tucked up against the house, terrified and peeping like the end of the world was imminent (not to be confused with eminent, which I suppose the end of the world could be, but I digress…). I took the baby in, cuddled her, fed her, and put her under a heat lamp. She died early the next morning. It was before I knew her family lived but a few yards west of The Room Formally Known as Ian’s. Had I known, I would have set her at the edge of the wood so her mother could come to her rescue.

Now I have new neighbors to the west, Red Tail Hawks, or at least a hawk. The sounds that come from the west woods are very different now. Predatory. Insistent. Demanding. It is a privileged sort of sound. I haven’t heard the turkey in weeks. A red-tail hawk can’t take out a turkey, of course, but her future babies would be at risk, great risk. As I listened to the hawk this morning, I thought, well, from the turkey’s perspective, there goes the neighborhood. It’s sort of the gentrification of the western wood. The lowly turkey family, with its bug-eating ways, must move on or be devoured by a smaller, but more aggressive neighbor. I wonder if elephants feel this way about human settlements.

I find myself wondering if it’s a nesting pair of hawks or is it a lone-wolf sort of critter? I don’t know. It’s very, very vocal. Strider, in the safety of The Room Formally Known as Ian’s, quietly moves from her favorite perching spot on the door of her cage to the perch on the other side of the steel bars. She sits unmoving until the hawk moves on. But then she vociferously objects to the presence of this new neighbor, as though I, at the top of the food chain and her protector, could induce the hawk to move on and nest elsewhere. That it could not reach her through the walls of the house never crosses her mind.

I put the music on shuffle and turn it up, in hopes that it will drown out the triumphant scream in the yard. Three Dog Night is singing Out in the Country:

Whenever I need to leave it all behind Or feel the need to get away-ay-ay I find a quiet place, far from the human race Out in the country

Before the breathin' air is gone Before the sun is just a bright spot in the night-time Out where the rivers like to run I stand alone and take back somethin' worth rememberin'

Strider nibbles on a walnut. The hawk is quiet, enjoying a snack? Too early in the season for baby

turkey. I wonder about the rabbits and squirrels who scurry across the yard, hoping to escape Taz’s scrutiny. Are they brunch for the raptor? John Prine sings Paradise; Strider steps back into the room from her cage; Taz lounges in front of the heater; and I take back something worth remembering. I find myself wondering how long I will be afforded that luxury. I am aware that we have no new frontier, I turn the music up, drowning out the sound of the road beyond, the animals in the western wood, and the echoes of sadness that reverberate everywhere.

Roger Daltrey screams, “We won’t be fooled again!” I hope he’s right.

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