Although The Bibbed Wonder and I don’t argue often, there are certain topics on which we will never see eye to eye or agree upon. Our trigger topics include but are not limited to landscaping, trees, shopping, the importance of aesthetics, and wildlife. We have very different ideas about what is acceptable and should take precedence in all these topics. My bib overall-wearing buddy despises home projects, he has an unnatural hatred of trees, he feels that if a plant doesn’t provide food, it shouldn’t be alive, he could care less if something looks pretty, and he believes wildlife is something that needs to “be dealt with and handled.”
On the other hand, I see value in all living creatures except stink bugs; I have a serious issue with stink bugs. However, besides stink bugs, I appreciate all animals and believe we should live harmoniously with nature. Eric calls this my “tree-hugging, kumbayah bullshit approach to life.” Sigh. The Bibbed Wonders first inkling that I have a serious soft spot for animals occurred when we were first married. At the time, I think we had been married for six months. When I was single, I bought a little cottage by the library in Brookville, Pa. My little cottage was a story and a half, with large windows. It was small, easy to maintain, and close to the school where I taught. This is the little house we lived in when we were first married.
On a warm autumn day, I removed the window screens to clean them but left the windows open. At some point, a little starling had flown into the house. As I chased the little brown bird around the house with a towel, trying to get it to fly out the window, my bib-overall-wearing bridegroom came riding in like a knight in shining armor to save the day. He chased the little bird around the house with a broom. Believing that he was trying to chase the poor scared starling out the window, you can imagine my horror when he proceeded to beat the poor little bird to death in the dining room before my very eyes. I was shocked, angry, and distraught.
I let out a howl that caught him off guard. Initially, he thought I was joking, but then he saw my tears and heard my angry blubbering about him being a barbarian, and he was shocked. He tried to embrace me and calm me down, but I would have none of it. I exclaimed, “Why would you kill it? It didn’t want to be in here! You are a Neanderthal!” Why do you have to kill everything?” To his credit, he felt terrible when he saw how upset I was over the little bird. To make up for it, he came home with a “puppy,” but that is a story for another day. Sigh.
After that traumatic incident, he didn’t kill any more birds or small creatures in my presence. We lived in a peaceable union with all living things until we moved to the farm. Thus began our battle over trees, flowers, and wildlife. When we first moved to the farm, the tree butcher took it upon himself to clear out every tree he had to mow around, blocked his view from any window, or he dubbed “stupid.” Sigh. He also decided to wage war against the squirrels and chipmunks living in the backyard’s hickory trees. He claimed that chipmunks and squirrels would infiltrate our home, and chew wires, thus making them fur-covered four-legged arsonists whose sole intent was to murder us in our sleep by way of fire. The Bibbed Wonder really is a lot to take in sometimes.
Once a giant black snake had moved into the area around the springhouse and our back door, I decided that perhaps thinning out the chipmunk population was not such a bad idea. However, I never became okay with The Bibbed Wonder’s war against trees or his need to “handle” all other wildlife. Several years ago, I watched a little fox pounce through the fields chasing mice, hunting moles, and doing its best to hunt frogs around the pond. Now mind you, dear reader, at this time, more than forty bantam chickens were running around willy-nilly, all of which remained unharmed by the little fox. This little fox was young and mastering her hunting skills. If I happened upon her in the fields during my walks, she would freeze in place, staring intently at me but never running away. I spotted her on several occasions, and I found her beautifully fascinating. In my mind, we had an unspoken agreement that I would not hurt her, and she did not feel the need to run from me. I kept my distance but genuinely enjoyed our chance meetings.
Then the day came that The Bibbed Wonder spotted my little fox friend hunting frogs around the pond. He informed me he was going to get his gun and “take care of her.” You can imagine how upset I was with the prospect of him killing this young fox who was simply minding her own business and doing what foxes do, hunt mice, voles, moles, rodents, snakes, and grubs. Realistically, she is doing us a favor. When I explained this, rather heatedly, to The Bibbed Wonder, he scoffed at me and informed me foxes are dangerous, disease-carrying, chicken slaughtering, problematic pests. I told him under no uncertain terms was he to hurt that little fox. She was honing her hunting skills and would be on her way to finding new territory. Eric was irritated, but he complied.
His compliance was only a façade. He waited until I wasn’t around, and when he spotted my little fox hunting frogs around the pond, he took his .22 and destroyed her. I didn’t hear the shot and would never have known if my little bean had not innocently come to tell me, “Daddy has a dead fox in the back of the Ranger!” To say I was livid is an understatement. I stomped out of the house and caught my bib overall wearing serial killer of foxes as he tried to drive to the woods to dispose of the beautiful little fox. He braced himself when he saw my angry tears. Again, I was astounded by his barbarism. What made it even more egregious was he did it on the sly. I was furious and remained furious for days. Again, when he saw I was genuinely upset over the little fox’s killing, he felt terrible. When he apologized, I retorted, “Being sorry won’t give her her little life back! You don’t have to kill everything, you know!”
We have seen young foxes again on several occasions, and The Bibbed Wonder has grudgingly refrained from killing them. Although, a few years ago, we had a little fox running about, and I reminded him he was not to kill it. He again pleaded his case against the fox population but was met with “dirty looks and disdain.” He was disgruntled but left the little fox alone. Wouldn’t you know, just a few days later, he found the little fox nestled asleep in the hay in the barn, and three barn roosting chickens had disappeared. When he reported this, I shrugged it off and told him he hated those barn chickens anyhow. The little fox had done us a favor by eating them. Now, he wouldn’t have a rooster crowing in his face while he milked the goats and chickens pooping on everything. He failed to see my humor or genuine rationale.
It’s been quite a while since we have seen a fox in the fields. That is, until Monday. On Monday morning, when we exited the barn from caring for Red, Eric spotted a large red fox running through the pig pasture across the driveway from the barn. This gorgeous red creature was nimbly dodging an angry Canadian goose. That field is often filled with nesting Canadian geese and visiting geese who come to eat the spilled pig’s feed. I can only assume that the fox was stealing the eggs from a Canadian goose’s nest. We stood watching the fox dodge one attack after another. I could feel The Bibbed Wonder stiffen beside me. Without even looking at him, I said, “ Leave it alone. It’s not hurting anything. It’s hungry.” This comment sparked an irritated tangent about the evils of foxes, the diseases they spread, the harm they will do, and the destruction that will ensue should the said fox continue to live. He completed his tirade with, "Your tree-hugging kumbayah bullshit isn't going to cut it!" We'll see about that Bibbed Wonder. We shall see, indeed.
The large red fox became aware we were watching it and made its way through the pasture field toward the treeline behind the house. Once it got into the open field, Buster, my canine BFF spotted it. Eric and I did not have to take our discussion any further because The Bus (Buster’s new nickname this week) took chase after the fox. Initially, I was upset that The Bus was chasing the fox, but then I realized this was the best-case scenario. I know that there is no way Buster is going to catch the fox. I also know that in the rare event that he could catch a fox, he will not harm it. Buster has no aggression toward other animals. He definitely has aggression toward strangers, young men, and the occasional chicken, but he is gentle with other animals. He merely enjoys the chase.
Add one more attribute to my Bus’s long list of wonderful qualities. He will keep the foxes away from the house and barn, thus saving their lives and keeping the goose eggs safe. It’s a win for everyone. Eric won’t be in trouble for killing foxes, at least. My admired from a distance friends get to continue on with all their beneficial fox behavior, and The Bus gets some exercise. It’s a happy ending for all…well, except for the deprivation of Eric’s blood thirst for killing innocent creatures. He really is a Neanderthal.
On this sunny March morning, stay safe, be smart, live in harmony with nature, don’t be a Neanderthal, and keep washing your hands. Hand washing is a very civilized activity. I also know where you can get some wonderful soap…insert a wink.