It’s live and let-live with wild critters

Between the end of my days as a Boy Scout and retirement a few years ago, my idea of roughing it was satin sheets.

Moving to the country, specifi- cally to a house on a river bank, thrust me into something that seemed like camping out again.

Don’t misunderstand. We’re not sleeping on the ground or anything like that, nor do I consider everything among wildlife to be bosom buddies.

Oh, at first, I reveled in having so many species of God’s creatures all around. Life Mate was slightly less enthusiastic about ‘em.

Watching certain wildlife can be a real pleasure. Deer, most birds, butterflies, some frogs, fish, rabbits and squirrels are welcome around here (so far).

Deer sightings are infrequent. The proximity of some corn and sorghum fields attracts them but there are wooded approaches that keep them out of sight most of the time. There are numerous signs, but few sightings.

Butterflies most of us take for granted but being in the country with lots of flowering plants and plenty of trees keeps the fluttering population plentiful.

We see fish when the river flows undisturbed by rain runoff. And, those finned critters are safe until I finish building a retaining wall and stairs for easier access to the lower bank.

Frogs are mostly invisible but their chorus at certain times of the day are soothing to one’s ears. Turtles surface once in a while to sun on a rock or log on the river or swim in the shallower parts.

Rabbits scamper here only occasionally but squirrels seem to inhabit most trees along the river.

Birds are truly welcome for lots of reasons but mostly because Life Mate loves to watch ‘em. She keeps feeders out for the seed-eaters and a sweet liquid one for hummingbirds.

Also, binoculars and a pair of bird books are at the ready for identification.

There are other critters we can tolerate if they don’t get too close or don’t disturb something, like plants or the garbage.

However, the list of intolerants seems somewhat lengthy and aggravating. Our outdoor activity and the presence of Sawyer, The Famous River Wonder Dog, keeps most critters at a distance.

Skunks are rarely sighted but you, of course, know when they are within striking distance.

Raccoons, those little masked bandits, were once thought of as “cute.” Not even nature-loving Life Mate likes them since they tore up a garbage can and strewed trash all over the yard.

Armadillos are even higher on our dislike list than raccoons for several reasons—they dig lots of holes in the yard, they abound and seem impervious to anything other than double-ought buckshot.

A baseball bat did dispense one who surprised me in our fenced front yard. ‘Dillo diggings have resulted in more than one severely twisted ankle.

‘Possums (opossums to non-Texans) show up once in a while but usually keep their distance from the area around the house.

Coyotes have popped up a couple of times but always at least 100 yards or so away. Our dairying neighbors tend to keep the coyote population distant if not thinned.

In the insect domain, country life means some measure of stinging-biting critters. So far, fire ants are occasionally present but not prevalent. Wasps and yellow jackets are populous but our greatest danger from them seems to be stumbling and falling while running away after dousing their nests with deadly spray. Spiders are prodigious but a broom swipe will wipe out most of ‘em.

Then, there are snakes.

A rattler almost did in our dog, Sawyer, a couple of years ago. But, he survived and we’ve become educated (and lucky) in keeping them at some distance.

Plus, I’ve killed two copperheads, a bull snake and a coral snake with a hoe. A powder around the fence line of the front yard has so far kept them away from the dog’s principal domain.

If not, there’s a hoe or the 12- gauge.

Otherwise, we enjoy the enjoyable and avoid the avoidable. But no satin sheets..

Willis Webb is a retired community editor publisher of more than 50 years. E-mail him at

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2010-10-14 digital edition

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