Having the immune system of an elementary school teacher is a little like being the veteran of germ warfare. I rarely get sick. In fact, when I do get sick, I generally end up in the hospital because it takes a world-class germ to take me down.
So today, when my stomach started to tighten, and I felt weak in Target, Henry was shocked. We made a radical decision not to go to gymnastics and instead stopped off at my sister’s so I could rest on the sofa. Phoebe brought me tea and Quinn covered me with a blanket.
Eventually, I felt better and we drove home. I rested some more, sipped some tea and chatted with Toby on the phone about Dean and the troubles at Burbank High. “I’ve got to go and put the barn animals away,” I said ruefully.
“Can’t someone else do it for you just this once?” Toby asked incredulously.
“Well, someone else did yesterday and the door to the sheep pen where the geese have been staying wasn’t closed all the way. It was open enough for a coyote to slip in and massacre the barn. I could let them do it, and they would, but I wouldn’t sleep all night and I’d end up going out there in the end anyway, and we’ve been having a lot of coyote lately,” I explained. "I worry enough about the little cows in the pasture. Miracle and Edward look like Equine Zombies. They sleep all day I guess because there are is so much predator activity lately."
“I get it, well you go before it gets too dark”.
Lindsey and I slipped on shoes and jackets, considered a flashlight, but decided against. When we opened the backdoor, Vivian, Luther, Tasia, Angel and Rat-Bat came tumbling out with us. Irish was as usual banished to the backyard – still nursing a bum knee.
“Can they come with us?” Lindsey asked. “Angel loves the barn,” she chirped.
“Sure why not?” I said as hovelled along. I was not in a mood to make many decisions. I was just getting through this, as my stomach aching to the point that my forehead was dewy.
First as ever, we put the chickens away. “One’s missing. We only have six Dominiques,” Lindsey reported.
“Are we missing a hen or a rooster?”
I worked on making a barricade for the broken door stacking up wood and a wheel barrel. We called the pigs in and changed the water in the turkey bucket. “What are those dogs barking at?” I called as I shut the duck pen.
“Nothing. Angel is just barking at Irish,” Lindsey answered.
Together we put the geese in the pen they’ve been sharing with the sheep and goats since the ducklings were hatched. “Uh, Denise you know we’re missing a girl,” Lindsey noted.
“Maybe she’s sitting on a nest somewhere,” I said hopefully. We'd never lost an animal to a predator other than a dog, that is until now.
“Are you still going to sell three of them?”
“I can’t decide. I know they’re safer in a bigger gaggle. Together they walk to the pond and if there are only three I wonder if Lloyd will become aggressive. I’d hate that.”
I went just outside the big barn doors by the hose and was about to fill up the duck water bucket when the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. The dogs were gone and I could hear the terrifying yips, barks and howls of a coyote pack. The sound was so close they had to be just beyond the stand of trees behind the barn. Frantically, I began looking around and calling, “Bruno! Vivian? Angel! Luther? Bruno! Tasia!” I didn’t see a dog in sight. They were all gone. “Bruno!!” I screamed knowing he would be the first to go. And to my surprise he came bounding into sight on the crest of the hill. “C’mon boy! Come here!” And again to my surprise he did.
By this time Lindsey was by my side terrified her eyes wide. “Grab him Linds,” I commanded.
Obediently, she leaned over and began grasping for his collar, “I’m trying! He keeps darting away!” She screamed desperately, almost in tears as the coyote yips and howls filled the darkness. “They’re so so close!”
“They’re right behind those trees over there. Up the hill. I’ve never known them to come so close except when the goats first came. Where’s Miracle? Why isn’t she doing anything?” I wondered if she was up the hill. I didn’t hear her anywhere.
Lindsey kept trying to get Bruno when we saw Angel come into the light. She hadn’t been up on the hill, but over by the woodpile hiding. “Thank God. That’s two, get them in the house,” I told her as she started for the porch.
“C’mon Angel this way,” she begged.
“Vivian! Luther! Tasia!” I yelled in my most authoritative voice racing up the hill toward the beehives knowing lives depended on it. There was no way I was going to let my dogs be torn to shreds by a pack of coyote.
Vivian would normally be a formidable opponent, but the bone cancer has weakened her and made her vulnerable. “Not like this!” I screamed and kept running up the hill forgetting my pain. Just then, I saw her appear out of the darkness of the trees. Barely visible except for her brown markings, but I knew it was her. She pounced toward me wild from the shrill yips surrounding us like an evil film score. “Lindsey! Call Vivian!”
“Vivian! Come here Miss Viv!” She said in a shaky sweet voice. And again, to my surprise Vivian complied. I ran back down as Henry appeared on the porch with his bb gun.
“What’s going on?” He yelled. “What are you guys yelling about?”
“Coyote!” We answered in unison.
“Help Lindsey get the dogs in! Does anyone see Luther? I don’t think he would have gone up the hill.”
“He’s not here,” Henry called back. The yips seemed closer and more frenetic. Time was slipping away. I had no idea where Tasia was or Luther.
I thought about how coyote hunted. Pack hunters, they’re shrewd. One will usually lure a dog by getting it to chase it into an awaiting pack. Then surrounding the dog, the pack would tear it to shreds. Luther, old, white and not very fast would be an easy target. I grabbed a long beanpole out of the garden and began running up the hill again. I was gong to smack some coyote. Then halfway up again I wondered if I should hop in the van and drive around so I could pick him up and put him in the car if I had to. Then as if in slow motion I saw his velvety ears flopping up and down as he too came out of the forest. Relief came over me like a wave. “You’re alive! Come here you dumb basset hound! Don’t you know you’re an easy snack?” Turning I yelled, “I’ve got Lu! Call him. Does anyone see Tasia?”
“NO! We can’t find Tasia anywhere! Denise, she’s old,” Lindsey called tearfully. “Do you think she’s up there?” I did think she was up there.
Once again I went toward the van, but hearing the unyielding yips and calls from the pack I grabbed the beanpole once again and went charging up the hill.
“What is going on out there?” Awesomez called from the attic.
“Coyote right behind the barn!” I called back. “They’re only about a hundred feet away in the trees!” Even as I was yelling I could hear the relentless yipping of a frenzied pack.
“Where are you going?” Lindsey screamed.
“To get Tasia!”
“I’m coming with you!” Lindsey called behind me.
“Then grab a beanpole so you have a weapon!” And to my surprise, she did. Lindsey, the princess who screams at the mere sight of a dragonfly getting too close. The Lindsey, who is upset by the very existence of goosepoop. The Lindsey, who is terrified by bees. This Lindsey had grabbed a beanpole and was right behind me headed into the darkness filled by a pack of at least six coyote. We were just approaching the beehives when we heard Awesomez call out.
“Tasia is here! She was by the back door! She’s here! She’s here!” “That’s great!” We slowed down and stopped our beanpoles dragging on the ground as we walked back down the hill. It was then that I realized, “Well, my stomach doesn’t hurt”.
Henry like the cavalry reappeared with his bb gun and began shooting warning shots up in the air to try and scare the coyote pack. I was skeptical. The shots weren’t loud, but to my surprise, they worked. It was quiet for the first time.