Just Passing Through
I noticed the fresh tracks when I pulled out of the
driveway and headed out on a brief errand.
During the night we had just an inch of fluffy dry snow but it was pretty
much enough to turn a new page on the snow that already lay on the ground that had
become pocked with numerous animal tracks from a number of days and nights. It was kind of like shaking the world as if
it was a giant Etch-A-Sketch; the land was ready to tell new stories.
I glanced again at the tracks when I returned
home. They weren’t obvious to me, and so
I was curious. There were five sets of
tracks set about five feet apart. They
weren’t from a small animal, but the feet dragged in the snow so the animal
wasn’t too tall either. I walked out to
the road where the animals had finished crossing the yard, climbed up out of
the ditch and continued east to the open field across the road. There, at the edge of the ditch, where there
was enough new snow but thin enough to leave clear tracks, I found perfect
impressions by three of the five sets.
Then I could confirm what I suspected - that the visitors during the
night were five coyotes.
I backtracked to see where they had come from. I followed them out of the back of our five
acres to the nature conservancy that abuts our property. I then returned to the road and followed them
across the field. They didn’t stay in
the open long, even in the night. Just
fifty or so yards in from the road they cut into a line of pine and spruce trees that mark
the back property lines of the neighbors, then they cut into the woodlot to the
north that is Tribal Land, so I couldn’t follow them any farther.
We knew that there was a pack of coyotes in the area
as we had heard them several summer evenings when we had stayed outside to
enjoy the evening, so I wasn’t too surprised.
But even though we had heard them we hadn’t seen them, and this was the
first time that I saw their tracks in the yard.
There is a feeling about finding predator tracks that
is much different than the usual sightings of deer, turkey and rabbits and other
assorted critters. The feeling is not
fear as I have been close – very close – to coyotes on a number of
occasions. I remember one particular fall
morning when I was hunting turkeys with my back to a huge oak and my eyes looking
out across a hay field that was ready for its last cutting. It was barely light enough to see when I
noticed something coming fast and right at me.
When it was about fifty yards away, I could clearly see that it was a
coyote that was bounding through the alfalfa.
He was bouncing like Tigger – perhaps he didn’t appreciate how wet the
dew-heavy hay field felt in the coolness of that October morning. He came to full stop literally three feet
away from me, and paused to listen before going deeper into the woods. “Good morning”, I said. He jumped three feet vertically and I think
his paws were already digging for traction mid-air. When he came back down to the ground, he sent
a spray of brown leaves three feet behind him as he accelerated. Some of the leaves landed on my outstretched
legs – he was that close. He zigzagged over
a small hill and was completely out of sight in less than five seconds.
Even so, when I looked at the sets of tracks this
morning, five of them moving side-by-side, I couldn’t overlook that for most of
the others creatures around here this was the reality of the nature of a fallen
world. Death and life written there in
the fresh, unstained snow. Something
deep in my own mortal soul was relieved that on this morning at least, they
were just passing through.
His Peace <><