Monday, November 26, 2012

Fear in the Country? Nope.

I spend a great deal of time in our family's cabin in Iowa. There are people who live within a mile or so of me, in fact, some friends live just up the hill, but for the most part I feel pretty isolated down in this valley.  There isn't much traffic on the gravel road that goes past our land, I have a river just to the west of me and hills to the east and south of me.  The sounds are very different here than they are in Omaha, where I am constantly distracted by sirens and tires screeching on the street outside our house.

My nights here the last several weeks have been interrupted by yelling and howling. Coyotes must be in the middle of mating season or something.  The first night, I woke up and had no idea what was happening. I had to open the window so that I could make out the sounds.  I was glad to be able to close it quickly and feel safe again.  The next night, there was more noise and a lot of howling happening. I opened the main front door and the sounds were coming from the meadow, maybe two hundred yards from me.  I listened for a few moments, got myself totally creeped out, slammed the door and crawled back under the covers.  The third night, I was coming back after dark, drove in the lane, turned my car lights into the meadow and the coyotes were in the wood pile, right there in my meadow.  Sigh.  I had to think really hard about whether my laundry was going in with me then or if I was going to get it out of the Jeep in the morning.  Sanity reigned and I opened the back seat car door, grabbed the laundry basket and ran for the cabin.

Coyotes aren't the only things that make noise around here.  There are several hoot owls up in the hill and when they are calling to each other, it is seriously spooky.  One morning in the early dawn, I heard deer making noises in the meadow. It took me a while to be able to identify that sound.  Another night, in the middle of the night, I was awakened by dogs (probably coyotes, but who knows), screaming and barking up in the hills.  It sounded as if they had something treed and were trying to get to it.

Several people have asked how I can be out here by myself.  I guess I'm a lot like my father. He loved being alone and fear of the outside world just isn't going to mess with that.  At the same time, I know that Dad built this place and once I am inside, it is solid and safe.  Dad didn't build things to fall apart.  We used to laughingly tell him that the things he built would withstand a nuclear holocaust.  The man used nails and screws and if there was the smallest concern, he would use more nails and screws.  He built a loft for Carol's college dorm room. It was stronger and heavier than anything you can imagine. I still don't know how they got that thing up to her floor and then back down again.  It's now here at the cabin.  He used a lot of lumber while building it. His construction may not have been perfect, but it was solid.

Fear of this world just isn't something I can let control me, though.  Carol and I lived on Park Avenue in Omaha for several years.  It wasn't in the best part of town, but the apartment was beautiful. We loved it, but always said we would move out the first time we heard gun fire.  Well, we moved to a much nicer part of town and one Sunday we came back from church and Carol went into her closet to get something different to wear.  She brought several items of clothing out to me and said, "What do you suppose did this?"  There was a hole through them.  We tried to brainstorm anything. We had problems with mice, maybe one of them had gotten into her clothes. Snakes? Who knew?  Then, she found the bullet hole in her closet window and we followed its path through the clothing into the wall.  It had finally exited in the closet on the other side of the wall, in our neighbor's apartment.

Carol had heard a car backfiring the night before and didn't think anything of it.  We called the police and they were asking us questions about people that might hate us.  Are you kidding?  We'd never been in those types of relationships and didn't encounter people like that in our business either.  We were completely freaked out.  Fortunately, a couple of days later, the police department called us back.  Two brothers down the street about three blocks (we were at the top of a "T"), got into an argument and started shooting.  A stray bullet had come that far to our place.  But, Carol and I didn't move out of there. Fear wasn't going to reign.

Max came home one day and found the back door standing open with the window broken out. His first worry was the animals in the house and then he saw that we'd been robbed.  Joy. The fear from that experience lasted for a while, but at some point, I quit worrying, even though we were sure it was just kids breaking in and taking what they could.

Several years ago, a young clerk at the convenient store which is located a half block from our house was murdered after the end of her shift.  I woke up to lights flashing and when I looked out the window, there was police tape everywhere. It hadn't gotten as far as our house, but was strung through our neighbor's yard.

Living in the city, with its noise and craziness is much more frightening to me than living in the country with loud animals. I know what their reactions will be ... to light, to sound, to me and I know that I'm safe from them when I close the doors and shut the windows.  I'm not scared of these animals ... much.  I wouldn't want to be in the meadow in the dark and startle one of them.  I willingly admit to jolts of fear that send me tearing inside and slamming doors shut behind me.  But, I wake up in the morning and they've all returned to their dens and nests. It's a good equilibrium we've found.

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