Max and I have lived in our house for almost 27 years now. One of the reasons we bought the house is the back yard with its towering trees and flowering perennials. Years ago, we replaced an old summer kitchen with a pergola covered in wisteria vine – wisteria that has never bloomed, but wisteria nevertheless.
We have hosted birthday parties in the back yard, engagement parties, and even dinner parties that people have bought at auctions benefiting the Children’s Therapy Center and the Boys and Girls Club, to name a couple. Truly, the back yard is like a park in the city. Sometimes, however, it is more like an acre in the wild. More than once I have been shocked by the wildlife that wanders through.
Obviously, we have bunnies and squirrels. Our Bichon, Fluffy, would lie in wait in the shadow of the giant oak tree, biding her time, until she saw a woodland critter hopping or scurrying through the grass. She would come to a point, and then would stealthily stalk the unsuspecting animal. Or so she thought. They knew exactly what was happening, and at the right moment, they took off, leaving her in the dust, making her look foolish in the chase.
One lovely morning, I let her out the back door. She was sniffing around, taking her time before coming back inside, when I heard what sounded like a galloping horse. I looked up and saw a deer running down our driveway. I was surprised, because who expects to see a deer galloping through town?
Then I looked at Fluffy. She was almost in the path of the frightened deer, and the deer’s movement to the right or left would have tragic results. I started running toward her, frantically waving my arms, trying to either ward off the deer or get Fluffy to run toward me. Fortunately, she was quite deaf by that time, and heard neither me nor the deer. She looked up quizzically as the deer ran past, then continued her sniffing. The deer ran through the yard and burst through the hedge at the back, clip-clopping across the street. I always wondered where she came from and where she went.
We’ve seen other forest creatures, too. One morning, for 45 minutes, Max and I quietly watched baby foxes playing peek-a-boo in the back yard. They chased each other through the monkey grass, having the best time!
Other wild animals have come closer. Max has hated the jalousie windows on the back porch forever. Knowing this is a marriage argument I can’t win, I just shut up when I saw that he had not only opened the windows, but also had removed the screens that allowed me to open the back door in the spring without an invasion of bugs. Well, the lack of a barrier gave a green light to a possum that crawled through the window to take a nap on the back porch. Imagine my surprise when I headed outdoors to drink my French Vanilla Café! I screeched, and it scurried toward the porch door, but the door was shut. Still screeching, I tiptoed toward the door, yanked it open, and hurried back into the house. I slammed the house door and watched as the possum raced outside to its natural habitat.
The latest invasion happened the other night, when I kept hearing loud thumps. They turned out to be a cardinal that had unfortunately flown through the open jalousie windows toward the kitchen light and then was unable to find his way out. He kept bumping into the kitchen window, so finally, I turned off the kitchen lights, turned on the outside lights, and opened the back door. He flew back and forth right past the door several times, but couldn’t figure out how to escape. Eventually, though, he lit on a window, felt the outside air, and left happily. I quickly shut every one of those windows, regardless of how Max feels about them.
So as spring approaches, I wonder what kind of animal will find the back yard as appealing as we do. I hope that this year, we stick with just the bunnies and squirrels.
— Deborah Mitchell is a a local attorney and a Municipal Court Judge.