Sunday, October 18, 2015

INCIDENT BEFORE DAWN




A bone-chilling night with heavy frost and Gothic mists. On moonless nights like this, the mountain shadows are darker than the Devil's soul and just as intimidating. Only fools would venture outside - where the vast emptiness is alive with the possibility of wandering ghosts.

Everything is unnervingly silent until just after midnight, when an unknown restlessness seems to stalk the forest. The neighboring cows and horses start to bellow and whinny. Faraway dogs bark incessantly. And then I hear the familiar distant, unearthly howls of coyotes. 

Eerie sounds in the mountains at night seem to come from everywhere, echoing and bouncing around tauntingly, as if being deliberately evasive.

As usual, I ignore the sounds and concentrate on my laptop computer. I'm at the kitchen table, with one small lamp, in the company of a midnight snack: hot tea and sandwiches.

Nothing much is happening - only the distant cacophony of inhuman sounds and the increasing chill, which is a rude reminder of approaching winter.

Sometime around 4:00 AM I step out on the back porch - just to stretch my legs, survey the blackness, and watch my breath come out in white puffs. As I'm going back in, the inevitable happens: my cat Scratch pushes past me and disappears into the night. 

She's done this numerous times in the past, and usually returns in a few minutes. I'm certain that tonight she'll return even faster, due to the intense cold.

I nervously work at the computer - jumping up every few minutes to check the back porch for the return of Scratch.

No cat in sight. I call for her repeatedly. No answer. By 5:30 AM I'm frantic. It's still pitch black and dawn doesn't come until way after 6:30.

I go outside again on the back porch. The porch light has been on, in anticipation of Scratch's return. No cat. No nothing.

I start calling loudly. I'm startled when my calls are immediately answered with inhuman yelps, hoots, and howls. They are very close and seem like taunts and jeers.

I squint against the impossible darkness and suddenly see at least six sets of glowing eyes in a semi-circle - only a few yards from the back porch.

It's a pack of coyotes, all looking at me
and making menacing, hooting sounds. I've never heard anything like it.

  My concern for my cat's safety is stronger than any fear of coyotes. I step forward, stamping my feet, and yelling threateningly at them. I keep yelling and they keep hooting, but the hoots are moving in the darkness. 

Eventually the intimidating pack moves farther away and their wolf-like howls and jeers lessen. As if on cue, Scratch quickly emerges from under the porch and darts inside. She must have been under there for way over an hour.

Scratch is cold and miserably damp, but at least she escaped with her hide intact - this time. She's presently asleep in a chair near me.



I plan to make sure she never gets out at night again. Next time she might not be so lucky. Half a dozen coyotes could extinguish a cat's nine lives in a few seconds. 


Visit my latest Halloween post at this link:

Walking Through Graveyards 

21 comments:

  1. Glad Scratch made it back unscathed. Amazing how quick they can be when they are trying to get outside. Stay warm, Sheila

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    1. Quick, indeed. Scratch can be asleep in another room, and as soon as I open the door she instantly there.

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  2. I'm seriously impressed that you chose to stand tall and resolute ... instead of seeking refuge, and almost certainly sealing poor Scratch's fate.
    In spite of what the Tennessee wilderness has thrown at you this last year, I suspect you're willing to give it right back, in spades!

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    1. I think if I had been able to see the coyotes more clearly I wouldn't have been so bold. A single coyote is more hesitant to attack, but half a dozen seem to have more courage.

      I won't give up without a fight.

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  3. Oh no! I live in the city where there are coyotes. I may never go to my car at 2 am again. Maybe not after it gets dark!

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    1. I often venture outside after dark, but this latest incident has made me reconsider my boldness.

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  4. yes, you need to keep the pussies inside.

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    1. They are often faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings at a single bound.......or whatever.......

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  5. They may have been local trick-or-treaters in very convincing costumes --or coyotes, who I believe started the October tradition. Either way, it's good you yelled at them and kept your cat from being mistaken as an offered treat. I'd keep a barrel of rocks on the back porch too. I once lived in a neighborhood plagued by a dog-pack that developed a healthy respect for my throwing arm.

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    1. I initially thought they were trick-or-treaters - - until their eyes glowed.

      Rock-throwing is a good idea. And I occasionally considered throwing my three cats to them as sacrifices so I could save my own hide. (should a smile be inserted here?)

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  6. Really scary, Jon. Have to admit that my heart was in my throat. So relieved when I read: "Scratch emerges . .. .."

    It doesn't matter if it's in the country or the city (sometimes I think the city is worst - lots of crazies out there), you're putting the cat in danger every time you let him/her out.

    You're going to have to train yourself to look every time you open that door. I applaud you for protecting your companion.

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    1. There seems to be a surplus of coyotes everywhere nowadays - but I've never seen as many as there are here in the TN wilderness. I truly thought Scratch was a goner. It was such a relief to see her emerge from under the porch.

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  7. Oh Jon, I am so relieved! I was fearing for the worst. I hope Scratch realizes the danger he (she?) is in when she darts outside. I'm sure he would be a new delicacy for those coyotes. We don't have to worry about coyotes here, only drug addicts prowling the neighborhood looking for unlocked cars to steal from to keep their habit going.
    Ron

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    1. Scratch is ten years old and has never been out of the house until recently. She love the newly-found freedom, but I'm sure she doesn't realize the dangers - - especially up here in Daniel Boone country. Coyotes are everywhere at night and she wouldn't have a chance. I'm going to be VERY careful to make sure she doesn't get out after dark again.

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    2. Jon,
      I think eventually she will learn safety when she's out. Are there any other cats around?
      Ron

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  8. thank God

    I think you have a gun

    just in case

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    1. I do have a gun. I'd be hesitant to shoot anything, but I would if I had to.

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  9. Replies
    1. Thanks - -I am, too! It was a close call.

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  10. No wonder you're Scratch's hero.

    Coyotes are only cool when you're listening to them from a distance. That was way too close for comfort. Our TN friend had to shoot at one that was right behind his house recently. Scared it away, but now they won't let the dogs go outside unless they're right there with them.

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  11. Oh heck this sounds really scary! But in a way I can see why you like the place, and there's something almost romantic about the idea of you alone in the night with the wilderness outside. It seems as if this place might suit something deep in your nature - do you agree?

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I love comments. Go ahead and leave one - I won't bite. But make sure you have a rabies shot just in case.