When Animals Attack

T’was the spring of 96′, a year known around the White Mountains of northeastern Arizona as one of the driest in history in terms of rainfall and snow runoff. My wife and I had just proudly purchased our first brand new home on a couple of acres next to the Sitgreaves National Forest.

As with many folks who have had a house built will attest, we ran out of money well before the house was completely finished. Most everything was done on the inside, but the land around the house was just graded dirt that seemed to host contests of the largest dust devils known to man. As I returned to the house one day through the twirling winds of yet another thirty foot tall imitation of a tornado, I decided the time was right for us to plant grass in the yard to neutralize this phenomenon of nature.

The ground around the house was filled with rocks of many sizes that we decided that we had to get rid of before any grass would grow. My wife and I spent weeks and countless hours raking and picking up rocks to prepare the ground for the grass. Finally, the sore backs and the cussing prevailed and we were ready to plant about an acre of grass around the house. In our minds, we could already see the beautiful new house surrounded by a green Garden of Eden with huge pine trees pointing to the heavens.

Reality, of course was an entirely different story. We purchased over a hundred pounds of grass seed and bales and bales of straw to cover the seed to provide protection from the spring winds and to retain moisture. We toiled like farmers in the fields for two weeks on evenings and weekends to spread and bury the seed and cover the whole yard with the straw. The straw over the entire yard looked like a golden wheat field that had just been harvested. The beginning of the hoped end result was blossoming.

After countless gallons of water with gigantic water bills every month, the tiny shoots of grass began to push their way through the straw. We, as proud parents of a million tiny blades of grass, nurtured them with maternal love to see them reach their full potential of the desired Garden of Eden.

That’s when it happened.

Much to our chagrin, we discovered that much of the land around our house was open range. That meant that cattle from the local ranchers could wander this land as they pleased in search of food. Sure enough, after the grass began to come up, the cattle started coming over to gorge themselves on our precious flock of green delicacies. Mostly at night when we were asleep, they would wander into the yard with their huge appetites and hooves, and proceed to eat or trample our babies into oblivion.

We had few choices. We could put up a fence to keep the cattle out, but we didn’t move to the wilds of northern Arizona to enclose ourselves in our own little prison away from nature. No way! We decided to try to train our black Labrador, Budroe, to chase them out of the yard. He slept outside and obviously had the best chance of catching them in the night when they stole into the yard. This was a brilliant idea! Unfortunately, Budroe wasn’t as brilliant as the idea, and just laid out in the front yard, oblivious to his duty of chasing the cattle away. Many nights I would wake up; check the yard for cattle, then run out in the yard like some depraved butcher looking for steaks in my underwear scaring the cattle off. A small kiddie pool on our back porch for Budroe to cool his black sun attracting body also turned into a cattle magnet. I would awake to hear the little pool being pushed across the concrete by some thirsty bull. Then another idea came to mind. I went to the back of the property and picked up a whole bucket full of perfect sized rocks for cattle punishment if they dared come into our yard. If I couldn’t put the fear of Budroe into them, then I would have to do.

I awoke night after night to the sound of the kiddie pool scraping across the concrete, ran out the screen door in my underwear, grabbed a few choice rocks from my bucket and proceeded to pepper them with rocks as they ran out of the yard. I have to admit, I got to be a pretty good shot with those rocks. My wife jokingly called me the bare hunter because of my habit of running out of the house barely clad, usually just my underwear. The cattle, although not so bright themselves, learned that if they heard the screen door open, the bare hunter was coming after them. They must have learned their lesson; I began to spend more nights sleeping, not hunting cattle with rocks. Budroe even started sleeping better in the front yard, no more yelling and throwing rocks.

Then, it really happened!

I awoke to the sound of the pool being pushed across the porch. I wearily got out of bed and went to the back door, looked out the screen for the inevitable cow – and saw nothing! I then heard a sound around the corner of the house, so I picked up a choice rock and went huntin’. I snuck over to the edge of the house with my rock cocked over my head ready for a good stinging. I jumped around the edge of the house to flush my prey, and was amazed to be standing face to nose of a huge black bear. He seemed to be as surprised as I was. I just stood there seemingly frozen in time with my rock swinging above my head, thinking how much better a 30.06 or even my old .45 pistol would feel in my hand. We just looked at each other like two professional wrestlers ready to square off. The thing I remember most was how close together his eyes seemed in the dim light of the porch light. I remember my dad telling me that animals with close together eyes weren’t too bright. Strange thing to be thinking at a time like this! He grunted, fear got the best of valor, and I hightailed it to the backdoor screaming at the top of my lungs about a bear in the backyard. I retreated to the bedroom to retrieve my trusty .45 in case that bear was the same one I saw on “When Animals Attack” a few nights before.

My wife, instead of being concerned for my safety or even the warm liquid running down my leg, calmly asked if Budroe was okay! I grabbed my .45 and went to the back door and surveyed the back yard. No bear! Maybe I scared him as much as he scared me. I snuck around the house to the front yard. I could see a big black mass of something lying in the yard and there he was, sure enough, Budroe, asleep in the front yard!

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