Monday, February 14, 2011

The Hazards of Country Life

Friday night I arrived home from our weekly family swim a few minutes ahead of the boys--we came from different directions, and so had taken separate cars, and the locker room scene is always more complicated with four than for one.  I was hoping to get inside, into my pajamas and in bed with a book before they got home, peace and quiet being a rare commodity around here.

I had all of the boys' backpacks in my car, plus their snow pants, my two swim bags, my work bag, and the mail to carry inside.  I scooped up as much as I could hoist with two arms, planning to return for a second trip.  As I shuffled up the slippery walkway, I heard something scrabbling in the woods to the right of the house.  A moose (one of my greatest fears is to come face to face with one of those ice age ungulates)?  I looked back at the car, considering returning to shine the headlights at the sound, but the snowbanks dwarfed the car, and would block the light.  Maybe it's just deer, bedding down for the night in the hemlocks, I convinced myself.

As I neared our front door, I could hear the distinct scrabbling sound of claws descending the trunk of a tree.  Porcupine.  C had mentioned that one had moved in under our deck.  It's happened at least once or twice before--a porcupine makes itself at home under the shelter of our overhangs in late winter, where it holes up until it mysteriously dies in spring.

Porcupines move slowly, and I got inside without confronting it, but I knew I'd never be able to make the second trip to collect the rest of my accoutrements.  I turned on the porch light and peered out the mudroom window, watching it waddle along the edge of the house, where the snow is at its shallowest.  When it came around the front of the bump-out, I opened the front door a crack to see it more closely.  Its head came to a featureless point, like an anteater.  It stopped and swung its snout door-ward, no doubt attracted by the warm air radiating out the crack.  I closed the door and waited, listening to its claws scruffle along the ice of the path, and opened the door again to watch it climb up the snowbank and head toward its den under the deck.

Once it was safely out of range, I headed back to collect my stuff, just in time to see headlights beam along the driveway, signaling the arrival of the boys and the end to my quiet moment.

Edited:  I forgot to add that all night afterward I had dreams about being stuck in a house (oddly, my grandmother's) with a family of porcupines and a mountain lion/golden retriever mix, from whose muzzle I attempted to extract a quill, until it attempted to eat my arm.


  1. Wow--crazy! I didn't even realize I should be scared of a porcupine, but perhaps if I saw one that close I would be smart enough to figure it out :). The only creatures we ever hear around here are squirrels and birds.

  2. Well, perhaps not scared, but certainly wary.

  3. Here you need only fear the mosquitos unless you are us and then it's those horrid little nut-transplanting squirrels.

  4. LSM: When I lived in Texas, I feared the fire ants and the chiggers. And the sorority girls.

  5. My parents' dog tried to catch a porcupine and limped home, defeated, with quills sticking out of his nose. Those things are not to be messed with.

    Sorry you missed out on your quiet time!

  6. Growing up, our St. Bernard would roam the hills and sometimes stumble across a porcupine. It took forever (and some brandy for the dog) for my dad to pull the quills from his face. Ouch.

    Sorry you lost your quiet moment alone. I'm always searching for those....


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