The people at the retreat center across the creek from us are having way too much fun. I can’t speak to the extent of their dress, but we can hear their voices and often their drums. My neighbor Al wishes they’d come up with another rhythm once in a while, though.
The other night a group of us were enjoying dinner on the porch when the Blue Slate turkeys, who were already inside their nighttime shelter, began making that alarm sound of theirs. It’s a strange popping noise, very distinctive and loud enough to echo all the way up to us on the porch. That sound has just one meaning. Predator!
Within an instant of the turkeys’ warning, all the chickens, also secure in their coop for the night, went crazy. Bear and I heard it at the same time. My big dog leapt out of his doze and stared in the direction of the back pasture. After a moment, he looked at me and whined.
Bear still misses Moosie. When Moosie was alive, that whine was how Bear told his best bud that there was something out there that they could chase. It was an invitation Moosie never refused. Now that his partner is gone, my old boy turns to me, offering me that same chance, in case I might be interested in running across the fields with him. It’s an empty offer. Neither of us run much at all these days — me, because of my ankle and Bear, because he’s elderly and arthritic.
But, just as I always do when invited, I went to stand next to him. I looked down into the far field. Kali, the big brown llama, was standing at alert, staring at something beyond the perimeter fence. Scout, his blind partner, stood next to him. Scout’s ears were tilted forward as tried to track whatever Kali had seen by sound alone. The sheep, who were spending the night with the llamas, stood slightly behind the llamas. They, too, were staring out beyond the fence. As I watched, my entire flock turned as one and hurried toward the shelter of the barn at the same time, Kali moved aggressively toward the fence.
“Something’s out there,” I said to the others at the table behind me.
As I spoke, Bear turned and raced down off the porch. Radha and Rupie followed close behind him. I took a step but Christina beat me to it. She’s been forcing me to baby my ankle, which is exactly what I need to do. It’s much better this week and let me say, it’s wonderful to be able to walk with limited pain.
So I stayed where I was and watched as Christina chased after the dogs. The moment the dogs hit the back pasture, the sheep turned tail and raced to the back of the barn, as far from the creek as possible. Even I know this means nothing more than they saw Radha. The sheep don’t trust her any more than Tom does.
But Radha was interested in only whatever was across the creek. She raced the length of the pasture, Bear and Rupert huffing and puffing as they tried to keep up with her. Then all of a sudden she stopped and rose onto her hind feet, placing her paws atop the fence, as if she meant to climb over it.
What in the world was happening out there? I haven’t seen the javelina or the coyotes since last summer. I know the lion is still here after what she did to that deer a month or so ago.
I watched, even more worried, as Christina, who had no weapon, caught up to the dogs. Her arrival sent Kali into retreating toward the sheep, leaving Scout to circle in confusion. At the same time, Rupert suddenly sat down, then raised his head and let out a pained “Ow-woo-woo-woo!”
Christina looked from the creek to those of us waiting for her on the porch. I could see her grin as she shook her head.
A few minutes later and both dogs and human were back on the porch. “They’re having karaoke night at that center over there,” Christina told us, “and it’s pretty bad.”
There wasn’t anything to do but laugh. I shot one more glance at the back pasture. Although the llamas and sheep were now back where I could see them, they remained clutched together as they stared cautiously out into the distance, listening to something that I (perhaps gratefully) couldn’t hear.