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Jessie Veeder, Published April 26 2014

Coming Home: When the great outdoors venture inside

When the ground thaws at the ranch, all the creatures that flew away, crawled into nooks to sleep, migrated south or played dead on the windowsill of the house start warming up, coming to life and emerging.

We know spring’s working on sticking around when our pair of Canadian geese take up residence in the stock dam outside our house, respectfully sharing real estate with the mallard couple that kicks and floats there every season.

There are other creatures capable of reminding me, too. For example, the muskrat, who, from the evidence gathered last night, must have been making nightly visits to our garage before an unfortunate run-in with our cat.

Nothing says, “Welcome to my home!” quite like the sight and smell of dead muskrat.

Yes, when you live smack dab in the middle of nature, sometimes nature comes knocking at your door.

Literally.

Having lived out here most of my life, I have accumulated plenty of stories about wildlife attempting to make themselves at home, forcing my mother to call for assistance in eradication, extraction or just getting the darn squirrel out from behind the couch.

Out here, animal control is a rancher in leather fencing gloves with a wide stance and a sorting stick.

And sometimes it just gets weird.

Weird like a dog-barking ruckus at 3 a.m. that leads to a cat food thieving raccoon dangling off the deck by one of his human-like hands while the other waves in desperation at a half asleep, wholly naked man attempting to aim a shot gun under the light of the moon.

Which reminds me of a story about another unlikely evening encounter that involves a little less nudity and a little more mystery.

In a house down the road, tucked in the trees along the edge of a creek, lives a rancher and his well-dressed wife in a well-dressed country home.

It was coming to the end of a hot summer, one spent without air-conditioning because Well-Dressed Wife and air-conditioning repairman were at a standstill over the reasonable cost of maintenance (another story for another day), which lead the couple to resort to opening all the windows on their country home at night in order to let the evening breeze blow through.

It was a nice thing, they thought, to sit in their chairs in the living room at the end of a hot day and listen to the crickets chirp, Well-Dressed Wife with her fashion magazine and rancher with some sort of historical memoir. Maybe they didn’t need air conditioning after all, they thought. Maybe they could live like this.

And then one morning when Well-Dressed Wife was watering her houseplants, she noticed something out of place with the decorative rocks she kept in a cute little birdbath that sits on the table next to the screen door.

“Weird,” she thought to herself. “Someone has been moving these rocks from the bird bath to the table.”

Knowing full well the rancher had never paid attention to a decorative thing in his life, she put the rocks back in the birdbath and moved on.

But the next day, she woke again to find the rocks had been moved.

So she replaced them and wondered if she might be finally losing her mind out here.

And then that evening when the couple settled into their chairs, listening to the country night hum outside their open windows, the rancher looked up from his memoir, and with one glance and one loud holler, solved the mystery of the re-decorated bird bath.

Sitting on the table next to the screen door he found two furry human-like hands with serious interior design aspirations, picking, weighing and comparing those birdbath stones.

“RACOON!” yelled the rancher as he flew up from his easy chair, startling the home renovating varmint from his perch on the end table, onto the floor and back out into the night through a tear in the screen door.

Yes, when the world warms up, creatures emerge, and it turns out some of them have been reading Better Homes and Gardens.

If you need me, I’m out dealing with the muskrat and buttoning up my screen doors.


Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. Readers can reach her at jessieveeder@gmail.com.