Spring is the prettiest time of the year in Tennessee. Everything is blooming and the edges are soft purple, pink, white and green. Even the dirt smells different…clean and damp…it smells alive.
The green is really green and it’s so sharp against the blue sky that you have to squint your eyes…it’s like biting into a visual lemon. Things are growing and waking up. The grass grows inches overnight and when I run in the woods now I’ll have to keep an eye out for things crawling by.
The wildlife on my farm and I have an…understanding…I don’t kill them unless they are trying to kill me or I catch them chewing on my clothes and using my good shoes as outhouses.
I’m not a farmer by birth, so all of the lessons that I have learned have been at my own expense. I am constantly being tutored by my mistakes.
The ad for this farm read: Completely surrounded by creeks…turkey and deer abound.
Abound is one of those distracting words…it has a lively lilt…I picture the person saying it holding a cup of tea and a crumpet.
I met up with one of those “abounding” deer in a well-intended rescue mission. I was on the deck trying to hang a hummingbird feeder. Hummingbirds are little…but they’re scrappy and very pushy. Two of them were impatiently buzzing around me like giant bumblebees waiting for the red liquid potion to drip out of the yellow and red flowered feeder. I wasn’t moving fast enough and they were circling my head and complaining.
I heard a bleating noise from across the field and my dogs raced toward it. I saw a fawn crawling under the fence with the dogs right behind it. I was screaming for them to stop and get back to the house. I knew if they got to the baby deer before I did there would be nothing I could do to stop them from attacking it. I yelled to my daughter to get the plastic baseball bat and I headed into the woods after the dogs.
I heard running behind me and I looked over my shoulder. The mother deer was right on my tail…and she did NOT look happy. You know those old cartoons where steam comes out of the animals noses when they’re really really mad? It really really happens.
She chased me in a giant circle, in and out of the trees. On one of my turns out of the woods I saw my daughter standing and laughing, tapping the plastic baseball bat on her knee. The deer stopped at the same time and we both stared at my daughter for a nano second and then continued running back into and out of the woods in that giant circle. Trees….Cynthia…trees…Mama Deer…trees…Cynthia….trees…Mama Deer….
The whole time I was yelling “I’m not after your baby…it’s the dogs…go after them…go.” I was waving my hands toward the fence like she could read sign language.
At some point either I slowed down or she did and it seemed like I was chasing her. The baby bleated again and she turned sharply and raced toward the sound. I hung on to a tree gasping for breath. My daughter was laughing hysterically. I heard one of the dogs yelp and the four of them came crashing through the woods, almost knocking me over as they raced back to the house.
I headed back through the tall grass to my deck to finish hanging the hummingbird feeder. I had left it sitting on the table and the two attack hummingbirds had already bellied up to the bar and were hovering above the plastic flower feeders helping themselves to the red slippery beverage. Another one buzzed just above them waiting his turn.
The dogs were laying on the deck with their eyes squeezed tightly shut like they had been there sleeping all along. Bunch of phonies…one of them even threw in a yawn for effect.
My daughter handed me the plastic bat.
“Hey…I could have been killed.”
“I wish I had a camera…that would have won America’s Funniest Home Videos.” She was still laughing as she headed into the house.
That was the most the dogs had ever run. They slept for two days.
I was covered in chiggers and spent the next week trying every backwoods remedy I could get my hands on. Chiggers and ticks are the insect version of the Hatfields and the McCoys. I’ve deemed them the official Tennessee pests. Lye soap works pretty well…and the scars from the burn marks fade after a year or two. A martini isn’t bad either…taken orally…for medicinal purposes of course.
I am caviar to a tick. They don’t even phase me anymore. When I first started venturing out again as a single person, I was in line at Walmart and noticed a really cute guy checking me out. Wow.
I was just about to give him my best “tuck the hair behind my ear and grin” when he leaned over and told me a tick was crawling up my neck. Great…just great.
I don’t remember ticks as a kid…and we lived near the woods and spent a lot of time in them even though we weren’t supposed to. Ticks might be aliens…hey…you never know…
This past Sunday I got up early to go for my trail run. It was still cool and when I started the car I turned the heater on. I thought I heard something move inside the dashboard…and just as the noise registered in my brain the heater fan started grinding…rrrrrrrrrrrrrr….uh oh.
I was really hoping that putting two and two together would NOT compute. I kept sniffing the inside of the car…but it didn’t seem odd…or did it? You know how that goes…
I’m still trying to make a runner out of my friend Demetra and I swung by to pick her up. “Listen to this.” I turned the fan on. Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.
“That doesn’t sound good.”
“Ya think? Do you think it smells funny in here?”
“It doesn’t smell good…I don’t know what it smells like.”
I drove home with the windows open and hoped for the best. That hope was dashed Monday afternoon when I got in the car with my daughter to head into town.
We opened the door…she immediately backed up…”Wow…that smells bad.”
“Yep…a mouse must have died in the air vent…and listen to the fan.” Before she could stop me I cranked up the air conditioner…
And “Eau de Dead Mouse” wafted out of the vents and into my face and hair.
I’m familiar with that cologne…you might recall the “Great Mouse Wars” that I have written about previously.
This morning I took it to my mechanic Charles…his shop is about fifteen miles from me. I drove with my head hanging out of the window, pulling it in to keep the snot from freezing on my face…trying to breathe through my mouth just long enough until I could stick my head out of the window again.
I screeched into the lot and jumped out gasping for fresh air. Charles and another guy came out of the garage, stopping short of the open door of my Jeep. Both of them put their hands over their mouths and noses.
They sent me off to get some breakfast. It wasn’t to spare me…it was to spare them. I didn’t argue. I had absorbed Eau de Dead Mouse into my skin and hair, and I had a…fragrance.
When I returned he met me outside. “Wasn’t a mouse after all. It was a rat.”
Oh…that is so much better.
He showed me the little carcass. He was missing some chunks of hair and I cringed.
“I hope he didn’t suffer.”
Charles stared at me. “It’s a rat.”
“Even so…I feel badly.” He didn’t say a word…just handed me my keys. He had done his best to de-smell my Jeep…he sprayed Pine Sol in all of the vents and I now had my own personal forest of pine tree shaped fresheners placed throughout.
I drove straight home and set off an air freshener bomb inside the car. After a couple of hours I took it to the car wash to shampoo the carpets and Febreeze the seats.
Under the driver’s seat I found a gnawed up cough drop and a potato chip with tiny little bite marks out of it. He was a nibbler…his last meal…I felt a pang of guilt as I hit the area with another cloud of Febreeze.
The inside of my Jeep now smells like a tropical forest with a hint of pine and vanilla…a chaser of apples and cinnamon and a touch of clean linen…
and dead rat.
I can’t add any more smells to that stink free stew. Anything else and it might explode.
I have no more hair follicles in my nose and my taste buds have been seared off. I’m surprised I still have eyelashes.
I went through the drive-thru at McDonalds to get a Diet Coke…and an invisible cloud of flowery sweet spicy rat stink irradiated out of the window when I rolled it down…like Pig Pen in the Charlie Brown cartoons.
I’ve left the Jeep parked outside with the windows cracked and all the vents open. I don’t think there is a living thing within ten miles that would want to spend any time inside it…so I am pretty confident there won’t be another guest for a while.
I’ve showered and washed my hair twice. I’m headed in for another one. Maybe the third time is the charm.
Day Two Hundred and Sixty Nine…I’m gonna wash that rat right out of my hair…