Autumn in Mount Washington Means Hungry Coyotes

Kim Axelrod Ohanneson

(Originally published in Patch, on October 20, 2011)

I always have high hopes for October.

I know that September is always still summer.  Maybe not the white-hot heat of August that stuns into stupor--but summer just the same.

But October? Well, you never know about October.  Like the surprise of rain earlier this month that drenched my balcony garden, revived the succulents, and beat a tattoo on my eaves.  You could practically hear the trees sigh in relief.

As the rain sheeted down, I thought that just maybe fall was here. No such luck.  The thermometer subsequently climbed to over ninety degrees. It was eighty degrees at night.

Oh, there were benefits to the heat. The laundry dried in minutes.  My nightshade plants were tricked into another harvest. I could justify making gazpacho one more time.

But still, I wish the weather would realize it’s fall.

The animals know it’s fall. Spiders are spinning webs everywhere.  If two surfaces are within a foot of each other, a silken strand appears. I can’t walk the Small Black Dog without smashing through multiple arachnid habitats. Even though they’re associated with Halloween, spiders don’t make me think of witches but of Charlotte and her web and “Some Pig” Wilbur and growing up on a farm. A farm ... where the seasons behaved.

The squirrels know it’s fall.  Their days are spent charging back and forth across our roof with berries and nuts.  It sounds like the Indianapolis speedway up there.  It sounds like the Thunderdome. Clumps of half-eaten pomegranates litter our walkway. The other day, an early, partially-gnawed persimmon appeared on our deck.  Even the Small Black Dog can’t keep up his constant vigilance.  His eyes just track the sound of the galloping critters from side to side, as if he’s watching some kind of phantom tennis match.

The coyotes definitely seem to know it’s fall. The other night, I took the Small Black Dog out for a late night bathroom break. We were three feet from our door when a couple of coyotes loped down the sidewalk past our driveway. I thought they’d keep going; there’s an unfenced street-to-alley passage one door down and I figured they were heading there.

Coyotes mean business. Credit R.S.ConnettBut one of the coyotes broke off and headed down our driveway. The SBD immediately slipped into that delusional state in which he thinks he’s the Huge Black Dog instead of a Small Fluffy Pudgy dog.  He started straining at the leash toward the wiry critter that did not at all seem to be buying into the Small Black Dog’s delusion. He edged closer. I turned around and hightailed it towards the house, dragging the SBD behind me.

Safely inside, I lurked around the front of the house peering out windows and cracking open doors. Confident that the coyote had gone, I once more attempted the bathroom run. As soon as our feet hit the wood of the deck, the coyote ran around the side of the car. He’d been lurking!  Waiting for us! He paused in the driveway but I turned tail and skedaddled back inside.  I couldn’t move fast enough. I felt like one of those cartoon characters whose legs spin around in a blur of motion when they’re about to race off. Cartoon characters like the Roadrunner. Who is chased by Wile. E. Coyote.

Hmm.  If a too-close encounter with a hungry and emboldened coyote is a sign of impending fall, maybe it’s not a bad idea for summer to linger just a little longer.


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