Not much blocks our soundscape in Tinytown. No long swish of traffic, incessant sirens, or engines revving. Birds give concerts day and night, particularly in the spring. Occasionally we hear the screech of a kite hawk or an owl on the prowl. Several times a day comes the long wail of the train just a few hundred yards back of us — freight cars, mainly, transporting grain to port. That sound parallels the daytime grinding of grain truck gears as they pass, commuting from farm to freight terminal.
We hear other sounds: the bawling of cattle, the barking of dogs, the crunching of gravel. Even, some spring mornings, the pre-breakfast pop of pellet guns, aimed at crows, likely. Country sounds, all, and I enjoy them for the most part.
But one sound raises my neck hair. It rises in the dark, long and thin and quivering from the stretch of farmland that begins a block over. Coyotes. Sometimes I stand under the stars out back, listening. Wondering how close they are, wondering what they’re chasing, wondering if they ever come into town. Occasionally I howl back.
Dastardly dingoes. Just ask any livestock farmer in the spring. Last year they savaged numerous calves in this area. I’ve never heard of one attacking a human around here, but those attacks do happen elsewhere.
In North Carolina last summer, one tried to drag an unattended toddler into the woods near his home. In Ontario earlier this year, another jumped the back fence, attacked an eight year old playing with a friend, then chased them into the house. And just a few weeks before this writing, a Cape Breton coyote attacked a 14 year-old on a Motocross bike. His heavy boots helped him survive.
One morning I feared I may be the first local coyote/human story. As I ambled down the country road on a sunrise walk a few months ago, an animal appeared from nowhere. Took a seat in the middle of the road ahead. A deer, perhaps, or a cow, but the legs were too short. A dog, then, I thought — until suddenly my ears filled with a haunting long cry, quickly joined by others. It crescendoed, fell, then frayed into a thousand yips. They came from everywhere and nowhere all at once. The critter’s gang, I imagined, had staked out the bushes around me.
I strode back into Tinytown on jellied legs, glancing often over my shoulder. No coyotes followed, and the sentinel silhouetted on the road didn’t move. At home, I felt ashamed of my fear.
Life’s a lot like that, isn’t it? Surprise enemy encounters. Frightening sounds. Embarrassing reversals. Regrets.
What sound raises your hackles? What sight turns you around on the road? What fear shames you?
No matter the name of your coyotes, God can help you overcome them. In spite of how you feel, you’re not alone. Keep faith, find supportive friends, grab the walking stick of prayer, and move forward.