It's getting cold outside, and critters want in

November 19, 2023

My daughter Misty, who I've always thought was psychic, has told me that when an animal or bird comes into your house uninvited, it has a meaning. It seemed sort of true when Jeff's estranged evil stepmother passed away and a black bird flew into our house that very day.

Several years ago in Wilmington before we moved back down here to Milton, we embarked on a family trip to Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Our kitchen window was left slightly open to accommodate a hose extending from the washing machine to an outside drainage pipe. Later that night after we got home, I was half asleep on the sofa clutching the dregs of a scotch while watching “The Twilight Zone” on TV. All of a sudden, the painting hanging on the wall across the room from me started to shift! What was that?! I jumped off the sofa and encountered a six-foot-long black snake sitting on top of the frame and slithering around the painting! "Jeff, Jeff," I screamed up the stairs, "there's a snake on the wall!"

Thinking I had drunk too much midnight scotch, it took him seemingly forever to come downstairs. Finally, unbelievably, he saw what I saw. We called the New Castle County Police. It was about 1 a.m. They arrived at our front door minutes later with guns drawn, cautiously entering the front foyer and adjacent living room. Jeff found some wide boards that he positioned on the living room floor as a barricade wall out into the front hallway. Finally, using a yardstick, we guided the snake toward the front door and out of the house. Having a Buddist-like attitude, I don't even want to kill a snake. I did not own my orange tabby Rusty back then. He dispenses with snakes by twirling them in the air like lassos!

Speaking of snakes, my mother was never afraid of anything. One time, a flasher was terrorizing the widows on Chestnut Street by unscrewing the lightbulbs beside their front doors. When they opened the doors to see what had happened, he'd be there "au naturel." This happened to my mother one night, and she simply, unblinkingly, looked at him naked and asked, "Didn't I teach you in second grade?" He ran off, leaving his clothes on her doorstep. Unruffled, she never even told me about this. I had to hear it from Ann Johnson, her best friend at the time.

Anyway, she had a similar fearless attitude toward the snakes she encountered on her back porch, picking them up with a yardstick and ferrying them writhing to the backyard, where they would curl up on top of the propane tank to sleep off the humiliation. She used to hold mock classes with the many feral cats she fed there, pretending they were her students.

Of course, you may have read in one of my previous early columns about the skunk who ventured into our kitchen from the back porch one warm, late-summer evening looking for a handout, finally, and thankfully, exiting without emitting any noxious fumes. That's a story unto itself.

I once tried to play nurse to a woodpecker who knocked itself out by flying into my glass kitchen door. It was freezing out, and I placed the bird in the small cat cage, hoping it would revive. Boy, did it! The cage suddenly started hopping, frighteningly, all over the house. I was finally brave enough to open the latch and it flew out into the snowy winter landscape, none the worse for wear.

Back here in Milton, there was Henry, the Milton Post Office's resident rooster. He patrolled the building, and the postmen fed him leftover bits of pizza crust and cashews. He ate well! Once I was there in the evening and heard a huge postal truck deliveryman say, "Where's that darn chicken? I don't want to back over him!" Only in Mayberry!

My latest concern is a beautiful, exotic white rabbit with black ears who has taken up residence in a field near my house. I looked him up in the encyclopedia (no interest in Google for this Luddite) and I think he's a Himylayian hare (I once had a Himylayian cat with similar coloration). I've spotted him in my neighbor's yard also, and they say he sleeps under a pile of mulch at night, huddled up with some wild brown rabbits to keep warm. Talk about falling in with friends!

He nibbles their grass and clover, and I've been feeding him carrots, lettuce and a little dry cat food. I may go purchase some rabbit food if that is available, as he may need a special diet. I suspect that he's an Easter basket bunny abandoned by someone when he got too big and too much trouble to handle. Please, people, don't purchase holiday pets without thinking. Easter chicks will turn into much-larger hens, after all.

Fun aside, we need more vets to help with the overpopulation problem we have here. It's almost impossible to find one, and what was once an $85 checkup including vaccinations (back in the Dark Ages) is now a several-hundred-dollar expenditure. Some folks turn to the Tractor Supply Co. store for reasonably priced vet clinics.

Meanwhile, animals need and deserve our kindness. Remember, it's their planet, too!

  • Pam Bounds is a well-known artist living in Milton who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine art. She will be sharing humorous and thoughtful observations about life in Sussex County and beyond.

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