One morning when we awoke, we heard a strange noise outside the house. My Dad went to investigate and found a lone, baby fox, shivering in the cold, I had never seen a fox, and I’m not sure where that one came from. But Dad made sure he didn't make it back to the clan. It's not clear how he killed it, but he made sure that it was no longer a threat to us or anyone else. Sorry, animal rights' activists, but I guess Dad felt he just couldn't let that one off the hook.
We knew there were bobcats in the forest. One day when we were traveling on one of the back roads, a bobcat near the highway ran into the woods. That was my first and last time seeing one. I'm not even sure what they're kin too. I think of them as large, oversize, undomesticated, house cats. They are, however, native to Arkansas.
When I lived in the country, I felt relatively safe from any wild animals that were reportedly living in our jungles. Any undomesticated animal is dangerous, but we never really came into contact with them. That's probably because wild animals usually stay deep in the dark forest and almost never come out during the day. If they do, it is rare for them to do so.
There were no deer or bears in that part of the country then, but near my father's homestead, people reported seeing black bears. Whether it's true or not, I can't say. We never saw one. There are bears there now – along with wolves, coyotes, fox and all kinds of rodents and other small, creepy-crawly things.
At least once a year, there was a rumor about hunters "jumping" a panther somewhere deep in the jungle. That part, I believe, because when those men encountered a panther, they went around the community spreading the word. My mother called us in and told us the blood-chilling news. Then she admonished us to stay out of the woods. We followed her advice for a New York second, but country kids will never leave the woods for good. As soon as our "scare" wore off, we were trekking back through the hills and hollows.
Photo: Fotolia/Jose 16
Horses are not wild - well, at least not the ones I saw, but even still, I was scared to death of them. I didn't like being near any animal that is so big and so strong and has four legs. I've heard of wild horses, but the ones we always saw were usually ridden by a jockey, so that made me feel a little safer when I was near them.
At one point, my grandfather had a mule that he plowed with. I trudged up and down the rows behind him and never felt any fear. Mules are tame. Other farmers also had mules, but I wasn't afraid of them either. I don't know why, but they didn't evoke any fear in me. That’s probably because they’re so docile.
Cows and bulls were in just about every pasture. I was scared of them too. I never saw any become enraged and break through a fence. But still, when I walked the road near pastures where they were, I was scared to look in their direction. I was sure they didn't like people and would come charging through the fence to get us.
We knew this family that had a Brahma Bull. I was so scared of that big, brown, four-legged monster with the camel hump in his back. We called it a "Brimmer" bull, because we did not know its correct name, or he was the bull with the hump in his back. No one else that we knew of had one of those bulls – the strange looking, buffalo beast.
We were told that there were deer in our parts. Hunters gave us deer steaks, but I never saw deer when I was a child. They are now in those parts.
There are other small, wild, harmless animals like skunks, opossum, armadillo, rabbits, and raccoons. Skunks are okay unless they feel threatened. When they do, you had better stand back, because when they raise their tail, they are getting ready to spray you real good. Of course, we never encountered skunks on the road, but sometimes when riding along in our car, we knew when that black and white, striped, "wild cat" had sprayed something or somebody. We held our nose for a long time.
So, there you have it for our wild, country friends and foes.
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