Country living

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Living in the country comes with some distinct advantages.
For one thing, it’s pretty quiet out here. I might spend the entire day writing, and when my wife gets home from work in the evening she might ask, “How was your day?” to which I might reply, “Not bad, except for all the traffic. I didn’t keep track, but I’ll bet three cars drove by here today.”
But country living also has a few downsides – and I’m not just talking about the fact that the nearest coffee shop is over 10 miles away. What I mean is that we sometimes find ourselves sharing our living space with some of nature’s less-desirable creatures.
My wife, like many women, cannot abide spiders or snakes. Actually, she can deal with spiders, usually by spraying them with enough insecticide to drown Godzilla or by smushing them a few hundred times with one of my shoes.
Snakes are a whole other matter. I discovered this some years ago, back when our two sons were quite young. My wife and the boys had been sitting on the couch, reading a book together, when she saw something slither behind the refrigerator. My wife instantly recognized that something as a snake.
She later related how the hair had stood up on the back of her neck as she tried to hide her rising panic from the kids. She knew one thing for certain, and that was that the snake had to go.
My wife had armed herself with a broom and a dustpan and was about to do battle with the reprehensible reptile when I came into the house after completing some fieldwork. She was greatly relieved by my presence and anxiously described what had happened.
Her account led me to believe that a gargantuan boa constrictor was coiled behind the refrigerator, patiently waiting for an opportunity to spring out and wrap itself around one of our kids. She may have been influenced by the fact that she had been reading “The Swiss Family Robinson” to our boys, a story in which the family’s donkey suffers a similar fate.
She told me that, since I was the man of the house, it was up to me to rectify this snake situation. I took the broom, carefully moved the fridge and … came face to face with a herpetological horror.
Except that it wasn’t exactly the serpent my wife had described. It was, in fact, a baby garter snake and wasn’t much larger than a nightcrawler.
I snatched the squirming serpent and showed it to our boys. I let them pet it, and they marveled at its smooth, scaly skin and its slithery forked tongue. The whole time my wife was shrieking in a high-pitched voice, “Get it out, get it out!”
The boys and I released the garter snake at the edge of a nearby hayfield. It has never been back; no doubt its cold-blooded feelings were hurt by my wife’s chilly reception.
A summer or two later, I had just gotten home at the end of the day when our youngest son came running up to me and breathlessly reported that there was a monster in our haymow. I was skeptical about his tale as the lad was known for his vivid imagination. Still, I thought it best to humor him and check it out.
I poked my head up into the haymow, where our kids often played, but saw nothing. “No, Dad,” the boy insisted, “Look higher. See it?”
I did as he suggested, and the hair stood up on the back of my neck. There, on a small platform near the roof of the haymow, sat a humungous boar raccoon. Our eyes locked, and the beast guttered out a menacing growl.
I went to the house and returned with my .22 rifle. I pumped a couple of slugs into the foul-tempered intruder, and he fell onto the haymow floor with a satisfying thump.
Examination revealed that the raccoon was mangy and had dozens of ticks. He also weighed about 40 pounds. He didn’t look anything at all like the jolly, fuzzy cartoon portrayal of that particular critter.
I later described the masked monster to my wife, tossing in the factoid that raccoons are known carriers of rabies. I was again lauded as the household hero and rewarded with copious kisses.
Which just goes to show that there’s nothing like a little animal alarm to raise a country guy’s stock in his wife’s eyes. Who knows? Maybe she’ll find a salamander behind the toilet someday.
That is, if I can manage to catch a salamander.
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, South Dakota. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry works full time for Dairy Star as a staff writer and ad salesman. Feel free to email him at jerry.n@dairystar.com.

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