Friday, January 11, 2013

Flying Squirrels, Possums, and Hard-Topped Beetles

     You might wonder how flying squirrels, possums and beetles might figure into a blog about solo doctors becoming obsolete, or about one particular doctor being hammered so relentlessly by government patrols that she feels she has to go into hiding.
     For one thing, all three creatures appeared in my world this week, so there has to be a connection.  There are no coincidences, right?  Everything has meaning, if you take time to look for it.
     For another, I'm interested, as a consequence of this predicament of mine, in how my fellow earthlings defend themselves against predators.  Maybe they have something to teach me--especially the ones who show up when I most need help.  Humans are great imitators, and we can learn a thing or two from animals.
     First, there was the beetle.  It was trundling through the compost heap when one of the chickens spotted it.  What a find, that Barred Rock must have been thinking.   It was a whale of a bug--at least an inch from head to tail--and meaty-looking, under the shell, and not too fast of foot.
     The chicken did its usual thing, snatching the beetle in its beak and running like a bandit to the far side of the garden.  It had three sidekicks, who are the chicken's standard hunting pals--except when there's something good to eat and friendship turns to rivalry.
     Peck, peck, peck, they all took turns jabbing the beetle with the force of pick-axes.  Chickens can break through crab legs and pomegranate shells, if they have to.  I've seen them tear up raw grouper fish heads, so why were they having such a hard time with this measly beetle?
     I think it was a stag beetle--with a stretch-limo's sturdy black top, and pincers that reminded me of the crawfish my brother and I netted in streams, as kids.  The stag beetle's back must have been tough as a clamshell, made of collagen and keratin and calcium, because no amount of hacking and jimmying seemed to work to break it open.  Therefore, the beetle's tender insides remained safe.
     Chickens work hard, but they get bored easily, like FBI agents.  If there's nothing to be gained--no intrigue, no sport, no easy pickings--they move on.
     The message:  have a tough defense.  The toughest defense is to have done nothing wrong.  I'm in good shape, in that regard.
     Two days later, there was a flying squirrel in my house.  I thought flying squirrels were rare, but there it was, perhaps a trophy from the cats.  Or, maybe it had sailed in through my bathroom door that morning, after I'd done my personal weather report by standing on the deck facing north and found the breeze so fragrant with tea olive blossoms that I kept the door open the whole while I went into the kitchen to brew coffee.
     Later that day the squirrel appeared, running along curtain rods and gliding across rooms to elude the cats.  It couldn't escape, with all the doors closed, any more than I can make myself invisible from the feds at this moment in time.  But its keen attentiveness and remarkable capacity for low-altitude flight allowed it to keep dodging them, and soon they suffered so much feline chagrin that they slunk out of sight, pretending they hadn't really been interested in the squirrel, after all.
     With the front door wide open and a little coaxing from a broom, the squirrel flew outside and was rendered invisible, dark brown fur against dark brown oak bark, in a matter of seconds.  But not before I saw its huge "wingspan"--a web of tissue extending from its wrists to ankles, an adaptation that is thought, by evolutionists, to be twenty million years old.
     The message:  wear out the cats, embarrass them, because they don't have the means to catch you.
     The feds have been on my case for two and a half years, at least.  I think they may have embarrassed themselves, because there simply isn't anything to show the DOJ.  Sorry.  Time to slink away.
     Last night, the possum appeared.  This isn't the first time.  Possums stick around because...well, they're all over the place in America.  They like my backyard because it's a veritable smorgasbord every night at the compost heap and worm pit, where I leave kitchen refuse with a high nutritional value.
     It's a long time since I actually believed a dead-looking possum was dead.  The dogs were nudging the creature, or carrying it around in their jaws like a pair of limp denim shorts, but it simply wouldn't move.
     Possums fall into a semi-comatose state when attacked, thereby tricking predators into believing the game is over.  They can "play possum" for hours at a stretch, barely breathing, blank-staring, in a state of hemiparesis.  If they tasted like chocolate or peanut butter it would be all over.  But, except from the vantage point of maggots, vultures and a handful of backwoods humans, possums don't make very tasty victuals.  My dogs, for instance, have no interest in consuming the possums they bring home.  They're just looking for a little fun.
     I fenced the dogs in for the night, opened a porch door, and left a can of cat food on the far edge of the deck.  This morning, as usual, the can had been licked clean and the possum was gone.  The dogs, free again, meandered about for twenty minutes, sniffing the spots where the possum had last been seen, then took up a berth on the sand in the shade, and fell asleep.  Not much drama in that.
     The message:  no one wants to consume me.  The watchdogs are sort of dumb, and sleepy.  When there isn't much sport they'd just as soon sniff around, looking mean, or lie about in the shade, taking up space and getting fed by the rest of us, who do all the work.

1 comment:

  1. Dr. C, you are a very wise lady. We will miss you.

    Donna Krueger