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A stealthy presence is the solitary ringtail cat, a western cousin of the coon. Our local ringtail once took to sleeping in the rafters of the shed. Every time Craig went in to turn the pool on or off, the ringtail would wake up and make an ugly face. Then he would turn over and go back to sleep. What a grump.
One night in the spring of Wily's twelfth year, she was out on the deck outside our bedroom. We heard her scramble up and run off into the yard. Then she shrieked and screamed like she was being killed. We crashed into each other dashing for the door. Out of the way! Craig yelled. He ran out into the yard while I wrung my hands.
Not a minute later he was back with Wily. We could find nothing wrong with her except that she was huffing like a blown racehorse. Something had scared her within an inch of her life. We saw and heard nothing in the yard.
That was Saturday night. The next day, I was walking around the yard looking for clues about what had gone on, when I noticed that the last few peaches, which I had been planning to pick and cook that day, were gone. High up in the peach tree, I saw a couple of broken branches.
So I have a theory. Racoons are bold, and when they come around they don't care who knows it. Wily would have known if there were raccoons in the tree, and I doubt she would have rushed them. I think it was the lone, quiet ringtail. Wily heard a noise, maybe the snap of a breaking limb, and dashed up to the peach. There the ringtail stood his ground, showed some teeth, maybe said something nasty, and Wily was terrified at the nerve of the animal she surprised.
Old and frightened, Wily never chased the animals again. And from that time, emboldened, they crept closer. The night animals reclaimed the yard that had once been theirs.
Continue: Night Animals by Day
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The Year of the
The Year of the Night Animals