Things that scratch in the night …

Whenever I return to my land after being away for a time, I arrive with trepidation – always relieved when I first see the yurpee from a distance, apparently intact.

I always have three fears. One is that the place might have been discovered and ransacked (as I’ve heard happened to someone’s trailer in the vicinity). This is unlikely, given my location, but possible. It could happen.

Second, I wonder whether the canvas roof has blown off. My place gets monsoon-type storms, with high winds. A few points of attachment have ripped. It could happen.

Third, I wonder if the door has come open and an animal has moved in. The door doesn’t have an exterior latch, it just sticks really badly because it’s a bit out of square (*update: I’ve installed an exterior bolt!). Pulling it very tightly closed, so that it needed a heavy shove to open, seemed quite adequate. I’ve left it for months at a time this way, and it’s been fine.

When I came back last week after having been away for nearly a month and a half, the door was ajar. Inside, I was relieved to find everything apparently as I’d left it – till I discovered that someone had indeed moved in.

There was a nest under a chair: a pile of shredded toilet tissue, with a rounded indentation where the creature slept – and poop pellets all over the place.

So this nest looked familiar – like the mouse nests I’d found before the yurpee was as tight as it is now. Except that this creature had scattered cholla spines all around (security measure?) – and had artfully placed a peach pit in the center of the space.

There was one more difference: this nest was HUGE. Judging by the size of the indentation in the toilet tissue – much larger than my fist – whatever the animal was, it was the size of a …

Of a large rat. That’s what I figured.

Just before arriving, I’d been talking with a neighbor about the rats in the area, and he’d said they get Big.

Big.

Yikes.

I poked around the things in the yurpee but didn’t find the creature.

What would you do?

Me, I cleaned up the bulk of the mess and went to sleep. I was tired, and after having been away for six weeks, I wanted to sleep in my own bed, rat or no rat.

I closed the door snugly, in hopes that the thing was outside.

Late at night, I heard a scratching, but couldn’t tell whether it had come from inside or out. I went back to sleep.

A little later, I felt a light pressure on my back.

THE THING WAS SITTING ON MY BACK!

I bucked it off and sat up, with all the emotions you might imagine.

Groped around for a flashlight, flashed it around the yurpee, but saw nothing.

You’ll understand how tired I was when I say: I went right back to sleep.

A little later I was awakened again, this time by a scratching sound that came from near the door.

I sat up, flicked on the flashlight – and finally saw it.

It was crouched in the shadows by the door, frozen in the glare of my light, wide-eyed, its ears flattened back along its spine.

A baby bunny!

Since then, I’ve seen it holed up under the tarp at the end of the lumber pile. But at night I often hear something scratching outside around the door … and on warm nights, when I leave the door a little open for air, I think it comes in. I think it might snuggle up next to me, without my knowing it, and then leave at dawn, before I wake.

It could happen.

About Toze

Toze Weaver lives in Apache County, Arizona. She writes about her work on the land at fringed sage and maintains a website and blog about botanical medicine. Toze holds degrees in mathematics, English literature, and fiction writing. Her work experience includes twenty-plus years as a freelance copy editor and six growthful years as operations manager at Reevis Mountain School of Self-Reliance.

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