So this is what the field looks like when I go three months without cleaning. Well, I suppose it’s nice to be needed. Not really. Picked up 4 fat bags of trash today, 7 golf balls. I spent about three hours just working on the hill, which I might usually spend thirty minutes on. On the hill, I found what appears to be a cow femur. Odd, since the nearest cow is at least one or two miles away. It’s mostly clean and white, yet not desiccated, so it’s somewhat fresh. One end was broken, the marrow eaten out, and it’s clearly been gnawed on. I can’t imagine a coyote bringing down a full grown cow; perhaps one died by some other means, and the coyotes simply didn’t let it go to waste, and one strong-necked coyote decided to trot one all the way over here.
Under the stump of the tree wreck, I found the skull belonging to the animal whose bones I described some months ago. I had found the mandible previously, but not the skull. Now, it was just laying there. It must either be a fox or a raccoon skull. I thought a fox, but perhaps the nose is a bit short. At the same place, beneath the cottonwood stump, I also noticed tiny, delicate bones, and found the inch-long jawbone of a field mouse (or some similar small rodent). The fallen tree almost seems like a graveyard of some sort, a hallowed spot. Later, as I walked toward the center of the field to grab a conspicuous bag, I was surprised to see another skull on the grass. This one had a relatively short nose and large eyes. Perhaps it was a raccoon, or a domestic cat, although I thought it was rather large for a cat. These are the only skulls I’ve ever seen in the field. (I didn’t take them, of course, as I think it’s better and more respectful to leave them in nature. I took pictures of them.)
As the afternoon wore on I worked my way across the hill, west to east, and came near the fox den. I hadn’t seen them lately, and wondered if there were any kits this year. Kids have sledded on the hill very near the den this winter, crushing down all the tall grass, and I wondered if the lack of cover might have convinced them not to use the den this year. Instead, I happened to stumble onto the den itself, a place I’ve always avoided before out of consideration for the foxes, and I worked the hill. What I found outraged me. Some bastard had plugged two entrances to the den with large rocks and wood. A third hole, a little removed, was still clear. Who would do this? The sentiment I’ve seen in the past is positive, even protective, of the foxes and their cute little ones. Who would want to get rid of our foxes? Hopefully they weren’t in there when the exits were plugged. What kind of person would do that? I suppose the foxes just had to den somewhere else this year. Thanks a lot, jerk. It only takes a few malicious humans to mess things up. I hope the foxes come back. I unplugged the den. I’m sure something will move in; it’s too nice a hole in the ground to remain vacant.
As I was finishing up the hill, I was called home to look after my niece while my folks went out. She was sitting close to the TV, pouring honey into the palm of her hand and eating it. After Spongebob and yet another episode of some very not-funny children’s sitcom, I got her to put on some jeans and come out with me. She didn’t seem to mind – she was very helpful and even energetic. I showed her the skulls and we hypothesized about what they might be. We picked up near the prairie dogs and along the creek, past the playground, which she didn’t even seem interested to go play on – I think she was actually engaged in tromping around the creek and picking up trash. She was surprised at the number of pop cans, wondered where all this stuff comes from, and started finding golf balls, which we counted. We got a lot more done than I thought would be possible before dark; she quickly and thoroughly picked up several sections of the creek. By the time we got to the old bridge over the creek, though, it was nearly dark. And the place was a mess, dozens of pieces of Styrofoam littering the little water hole there, and teenager associated garbage over by their little spot under the trees – even a garbage can. We picked up what we could before it got dark and headed back. I had needed to open another bag as we worked along the creek, so I picked up that one as we went back, and she volunteered to carry the lighter bag, though it looked too big for her. It was dark as we headed home, but I felt I’d done something good by getting her out from under the TV for a while, and she didn’t seem to mind. And the field is four bags cleaner.