Finally, a warm day with little snow on the ground that happens to be on a weekend when I'm also not feeling too lazy. It was sunny and beautiful today, so I got out and cleaned up -- two bags and one large item -- for the first time since September, I think. Now that the snow's melted off, you can see tunnels that mice made under the snow all over the place, on the hill, in the field, and near the stream. Bits of vegetation that presumably lined the tunnels and shallow depressions in the ground mark the tunnels, which sometimes branch out this way and that or run straight into their owner's hole. I wonder what species it is. I'm tempted to say deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) just because I know they're common as dirt and live everywhere.
Tomorrow, some kid will go to his fort after school and find that it isn't there anymore. I wouldn't mind some kids using the sheltered area under a copse of trees in the middle of a field as their fort so much, except that they trashed the place. All sorts of food related garbage, including a bag of chips and jar of salsa sheltered under their sleds. Were you really going to eat something you'd left out in the field? I even found their secret stash -- an air pistol, complete with a carton of bb's. Oh, how very naughty. Hopefully they weren't shooting at birds or anything. I scribbled a note on a scrap of their own trash and left it where the stash was, asking if this was their own fort, why did they trash it? And firearms (including air guns) are illegal out here, as is harassing, harming, or removing animals and plants. I left my number. If they want the gun back, we'll talk.
After dropping off the gun and bb's, which were annoying extra weight, at home, I returned to keep cleaning, and was greeted by the most aggressive dog I've ever met outdoors. It's common practice around here, even though it's against the rules, for people to let their dogs off-leash while they're out walking them. But it should have been obvious to the girl (perhaps in her late teens) walking him that this dog, who was perhaps annoyed about the ridiculous silver dog jacket he was being forced to wear, was extremely aggressive and should have been on a leash. He was a medium sized dog, large enough to give me pause when he ran up barking at me. The girl called him, but to no avail; if your dog is going to be off-leash you should at least have good voice command of him! He seemed to be trying to hold me at bay, becoming more aggressive whenever I started walking. When I tried to walk away, he bit me! Lunged from behind and nipped me on the thigh! I told the girl that he bit me and he needs to be on a leash. When she finally chased him down, I saw her put it on him. A less tolerant person would have called animal control and had the dog impounded and possibly killed. The owner could be fined, at least, for so recklessly turning a highly aggressive dog loose on the public. I guess I let her off easy. But that dog gave me a good welt, and a very minor breakage of the skin, so now I might have to get a tetanus shot. Either that, or be forced to stalk the night as a weredog, which admittedly would be pretty cool.
I made my circuit, I cleaned up. It got a little hard on the last leg, when I was dragging a long, thin strip of metal in one hand and hauling a full bag in the other. And I stopped when I reached the prairie dog colony, because I noticed a large number of holes that had been maliciously plugged up by someone. I spent a good twenty minutes at least, until it was getting dark and chilly and I felt a need to get that bag and metal thing to the drop off already, pulling out big rocks and digging out those holes. Next to one was a dead prairie dog, which appeared to be pretty freshly killed. I couldn't tell by what, obviously not a coyote or bird of prey, because there wouldn't be anything left. If it was some kid... I hope it wasn't. I put the trash in its spot and walked home.
It really was a beautiful afternoon and evening, scarcely a cloud in the sky, and even in the dark on the way home I was in a t-shirt. It was kind of an adventuresome afternoon -- I've never been bitten by a mean dog in the course of cleaning before! Nor have I found a gun before. And I'm troubled at just how many of the prairie dog homes had big rocks stuffed in them. As I pried the rocks out, I directed a thought to whomever did it: I love them more than you hate them; that's why you, and people like you, have already lost. Really, don't you have to believe that love conquers hate in the end? It's easy to believe that on a beautiful day, at least.