There was one neighborhood in Jacksonville where I heard sirens every night. For two years. A woman had her purse snatched in broad daylight, and she was a cop. I heard gun shots a few times and more domestic disputes than I care to remember. I heard kids crying for hours on end and guys blasting rap at four in the morning. There was a lot of noise in that place. The apartment I got after that one was a few blocks from the ocean and on Sunday mornings, when everyone else was at church and Pico and I played Frisbee, I could clearly hear the rolling sound of the ocean.
But out here, I’ve never heard sirens. I saw flashing lights one time, when the fire department came to put out my chimney fire, but that’s it. Occasionally I can hear a big-rig downshifting on Route 3, but even that is a quiet rumble in the distance.
I have one flashlight that is amazing. This thing is basically a light saber. After dark, before I let Pico out, I go out first and scan the fields with the big light to see what animals are hanging around. Usually there’s a bunch of deer (nine the other night) and that’s it. I let the screen door slam and they take off into the upper field, where Pico won’t see them and give chase.
Last night though, I went out and checked around. About halfway up the Upper Field, I saw a set of eyes glowing green in the dark. I waited and scanned around, thinking I would see some other eyes to confirm that it was just some deer, but no other eyes showed up. I slammed the screen door and watched the eyes. They didn’t move at the sound. As I stood there in my slippers watching the eyes, they watched me back.
And then a thought entered my mind. What if this was the bear that I’ve seen so many signs of? There’s almost never just one deer hanging out by itself, and the non-plussed attitude displayed at the sound of the door slamming made me think that maybe it was the bear. He was too far away for me to see clearly, but it was clear that he was not taking off just because some door closed. But when I slammed the door again, the head came up and I caught a good glimpse of a doe standing near the upper edge of the field.
My tensions relaxed, I went and got Pico, comfortable in the fact that the deer was far enough away that Pico wouldn’t take off after it, and that it was not a bear. When Pico’s tags jingled, the deer took to the woods. I could hear the low bass vibrations of it bounding away. Pico sniffed around and I watched with the light saber pointed not directly at him, but off to the side. I don’t want to blind him.
It was quiet and calm, with only an infrequent rustle of leaves to fill the void. And then I heard the low bass vibrations of a moving animal. I shined around and saw no eyes, but the upper field hasn’t been mowed in years and the shrubs are getting big, providing great cover for whatever it was I was hearing. The sound grew louder and I looked at Pico to see where he was. He was at least a hundred yards away with no clue about what was running through the field. I couldn’t tell where it was coming from or what direction it was heading, but my immediate thought was “bear.”
I glanced at the clueless Pico once again and just then six set of eyes came into view. It was a doe and two fawns, apparently hidden in my first inspection of the field, taking off in the opposite direction. I relaxed then and shut off the light. I could see Pico trotting back towards the cabin in the moonlight. Just then a shriek came out of the night. It took my brain a moment to process that it was an owl, and it scared me. Bad.