Archived Story

The animals think I’m a tree

Published 10:47am Friday, March 9, 2012

It’s not that I’m not aware that I’m tall. 6’ 2,” actually.
I was the humiliated child that stood in the rear, ‘geek row,’ along with other aspiring ectomorphs, all boys, for elementary school class photos. In senior high, the gym coach made several fruitless attempts to urge me to take up basketball. Later, as an adult boarding a flight sometime during the 20 years that I toured heavily as a stand-up comic, I finally snapped to a flight attendant who reminded me to “mind your head.”
“I’ve had this head for over 30 years. I fly twice a week and have flown with you, personally, four times this month. I think I can remember to mind my head.”
And then I hit my head.
But there certainly are bonus points for being tall: spotting my luggage easily on the airport carousel, being passed up by a potential mugger who wonders if I might be a transvestite, and, best of all, being mistaken for a tree.
At least that’s my latest theory.
Not quite two weeks ago, stooped over in the wash rack in front of the barn and scrubbing out water bucks, the crows were the first to alert me that a threat had infiltrated the field. Normally, it’s Teddy, our murderous donkey, but he was still eating breakfast in the back paddock, and, glancing up in the direction of their hysterical cawing, I caught sight of a young male, fox, resplendent golden-red coat gleaming in the early morning light, sinking back on his haunches to scratch himself beneath one of the nearby oaks. Leaving my chore, I walked carefully to the gate to get a closer look. He took note of me and, to my amazement, rose, stretched lazily, and then trotted directly over. I stood stock-still: any abnormal behavior exhibited by a wild animal, particularly a fox, can be indicative of rabies, and I knew my truck was parked directly behind me if I needed to leap inside for safety. When Reynard was no more than twenty feet away, he took a sharp left and climbed atop the grave of one of my horses, sniffed, dug around a bit, then dismounted and trotted towards me once again. He halted, this time just beneath the paddock railing and eyed me cautiously- yet there was a glint in his eye that I recognized as one I see in my own terriers. He plunged downwards upon his forelegs in the half-bow that a playful dog will offer, then turned and, in a flash, streaked across the field into the woods.
And just this morning, my youngest horse, Valentino, left his grain, (unheard of) to look worriedly out his stall window into the same field. I’ve learned from experience, particularly during a ride on him, when, as a four year old, he insisted there was something terrifying in the woods and it turned out to be a bear, to listen to his opinion. Following his gaze, I could see movement beneath a copse of trees down the hill and stepped out of the barn to investigate.
Standing on top of what Paul and I refer to as “Suicide Hill” when we have the rare opportunity to do some sledding, I saw a doe and her autumn born youngster, still nursing, down at the bottom. The mother returned my gaze, but as I could see she was resting one hind leg, it was apparent she wasn’t poised for flight- if anything, she was enjoying a doze in the sun. Her charge, however, full of spring fever, left her side and tore across the woodland in several, large, loops, then, overcome with curiosity, peeled off her curved line and charged straight up the hill towards me.
Half way up, she slowed and stood, rooted, staring, then feeling no threat, slowly lowered her head and began to pick at the early grass coming up beneath the leaves. I stayed still, waited her out and, after a few minutes, boredom won her over: she turned and flew back to her mother, white tail flagging.
“It’s gotta be these brown Carhart’s I zip into each morning before going out to the barn,” I mused to Paul after relaying my adventure over breakfast. “The animals think I’m a tree.”
After a few moments of silence, I added, “Thank you very much.”
“What did I do?” Paul asked, perplexed.
“Nothing.” I retorted, rising to carry my mug to the sink. “That’s the problem. You were supposed to say, “Well, that’s ridiculous. No animal could mistake your shapely figure for a Tulip Poplar.”
“But it’s Lent.” Paul began. “I hate to begin Lent not being truthful.”
Thinking it best to discard the conversation, I returned to the barn, followed by the dogs.
And gave them a wide berth.

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