Sunday, 3 September 2006


Originally published 8/25/06 Mississippi Weekender

I love critters.

My dictionary of critters is almost all mammals, which definitely includes my husband, dog and kitten. Critters are not birds, spiders, or crickets, nor or they anything creepy-crawly, except for snakes. Snakes somehow fit into my critter kingdom. Critters are furry, possibly rodent-y, and will most likely eat something you don’t want them to (gardens and garbage), appear where you least expect them (snake slithering over your toes as you step outside) or take up habitation in a most undesirable place (your house, car or spare bedroom or office chair searching porn on the internet).

Now before you think that I’m some California chick that knows nothing about critter life, let me assure you that I am qualified to discuss this subject. I have camped, hiked, and prayed that a grizzly wouldn’t eat me as it sniffed me from the opposite side of a thin wall in a ghost town where I was camping. I’ve been close enough to tell you that grizzlies smell like garbage, sewer and wet dog all at the same time. But that’s a story for another day. Leave the grizzly experiences for the unfortunate, or, if you find yourself in a grizzly critter situation, pray that you run faster than your companions.

Critter life in Lanark County is fascinating no matter where I go. There’s my friend Roxane, who told me of the battle of the bats in her belfry…oh, I mean her attic, house, family room. The bats almost made her move out, but she got smart, raised the rent, called an expert and sent the bats packing. At least she had the mosquitoes in her living room conquered. But now she has this strange aversion to sunlight…update – two or three bats refuse to move out, and the – ahem, bat-man is a friend of the critters and refuses to help them rid their house of the vampireous critters, even though they’ve paid him about a thousand bucks to do just that….get rid of them…gotta love the critters.

Then there’s Jennifer, a dear friend who has taught me that nature is really na-chur, and even if you stretch a dead snake (that met its demise in her lawnmower) between two sticks to show your children the wonders of decomposition and critter dining habits, this na-chur thing should be appreciated. And she’s right. She points at every butterfly, goose and loon that passes near us, no matter where we are. Look! Na-chur! It’s one of the things that makes Jen, well – Jen, but in the adorably unaffected way she says it, I kind of see na-chur a little differently as well.
Where else can a person drive down a busy highway only to stop and let a mama bear and her two cubs cross? Where else does a wolf take up winter residence across the road from your house, making you wonder if you should take a silver bullet with you when you take the dog out for his constitutional, and yet make you hope you get to see him, just a glimpse, before running like a frightened sissy back into the safety of your house? And where else can you watch the deer eat your crab apples, or drive by and honk at a grazing moose?

I’m sure that others will say that they have better critter life where they live. But the truth is, from where I’ve lived, Lanark County has the best critters, even if they do haunt our belfries, make messes, provide nasty dining extravaganzas for other critters and way too often get in the way of our vehicles. We should feel honoured that they want to hang out with us at all.

And before you get mad at the next critter that tips your garbage cans, remember this. We're moving in to their land, they aren't moving in to ours.