Sunday, October 22, 2006


WHAT A BUNCH OF ANIMALS!


Yesterday must have been Animal Day around here. After my experience the previous night with the musical Baron, I was out on the deck early yesterday afternoon sorting firewood into the holder when I spotted a monkey swaggering up the inner road like he owned it, when in fact - at least, de jure - I own it. Well, this half of it. The monkeys just hold some vague unwritten heritage-based title, founded on nothing but eons of actual possession.

I went to the edge of the deck so he could see me and I pegged a monkeyrock to let him know this was my turf and I have a deed made of paper to prove it. He ran on up the hill, and when out of sight and rockshot, gave one long complex screech. He was followed soon after by a lot of monkeys, many lots of monkeys, a mountainside of monkeys, loping past my place on their way upmountain for whatever is happening up there this time of year, perhaps meeting of the 'families,' must be a lot of wild fruits and nuts fully ripe about now, chestnuts, akebi etc., to say nothing of homo sapiens' orchards and gardens along the way. (I later heard the loud clanging of spoons on potbottoms from a distant upmountain neighbor as the ascending horde reached his gardens and vineyards.)

The interesting thing was that after the single complex screech, any monkey who passed my place on the road ran past quickly, even though I was invisible to them until they reached my gateway, plus I was downwind and making no noise. More than half the tribe were just past infancy, many still clinging to their mothers' backs, some of the more courageous little ones running free in curiosity at this vast new world that - according to their parents - was all theirs; they'd stop to look around mischievously and poke into everything, but not one of them passed by on the road or came near my property, apparently aware that in some incomprehensible way I claimed 'possession.' Most of the monkeys - and all of the little ones - traveled past on the newly cleared property across the road.

Somehow they'd all gotten the message. None came even to explore after my vegetables, or just out of curiosity. The message had said "There's a human there and he throws rocks that reach the road, so if you're a grown up on the road, run past there; all others use the farther piece of property where the rocks won't reach." And so they did. In great numbers. There must have been several hundred barrelfuls of monkeys. The whole moving tribe was more than 50 meters wide, reaching all the way to the further inner road; they passed by steadily in groups and solos for about 10 minutes.

Well after sunset, while I was out carefully examining the amazing selection of diamonds that had been strewn randomly on the dark blue velvet overhead, I heard an unusually loud blundering rustle coming from the next property up. I went and got a flashlight and came back out, and there was the Baron, standing in front of my shiitake logs and paying no attention to my presence, sound, smell or light, as though he was distracted. He just stood there. It wasn't like him to blunder, either; normally he would just jump over bushy obstacles. He walked on slowly across my garden and I saw that he was limping. His left hind leg was lame; he was walking on three legs. I couldn't tell if the leg was broken or what, but it was serious, because he didn't care about me being only 15 meters away from him in the dark, behind a flashlight. He stood there looking this way and that, then he put his head down and blundered on through the bushes that edge the lower side of my land, pushed on through the new bamboo and shoved on onto the really thick old stuff that he used to leap lightly over. For some time I heard him in there, shoving his way around, fixing up a place to lie down, now that his old hangout was gone.

I was still watching when I heard another noise from right about where the Baron had pushed his way out of my garden. I looked and there were two bright golden eyes looking back. It was a dog... no, too small... a cat... no, too long... it was a ferret... no, too bulky and dark... it was a tanuki! The first I've seen around here, oddly enough. It ran playfully into the garden and leaped upon another tanuki that was already there grubbing for bugs and worms. They tumbled around, completely ignoring me and my light. I watched them run and jump and tumble and grub for ten minutes, then let them alone to get on with their night's work.

7 comments:

Maya's Granny said...

How nice to have tanuki neighbors who don't seem to eat your garden. I do hope that the Baron recovers.

And isn't this blogging world amazing, that a woman in Alaska can be concerned for an animal in Japan that she will never see?

Winston said...

You have such a wonderful setting there, on the edge of, or perhaps in the middle of, a wild animal preserve of sorts. So often you write of their comings and goings, and particularly the shenanigans of the monkeys, and it is always such a pleasurable read...

Joy Des Jardins said...

Another wonderful animal adventure with you Robert....it's like reading a good book...just in short spurts. Brady And The Beasts...what do you think?

Robert Brady said...

It is indeed amazing that such adventures as these can be shared (worldwide!) as they happen; they're fun too, at least most of them. Where I live is a protected mountain forest area (this small portion was allowed housebuilding using mt. water before the area was so designated). Joy, if I ever use that great title, I'll give you credit.

Chancy said...

I wonder how one says "Doctor Doolittle" in Japanese.

Those animals really like you Robert.

Robert Brady said...

Let's just say we're fellows in an ancient contest. Sometimes they have to honor my wiles and sometimes I'm amazed by theirs.

Kate said...

I can't believe I thought the Tanuki was mythological until I read this.