The First Animals of Our Barnyard

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First, we noticed small feline tracks in the snow around our cars, leading towards the barn. We soon spotted the large black cat, too long-haired to see how bony he might be after this cold winter. Skittish, he bolted if he even saw us peeking out the kitchen window. He seemed to appear and disappear.

Next came the wild turkeys, fat bodies clinging to the spindly sumac trees behind the barn as they pecked the furry red sumac tufts. The toms proudly dangled their beards from their chests. One turkey carried a clump of burdock velcroed to its feathers. We followed turkey tracks right around the front of the barn, and over the largest drift near the old milkhouse.

One evening since snowmelt, we watched a possum saunter up our driveway, looking stoned. “Do they always walk like that?” I asked Andrew, laughing.

“Maybe he’s just waking up from hibernation,” he guessed.

The possum hunch-waddled straight into our barn. I wondered if he’d encounter the cat.

Last week, a bunny appeared. This was not a wild bunny wearing various shades of brown. We’ve seen those all winter, eating the red-berried thorn bush outside the guest bedroom window, ducking below the small deck at the side door, and trafficking under the loading dock that holds old trucks. But this bunny was white.

It just hopped out of our barn one morning, as if it had been there all along. Andrew walked out with an apple, sliced in half, spooking the bunny, and set the apple by the brick pile. The bunny emerged again; bunnies like apples.

We speculated—an escapee from the renting college student who kept rabbits in a camper until mid-December? A drive-by drop-off bunny, set free at our place by owners who were done with it? A stray bunny, busted free and gone feral?

Two days later, as the sun drew dusk down over the farm, Andrew and I stood at the bay window, facing away from the barns. A wild bunny hopped into view, visible crossing patches of snow, then hidden on the grass. Behind her came the white bunny, hard to see on the snow, but bright across the grass. He pursued her around the yard, casually, reminding me of Peter Rabbit going “lippity lippity” in Mr. McGregor’s garden.

That was the last we saw him, that symbol of frisky springtime fertility. I like to imagine that the white bunny continues to evade coyotes and chase wild lady bunnies. “I guess he moved on,” Andrew explained gently to Stella. “He was a traveling bunny.”

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