The Shriek of the Wild

By Susan Brown


First and foremost, I may be a country girl at heart, but I grew up and lived​​ years​​ of my adult life in city and suburbs. Sure, I had a few tussles with encroaching ants and once or twice mice and rats, but my baptism into the joys of country living was a bit of a shock.


For example, this morning I let the dogs out while I made coffee and opened a bag of dog food (best quality, no corn or byproducts). Emmett returned a few minutes later with his breakfast contribution: a​​ freshly slain rabbit that he proudly dropped at my feet.


I barely shrieked – just a squeak really – but his drooping ears and tail were clear indicators that I had not properly appreciated his prowess and gift. After dealing with the mess and disinfecting the floor, I tried to redeem myself by offering​​ Emmett​​ cheese and an empty yogurt cup. He was more gracious about accepting the gifts than I had been, but he was clearly disappointed.


And back to why we were up early enough for the dogs to hunt the nocturnal bunnies. We had had a brief turf war around five when my daughter took her dog,​​ Molly,​​ out to do her business. Molly likes to push boundaries. For some reason, according to dog protocol, she is not allowed in my bedroom during the wee hours. They settled the issue with a few ritual growls,​​ just enough to wake me up.​​ 


I switched on my light only to discover​​ a​​ spider happily spinning a web on​​ the​​ lampshade inches from my face. When I tried to remove her, she dropped down to​​ bunker​​ beside my bed.​​ Telling myself that it was only a little​​ non-poisonous spider, a bonus guest​​ that would probably​​ chow down on​​ the mosquito that​​ had​​ buzzed me the night before, I tried to sleep.​​ 




After the third time I​​ had​​ jerked upright, convinced that eight little feet were scurrying across my face, I decided there was no remedy but coffee and grumbling.​​ 


In the city, we once had a​​ lone​​ rat take up residence in​​ our​​ shed. My old dog, Billy Braveheart dealt with the intruder ($350 at the vet because the rat fought back). Here in the bucolic​​ woods and pastures, there are​​ uncountable​​ field rats contributing their​​ bit​​ to the food chain –​​ hawks, coyotes, owls, and eagles maintain the balance of nature.​​ 


However,​​ I didn’t connect that survival out here means​​ that​​ every creature​​ grabs​​ for​​ any advantage. Trying to be a good neighbor, I​​ had​​ let a friend​​ overwinter his crab traps in my shed. Come spring, I discovered the​​ miniscule​​ bits of​​ rotting​​ fish had​​ lured more than crabs​​ ​​ my shed​​ had become​​ a rat condo where rapidly growing generations​​ safely​​ sheltered from the predations of the predators.​​ 


Foul. Smelly. Gross beyond belief.​​ Even little field rats are not good tenants.


My daughter and son-in-law used masks and disinfectant bleach while they stripped the​​ 30 foot​​ shed​​ to​​ its​​ studs. Almost everything stored in there had to be carted to the dump. My ignorance is going to cost me big time in insulation and reconstruction.​​ 


Stupid costs money.​​ And nature​​ is unforgiving of stupid.


I’ve survived a rooster who crowed day and night (the neighborhood celebrated when an eagle made a meal of him), discovered that a possum really does play possum when a dog catches it,​​ seen the​​ bloody​​ havoc of a weasel in a chicken coop, come face to face with a snake sunning itself in a shrub I was pruning,​​ been kept awake by the​​ musical​​ yipping of hunting​​ coyotes,​​ and been sadly made aware that young squirrels make mistakes as dumb as young teens (though usually a lot more fatal).


My more experienced neighbors laugh at me, but they help me out. There’s​​ clear evidence out here as to​​ why nature has decreed that small animals have​​ an​​ incredible numbers of babies. In the meantime, I have​​ acquired a little more education​​ on​​ the “circle of life.”


It isn’t an easy transition for a naïve city girl, but​​ the trade off is that I​​ get to​​ listen to the songs of more birds than I can name, breathe deliciously fresh air, glimpse​​ creatures I had only seen​​ in pictures, and​​ above all,​​ experience a deep sense that​​ away from​​ concrete,​​ the​​ natural​​ world continues as it should.



About The Author

I love to write! And I love to write for teens. Since I was a kid, bored with school, I’ve been making up stories. Eventually I became a journalist, got married, had kids, adopted dogs and started writing books in earnest. Three followed, plus two more co-authored with Anne Stephenson.

I’ll be publishing a half dozen new books in the next year or two, some fantasy and some realistic which I hope will appeal to teen readers – I’ve had quite a few kids read them and gotten a thumbs up! Check out my website at