I‘ve lived in the Texas Hill Country more years than I haven’t since 1988, and it’s a fact of life that, even in the “civilized” suburbs of the large cities like San Antonio, nature’s not too far away. The part of the Hill Country in which I live–just outside Kerrville–is not one of those suburbs; Kerrville is not a large city by any stretch, at least not by today’s standards, and it makes much of “still being” a small town. It follows, then, that nature is even closer in Kerrville than in a place like Leon Valley or Helotes–and even closer outside the city limits.
Sometimes, it gets even closer than that.
A little while ago, now, I was woken from a fitful sleep by the sound of something crashing around in the bathroom right off of my bedroom. Grumbling about the cat my wife and I have causing trouble, I groggily staggered towards the room, and, just as I flipped on the light switch, I saw the cat come out of the cabinets under the bathroom sinks. His tail was held high, as was his head–and, dangling from his jaws like a kitten in its mother’s mouth, was a juvenile opossum. It was maybe nine inches from nose to haunches, its naked tail limply dragging close to the same length, and I was reminded of noises from nights before of small, clawed feet scurrying in or on the ductwork underneath the mobile home where I live with my wife and daughter.
We’re outside town, not far from a creek, so we get a fair amount of wildlife on the double lot we rent. Deer are in the yard most nights, and I’ve seen signs of armadillos in the yard. There’s a colony of feral cats near us, too, to judge by how many of them I see in and around the place, though I’m not sure where all it is. And we’ve had opossums before; our dog has gotten pretty good at snatching them up the two or three times she’s found them in the dog run. So, in one sense, it wasn’t a surprise to see the cat come up with one, in turn. But in another, it’s damned shocking to have one of them pop up in the house and in the cat’s mouth at a quarter to five in the morning.
I guess I wasn’t quite awake enough yet to be properly startled, though, because I remember being pretty calm–if annoyedly grumbling–as I told the cat to drop it (which it did, as I realize now should’ve been a surprise) and got some bags set up to take the opossum out, as well as the broom and dustpan. By the time I got back to the bathroom with the lot, though, the opossum had roused and backed itself into a corner under a cabinet-lip. The cat was poking at it, of course, and the opossum was not only hissing, but growling, baring its little goblin teeth at the much bigger murder machine that stared intently at it. When I set down the bags and nudged it with the broom to try to get it into them, it turned and growled its little goblin growl at me, in turn; the cat looked at me as if to ask “You gonna eat that?”
The opossum wasn’t the smartest creature; as I nudged it, it turned, backing out away from the corner–and into the bags. I could tell it wasn’t hurt much if at all, so, after I got it bagged up, I took it out to the far corner of the yard and let it go. So it was a happy ending, more or less, but still not the way I’d like to wake up again.