Goodbye, Andy White

My gander, Andy White, disappeared yesterday. I can only assume he was snatched by a coyote in broad daylight. I am very, very sad.

This was Andy’s seventh summer on the farm. I spend so much of my time alone that these animals who are “lifers,” whom I care for twice a day through snow and rain for years on end, become features in my emotional landscape. Andy himself was such a character — so funny, foolish, proud, and ornery — that he was especially aggravating and endearing. I saved his life when he was stepped on by a cow. He still pinched me if I got too close to his babies.

Four days ago a coyote chased my rooster Monty through the high weeds in the barn paddock at 10:30 in the morning. I was moving sheep nearby and heard the squawks. Looking up, I saw the coyote and yelled. The coyote lifted its yellow head to stare at me. I yelled again and it melted through the fence into the brush. (The electric fence is shorted by weeds.) The rooster foolishly proceeded into the small woods behind the paddock and I heard squawking again. Clearly the coyote had nipped around into the woods to resume the hunt. “Hey!” I yelled, running. Monty emerged, flapping, from the woods, with the coyote right behind him. Only my presence stopped the coyote as Monty sped past. “Get out of here!” I roared at the coyote, who stood and stared for a moment before once more melting away.

So I have known that last summer’s bold coyote is back. I have been working on weedwhacking fences to restore the charge. But I’ve been working on so many things.

Yesterday DH and Lucy left early for a race and I’d planned to get a lot of work accomplished while they were gone. However I was exhausted from no sleep after 1 AM. My mind was sluggish. Moreover when I walked the dogs before breakfast I was stung by a wasp on the inside of my right wrist. My forearm swelled painfully. I began to weedwhack anyway, but when I refilled the weedwhacker I didn’t tighten the head properly, it flew apart at high speed, and the spring was lost. This was discouraging and almost convinced me to give up for the day. Still, I moved on doggedly to mowing, and brush-hogged half of the knee-high weeds in the barn paddock before I had to quit to make supper.

It was at this point that I shut up the geese for the evening and realized Andy was gone.

I could not believe it. I had worried for my chickens but not for the geese. It was bright daylight. I had been in and out of the barnyard all day long! Automatically I checked the cow stalls, the lamb stall, under the truck, and under the horse trailer, even though I knew that Andy would never leave his family voluntarily. When he had babies (even full-grown, as these are now), his vigilance was unceasing. He would run toward any perceived danger, neck snaking low and outstretched, hissing, to protect his young.

I’m 100% sure that’s exactly what he was doing when the coyote killed him.

I hate this. It is especially heartbreaking when my negligence (the weed-shorted fences) is a cause of the loss. Last evening my eyes kept filling with tears. In the night I woke up and thought groggily, “What terrible thing has happened?” Then I remembered. It can’t be true, said my mind. Maybe he’s hurt and hiding. Maybe he’ll show up tomorrow. I know this is magical thinking. When my barn cat Freddie was killed by coyotes I looked for him to reappear for six months.

I always want all of my loved ones to live forever.

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3 Responses to Goodbye, Andy White

  1. Mac West says:

    Sel,
    You need to let your dogs roam a bit. Both our dogs were trained on the fence and got it immediately, I left the border flags up for four months just to drive home the point. Our dogs couldn’t live at our house without an electric fence because we’re on a bad corner with roads on two sides of our property.
    Coyotes and other critters know our dogs are here and leave our property alone, deer too, to a lesser extent. Turkeys, not so much.
    So sorry for your loss. xoxo

  2. Elaine Murphy says:

    Selden, I am so sorry about Andy. I loved reading about his antics…

  3. Ned says:

    Sorry for your loss. Sounds like it’s past time to start working with a rifle over your shoulder. Livestock guard dogs are another option but they can’t be everywhere. I think you once said you couldn’t have them because of neighbor issues. If you don’t kill him he will clean you out.

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