People in the city often believe that life in the country is serene and peaceful. In truth, it’s more like Animal House, with real animals; I fully expect, any day now, to see possums wearing togas and chugging the homemade beer I threw out. In the myth of rural life, the silence is punctuated only by the gentle warbles of songbirds during the day; in reality, there’s three crows shrieking Vaudeville-era jokes in the tree above my kitchen, then trash-talking some nearby bluejays who are stealing bits of dog food right out from the bowl. In autumn, it’s turkeys gone wild, complete with gobbling calls of “Lift your feathers!”
At night, though, is when the real action happens. Every dog on the Psychic Howler Network passes news up and down the valley; my own personal Woof Blitzer announces the arrival of an armadillo in the yard, a statement that is discussed thoroughly by the panel at large.
But things really became interesting the year we installed a motion-sensing security light. At first, we set it on sensitive, which caused the cats to suffer from Britney Spears-like attacks of paparazzi blindness. After submitting Fluffy and Mr. Whiskers to rehab, we dialed the sensor down a few notches.
Enter the raccoons. With just one hairy bandit, the light went off occasionally like an overcharged firefly. As more began passing through the yard, the security light hit disco-ball speed night after night, and all that was missing was the thump-thump of an ear-splitting dance mix. My proudest wifely moment was seeing my husband out on the porch at 2 a.m., waving a broom at a gang of chittering teenage raccoons and yelling, “Get off my lawn!”
By the next day, the light was disassembled, and the dogs were left out of their pen to chase the juvenile delinquents at their leisure. The cats also recovered, although they refuse to give interviews. Life became slightly quieter, and we no longer needed those sunglasses past dusk. But I like to think that somewhere, a squirrel DJ is setting up in an old barn while raccoons hold up their glow sticks, and rock to the sounds of the night.