Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



All of My Friends

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sweet and Spiky

C'mon. Give us a snuggle.
Porcupines. Not so cute and cuddly any more.
Or ever.
Maybe I should explain . . .
On a ranch, though I've heard that their meat - like pork - is quite sweet and tasty, porcupines serve no useful purpose.
Actually, anywhere, they really don’t accomplish much that could be considered ‘good’.
Herbivores, they nibble new trees to death. Devour plant life and generally make nuisances of themselves in a ‘shredding the garden’ way.
They also intimidate the livestock.
It is this last that is the most aggravating.
Because said livestock have to then be rescued.
Sigh.
My dad and a hired man, Dale, were checking the herd.
It was winter.
Now I should probably explain, because it will be pertinent later, that in Southern Alberta, in winter, snow falls.
It just doesn’t stay where it fell.
On average, parts of Southern Alberta have 13 to 14 windless days in the year.
13 to 14.
I probably don’t need to point out that that leaves 351 to 352 windy days.
Now you know why snow doesn’t stay where it’s put.
Back to my story . . .
On this particular day, Dad and Dale came across a cow with a face full of porcupine quills.
Ouch.
She had obviously allowed curiosity to overcome her sense. Wait. I’m talking about a cow here. She had obviously let her curiosity have free rein and discovered the folly of sniffing porcupines.
The quills had been embedded both in and outside her mouth, making grazing impossible. The poor animal was standing there. Sore. Hungry. And downright miserable.
Dad and Dale removed the quills, then decided to hunt down the culprit.
It’s a rancher thing.
They found him a short distance away, happily sunning himself in the branches of a chokecherry bush.
Breaking off branches of the bush, Dad and Dale closed in for the ‘kill’. Or at least the ‘drive the varmint to the nearest far-away place’.
Here’s where the blown snow comes in. The wind had deposited most of a recent snowfall into those same bushes. Dad found himself chest-deep in the stuff as he approached.
But thinking he’d simply knock the critter off its branch and scare it away, he really wasn’t concerned.
Big mistake.
Did you know that porcupines, far from being the shy, retiring animals they appear, are actually quite aggressive?
Make a note of it.
The porcupine hit the snow and, moving astonishingly easily over the great drifts, immediately turned and headed straight for dad’s face.
Which was, in baseball speak, right in the ‘strike zone’.
Unable to move in the chest-deep snow, Dad watched in horror as the angry little monster came right for him.
He closed his eyes.
Then heard the ‘whump’ of something striking a soft body. And the even more welcome sound of said soft body landing some distance away. Far out of the face prickling ‘oh-my-heck-this-is-going-to-hurt’ zone.
He opened his eyes.
Dale had swooped in at the last minute and hit the ball out of the park.
So to speak.
The disgruntled porcupine, realizing that it was no match for two branch-wielding opponents, tossed one last glare in their general direction and headed, quite literally, for the hills.
Mission accomplished.
Porcupine troubles?
Grab a branch and follow me!

16 comments:

  1. Oh, wow - what a horrible feeling that would be, stuck in snow about to be stuck with a porcupine's quills ... I know just how sharp and barbed those things are. It's a long story, but the short version is that I was preparing to dispose of some quills that were used as a teaching display and inadvertantly got one stuck under my index fingernail. The tip of it is still there. It gradually worked its way deeper, so it no longer hurts, but it's there. Anyway, I can only imagine your father's relief at having backup!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yikes! And it's still with you?! Double yikes!

      Delete
  2. Rule number one....never go porcupine hunting alone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep. Always have a backup . . . hitter.

      Delete
  3. "the nearest far away place" I love that line and with your permission may use it in one of my stories some day.
    I'd read somewhere that porcupines are aggressive when cornered, so I thought I knew what was coming and cringed at the thought. Glad it didn't happen that way. Hooray for baseball swings.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly! And I'd love to read the story you put with that line! :)

      Delete
  4. I can just imagine this whole story and how horrified your father would have been to think those quills were going to come into his face. I am very happy for the good ending.
    Blessings!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Totally could have gone a different way! :)

      Delete
  5. My friend's dog had a run in with a porcupine, and it took six hours to remove all the quills. Thank goodness Dale had a good golf swing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Six hours?! Poor, poor doggie!
      Yeah. Who knew one had to hire men based on whether or not they had a good swing?!

      Delete
  6. There is NO END to what I learn here, Diane!! And love your quirky point of view. Well, maybe not so quirky. Maybe just common sense. Which today? Is quirky.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wow, I had no idea porcupines can be aggressive! Your dad was lucky Dale was there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Totally. I'm glad I heard about it instead of finding out for myself.
      Their faces look so soft and fuzzy. And cute. But the business end?

      Delete
  8. Oh I can feel the fear that your dad must have felt! Our dog got those stupid quills all over his face one time and it looked so painful it was pitiful. I can't imagine a facefull!

    ReplyDelete
  9. That was a close call! I bet Dale was the favorite child for a while!

    ReplyDelete

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