|C'mon. Give us a snuggle.|
Porcupines. Not so cute and cuddly any more.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Grab a branch and follow me!