A Sound in the Darkness

One of the most evocative things about living in the country, at least for a guy who was pretty much a city boy up until the end of September 2009, are the animal sounds you hear in the nighttime that you cannot identify.

I recognize the sounds of the horses, cattle, chickens, and donkeys from the barns and fields. I know a number of bird cries from crows to hawks to whatever it is that seems to call Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy. But sometimes I hear things I don’t recognize, and most of the time I hear them at night.

The first night I spent in the house, I reached it after watching the movers load the truck in St. Louis and an afternoon drive down to Springfield. I led my wife to it so she could see it a second time–she’d seen it just once, when we initially looked at it, and I was the one present for all inspections thereafter. So we walked through the empty house together so she could see what we’d wrought, and as I walked her into the near-complete blackness to her truck, I heard something just outside the circle of the porch light.

I’d like to describe it for you, but I find it hard to characterize it. Given the height, it was coming from the trees, so I expect it was a nocturnal bird, perhaps one of those screeching birds. But it might have been a vacationing Jersey Devil for all I know. I didn’t, and that’s what made me uncomfortable.

Then, Saturday morning at 4am, my wife and I were awakened by a high, canine packish sound from outside. Sometimes, the wind whistling around our skylight can make sounds like low children moans or whistle like a maelstrom. The sound didn’t come from the skylight. I looked out a couple windows to try to catch sight of the source, to see if it was a pack of wild dogs or, heaven forfend, actual wolves.

As an aside, when I lived in Jefferson County, we had a pack of wild dogs that roamed the valley in which we lived. They were lost and abandoned pet dogs, so there was a mixture of mutts, none of which topped 80 pounds. It’s hard to be scared of a bunch of feral Yorkies, but one could be in a bit of trouble if a bunch of 80 pound and smaller dogs take you on.

I didn’t see what was wandering outside our house on Saturday morning. I’m uncomfortable in my ignorance. And believe you me, I sweep my eyes from side to side as I drag my garbage cart forty yards down my driveway into the blackness and wonder what lies out there that I don’t know about.

Imagination and ignorance makes life exciting!