A Lucky So-and-So

     When I walk down the street
     Everybody I meet
     Gives me a friendly hello.
     I guess I’m just a lucky so-and-so.
     Walking my big bouncy Akita by the Green River, we saw a scrawny animal dragging its poor little ass across the dirt road.
     Usually I hitch Chester up to a 100-foot rope so he can run and jump. But that day for no particular reason I put him on a short leash.
     I held Chester back, with great effort, and I worried.
     “[Bad word],” I thought. “That thing’s got rabies.”
     It ain’t right for a wild animal to ignore a giant, bouncing Akita.
     But what was it? A raccoon? A raggedy-ass fox?
     Nope.
     The little dude blew itself up and became a big, beautiful porcupine. We watched it waddle into the woods, without a care in the world.
     Porcupines don’t have to hurry for anyone.
     Oh, the birds in the trees
     They all sing so merrily
     They sing wherever I go.
     I guess I’m just a lucky so-and-so.
     Chester and our cats are best friends – in the house. But outside, they pretend he’s a Big Bad Dog and the cats run away from him.
     Chester’s backyard leash is screwed into the ground and stretches under the back door into the house, so Jane doesn’t have to wrestle with him with the door open.
     The day before we saw the porcupine, Chester bounced around the back door at 3 a.m., as I made coffee and prepared to go bleary-eyed to work.
     I let the dog out and he tore off after a cat – directly over a skunk waddling across the porch.
     I slapped myself in the forehead, like Homer Simpson.
     Chester’s first impulse, upon seeing any animal, is to stick his nose up its butt.
     This, as the doctors say, is contraindicated with skunks.
     Stepping gingerly, I stood between the skunk and Chester, so Chester wouldn’t see it as it waddled off the porch, and, I am sorry to say, under the deck. Where it lives.
     I’m not a New Agey sort of guy. I think Carl Jung was equal parts insight and bilgewater. But I think it’s universal for people to be fascinated with animals: to watch them, delight in them, to wonder about them, to be glad they’re around.
     I think that anyone, anywhere in the world, who saw a skunk, or a porcupine, or a yak, or a platypus, or a rattlesnake, would tell his wife about it when he came home from whatever hell it is where he makes his living.
     One of the pleasures of living in Vermont is to live with wild animals. Every day on my bike rides this spring I’ve seen goldfinches. Most days I see Baltimore orioles, hawks, and a big old great blue heron, picking its way toward something, like a ballet dancer. I see shocking red Northern cardinals.
     Yesterday as I arrived home from a 40-mile bike ride, in my phosphorescent orange T-shirt, a driver almost killed me – 200 yards from home.
     Just down the road there’s an ice cream stand and blueberry farm. Across the street from its driveway, and a little to the left, a dirt road enters the only paved road through our little town.
     I cruised past this intersection, with the right of way, on the paved road, and some moron in a General Motors Behemoth pickup gunned his motor and drove into me – he turned parallel to me as he brushed the hairs on my left forearm. Had he been looking for ice cream, I would be dead.
     “[Bad words, bad words]!” I shouted. “What the [bad words]! You [bad words]!”
     He braked. Maybe he was talking on a cellphone, or texting. Maybe he’s just a stupid s.o.b. with a big truck.
     I got to a wide place in the road and waved him on.
     Back home, I stripped off my bicycle clothes in my bedroom. I could say I was “upset” or “shaken,” but I wasn’t: I was angry. But not for long.
     Bare-ass naked, I looked out the bedroom window and saw a finch sitting in the branches of our Japanese maple, singing its little heart out.
     It stuck its beak to the sky and warbled, like it was gargling worms. It wiggled its little butt. Then it turned its head and saw me and flew away through the convoluted branches of the tree.

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