One Sunny Afternoon
by Marlene Testaguzza
It was late in the day, but it was summer so the sun was only hinting at dusk.
Walking down the narrow dirt path, I stopped abruptly. My focus drifted up a small grassy embankment and my eyes met the gaze of the occupant of a huge hollowed-out log.
A badger! (I whispered to myself). Holding on to that gaze, I slowly walked up the slight slope that lead to the log. As I neared, she backed up under the log "roof," curled her lips, and barred her teeth.
"Silliness," I thought, as I sat down on the log about ten feet from her. "Let's get acquainted."
(We stared at each other...)
Since the human voice can be soothing, I decided to talk to her,
and on a subject we both knew something about.
"The North American Badger has been on our continent for at least 3 million years. Other badger species live on other continents."
(She was listening...)
"Badgers are small animals, 16 to 28 inches long, and weigh between 8 and 26 pounds. But they can be fearful adversaries. Their thick front claws, an inch or so long, and their razor-sharp teeth, attached to a jaw that can lock shut when it bites, are formidable weapons."
(In spite of her look of utter disdain, I continued, with more expression...)
"Their main menu is a wide variety of meat. Mice, gophers, insects, bird eggs, frogs, fish, even rattlesnakes are fair game. And ground squirrels are a favorite. Badgers and coyotes may hunt ground squirrels together. In fact, badgers and coyotes have been seen traveling together, even resting together." I wondered if she had such a friend.
(Her expression became playful...)
"In the spring, one to four badger pups are born in a natal den that's carefully chosen and prepared by their mother. The often well hidden, intricate den can be 8 feet deep and has many tunnels, rooms, and turn-arounds. Baby badgers open their eyes at about 30 days of age and they're helpless for at least a month more."
(...her eyes were at half mast...)
Before I could resume, she heaved a huge sigh, laid her head on a small ledge inside the log, and closed her eyes. I stretched out on the log, arms under my head, and quietly smiled. Our visit was over.
Some weeks later I saw her again, in the same area. But this time she was traveling through grassland. When I called to her, she turned her head slightly but continued on. Then she stopped abruptly, turned half way around, and lifted her head. Our eyes met briefly. Did she remember?
"Of course she remembered," I thought as she turned and ambled on and I continued on my way. "She can't have forgotten that sunny afternoon one summer day when we shared a special time together."