“He took the flashlight and switched it on to reveal a newly killed bobcat stretched out in the bed of his truck. The bobcat was a small one, probably a female. Her tawny winter coat, heavy and full, was spotted with black, and her short stubby tail had black bars. ‘They pay thirty-five dollars a pelt now over at the county seat,’ my neighbor explained. ‘That’s groceries for a week.’ None of us back here on the river has much money, and an opportunity to make next week’s grocery money was fortunate for him. ‘And I guess you’ll thank me because that’s surely the varmint that’s been getting your chickens,’ he added, for I had said nothing yet. But I wasn’t grateful. I was shocked and sad in a way that my neighbor would not have understood.”
– Sue Hubbell, A Country Year: Living the Questions
As we watch our world changing, environmental landscapes shaved away, plowed under and concrete poured over, all for the sake of development and sprawl, we displace so much that deserves preservation and more than a passing consideration.
In the process of all of our human maneuvering, we disrupt the balance of things that cannot ever be changed back again. So much is done with disregard and a strange kind of fervor, as if time is wasting.
Many buildings sit empty while others are created, a trend toward new everything.
Sue Hubbell wrote of the beautiful Ozarks, telling of this neighbor, a third-generation Ozarker. He could have left for the bigger money to be earned in the city, but stayed because of his love of the land.
This man who shot the bobcat had come to her farm along with several others to discuss their opposition to a plan to dam the river that ran through their farms to create a recreational lake.
Though they were united in their opposition to the plan, “our sensibilities are different, the product of different personalities and backgrounds. They come from families who have lived off the land from necessity; they have a deep practical knowledge of it and better skills than I have for living here with very little money.
“The land, the woods and the rivers, and all that are in and on them are resources to be used for those who have knowledge and skills. They can cut and sell timber, clear the land for pasture, sell the gravel from the river,” she writes.
Hubbell, on the other hand, made what little money she lived on by keeping bees and selling the honey from 300 hives on her farm.
Hubbell had moved to the Ozarks because she sought specifically what was there. Having lived in places where beauty, plants and animals had been wiped out, the natural balance destroyed, she wanted to relocate to a pristine place and preserve what remains.
The first time she laid eyes on the farm that would become her home, the beauty nearly brought tears to her eyes. Others at her meeting that night simply didn’t want outsiders telling them what they could and could not do.
“I suspect that all our opinions are simply an expression of a personal sense of what is fitting and proper,” she notes.
Her reaction to seeing the dead bobcat was personal, as she felt she knew that animal from catching glimpses of it while hiking her land or hearing its piercing scream late at night.
Female bobcats stake out about five miles of territory and remain elusive even to other adult bobcats during their roughly ten years of life. There are still parts of the Ozarks considered bobcat country, “but they are threatened by the same destruction of habitat that pushed the mountain lion back to wilder places, and they are uncommon,” Hubbell writes.
So while she couldn’t say with certainty that the dead bobcat was the one she had seen and heard on her farm over the years, she had a strong feeling it was.
There was a time in this part of the country we rarely caught a glimpse of deer. Today not only do we see them almost daily, but we hear of them crashing through plate glass windows inside cities. Daily deer-car accidents happen nearly everywhere. Entire herds of deer can be seen roaming through residential lawns, and they surely bring ticks along with them.
Coyotes are becoming more and more troublesome in my area, and we often hear them yipping late at night. I talked with a man last week who said his brother was horrified to return home after work one night to find that his dog, tied outside, had been attacked and killed “most certainly by coyotes” he was told.
This happened in the county just west of mine, and it sends shivers up the spine to think of such aggression and the utter defenselessness of a pet in such a situation.
I realize, fully, that there is no way to turn back the clock or even hope to stand still as development and change is a simple fact of life, but respect and sage consideration for the natural way of things would surely benefit all.