The House On The Hill
By Kay Davis
They had owned the property for six years before building. He had walked the land, watched light playing through the trees and the wind bending the treetops. He knew it had to face the 180º water view. Mountains rushing into the inlet, eagles soaring on the breeze, it was a peaceful place. As he worked, curiosity brought animals.
Snoopy was one of them. He was a small tree squirrel whose belly was orange, the rest of him brown except for those ever-busy white teeth.
One day the man reached into his tool belt for a nail and a look of surprise came over his face. He had a handful of tail, soft and bushy. Snoopy was after the peanuts the man carried, and he was quite indignant at having his tail grabbed. He chattered scoldingly but he left with a peanut firmly in his teeth. The man smiled. First contact. It was going well.
A few months later the man’s wife moved in. She too fed Snoopy. Soon a Stellar Jay she called Blue joined them. Blue’s head and crown were black as were his wings so that when he was at rest with his wings snuggled against his body, the tips of the wings looked like black lace over the royal blue. In the morning Blue would fly around the house at window level, cawing that raucous noise made by jays. “Ah, yes,” she would say. Blue was her alarm clock.
Sometimes black bears came through the property. Bear mothers can be dangerously protective but the cubs were cute, running along behind their mom, sniffing at flowers and stopping to box one another whenever mom decided to check out possible food sources.
Hummingbirds came to the large flower baskets the lady hung on the deck. While she was weeding those, Blue would sit on the deck rail and Snoopy would take a nap at the lady’s feet. When the baskets were all cleaned up, the lady would go up the path to water more flowers. As soon as she turned on the hose, one little hummingbird would buzz over her shoulder and sit on a branch of the Japanese Maple tree.
That was a clue to the lady that he was ready for his afternoon shower. She would hold the hose so the water would fall lightly over the little bird, and he would stretch his head up, fluttering his wings in the water. When finished, he would fly to another branch and shake off the excess.
As autumn began, the lady began planting flower bulbs for the following spring. When she took a rest break on the deck, Snoopy came up and sat beside her foot. “Look at this article, Snoop”, she said. “Some of your cousins have been digging up the old folks’ flower bulbs. Are you going to dig up mine?” He never did.
But the deer ate her flowers. She had planted impatiens for their cheery colors and hardiness. They were low plants that fit well with the general lines of the garden pathway until one day there were only stalks. The deer had eaten every flower. “Hey,” the lady exclaimed, “the flowers are for me!” But it was too late. Clearly impatiens was edible.
The man had planted strawberries for his own treat, and when they were ripe and juicy, ready to pick, the lady called her husband and told him it was time. Unfortunately he was unable to get home until the weekend. That delay gave the deer the opportunity they were waiting for. Next morning, the strawberries were all gone! When the lady told her husband, he moaned. But his wife laughed. “My flowers, your strawberries. We made a haven for the animals and they have taken us at our word.”
There was a morning when the lady entered the kitchen and …. Ye gads! A mouse! He was on the fourth shelf up in the pantry. However did he get up there? Not that mice are a total surprise on a mountainside. But this was the first one seen indoors. She swatted at the mouse with a shoe. It literally scared little pellets of waste product out of him. He jumped and, in mid-air, turned and raced down the shelves, using his claws to hang on whenever needed. He ran for his life, finally escaping somewhere unseen.
Each day thereafter there was an encounter with the mouse soon dubbed Gus Gus from the Disney movie Cinderella. Gus Gus had been a fat and friendly little mouse the movie public soon came to love. This little mouse was persistent in coming after the stash of food, but the lady was just as persistent in chasing him.
Finally their pursuit came to a head. The lady grabbed a broom and, once again, scaring little pellets out of Gus Gus as he ran his fat little legs off, she discovered the hole he had gnawed through the baseboard in the dining room next to the deck. Blocking it with some temporary building materials, she managed to keep the mouse out of the house until her husband came home on the weekend. He laughed as his wife told him about Gus Gus. Neither of them wanted to kill the little guy. He was just doing his mouse thing. So the man checked out the hole and sealed it up so that it would be a lot harder for Gus Gus to gnaw his way back in again.
Farther down the hill was a house with several pets. There was an old dog named Basil, a golden retriever with a protective nature toward his family and also the couple up on the hilltop. Basil would visit every day, making sure all was secure. Along with Basil came Terrence, a white cat who liked the peace and quiet he found on this mountaintop property. He would pay his respects and then go halfway down the hill on the water side. There he would sit or nap on his favorite mossy boulder, looking over what he deemed his territory. These neighbor animals were as welcome as the wildlife.
Everyone lived in harmony at the house on the hill.