It came to pass that I had to go on a trip. The woodland creatures, who never stop watching, observed this. They’re all spies I tell ya!
I believe they categorize Mrs. Curmudgeon and myself differently. She’s “the woman who will shoot woodland animals that cause obvious problems”. I’m “the man who will go old school on problematic creatures”. I just get the vibe that they know. They’re smart that way. When a predator (usually it’s a raccoon) so much as looks at my livestock I’ll plot, hunt, trap, snipe, crush and generally react in the kind of manner that maintains territorial integrity. “Problem critters” seem to know I’ll engage on their level. It just seems the right thing to do. If I have to chase them into a swamp, cut down their tree, burn their home, crush them with a tractor, flatten them with an ATV, chop them with a lawnmower, poison them, gas them, ambush them, shoot them with rifles/pistols/shotguns, and maybe whack ’em with a baseball bat… then so be it. Animals can tell your intentions and I’m not subtle. It’s not like they can read a “no trespassing” sign but I’m pretty sure chicken eaters who lurk in the forest know the situation. They probably communicate this among themselves. “The freak in that house is fully prepared to burst out of the door at midnight clutching a shotgun and screaming like a banshee. He’ll go tearing through the brush in his underwear in a hurricane if it’ll save a three dollar chicken. He’d attack a rhino with a hatchet if the rhino was stealing eggs. Just leave that homestead alone and raid the neighbor’s corn crop.” It works. At least most of the time.
With me out of the picture, the overall threat level on chicken raiding had decreased. Chipmunks and squirrels spread the news through the forest grapevine. Eventually a predator realized my absence. It was probably a raccoon? Or was it a fox? Or a pterodactyl? I’ll never know. All I know is that a bold night-time raid took out several chickens and three of the four ducks. I named this unseen predator Vladimir Putin. Vladimir is always prowling. You cannot reason with Vladimir. You simply have to be ready. Vladimir knew I was gone. Well played Vlad. You win this time. Come back to see me again. I’m waiting for ya.
Skidmark, the sole remaining duck, was a changed creature. He took up residence under my truck. Skidmark got a new name and became Truck Duck. He still stood around like a clueless nincompoop looking to get eaten far too many hours in the day but at night he’d get smart and hunker down under the rear differential.
Meanwhile Fluffy the chicken and her few remaining compatriots had taken to roosting in a well protected tree. Under her leadership, the free rangers are doing quite well. Go Team Fluffy!
Mrs. Curmudgeon tried to convince Truck Duck to act like a chicken. After weeks it has been partially successful. The little critter is modestly more wary and will hang out with the chickens during the day instead of quacking for his lost brethren like a feathery target.
I’ve grown to like the little duck. He’s kinda’ cute. But still dumb. Eventually he moved from beneath the truck to the woodpile. His newest name is Bowling Pin Chicken… which is a perfect match for his size, shape, and intellect. I’m rooting for him but Vladimir is always watching. Bowling Pin is probably doomed.