Like many living in rural areas, my husband and I enjoy watching the show that nature puts on outside our windows every day. We love watching all the critters parading in the meadow behind our home, the gentle deer traipsing by in their high-heeled hooves, the mighty elk lifting their crowns of horn, the black boars scuttling along through the brush with their young, the wild rooster puffed up in all its finery to dazzle his adoring hens, the skinny coyote trotting by on the hunt, and the comical quail with their clutch of fluff-balls scurrying behind.
But every good show needs its villain to heighten the drama, and ours have been the nest of rattle-snakes that took up residence in our back yard. We’ve killed three in the past two weeks. The first two were young, no more than a foot and a half long. One was found lounging by our pool, another slithering into our garage. Then yesterday my husband caught their mother, or rather she got caught in the black netting we’d hung over the tomato plants to keep out the birds. She was at least 3 feet long and not happy in the least.
He threw her carcuss over the back fence into the meadow where that hungry coyote who makes its daily round might find it.
What surprised us though was how the quail reacted to its demise.
At first they cautiously approached it and then hurriedly backed away. Then slowly they approached again, at least a dozen, surrounding it completely.
It reminded us of that scene from The Wizard of Oz when the Munchkins timidly came out of hiding to gather around the withered feet of the Wicked Witch of the East when Dorothy’s house landed on her.
We imagined the quail viewing the snake with the same sort of surprised and delighted glee. The snake had been caught only a few feet away from the bushes where our families of quail nested. We had been watching three clutches these past few weeks, 15 babies in one, nine in another, but only one little fluffball following its parents in the third. Who knows how long this snake had been terrorizing their homes and gobbling up their children?
So there they all were, gathering around their nemesis, wondering what merciful god had answered their prayers and slain this mighty villain. With heads bobbing and dancing feet, we could almost hear them singing gleefully:
Ding dong, the witch is dead!
Which old witch? The wicked witch!
The wicked witch is dead.
Then the lights dim. The curtain falls. The audience claps. And our cast of critters quietly leave the stage to resume their daily routines.