My husband was brought to Arizona when he was just five years old and he has lived most of his life here. Before I moved with him to Arizona in 2012, I had lived and worked in Ohio, Switzerland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and South Carolina. An experienced traveler, I thought I knew about most critters both wild and domestic. My education was augmented by the spectacular film footage of the movie Princess Bride with its excellent documentation of Rodents of Unusual Size, aka ROUS. I thought that these combined experiences would suitably prepare me for life in Arizona. I was mistaken.
My nearly native Arizonan husband brought my daughter and me on vacation here a few years before our move. On that visit we first experienced the Saguaro Cactus and learned that they can easily crush a car or take out the wall of a house should they fall. We saw the various short scrubby trees whose branches resemble feather dusters. Such trees were new to this adult woman who was used to good sized leaves like any self-respecting mid-western child could collect and press between sheets of wax paper.
We went on picnics where I was introduced to the Greater Roadrunner, an omnivore, who can run at speeds of 20 miles per hour. We saw ground squirrels lying spread eagle on the shaded concrete patio floor of a local Cantina, trying to cool down from the desert heat. We saw huge foraging birds flying in circles over something dead in the desert. All of these were of interest to my daughter and me, but there was more.
Eventually, my husband and my then college-age-daughter persuaded me to move to Arizona from South Carolina. We rented a place while we looked for something to buy. People new to the area often have never seen anything like it and say ill-informed things like the young woman we met, who opined that we should bulldoze the Sonoran Desert and “do something useful with it.” My husband needed to quickly relocate himself so that he would not counter that ignorant statement with graphic Navy words.
There is no place quite like the Sonoran Desert. The houses that are springing up on acre after acre fill me with sorrow and my husband with anger. After about a year in our rental house, my daughter came to stay with us on her Christmas break from college. After much too long an absence, her remarkable godmother flew in from California to visit with all of us. We had a great visit, and all four of us went with our realtor to view a house our realtor thought we needed to see. Everyone convinced us that it was the house we ought to buy, and it was here that my Arizona education genuinely commenced.
Still smokers in those days, my husband and I would go out on the back patio late at night and in the early morning hours when it was dark. It was then that we would hear the coyotes howling and yipping in the park behind our home. We watched the birds of prey cruise low over our neighborhood’s backyards around dinnertime looking for a tasty small dog or cat to pick up and carry away for a picnic. A friend showed us the photographic evidence of a hunter who took down a mountain lion a couple of miles from where we live. Various neighbors told us of seeing Bobcats walking atop the backyard walls. In time, one walked atop our wall, jumped down, and explored our backyard – up close and personal.
However, nothing prepared me for the Collared Peccary or Javelina. I had seen a stuffed one in a store window in Tombstone. That was instructive as I saw the front teeth that
should never be underestimated. Our friends, whose yard is not walled, and which is next to a broad swath of desert land, have Javelina that come to their house and patio. But the scariest time was when some Javelina babies fell into their sunken walled garden, planted when they took out a pool long ago. Our friend thought that he would try to lift the babies up out of that three-foot hole. You know what they say – never come between a Mama & her babies. Close call, that!
I love the view from our yard; I love the Santa Rita Mountains just west of us. I love the cactus and sunsets that we see from our patio and which form the banner photo for my blog. But I have to say that the Javelina are a coat of a different color. I believe that my response to them should be to respect their power and teeth and keep a distance. Javelina remind me of the rodents of unusual size from the Princess Bride movie, but they also make me wonder whether the God of creation has a weirdly peculiar sense of humor. What do you think?