Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Mysterious Sound in the Night

Don't let anybody tell you that living in the country is quiet. It isn't. It's not the cars, sirens, people sounds of the city though. During the days of summer, it's the cropdusters.

They are out spraying the vegetable fields across the road from me, so they fly right overhead as they are making their turn.

The sound doesn't really bother me though. The knowledge of how many times they spray those vegetables (peas, green beans, or sweet corn) just deepens my resolve to grow as many of my own vegetables as I can. I do have a recurring nightmare of the plane crashing into the house, but who hasn't had that nightmare since that horrifying day in September.

I don't have air conditioning, so summer nights the windows are flung wide, letting in the cacophony. The crickets, the locusts, the frogs, the occasional snarling disagreements of the local raccoon and opossum population, the crowing of a confused rooster (hello, it's 2 0'clock in the morning, give it a rest already!), the yip yip yip of the coyotes, the sit-me-straight-up-out-of-a-sound-sleep alpaca or llama alarm call, all come rushing in the open window.

Last summer, though, I kept hearing a sound I couldn't identify. In my seven years here, I had never heard it before. It sounded like a three way cross of the wail, yodel, and tremolo of a loon. Examples of each of them can be found here. I don't have loon habitat near me though, so I ruled that out. I couldn't tell if it was an animal, a bug, a frog, a bird, what was making this sound I was hearing? It kept me awake at night. Not that I was afraid or anything, but just out of curiosity. What the hell was it?

One night I happened to be on the phone with my sister when I heard it, and mentioned this mysterious sound I kept hearing. She said that she had been hearing the exact same thing at their place (70 miles away), and they couldn't identify it, and in their fifteen years on their place, had never heard it before either. ???

I kept hearing it throughout the summer and into the fall. It was never in the same area. One night it might be in the pine tree shelter belt to the north, the next in the maple trees to the south.

One day, I was in my home office working at my desk, and Mom was watching an episode of Texas Country Reporter on RFDTV. If you're not familiar with the show, it's like a Charles Kuralt (I just dated myself, didn't I?) type show celebrating the people and stories of Texas and area. I think most states have a show like that. We have Minnesota Bound and Venture North.

So there I was, sitting at my desk, when I hear it. It's the mysterious sound in the night. Except it was daytime. What? It was on the TV. They were doing a piece on a man who uses recordings to draw wildlife in so he can photograph them. Or something. Anyway, I was able to identify my mystery sound. A screech owl. Making the B call. (That makes sense if you click on the link.) I know that I've had them around, because I found a dead one once in the barn. Why had they never made a sound before?

One night in late fall we must have been having an abnormally warm night, because I had my bedroom window cracked. I heard the screech owl. Then a coyote. And the screech owl answered. They went back and forth for several minutes. It has to be one of the coolest things I've ever heard.


Spinningfishwife said...

REAL night noises. Your night noises sound lovely. I live in a town, and the only noises I hear at night are the traffic ones, and perhaps the odd bit of fighting from our urban "wildlife". I wish I lived a bit further out in the countryside, though I can see the open farmlands from the upper windows.

How's Mom? Keeping better, I hope?

rilera said...

We live right across the street from a small airport and it gets noisy, especially when they have an airshow (flying fortresses over our house! Loud!) so I can relate. I also remember how quiet it was after 9/11 when the planes were grounded. Eerie.

I loved this post.

How's Mom doing?

Annie said...

Still no coin, heading to the hospital now for X-ray. Will update when I can.

rilera said...

How'd the doctor's appointment go? Did the quarter come out?

My cats love to watch Minnesota Bound, especially when they have a story about birds. They go crazy. Lily runs up to the TV.

cornbread hell said...

very cool post, annie.