Wildlife Reminds Us of Winter’s Blessing

By Matt VanderVelde, DVM
DESOTO, KS–This time of year I think we all get a bit too much cabin fever and may get too melancholy or down about the constant battle of cold and ice.<p>

At times, I find myself pretty depressed about not being able to take my early morning trek down the country lane outside our farm for lack of bearable temperatures. Bearable temperatures to me are anything above 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Otherwise, my only exposed skin–my face–would be deadened and numbed by the bitter cold of Old Man Winter’s breath.

Then I look around me and see all these wonderful animals frolicking about as if it’s just another season’s passage.

As I turned up the lane for the homestretch to the house earlier this week, I had lunch on my mind in a warm abode near my warm and loving wife. As I turned through the bend in the gravel road, I could see a blur of black fur. It seemed to be picking up speed as I near it.

Soon I could make out the image. It was that little feral black cat I released a few years back at the edge of my property. Without a home and way too ornery to be placed with a family, I had spayed, vaccinated and dewormed it beforehand. Then, with a prayer and a push, I let the cage door open and “swoosh,” she sped for the nearby timber.

“Freedom, thank God, I’m free at last,” I could hear her purr.

I hoped that maybe it was slightly better than the end of life by mercy. This time it was survival in the wild. And yet, here she was, romping up and down the road, dashing in and out of cover, seemingly at home with her surroundings, even in these subfreezing temperatures. I was humbled by her relative enthusiasm of existence of life as I quietly complained earlier of the limitations of the winter’s cold.

As many of you have been, we have enjoyed feeding the many varieties of song birds this past month as seeds get scarce and the need for fuel to warm their precious little feathered and winged bodies increases.

As the snow fell Saturday afternoon, we looked on from our living room as various birds including cardinals, jays, sparrows and occasional bluebirds vied for position at the hanging feeder. It seems we cannot keep enough seed and suet out as our nearby throng subsides.

We have a virtual two-story feeding going as the bigger birds knock seeds to the ground, the smaller birds get the fallen feed on the ground. It is at this time all cats and dogs get confined to the garage so the dining of the aviary can go on undisturbed.

I got into trouble the other day, though, after I found the suet cage grounded by recent sustained, high winds. Thinking I would just hang the cage in the umbrella tree near our front door and windows for close view of the birds, I never thought an animal other than a bird might prey upon it. Sure enough, the next day, the cage lay open, the suet was gone and small little canine footprint impressions were left in the snow below.

The evidence was damning and conviction was evident. Minnie had done it.

“I hope her bowels suffer for it tonight,” my wife said. “I think I’ll skip feeding her tonight.”

Such fun it is, though, to have bird feeders. It takes the edge off winter’s doldrums, too. I am reminded of the pure luxury of our lives and the verse in the good book that alludes to the fact that even God provides for the sparrows of the earth.

As I headed back down Golden Road when I finished lunch, I spied a flock of Wild Turkey in a former soybean field. Their numbers exceeded 65. They seemed content in their pursuit of leftover soybeans, neither starving nor showing signs of demise. And I’m worried about putting food on the table?

Around the corner I could see row upon row of descending Canada Geese. They, too, had designs on an open former soybean field as their numbers swelled in the hundreds, not once complaining of the cold, snow or ice. Actually, it seemed almost a party scene as they flapped their wings and honked at each other. What a sight of nature.

You know, winter is not such a bad time after all; if only we compare ourselves to those animal friends we live near outside our warm and cozy abodes.

If we would all but thank our Creator for the warmth of our homes and the luxuries of our lifestyles this time of year, the joy of the past holiday season might be shared throughout the year, even in the cold of winter. –The DeSoto Explorer