Rural Life

Santa Vulture

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Some kids don’t believe in Santa Claus.

Well, they better get with the program, because Santa Vulture’s coming to town.

We spotted him last Friday morning. I had all three kids with me as we drove Hadley to the orthodontist to have her braces cranked. We arrived around 8:30 and couldn’t ignore the solitary vulture, standing like a watchman in the grass by the office door. He eye-balled us but didn’t move when we approached. From the waiting room, we observed him through the window.

Perhaps he was sunning himself, but he’d parked right beside the holiday display, and he appeared to be watching ortho arrivals, and the flow of kids shuttling into the elementary school across the street.

That’s when I announced, with an authorative tone: “That — is Santa Vulture.”

The kids looked skeptical.

“Well, why else would he be here? He doesn’t need braces.”

“That is Santa Vulture,” the orthodontist confirmed, as he fetched Hadley. “He was wearing his red hat, but it fell off.”

While we waited for Had, I explained the details. “All those Santa-doubters, those non-believers at your school? On Christmas Eve, Santa Vulture poops on their houses.” 

“And the really bad kids? Really, really bad kids?” I paused to let them imagine any offenders. “Well, Santa Vulture pecks their eyes out.”

To be honest, the vulture sounded more plausible than the whole Santa Claus scenario: Flying, wingless, reindeer, lugging an obese man around the world, with a ton of toys?

At least the bird’s designed to fly. And as we observed, Santa Vulture was occupied watching the elementary school kids…. obviously noting the doubters. And we’d seen his buddies perched atop Tractor Supply or feasting on roadkill.

“That’s his posse,” I explained. “They help on the big night. And they celebrate Thanksgiving dinner on December 23rd, in preparation for their ‘deliveries.'”

By the time Hadley emerged from her tooth tightening, the story was set in stone and we were working on new refrains to old holiday hits.

he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good…or Santa Vulture’s gonna peck your eyes out….

It didn’t rhyme, but that didn’t stop us from singing, “Santa Vulture’s coming to town.”

It’s only a matter of time before I get a call from school — a report that the kids are terrorizing their classmates with Alfred Hitchcock-like stories of birds pecking out their eyes on Christmas Eve.

It’s so nice to share holiday traditions with others in the community…

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Santa Vulture, plotting for Christmas Eve

All Before 9 AM

A few mornings ago, I got out of bed and found this on the kitchen table:

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There was no reason to doubt its legitimacy. I recognized Martin’s handwriting and he was up before me.

Plus, no one has time to pull a prank at that hour.

I surveyed the box — he could’ve weighed down the lid with a bowl or a plate — but the top appeared to be undisturbed….

So I shoved it aside and started packing lunches.

A short while later, the kids emerged. They gobbled down their cereal and carried the box outdoors.

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I later learned that Martin discovered the corn snake while mucking stalls. The creature was coiled around the pitchfork handle, attempting an ascent to a bird’s nest.

As punishment, Martin decided that the snake should spend time with the kids. So he placed it where it wouldn’t be missed.

After being stuffed in a shoebox, the snake was less than thrilled to be poked and prodded on the deck.

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When Cayden tried to detain him, the snake bit his hand.

So we released the reptile on his own recognizance, and he vanished into the pumpkin patch.

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After that we piled into the car, but pulled over within a few miles to watch Pigpen’s odometer hit the 250,000 mark. We shouted out the open windows. I photographed the event.

Hadley thought we should celebrate with ice cream.

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From there, it was off to camp.

But not before The Boy shed his braces at the orthodontist’s office.

And all before 9 AM.

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Rivulets Run Through It

After a snowfall of any size, there is always mud. Gradual melting is a rare event. Instead, after a few chilly days, temps rocketed up to 50 or 60 degrees. And if you’re lucky, a heavy rain lumbers through — like yesterday — and voila!

Major mud… plus a bit of flooding, free of charge.

This afternoon, as I waded through the mire to hay the horses, I heard running water. Clearly, Martin forgot to turn off the tap after filling the water trough. It’s a common mistake — I’m guilty, too. It’s a 150-gallon stock tank and it is slow to fill. You get distracted, wander off, and that’s that. Eventually, someone walks out and hears it: that steady rush of water cascading over the side, pattering the ground, and burbling as it forges its way along the slopes.

So today, when I heard the sound of forget, I bee-lined for the trough. But the water was steady and nowhere near the rim. The hose wasn’t even hooked to the spigot.

It turned out, the sound was emanating from the vast amount of rainwater and melted snow flowing unfettered through the horse field, carving rivulets in the grass. There wasn’t a visible origin or a final destination. It was just water on-the-run, racing to congregate and make mud.

More damn mud.

I refuse to photograph mud. Instead, here’s a look at this week’s sunsets. Each night threw a different hue.

Monday, we saw the faintest peep of departing sun, shrouded in snow-fog.

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Last night, after a day of rain, a strange gale wind roared through like a rogue wave. It blew for 10 minutes and then fizzled out. But it thinned the fog and cracked the cloud cover.

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And finally, tonight. Uncomplicated and uneventful, but colorful enough to upstage the mud below.

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