Henry

If you don’t already know it, I live in a rural area. Wildlife is abundant all around, from wild hogs, to turkeys to squirrels. I have a habit of naming the animals that show up regularly around our neighborhood. Bubba Bear lives on the vacant lots around our house. He tries to be a helpful neighbor by coming into the garage “taking out the trash” for us. He does not know that picking up trash that has been scattered all over is not the kind of help I need.
The White Tail Clan lives in our backyard. I cannot count how many there are in this family, because they blend into the forest so well. I never know they are there until they run which always surprises me and makes my adrenaline rush. Unless of course I am walking the dogs, who can smell them immediately and give chase dragging me along for the ride.
Hank Hawk oversees the neighborhood from his perch on the power line. He surveys the creek and brambles around it for food. Occasionally he stops by our house for a snack, which is fine unless I do not know he is there. He only becomes visible to me when he is in mid-soar. His wingspan is almost the width of my car, and that flutter of wings makes my heart do the same.
The reason Hank hangs around is because bunnies are plentiful in our yard. They love our almost-never-cut grass and underbrush. There are too many to count, so I call them all Benjamin Bunny. Benjamin is quiet and very quick. He cautiously eases out of the bushes in the summer for a nibble and comes to the edge of my porch. Sometimes he brings his family by to say hi, which I love.
The welcoming committee in our neighborhood is Henry. Henry has a legacy similar to that of UGA in Athens. I know of at least three generations of Henrys. The first one built the burrow under the road at the intersection of our street and the one just below ours. Being a groundhog, he loved to scurry around his burrow, sometimes standing upright on his hindlegs to greet cars as they go by. In fact, playing chicken with cars was his favorite game. He was quite good at it, but ultimately he took one risk too many and it was his demise. I was heartbroken to witness this tragic event, since one of our cars was the culprit in doing away with the neighborhood mascot.
After a while, Henry Jr. took up where his dad left off. A self-appointed welcome wagon, he was more cautious than his dad had been. He must have been traumatized by his father’s untimely death, because he did not dart in front of cars. He took to the welcoming like a duck to water. The only way he could have been more natural in his role was to learn to wave. However, being so close to the road ultimately took his life as well. This time my family was not the cause of death. We only witnessed the body on the side of the road as we went by.
I am happy to report that last week I saw Henry III. He is carrying on the legacy of his dad and granddad. Every day he is nearby as I head out for work, and stands there to welcome me home in the afternoon like a good country neighbor should. In so doing he almost always makes me smile and be thankful that I live in the country.

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