Where the wild things are not that wild

onahorse

Most kids love animals. My kids adore animals. They’re rock stars for toddlers. Look! A horse! Take its picture!! Thanks to living in the High Country, my kids have encountered their fair share of critters. Here’s just a few.

COWS
There’s a cow pasture up the hill from our home. When my kids were 3 and 1, we would take wagon trips up the road to see the cows. This was a major event! The cows would come up to the fence and do what cows do – stare and chew. The kids never tired of mooing at them, trying to get a response. They only answered in stares. Moooove along kids.

HORSES
On the other end of the road from the cows is a horse farm. On any given day there are a dozen stallions roaming around the large pens. We’ve yet to see them in action (there are several obstacles for jumping scattered around). And, like with the cows, my kids make repeated attempts at communication. But they neigh-ver get a response. Yet. Bonus – A friend has two horses, and brought them out for my daughter’s birthday party. Princess paradise.

GOATS
Recently some neighbors fenced off a small pasture and filled it with goats. Yet another attraction – kids for the kids! As soon as we approach, the bleaters come trotting. They know some bread is on the menu. My daughter likes the baby goats the most, of course.

BEARS
Nope, not in the neighborhood (that we’ve seen). Instead we’ve seen the bears at Grandfather Mountain. There were three of them, each sitting lazily in a near straight line waiting for the food to fly from the crowd. Anything falls too far from the mouth, they just brush it off. No need to exert themselves to reach for it. More free food will soon be forthcoming. And they are right.

DEER
It’s not unusual late on a spring day to see deer along US 421 in western Watauga County. We’ve also seen several in our rural neighborhood, usually near a roadside apple tree. They usually scatter when you come near, unlike the deer at Tweestie Railroad. Those come brazenly up to you looking for corn in your ice cream cones. Look dad! I’m petting Blitzen!hellbender5

HELLBENDER
A hellbender is a large salamander. One was prent at the recent Riverfest at Valle Crucis park. Actually, two were there. There was the actual animal on display within a small aquarium, and then somebody wearing a Hellbender outfit. It was greeting and posing with the kids. Have you given five to a Hellbender recently?

CRAWDADS
No, not the baseball team. I’m talking river critters. Late in the school year my daughter’s kindergarten class conducted a field trip to the Watauga River at Valle Crucis Park. One of the highlights – for her – was finding crawdads along one of the banks. She never knew they existed, and insisted I take her and her brother back to the river ASAP so he could see some too!

PIGS and DONKEYS
One of my daughter’s friends has a pet pig and a pet donkey. (Forgive me for not remembering their names.) We met the two at a birthday party held at the friends house. The pig didn’t mind being stroked on the nose (but would have obviously preferred some food in that hand). The donkey just stared. Hee-haw! Hee-haw!

WILD TURKEYS
Again, not referring to adult beverages. While on the way to the park one day we spied a family of wild gobblers. They appeared to be hitchhiking (feathering?) near the roadside, but quickly skittered into the field as we approached. For once my kids were stumped on what sounds the animal makes, so there were no immediate attempts at communication. At least, not until we drove off and my daughter had a brain blast. Gobble, gobble gobble!

MUTANT GOLDFISH
That’s my nickname for the underwater swimmers occupying the Duck Pond on the campus of Appalachian State. We make trips to feed them during our regularly tailgate itinerary. We take a loaf of bread and lean over the rails, attempting to feed the ducks. What the feathered fowls neglect to feed on attracts the largest, ugliest fish you’re likely to ever see. Some are catfish. Others look like goldfish the size of logs. They’ll actually break the surface with their mouths and pause swimming, slowing gumming the bread down. Weird and whacky, which any kid loves.

This isn’t all the wildlife we glimpse. There’s also squirrels, rabbits, chickens, roosters, otters, bluejays, swans and plenty other passengers of the Ark. You never know when you might run into one and find yourself thinking, man …. how great would it be to live here?

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