Reflecting on another peaceful country night

Thursday, September 27, 2018
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Guest Column

The coyotes attacked in the wee hours Wednesday morning.

The first skirmish was announced with a sharp, high-pitched “yip-yip” from just outside the house.

While I’m known for my ability to wake up fast, I have nothing on my dogs. Instanteously they exploded into full roaring combat mode, surging toward the open bedroom window over my head.

As I leapt off the bed to keep from being trampled, another coyote barked, seemingly mere inches from the window, sending the dogs to Defcon 1. Outside coyotes (one? two? 10?) hurled canine insults, while inside dogs counterattacked, thudding against the walls and relaunching, fur bristling, bodies quivering with deadly intent.

Both my husband and I shouted for dogs to be quiet so we could tell what was going on. (This, by the way, doesn’t work.)

Then, just as suddenly as it began, the attack ended.

Our dogs stalked stiffly from window to window, rumbling growls from low in their throats, while I, a bit shakily, pulled on boots and found a flashlight, determined to let any remnants of the wild pack know what I thought of them.

But the coyotes had melted into the night as only they can, leaving no sign of the furor that had just erupted. All was as it should be, silent and motionless. Time to go back to bed.

As I turned toward the house, I glanced casually over my shoulder and saw… light. It stopped me in my tracks.

One thing about nighttime in the country – it’s dark. Beyond the reach of the porch lights is an inky void. Seeing lights where there shouldn’t be any gets your attention in a hurry.

I stared into the darkness, squinting at the tip of the ridge a mile or so behind our house. Yes, there was definitely an orange-colored light over there, partially hidden by the trees. I stared harder. The light still glowed, reddish and moving.


Into the house I went, grabbing the binoculars we keep handy on a window ledge, and out the back door where I had a better view. Though blurry, the nighttime image showed the trees on the ridge haloed with light and glowing tangerine along their branches. Fire.

Dialing 911, I attempted to describe where on the large ranch behind ours the fire was located. The dispatcher calmly told me he would get a crew headed our way.

Now what? Should I call the ranch headquarters at this hour? Yes, I decided. If it was our place, we’d want to know. Minutes ticked by as I combed through a stack of “important” phone numbers written on small slips of paper piled in the junk drawer. Our highly technical filing system let me down – I couldn’t find the number.

While deciding what to do next, I stepped out onto the back deck again to check the progress of the fire. The flames now reached above the treetops, but something looked odd. Was it possible for flames to reach that far above the trees? And what’s with the weird cone shape the flames are forming?

As I stared, trying to make sense of what I was seeing, the large crescent bow of a blood-orange moon slid silently up from behind the ridge.

Nothing to see here, folks. No fires. No attacking coyotes. Just moonrise and a country night in progress.

I re-dialed 911 to cancel the fire crews (the dispatcher was polite enough not to laugh at me, at least not while I was on the phone) and trudged back to bed where the husband and dogs were already snoring.

The next morning, hungover from lack of sleep, I tried to make sense of the night before.

Lessons learned:

In a verbal fight with coyotes, the coyotes will win.

It’s probably best not to dash outside in the middle of the night, high on adrenalin, and look for trouble.

And the biggest lesson: If you want a good night’s sleep, you’re better off getting a room in town.

Deb Hill is the editor of the Lewistown News Argus. She can be reached at