Reynard comes to call

Reynard comes to call

June 10, 2012, Sunday/ 12:06:00/ JOHN LAUGHLAND

The dogs have been barking at night a lot lately, barking at the mountain. Most often they sleep through the night but when one starts barking it is only minutes until the other gets the message and kicks in.

No. 1 lost her presidency of the valley barking circle some years ago when her senses began to dull, but when she joins her brother in shouting insults at some beast who dares to come within scent-range of us, then the rest of the barking circle is more than willing to forgo the formality of a call from the current president and they join in. Soon the whole valley is in an uproar.

I can solve the problem by donning a pair of reasonable shoes (and little else) and taking my 1,000-watt hand-lamp for a stagger up the mountain yelling obscenities at the intruders. I seldom see the guilty parties and I'm guessing that more often than not it has been wild boar. The last week or so things were a little different though, and we had no idea why for several days.

On Monday morning Frau found a foot-long porcupine quill immediately outside the kitchen door where all the cat-food dishes are scattered. We have picked up dozens of porcupine quills over the years, but always up in the hills, and we have never yet seen one of the beasts; now they have discovered an easy source for a midnight feast. That was not the only reason for the barking, however.

Later that day, when we returned from lunch, Die Frau went into the utility room for something, and she reported that she had seen “someone” dive behind the chest-freezer. “Someone” is Frau-speak for any living creature, two, four or six-legged, and she indicated, with hands horizontal, something about the size of a small cat or a very big rat.

Of course we get rats! We live in a country village and have cow sheds and hay barns all around. Despite our numerous cats, of course we get rats. However… two days later the beastie in question was chased out of the utility room by No. 1 and took refuge in the three-inch gap under a china cabinet. No. 1 seemed satisfied with that and simply stood by until I relieved her of duty. Frau then laid flat on the floor with a much weaker flashlight than mine and shone it under the cabinet. There, cowering against the wall was a young fox-cub. The cub was indeed about the size of a small cat, and now with no dog in sight, seemed quite content to spend the rest of the day in his temporary den. We fed him a few bits and had him pose for photographs. That night we kept the dogs away and left the doors open and by midnight he had made his break for the wild where he belongs. Of course we are not telling the neighbors of our encounter lest we are lynched as collaborators.

Since living here we have also seen badgers, boar, a pine-martin and, not so far away, a dead bear on the road. When we first settled here, we sometimes saw working camels, but these days we only see the tourist camels; those poor beasts are probably not driven so hard by switches as they were in the old days up-country, but now have to contend with screeching fat tourist ladies as they rise to begin their five or 50 minute “trek” (TL 10 or TL 30). Sometimes I can actually discern embarrassment on their faces.

We also have another two rare species in these parts. They are the “tourist-eagles” and the “tourist-dolphins.” They are also known as “buzzards” and “waves.” If a tourist reports that he saw an eagle that morning, why disappoint him by saying that it was more likely a buzzard? Likewise, when a tourist points out a dolphin in the distant sea, let him remember seeing a dolphin, not a wave. I am awaiting the day when a tourist spots our biggest cat “Buttons” in the distance and he gets promoted to a panther.

It is best to move on to be unkind to a different type of fool. How to attract tourists to your restaurant or cafe? Get in some fluffy puppies, of course, tourists "love 'em." At the end of the season you can easily get rid of them. Just dump them in the town or in the garden of the nearest European immigrants.

We observe the cruelty of the simple-minded restaurateurs every year and it hasn't gotten any better over the last quarter century. To tell the truth, it has gotten worse. No great distance from where I peck out these words “lives” an ostrich. It has for neighbors a couple of monkeys and even a squirrel; they all live in appallingly small cages and are there for one purpose only, to attract customers to the (otherwise quite good) restaurant. I suspect that most European visitors avoid the restaurant precisely because of that pathetic “zoo.” Should anyone local argue by saying that the big silly bird is free to roam around a small field, I would ask them to investigate the whereabouts of it in the winter.

Readers may well have heard about the famous dolphins Tom and Micha. A Russian businessman rented a piece of public land a few years ago and built a pool about twice the size of our cottage (note “cottage” not “villa”). The capacity of the pool was about 600 tons. In that shallow pond briefly lived two beautiful dolphins, there to amuse a few tourists who were insensitive to the welfare of the animals and unaware of European standards and conventions. That sad story ended well, thanks to a very successful campaign led by a local newspaper, taken up by most immigrants and a considerable number of locals, which spread worldwide. The dolphins are now free and the sordid pool, now dry, remains only to spoil a piece of public land unfit for anything.

The fox came back! Now I assure you that I'm not cheating, I really did write all of the above about four days ago and yesterday we returned from a day out and Frau spotted some fox droppings near the china cabinet. Sure enough the little guy was holed up underneath. We doubt that he's old enough to hunt for himself, so our current thinking is that we'll put up with him for as long as he wants to stay or until we think he's old enough, then we'll trap him and take him up into the hills and set him free.

I've been giving some thought to my earlier unkindness towards tourists. Am I being too hard on them? Perhaps, and I apologize; however, it was a tourist who asked us what tortoises do when they outgrow their shells. It was a tourist who called Kayaköy a slum and a different tourist who referred to Xanthos as “just a bunch of rocks.” (The collective noun suggests the nationality of that person).