Cynthia’s Winter

value sketch of a coyote 3 - 5x7
Eduardo Suré; Value Sketch of a Coyote 3, 2018; Graphite

Snow arrived early last winter and covered the fields, hills, and forests in perfect white. No one expected to starve to death among such beauty. No one expected to fade away where an entire landscape looked like peace; where trees extended their branches out generously offering their snow. Yet, an eastern coyote named Cynthia found herself fading away.

The surrounding silence welcomed all types of sleep. Cynthia could hear her own steps as she hunted. The snow made the combination of a crunch and rub as it compressed beneath her paws. She also heard her stomach growling, moving air and water through her body, and reminding her of her persistent failure to catch prey.

Cynthia had been born healthy and had been among the largest cubs. As an adult, she would have looked like a wolf if she would not have been starving; but she was. Her mostly gray and white coat with some black and red scattered throughout hung on her bones. Her ears remained large: too large for a wolf. Her face and muzzle were thin and foxlike.

The quiet and stillness provided one advantage to Cynthia: she heard more. She heard movement in the distance, turned to look, and spotted a pack of five wolves approaching her. Were it not for the snow, she would have seen them too late; but in the open snow covered field, they could not sneak up on her as easily.

Cynthia knew how wolves hunted. She knew that they did not want her to run yet. They wanted to get as close as they could without her noticing. Once close, they would set up around her and would threaten her until she would run. As she would run, one of them would bite her throat. Her life would quickly end.

Having spotted the pack, Cynthia had two choices: run and hide, or run and hope the wolves gave up their pursuit. If she hid and stayed, Cynthia would be in constant danger: the scarcity of prey that winter drove the wolves to expand and fiercely protect their territory. She would run into the wolves again and again. She was already starving there, so she decided to run.

Cynthia tilled through the snow as fast as she could toward the boundary of the territory. When the pack of wolves saw her flee, they began to run after her. Both she and the wolves were starving, but she was a lot more motivated than they were as she ran for her life. Her rate through the snow was much faster than the pack’s. She pulled further and further ahead of them. After about a mile of tearing through snow, the pack stopped pursuing her. She was out of their territory, and they did not wish to spend any more precious energy on her.

Cynthia traveled a little further to ensure she was away from the wolves. She found high ground and lay down to rest. She was only a short distance from the edge of her old territory, but everything was unfamiliar. She huffed a deep breath and blew it out in frustration. She was tired and lost.

It was difficult to mark how much time had gone by. It was day and then it was night, but not much changed. New snow fell and touched up any spots that had been marked. Cynthia had been just as unsuccessful hunting in the new territory as she had been in the old one. She stopped and howled sometimes, hoping a coyote nearby might hear her. She thought that two or more coyotes might have more success finding food. Each of her howls was quieter than the last.

One day, Cynthia walked slowly through the snow and hunted. She paid careful attention to her nose hoping it would detect something. She listened carefully for any sound stopping frequently thinking she’d heard movement. She reacted so much, she began to doubt her hearing.

Just as she was getting ready to give up on the hunt, she clearly heard something moving under the snow. She faced the direction of the noise. Her ears were perked up and searched for the location of the sound. She tensed her muscles and readied herself to pounce. When she heard movement beneath the snow again, she jumped forward and struck with her paws where she thought her target was. She missed, but saw a rodent flee into a hole in the ground. She began to dig. She dug vigorously at first. The ground was frozen and hard. She grew tired. She slowed down. Her digging became less productive. She could tell she was getting closer, but she was too low on energy. She stopped to rest. She stared at the hole. Although she was starving, she did not have the strength to continue.

After she had stopped digging and had appeared to have given up, an American badger named Jacob stepped in and continued to dig after the rodent. Cynthia watched the badger take her place at the exposed tunnel and dig. She did not threaten or stop him. She did not have the strength. She just watched him dig, find her prey, and catch it. To her surprise, the badger brought the rodent to her. She was grateful, and ate it as fast as her starving body allowed.

Jacob had been watching Cynthia hunt for the rodent. He had teamed up with coyotes to hunt during past winters, so he was looking for an opportunity to do it again. The partnerships had not lasted much longer than the season, but they had lasted long enough to survive food shortages. Cynthia seemed like she could use some help; so, he helped her and made a friend as a result.

Cynthia and Jacob hunted together after that. The badger was familiar with the territory and showed her where they were most likely to be successful. After she regained some of her strength, she became a great hunter. The partnership was very productive. The pair even found time to play together. When they grew tired, they rested together trustingly.

About mid-winter, Cynthia was fully recovered. Soon after, she was driven to build a family. She marked her new territory leaving scents so male coyotes could find her. She became very vocal too: she howled, howled, and howled. Eventually, male coyotes arrived; and Jacob left.

Cynthia never forgot Jacob. She did not know from where he had come. She did not know where he had gone. All she knew was that he had saved her life, and she hoped to find him again someday.


Jennifer’s Adventure

watercolor - white tailed deer - 2017 3x2
Eduardo Suré; White-tailed Doe, 2017; Watercolor

Jennifer walked alone quietly through the state park’s woods and ate her favorite leaves. Food for white-tailed deer had been plentiful during the spring. It continued to be so in summer, but cooler days warned her the woods in which she lived were about to become dangerous. Hunting season was about to begin.

Jennifer had learned about hunters years before. It had been early fall. The morning had been cool. She and another doe had gone to enjoy the variety of grasses a meadow nearby offered. They had been out in the open when her companion’s tail went up as a warning that she had sensed danger. Jennifer had heard an odd squishing sound that had come from her companion’s direction. The other doe had been struck by an arrow, had stumbled, and then had fallen. Jennifer had run into the cover of trees knowing her companion would not follow.

Jennifer remembered that morning as she reached a spot behind some bushes that grew where the woods and a meadow met. She smelled the air and analyzed it for signs of danger. She looked around the woods that surrounded the meadow. She saw a sign. Across the meadow, men moved through the woods. They were scouting. They would soon return to hunt. It was time for her to leave.

Jennifer had survived past hunting seasons by taking a long and hazardous trip from the woods in the state park to smaller woods surrounding a golf course. There was a path older deer had worn that helped her find her way there. She found and followed this path soon after seeing the humans in the woods.

Jennifer followed the path through the familiar parts of the woods where she lived. Then, the path took her to denser parts with which she was less familiar. She caught scents other deer had left on the vegetation that formed walls beside the path. The path led her across fields where she stopped to eat. It also led her by a creek where she stopped to drink. The path led through backyards and close to homes. Some of the homes had left out food for deer, and she was happy to eat it.

Predators also used the path to travel. Jennifer had grown large enough to fight off most predators. She was occasionally surprised by a dog. Some just wanted her to leave their territory. Others wanted to play and barked and nipped at her heels. She dealt with dogs easily. However, there was one predator she feared almost as much as humans. Unfortunately, she encountered one on her trip.

As Jennifer walked, she saw a black figure using the path ahead of her. She stopped and looked closely at it. It was a bear. When the bear noticed her, it began to charge. She raised her tail. If the bear knocked her down, it would not try to kill her: it would just begin to eat her. She stomped her feet and let out a grunt as a warning. As the bear came nearer, she stomped again and released a foul smelling fluid onto the ground from the glands in her feet. The bear was undeterred. When the bear was close enough that she could see the glassy surface of its eyes, she leapt off the path and ran. The bear chased her, but she was much faster than the bear. She got away.

Jennifer found a place to hide after her escape and remained hidden. After she calmed down, she found her way back to the path. It was the only way she knew how to get to the woods surrounding the golf course. She felt heavy from the energy she lost taking flight from the bear, but she wanted to keep moving forward. She ate familiar foods offered naturally by the forest as she went. She stored the food in one stomach, but it would not be digested until she was resting in a safe place.

The path led Jennifer to grass cut short along the side of a road. Then, the path ended where it met the asphalt surface of a highway. She knew the path continued on the other side. She also knew automobiles traveled at high speeds on the road. She was poor at judging their velocity and had just barely survived other crossings. She saw a truck coming. She was going to cross in front of it, but its loud horn startled her. She stopped and watched it roar by. The wind from its wake made her take a step back.

Jennifer watched cars approach from the left and go by. After a long while, she did not see cars in the horizon from the direction from which they had approached. She crossed quickly and stopped on the grass at the median between the road going east and the road going west. In her way, was a short steel barrier that prevented vehicles from crossing the median.

Jennifer looked left and saw no cars. Without hesitation, she jumped over the barrier and onto the asphalt. A car made a screeching sound when the driver slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting Jennifer. She looked in the direction of the screeching noise. She saw the car coming toward her on her right. She prepared to leap forward; however, a large truck flew past the car on the other lane. She changed direction and began to run back. She heard a horn. She changed direction again and ran across the road without caution. She was lucky. She made it to the shoulder on the other side.

Jennifer knew the cars would stay on the road and not try to run her down. Once she was on the grass beside the road, she slowed down and eased her way into the thick vegetation at the edge of the woods. She found the path quickly and followed it. The sounds of tires rolling over the highway were faintly audible behind her. She was almost at her destination.

As Jennifer walked through the woods, she caught a scent a buck had left on vegetation. She had been alone since her companion had been killed. She occasionally met other deer and she was friendly, but she preferred to be alone. She did not yet want the company of a buck, but she saw it as she walked further down the path. The buck saw her too. He began to trot toward her. She was familiar enough with the woods and simply walked into brush where she knew he could not follow because of his antlers. As she walked through, she heard him struggling and grunting behind her.

Jennifer walked through the thicker vegetation until the air was free of the scent of bucks. She could not hear the highway. She stopped to rest and digest food she had eaten along the way. When she felt her energy return, she found her way back to the path. She followed it until it faded. She knew then she had arrived. There were no hunters, only golfers. Better still, people living by the golf course would leave out deer food during the winter. She would live there until the end of hunting season. In the spring, she would return using the same path to the woods in the state park.


Red Fox Adventure

Eduardo Sure; Father Red Fox, 2016; Watercolor on Paper
One month after the start of a very cold winter, Mother and Father Red Fox searched for a new home. They wanted a safe location to have their pups. Mother was worried about humans, predators, and being near a place where the cubs might be struck by cars. Father and Mother found many places, but Mother pointed out dangers near every one of them. Just as Father felt like they might not find a suitable place to live, he found an abandoned ground hog den in a field by a stone too large for a farmer to remove. Mother liked it.

Mother and Father improved the den. They made it the right size by digging it out with their paws. They also made a special space where Mother could care for their future pups. Their new home was perfect, but for one thing: it was difficult to find food around the den. Mother and Father could find enough food for themselves in the fields around them; but after Mother had the pups, it was Father’s job to find enough food for all of them.
The day after Mother had the pups, Father left the den to look for food by himself for the first time. He searched the field around their home for rabbits, but he knew he would not find any. He searched and he searched for food getting farther and farther from the den. At one point, he was so far from the den that he could not see the stone beside it. At a distance and in a direction that took him even farther from his home, he saw a line of trees. Unwilling to return home empty handed, he traveled toward the trees.

After walking much longer than he had expected, Father arrived at the trees. He looked through them, but did not find food. Their berries had already been eaten by other animals and it was too cold for insects. The trees, however, were lined up next to a creek. That was a little good luck for Father who was thirsty. He lowered his head for a drink of water. As he drank, a long-tailed weasel unintentionally came up out of the water next to him. Father snapped him up with his mouth.

The weasel cried, “Don’t eat me! I’m mostly bad fat! I’m trans-fat!” Father chuckled.

Encouraged; the weasel continued, “I’m a leading cause of death!” Father chuckled more.

“I’ll give you gas with oily discharge!”

Father released the weasel and laughed. The weasel was free, but stunned and did not run away. Instead, the weasel asked, “May I offer you a healthy alternative?”

Father had never talked to his food before. He replied, “Weasel, I don’t know what you are saying but keep talking.”

The weasel said, “If you promise not to eat me – if you promise never to eat me, I will show you where you can find as much food as you can eat.”

Father thought about Mother and his cubs. He said, “I promise never to eat you.” So the weasel led Father down the creek, under a bridge, and to a location where the first creek joined a second creek. They then traveled up the second creek, passed under another bridge, and arrived at a waterfall.

The weasel said, “Humans put trout here all the time. When it’s cold, there are more trout than we can eat.” Father now knew where he could find food for his family and was glad that he had not eaten the weasel.

“Thank you, weasel,” Father said. “I will keep my promise.”

Then, Father had a new problem to solve. Fish spoils quickly. He had traveled a long distance for a long time. How would he deliver the fish to Mother and the pups before it spoiled?

The weasel said, “You look unhappy, fox. You’re not changing your mind, are you?”

Father replied, “I’m happy about the fish, but I don’t know how to get it back to my den before it spoils.”

“Is your den by the tree where we met?”

“No, it’s up the hill by a big rock.”

“I know that rock,” the weasel said. “If you’re taking food back, you must have family in that den.”

“That’s right.”

The weasel paused to think for a moment and then said, “If you promise that your family will not eat weasels, I will tell you a shortcut.”

“I can’t make that promise for my cubs.”

“Will you promise to tell them that weasels are disgusting?” the weasel said as he picked his nose. Father laughed and agreed. “The Sun is going to go down right over there,” the weasel pointed as he explained. “You need to go straight toward where it will set. If you start right now, you might make it before it is gone. If it sets before you get home, you’ll be lost because you don’t know your way yet. So, you’d better grab a fish and start running back right now.”

Father did as the weasel advised. He caught the largest trout he could find and ran following the Sun’s descent into the horizon. The route back was challenging. He came across different animals that wanted to talk to him about why he was in such a hurry. When he could not cross creeks using fallen trees, he had to wade across. He had to cross two streets. As the Sun was setting, he arrived at a field that was familiar to him. As dusk ended, Father saw his rock. Mother and the five cubs were so happy to see him come into the den that they did not notice the big fresh trout he had brought back for their dinner.

Father placed the trout in front of his family and asked, “Have I told you how disgusting weasels are?”

The End