Man vs Nature: Animals

By: Campbell Petschke

The Sandlot Stars: Where Are They Now? - The Delite

Currently Listening to: You’re Gonna Miss it All by Modern Baseball

Introduction

When I was in first grade I had an assignment where I basically had to break it to my class that I was awesome through icebreakers that are fun to little kids, but stressful to high schoolers. Questions like what are your favorite subjects, favorite TV show, and of course what we want to be when I grow up. First two were easy, I loved social studies and what kid in the 2000s isn’t gonna say Spongebob? As a kid I struggled with the career question because I didn’t want to be the typical firefighter or policeman kid.

“Why not be a vet? You love animals.” My dad suggested this while I was playing around with my childhood collie Demi so I was naturally coaxed into it. This career choice though was appealing for the same reason that I would dislike it. One kid pointed out to me during my presentation that despite me getting to hang out with cats and dogs that I would have to deal with blood and putting dogs down in front of other kids. Fuck…

My relationship with animals has always been very scattered. Most animals are dope and clearly serve their purpose in their respective ecosystems, although I’m still trying to figure out why geese and flies exist. Growing up though it seemed like every time I had a nice relationship with an animal, something would happen that would give me a reason to not be homies with them anymore. Robins are the perfect example of this. I had zero opinion on them until one day I was playing hide and seek in my great-grandma’s backyard and one flew out of a birdhouse that I knocked and whizzed right past my face. My disgust for them still exists to this day (something about their eyes, don’t ask).

My least favorite animal as a kid though had to be either mice or opossums. Something about long-pink tails really disturbed me. I took my dog out one time during a cold winter night once and we heard rustling in the bushes. Thinking it was a skunk I quickly rushed over to pull her away, but it was the dirtiest opossum I’ve ever seen and it HISSED at us. Disgusted, I ran away but my dog chased it away. Yeah, yeah I know I’m a wimp whatever.

In recent months I’ve really gravitated towards this one YouTube channel where this guy runs this farm/rescue near Austin, Texas and has a wide variety of animals that he takes care of, some I’ve never even seen before. He has chickens, pigeons, rabbits, and even a baby kangaroo named Doorknob. Through these videos though, the main guy has such an interesting personality and explains the purpose of every single animal on his farm and even the ones that wander into his small yard like the tiny field mice and even a little opossum named Poppy that he rescued. He explains the vitality of having animals like Poppy around and he’ll even put her on his shoulder while he does farm chores.

These videos have really opened up my feelings about the animals that I see around the mid-west, even the ones that grossed me out previously. So I thought it’d be fun to share all my animal horror stories growing up and even ones that are recent.

Opossums

Ugh… Let’s get these little assholes out of the way. I doubt that he reads these, but my buddy Jake, who is a very interesting spirit and very much an animal person, called me over one day during last summer. He claimed he had something to show me. When I arrived at his place, he walks to his garage and tells me to wait. He comes back with four baby opossums thinking that this would tickle my fancy. I nearly screamed “JAKE WHY??” This lead to so many questions, but the most predominant being why he would think I would like this? He jokingly kept trying to put one of them on me, even dangling one by it’s dinky, pink tail. Nah dude keep your marsupials to yourself.

It’s pretty easy to hate opossums. Their beady eyes and seemingly greasy whitish gray fur make me feel like I’m looking at the animal version of John Waters. Their whiskers are the worst though, looking like skinny, black, uncooked ramen noodles. Not to mention they’re pretty fucking stupid. There’s this road on the way to my friend’s place that I call ‘roadkill road’ because there’s always a copious amount of dead opossums and raccoons no matter what time of day it is. Even if the city comes to clean it up it hardly matters because on will die in its’ place in a matter of minutes.

Have My Feelings Changed About Them?

Short answer, yes. Through watching the rescue guy on YouTube he explains the importance of them in the ecosystem and how they help in keeping pests like cockroaches and rats out of his area and can even help in keeping insects out of your garden. Opossums are also the only marsupials in North America, which doesn’t exactly make them any less ugly, but still a pretty cool fact nonetheless. An attack from an opossum is rare, despite them being omnivores. They are very timid animals so they’re more likely going to faint or run away than try and bite you. The relationship that the farmer and Poppy have together has sort of loosened me up. I actually saw one in the forest with my girlfriend recently and wasn’t COMPLETELY disgusted. However, it’s not an invitation to be friends just yet.

Birds

A little fact about me is that I’ve been hit by a bird three times in my life. Once by a morning dove, a robin, and the other by a cardinal. While I love cardinals, morning doves just kind of weird me out. If you get anywhere near one it’s almost a game to them of ‘how close can I get this human to walk towards me before I freakishly flap my wings’. The answer is: close enough to hit me in the forehead. I’ll give the cardinal a break since it hit me on the way to the bus stop in middle school and gave me more personality since I was shy.

The robin one is pretty vile though. I was riding my bike to help build the sets for our school’s drama production and while riding there a robin decided it would be totally cool to try and fly in between the spokes and smack into my leg. Nice one asshole, now you’re dead and I got trauma for the rest of my life.

Geese are probably the bird I’ve had the most issue with by far. They like to hiss at me when I ride along the bike trail by my house and do that weird motion with their necks that can only be described as noodley. My university has a whole Facebook page dedicated to how annoying the geese on campus are and how they literally shit EVERYWHERE. One girl came up to me at the desk the other day and showed me a pic of a goose standing on top of her car while she was moving out. I told her “well I hope you enjoyed that car because you’ll never get anywhere near it again.” One of my first ever posts on this site was actually about geese so if you want to see me amateurly rant about geese I’ll link it.

I also got pecked by a chicken when I was younger too so I definitely felt no mercy during every future KFC visit.

Have My Feelings Changed?

Eh, kind of? Some of my favorite animals are birds like penguins, hawks, and ducks. I even like geese a little more nowadays. I got pretty close to one the other day while I was on a walk and the closer I observed it the more cute and innocent it looked. Plus the way they dedicate themselves to one other goose for the rest of their life and travel with them is cool as heck. What a bunch of simps!

I have no ill-will towards most birds. I would totally love to own a bird one day actually. Whenever we would go to the pet store as kids, my brother and I would always run to the parrots and the one that could mimic you (the name escapes me). Ducks are easily my second favorite animal of all time. Like geese, they travel with their mate and are loyal as heck too (ladies find yourself a duck and not an owl). Male ducks have the coolest head of any animal with their shade of dark forest green and their bright yellow bills. If I could have one as a pet I’d totally have one by now.

Robins are still kind of busted to me and pretty dumb. There was one robin that kept flying into our front window one day and eventually killed itself, so I can’t respect an animal that can’t even tell the difference between the world and a window. Seagulls kind of rub me the wrong way too, but they get a pass for being associated with summer.

Also fuck ostriches and rheas. I was recently introduced to rheas and my god they’re evil. Same thing with peacocks. I guess it really depends on the bird, but I’d say 4 out of 5 times I’ll enjoy a bird.

Nocturnal Animals

I figured it’d be easy to generalize since nighttime creatures deserve a category all together. Only reason opossums aren’t in this is because we have a more memorable past.

Raccoons (aka trash pandas) are a very mixed bag. Their patterns are so cool and they’re very cute, but they’re also very menacing and kind of jerks. It seems like for every merit of these guys there’s a drawback. Ever since I saw that scene from Elf when he gets attacked by the raccoon my perception just hasn’t been the same. What I strongly dislike about the internet is that they will make an animal look so damn cute as a pet, but they’re super dangerous if they aren’t tamed. There’s a raccoon on TikTok that is a house pet and acts like a dog, but I’m sure secretly hates orphans or something else terrible.

I was never really afraid of foxes or coyotes growing up. It wasn’t until one coyote was in my neighborhood that I got kind of geeked and scared for my dog’s life. They’re very sweet in appearance, but are one of the most dangerous wild animals in the mid-west. Foxes are more mild versions of coyotes, but better in every single way. Not only are they friendly and unharmful to most humans and medium sized animals (unless rabid, but that’s extremely rare), but they can also be domesticated! They’re very beautiful animals that sadly only live around 2-5 years.

Skunks are OKAY I guess. Despite the obvious reason that most people hate them, they’re pretty cute, harmless animals. They’re kind of the nerds of nightlife. They stink and they can’t see for the life of them. I’ve been told they make very good house pets too. If you’ve never seen a skunk groomed before do yourself a favor and Google that man.

Have My Feelings Changed?

With foxes and skunks, yes. When it comes to raccoons and coyotes though, not so much. Foxes have slowly crept their way into becoming my favorite animal. Like the Urban Rescue Ranch YouTube channel, there’s a fox sanctuary YouTube channel that really got me fascinated with foxes and how they are taken care of if domesticated. I also realize that I have never had a bad experience with a fox either. I remember one time driving into my neighborhood I saw this little red fox running around with a cup on its’ nose. My man just wanted a bite I guess.

With skunks I realized that the only reason I found them to be kind of gross before is due to the impending threat they present. They’re actually very good for the environment, but the only drawback is that a lot of wild skunks have rabies so if you’re scratched by one you might be in a stinky situation (sorry, I’ll leave). With raccoons I think they are very cool animals, but the more I learn about them the more I kind of dislike them. They’re like koalas, they eat shit and look cute but don’t really do anything to help you or the environment. Seriously, Google ‘what are raccoons good for’ and the only answer is that they help keep other animal populations under control. Wow, congrats you eat food.

Coyotes are very smart and for that I have nothing but respect for my canine kings. The only issue is that they are a massive hazard if one sneaks into your neighborhood. Coyotes are probably the most accurately depicted creatures in media. They show very little mercy, especially to roadrunners (okay NOW I’ll stop SORRY). While they may seem cute, they will literally tear you up.

Mice/Rats

I hesitate to write about this, but truthfully I really have never liked/appreciated/welcomed these rodents. I blame the 2004 election for my distaste for mice and no I’m not talking about Dick Cheney. I remember during election day 2004 we had a few mice sneak into our house. This for whatever reason really disturbed me because they were getting into our food, more specifically the cereal. Nobody fucks with my Frosted Flakes unless your name is Tony the gosh-dang Tiger and even then I’d be like ‘dude just give it back’. They did eventually all get killed like within a week or so, but I was kind of paranoid for a few weeks.

Flash forward to the 2012 election and guess what? A mouse slipped into our house. The same way that a rat slipped into the senate (no subtlety here zodiac killer). I love how I’ll make a joke like that and some nut-job will probably DM me again over a tiny joke (again). ANYHOW back to mice. The difference between this time and the first time with the mice is this time I actually saw it in motion and in person. I just saw the signs the first time, hence the Frosted frustration. This really messed with me, I would have nightmares about rats and mice crawling up my legs for months.

As of recent, I’ve been able to separate my feelings about rats and mice though. Rats are like 10X worse than mice. Though I’d rather just not have either, mice have less mal-intent. Mice are just G’s trying to survive while simultaneously being ugly as fuck. I’m sure some can relate. Rats are vicious. They’re like the geese of the rodent world. The only time I’ve ever seen rats have really just been in Chicago or in pet stores. I have never held one of them before nor do I care to ever do so. The only good thing that rats have done through their time on earth is be in a Pixar movie.

Have My Feelings Changed?

No. Maybe a bit with mice, especially white mice. White mice are cool and I wouldn’t have one as a pet, but let’s just say that if I’m feeding a mouse to a snake I’d feel more guilty sacrificing one of those. Field mice are the worst in the mice bunch though, they’re so small and can squeeze through just about the smallest of spaces. They’re also one of the animals that reproduce the most. If a rat approached me on the street and asked me what time it was I’d probably be hesitant, but give it to them. We could kick it as mutuals, but probably not friends.

Wrap-Up

At the end of the day I’ve definitely had my fair share of animals related encounters and even dreams. I had a dream that opossums were crawling up my pantlegs the other day… strangely I didn’t mind until they started to grow human teeth and begin to smile. I think that the phrase “the only thing to fear is fear itself” speaks a lot of truth when it comes to animals. As a kid I was kind of freaked out by cows and sheep. Petting zoos might as well have been haunted houses for me. Being around them helped me get a better idea of what they’re about though you can also say the same about my experiences with frat guys. In a negative sense of course. Regardless, one of my 2021 goals was to be better acquainted with birds and mice so I guess we’ll see what zany scenarios will be brought forth by that.

Published by cpetschke

College student, writer, music lover, listener, learner.

One thought on “Man vs Nature: Animals

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