Beyond Words

By Marshall Chapman

Wild Kingdom

One night last week my husband and I were taking our usual walk around the neighborhood when we saw something that stopped us dead in our tracks. Sitting under a streetlight at the end of the street was a dog. Or was it? We weren’t quite sure. Some dogs that live nearby often bark like crazy from behind a fence whenever anyone walks by. But tonight, they were strangely silent.

This “dog” wasn’t behind a fence. And he wasn’t barking. He was staring. (I say “he” only because he exuded a certain contained alpha-male energy that had the hairs on my neck standing up.)

“at’s a wolf,” my husband announced. “You think so? It could be a malamute,” I offered.

We weren’t taking any chances. As if on cue, we began backpedaling, never taking our eyes off the dog/wolf, as it continued staring at
us. Once at a safe distance, we calmly turned and began walking toward home. Once or twice, I glanced back over my shoulder to
see if the dog/wolf was following us, but he didn’t move. Nor did he look away.

Our neighborhood is wedged between Murphy Road and West End Avenue, so we live in town. For a while, we would hear coyotes yapping
at night. But they seem to have moved on. But while they were around, small pets would mysteriously disappear during the night. One time I was driving down Elmington Avenue and right there in broad daylight I saw a fox trotting purposefully down the sidewalk, easy as you please, totally oblivious to the children playing in a nearby schoolyard.

Another time, I was in my backyard when I heard this rhythmic, mued sound mingled with high-pitched screaming, like, FWAH fwah-fwah-fwah (EEK!) . . . FWAH fwah-fwah-fwah (EEK! EEK!!) . . . and so on. I looked up to see a red-tailed hawk back-flapping his wings as he tried to pull a squirrel off the trunk of a tree. He had the squirrel locked in his talons, as the squirrel desperately clung to the bark on the tree. It was touch and go there for a while, but the hawk eventually carried off the outraged squirrel.

Recently, I was driving near Green Hills Mall when a deer ran out in front of my car.

It’s a wild kingdom out there.

“Beyond Words” – Marshall’s October column from Nashville Arts Magazine