Mon 26 Nov 2007
The moon was full Saturday night, and in the Giacomini family’s pasture next to my cabin, a coyote howled off and on from 12:30 to 3:30 a.m. Sometimes I could hear a second coyote answering from the Point Reyes Station Mesa.
During the past five winters, I’ve seen a coyote in my backyard stalking fawns, which bounded away while the coyote was squeezing under a barbed-wire fence; I’ve seen a coyote on Highway 1 downhill from the cabin; and I’ve found coyote tracks in frost on my steps. I’ve also seen coyotes twice on Limantour Road and once beside Nicasio Reservoir. Twice recently, my houseguest Linda Peterson has seen coyotes along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard near the Mount Vision Overlook turnoff, where she shot this photo. [Update: Since this posting went online, Linda has spotted (and photographed) yet another coyote.] In short, coyotes are again common throughout West Marin.
Coyotes were once so common here that the town of Olema took its name from the Miwok Indian word for coyote. But in the 1940s, sheep ranchers using poisoned bait were able to eliminate coyotes in West Marin and southwestern Sonoma County, and there were none here for 40 years.
In 1972, however, the Nixon Administration banned use of the poison 10-80, primarily because it was non-specific and killed many other animals too. Coyotes, which had never disappeared from northern Sonoma County, then began spreading south. Since they began showing up here again in 1983, they have put more than half the sheep ranches around Marshall, Tomales, Dillon Beach, and Valley Ford out of business.
In West Marin these nights, they can be heard howling as far inland as the San Geronimo Valley, and for listeners who aren’t sheepmen, the high-pitched, barking howls are a beguiling reminder of life on the western frontier.
Frontiersman Davy Crockett (1786-1836) liked to claim his reputation as a hunter preceded him into the forest. As Crockett told the story, he once treed a raccoon that resignedly cried out: “Don’t shoot, Colonel! I’ll come down! I know I’m a gone ‘coon.” This here raccoon was lucky to merely be shot with my camera.
An old friend, Joy Adam, who has been living in Germany for 20 years, dropped by my cabin Saturday night and cooked some spicy dishes from India as a birthday dinner.
Here one of the guests, Gabriela Melano of Nicasio, has a through-the-glass encounter with one of this hill’s roaming raccoons.
On Friday, I had turned 64, and my former wife Ana Carolina in Guatemala had emailed me the lyrics to the Beatles’ song When I’m 64. During Saturday’s birthday dinner, Nina Howard of Inverness, Joy, and Linda used a printout of the lyrics to serenade me with; “When I get older, losing my hair/ Many years from now/ Will you still be sending me a valentine/ Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?/ If I’d been out till quarter to three/ Would you lock the door?/ Will you still need me/ Will you still feed me/ When I’m 64?”
I’d already had a earlier birthday dinner Friday at the Station House Café with my houseguest Linda plus Linda Sturdivant of Inverness Park, her partner Terry, her daughter Seeva, and our mutual friend Cheryl Keltner of Point Reyes Station.
Sixty-four didn’t sound that old when all of them sang Happy Birthday to You on Friday, but on Saturday after paying attention to the words to the Beatles’ song, I found myself wondering about my Social Security.
As it happened, I was sitting at my dining-room table when I spotted Ms. Raccoon looking over my shoulder, so I asked her what she thought about someone turning 64. Using my camera, Nina snapped this photo as Ms. Raccoon stuck out her tongue in reply.