After breakfast today I noticed a brown blob near the hose of the pool sweep, and it remained there throughout the day. To date, my frame of reference for animals in the pool has primarily been frog and snake, so I didn't really think twice about the blob. Additionally, our pool sweep lost it's foam "tail" a few days ago, and the tail keeps coming off and floating around the pool. I just assumed the tail was trapped in a loop of the hose and went about my business.
I picked the kids up from school, and we went through the usual routine: snack, homework, tell me about your day. It is hotter than blazes here so the minute we had worked through the routine tasks the kids were clamoring to get into the pool. It is way too hot to sit down there if you aren't wet, so I was working on getting changed, but of course, I was slower than the kids in my preparations. I told them they could head down without me and hang out on the tanning shelf until I got down there. This is fairly standard procedure for us so I was instantly alarmed when I heard frantic screaming coming from the pool.
As a mother you can differentiate between various screams and cries. It starts when the children are newborns and you learn to differentiate the plaintive wail of a tired child from the lusty cries of one who is hungry. By the time they are elementary school aged the source of the emotion is different. Our personal top three are: 1) the whiny cry generated when a sister has pestered you to the end of your sanity or you are so tired and overwhelmed that you have lost your ability to cope, 2) the panicked, frantic cry that comes when someone is legitimately hurt, and 3) the ear splitting scream that comes when they are sincerely scared to death. As a mom you can gauge by the scream how to react. Emily was the source of the screaming, and the noise fell solidly into category three.
I was only half into my bathing suit when the hullabaloo started. My irritation at the screaming quickly turned to panic when I realized that was a #3 scream. I ran for the door as I wiggled the rest of the way into my swimsuit only to catch the strap of my suit on the door handle, and get myself yanked backwards into the door. I have a nice bruise to commemorate that moment of grace under pressure. At this point my mind is whirling with possibilities because now there is more screaming. I quickly come to the conclusion that there must be a snake in the pool again, and started mentally berating myself for having sent the children down there without having checked the pool and the skimmer. By the time I reached the pool I was convinced that I would find a serpent of monstrous proportions and that it had probably already eaten at least one of the kids. As I rounded the corner I was already yelling, "What, what is everyone okay?" The kids were standing at the side of the pool and stopped screaming the minute that I got down there. And that made me mad. I had just hopelessly stretched my bathing suit, run down two flights of wooden steps at a less than safe speed, and conjured completely irrational scenarios of doom and gloom in my head. At this point I was thinking that there better be a serpent in the pool because if the serpent didn't eat them then I would as punishment for scaring me like that.
My heart was still thudding in my chest as I looked around the pool to try and assess what had started this ridiculousness. I noticed the brown blob, and again, assumed it was the tail of the pool sweep. This assessment took all of maybe 20 seconds but as the adrenaline rapidly subsided I was quickly passing mad and heading straight for furious. Emily astutely picked up on the wisps of smoke beginning to beginning to curl from my ears and finally offered, "Look mommy! Look! There is a baby porcupine in the pool and he is going to shoot us with his spiny quills! Don't come any closer!! It is not safe"
You've got to be kidding me.
At this point, the commotion had summoned Rachel who was watching from the upstairs deck area, and she hollers down, "Seriously! A porcupine! Cool. Don't touch it 'til I get down there with my camera." So here is an initial shot of the porcupine. Can you see him? He looks like a serious threat to a person's health and well being, wouldn't you say?
Here's a closer shot. And it's a vole, not a porcupine.
Abby noticed that the critter was shaking, and told me to watch out. She said she was pretty sure that they shake like that right before they shoot out all of their poisonous quills. I think they shake like that when they have been marooned for 10 hours on a pool hose and deranged humans are standing around screaming like idiots.
We fished the sad, shaking, little cutie out with the leaf skimmer, carried him down by the creek and sent him on his way. I guess we can add another entry to the list of critters who have visited the yard!