When I’m young, it’s the season of the rabbit—cute, horrible, skinny, sprinting under the sagebrush when a truck comes up the dirt road. In summer, its long legs and ears make a doubled pair of speech marks as it kicks and runs for what I can only assume it believes is its life, with its matted but not exactly dust-colored fur—some warmer color, a dull kind of yellowish red. At night, its feet kick light back to our car, as if it’s flashing us, as if it has two middle fingers up at us, we who can never not be astonished at its size—jackrabbit racing us on the side of the road, shaped wrong. Not a bunny.
Now I’ve entered the season of the badger, whom I’ve never met but have been warned about before early morning walks up in the hills or down in the high valleys, more like cupboards than valleys. Badgers build deep and sometimes hidden holes, so you might come upon one, in the fields that geese like to feed in, suddenly—the moment your foot catches in one and falls, up to your knee, twisted out of its socket. Or, worse than the home, the thing itself—an angry muscle, a bitter bear low to the ground who, if it perceives you as threatening, and it surely will, may fight, and when it has decided to fight it will lock its jaw around whatever parts of you are closest and at that point you have no choice but to kill it, as my brother did once on a goose-hunting trip, when he came upon one suddenly in the evening and she rose up at him with a bloody anger. Pure violent direction. Though I may have lied a little when I said he killed it, telling this story for the sake of the story, or for the sake of my poor memory, because there floats another memory in my head which says he clubbed it, scaring it off, though not with his gun, and this is the point at which I begin to doubt what happened—since I experienced this secondhand, after the fact. So the badger has two exits: one shot dead, one wounded or at least shaken. Either way you could call her anger and her bitterness righteous. Though in the confrontation with your own repulsiveness, your trespassing, reflected back at you in her anguished body—and knowing that to face this truth about yourself would risk the price of your life or at least your general safety—and when you have a blunt instrument—what other choice do you have?