I saw her. As I rounded the corner in the Little Mule, the creature loped out of the persimmon tree and raced up the hill. I stopped at the tree and my eye followed his path. She sat under a tree on the slope, tail swirled around her like a cape. I could see faint rings on the tail and the black outline around her eyes. The round stubs of her ears pointed forward, she looked down her long nose at me, her attitude condescending. I hopped out of the Mule to stand at the bottom of the hill to get a better look. She was the first coatimundi I had ever seen. She turned and walked away.
Finishing up my work at the back of the Ranch house, I put the tools away in the shed and started walking up the lane to the singlewide. The temperature always drops rapidly once the sun goes behind the mountain and the breeze felt cool. I watched the shadows deepen on the mountain until rapid scrabbling on the pecan tree ahead stopped me short. Up the lane, the “coati” was perched in the pecan tree and her chattering let me know she was not too happy to see me. I stepped off the lane opposite the tree to give her a wide berth. She spun quickly around to keep me in sight then dropped to the ground to run ahead to the orange tree. Her sleek brown body moved quick, muscles springing gracefully like a slinky. I walked to the singlewide, ran in and grabbed my camera.
Back outside, coati was now up in the orange tree, shaking and grabbing branches to get at the oranges. Her head popped out from the leaves making me laugh. Annoyed, she jumped down and ran back up the lane to the pecan tree. Scampering up, she perched again with her back to me, her long tail flowing down. Her head wound around the trunk to look at me. It reminded me of Kitty and how she hides in plain sight by crouching under the kitchen chair. I walked slowly down the lane, camera in hand. Agitated at my approach, her chattering increased the closer I came. I snapped two quick pictures then retreated back to the singlewide. She never took his eyes off me.
I considered coati. Did she have a nest nearby? Had I disturbed it in my efforts to clean the grounds? Are there babies on the way? She looked too lean. Maybe the babies are already here and she is scavenging for food to feed them.
The next morning I looked out the kitchen window to see coati meandering in the pecan grove. Her long tail stood straight up making her easy to spot. She nosed the ground for pecans. I went outside again with my camera, standing a respectful distance away. She spotted me but after the events of the previous day, apparently decided she had nothing to fear from me. Continuing to nose around,she glanced at me from time to time but was not disturbed by my presence. It was exciting to watch her in action. A relative of the raccoon, coati is so nimble her actions reminded me more of a monkey. She is long and lanky, with feet like hands. When she looks straight at me, her expression is clownish but from the side she looks more dignified, like an English nanny. At this point I feel our relationship has progressed to respectful familiarity, so I decide to call her Cecilia.
In the early afternoon planning to work in the garden I walked to the tool shed for the hoe, wheelbarrow and rake. The garden is completely fenced in with chicken wire and netting to keep out the birds and critters. There are eleven fence posts running down the center, approximately 10 feet apart. I estimate it is about 20 feet wide. When I work in the garden I always take Kitty with me. Because it is fenced in it is a safe place for her to stretch her legs and get some sun. As I worked, Kitty sniffed and poked around the garden. I could see Cecilia doing the same in the pecan grove. She was aware of my presence but the two animals were unaware of each other. It was strange to be inside the fence looking out at her, a reverse kind of zoo. Perhaps seeing me caged gave her comfort. Fearlessly she crossed the road, nosing around the corner of the fence. It was then that Kitty saw her and in a flash, ran over to check her out. Startled, Cecilia scrabbled up the telephone pole, her claws screeching like nails on a chalkboard. Kitty’s hair stood on end and she raced over to hide under the wheelbarrow. They sized each other up from their points of relative safety.
Charlie came by and I pointed out my new neighbor to him. He grabbed his binoculars to get a better look. Charlie spent twenty years working for the Nature Conservancy and is my go-to-guy for all things plant and animal. He told me that usually coatimundis run in packs so to find one alone is unusual. He trained his binoculars on Cecilia to size her up.
“He’s got a package, it’s a male. From his size I’d guess him to be about two years old. He’s likely having a hard time competing against the older, bigger males for a mate so he’s out here on his own.”
Disappointed to have lost our feminine link, I discard the name Cecilia and decide Cody is a good fit. I related the events of our first encounter.
“He doesn’t seem to mind my presence anymore.” I said.
“He’s been around people before that’s easy to see.” Charlie replied. “If you want him to hang around, roll him an egg. Don’t hand it to him or you’ll come up missing a finger or two. But you can roll it to him.”
I decide against giving Cody an egg. We have guests coming and going all the time and while Cody will definitely be an attraction of sorts, I don’t want him to be aggressively begging for food.
It’s been five days and we fall into a routine. Kitty and I work in the garden every afternoon while Cody hangs out in the pecan grove. Like me, Kitty finds him fascinating. Cody’s long fluffy tail sticks straight up in the air like a flag while he meanders through the trees making it easy to track his movements. Kitty watches his every move. When I finish working for the day, I carry Kitty to the singlewide to avoid any animal skirmishes. We pass near to Cody and he lifts his head, but seeing me, he goes back to what he is doing. He no longer feels the need to chatter a warning at me. I realize he has moved in and I am glad. Although our relationship is at a distance, I enjoy his company and it seems he tolerates mine.