One morning I noticed one of our water jugs had fallen over and
drained into the sand. I didn't think any more about it than to
realize we had lost water that was important to us. The village
never had an abundance of water during the long summers and I
didn't want to waste what was dear to them. We used our fresh
water sparingly. We had three fifteen-gallon tanks to haul
water from the well in the village. From these I filled a
number five-gallon tanks. One of these went on the roof to
provide hot running water to the kitchen. We also kept a number
of one gallon plastic bottles for other uses. We bathed and
washed cloths and dishes in seawater.
The next morning I noticed that another bottle had been spilled
behind the hut, between it and the coop/corral. This time there
were teeth marks on the top of the one-gallon bottle; Lassie
must have been thirsty during the night, but then I realized she
had been shut in the hut with us after we had gone to bed.
Maybe we were getting coyotes in camp during the night. This
was a worry because the chicken coop was not designed to keep
mid-sized animals in or out; it was just a place for the
chickens to roost and to secure Billy and Burlap.
That night I raked down the area between the hut and the coop
and put a gallon bottle full of water with the top screwed on
tight in the center of the area. I vowed to listen during the
night for noises. Of course I fell asleep and didn't hear a
sound. The next morning though the cap was removed and the
bottle was turned over. I looked at the dirt and saw prints
that looked like dog tracks, about the size of Lassie's, but
thinner. So we now knew at least one coyote was coming into
camp during the night to drink our water. This was surprising
because there were only several meters between the hut and the
coop. Coyotes normally don't like close quarters.
This problem occurred several nights in a row. We were
concerned with the loss of water, but more so with the varmints
becoming too familiar with our area and threatening. We were
surprised that our chickens hadn't been killed already. That
day I cut a small hole in the bamboo siding on the backside of
the hut, alongside where I slept. When we went to bed that
night I told myself that every sound I heard I was going to sit
up and peek through the hole to see what was making the noise.
From the hole I could see the coop and the entire surrounding
Several times over the next few nights I heard noises and
quietly sat up to peek through the cutout. I never saw
anything, but a water jug was spilled almost every night. This
went on for a week and I had no clue how the coyote was getting
to our water without my hearing. I was anxious to go back to
sleeping the night through instead of getting up several times
toward no end. One night I positioned the truck so that I could
sleep in the bed with the rear doors opened toward the water
jugs. I was sure the interior of the truck would be so dark
that no animal would know I was there but I would be able to see
it from the light of the moon. Wrong again. No coyote ever
came while I was waiting in the truck.
I decided to rig a trap that would make noise when the coyote
turned the bottle over. I balanced a series of tin cans on top
of the bottle. I heard nothing during the night. The next
morning the cans were all laid on the ground, the cap chewed off
and the bottle dry. Finely I gave up on the idea of scaring the
coyotes away. I put my twelve-gauge shotgun through the cutout
at the rear of the hut, aimed at the water bottle location every
night. I vowed that if I heard any noise I would look through
the hole to sight the shotgun and, when I had a clear sighting,
shoot the coyote.
The front of our hut looked north and east. On the hillsides
above the fan on the other side of the plateau, where we had
first seen Don, were many small paths, with one passing through
each saddle in the hills to the north. We had wondered what
animals used these paths, but they were always free of plant
life, so we knew they were used. We assumed coyotes, mountain
lions and foxes, but when you never see an animal it's difficult
to believe in its existence. That day we were sitting outside
the hut and, scanning the horizon, and saw a sole coyote, in
full daylight, trot down one of the paths and onto the beach.
She went straight to the ocean. Through the binoculars we could
see her lapping up salt water. This was an indication of how
desperate they must get during the days of summer heat.
For several nights I slept through the night without hearing a
noise but each morning more water was missing. Then one night I
awoke to the sound of water bubbling from the bottle and jumped
silently to the peephole, saw the coyote, sighted the shotgun
and jerked off a round before I could get fully behind the gun.
The recoil knocked me completely off my cot and onto Mary Ann's.
The deafening blast caused an immediate uproar from the chickens
and Billy and Burlap. Michael and Kevin jumped up in alarm;
this situation with the coyotes had gone on for so long that
they had lost interest and forgotten. But I calmed everyone
down and went outside to check out what I was sure was a dead
coyote. The bottle was on its side, water still running slowly
from the neck onto the ground. The beam of my flashlight
flicked over the area with no sign of the coyote. The boys came
out to help me find the animal. We searched for fifteen minutes
and found nothing. I didn't want a wounded animal suffering,
and tracked the area in widening circles around our hut and
coop, looking for drops of blood or other sign. When we found
nothing we went back to bed, disappointed and tired.
The next morning we got up and made breakfast and completed a
final inspection of the trap in the daylight. I was looking at
the area where the bottle had been, the tracks in the dust. The
boys came back to help and one of them pointed to one of the
outboard gas tanks, located adjacent to the area where we kept
the water. I looked at the can from a distance and something
was wrong, but couldn't tell what. I walked over and picked it
up to see that the blast from the shotgun had struck dead center
broadside. So there was no dead coyote. My aim had been off by
a number of meters at that short distance. We all got a laugh.
They started calling me deadeye. I relocated the water on top
of the coop where the coyotes couldn't get it and I put the
shotgun back under the cot. Let the coyotes win this round.