Chupacabras and Other Hazards of Moving to The Country

Whenever I tell people about the small town I grew up in the overwhelming response I get is: “Oh! You’re from the country.”

I’ve been pretty much agreeing with this my entire life. But it is a lie.

For a month this summer we lived in Missouri.

IN. THE. COUNTRY.

My husband took a job, and as it sometimes happens with coaches, he then left for another job. We were exceptionally lucky to have worked, however briefly, for an awesome coach who very much understood our situation and was gracious enough to wish us well.

I had unpacked about 14 boxes into our very cute country house when my husband told me to stop. He then got in his truck and left me alone with the kids and our dog for the next two weeks. During those two weeks I learned, very quickly, that I am not from “the country”.

I am from a town, a small town, but a town.

With people.

Do you know what lives in the country?

Not The Dora Family.

On Day 1 of living in the country, we got our first cat. We basically acquired a new cat each day until we left. You could only pet one of them and I’m pretty sure the rest were sisterwives. Two of the cats would sit in the window above the sink while I washed dishes, growling under their breath and giving each other looks. It was similar to getting a pedicure. I had no idea what they were saying, but I would feel very judged.

One of “our” cats had only had one eye. One had a bum leg. And one was noticeably bigger than the rest. Looking back, I’m pretty sure that guy was a puma.

Nights in the country are terrifying. They are weirdly quiet and there are strange lights in the trees. Sure, most people would assume the lights are from passing cars on the highway–not roving bands of devil worshippers or alien spacecraft–but I’m not most people.

Also, statistically speaking, there is an overwhelming trend among aliens abductees–most are from the country. Factoring in how many country people own guns for protection/hunting and know how to use them, alien abduction obviously poses a clear and present danger.

Thankfully, our house was also surrounded by cows. As alarm systems go, cows are somewhere above the Ring Doorbell (because of their customer service), but below keeping wasp spray, a kitchen knife, and your car alarm beside your bed. Not that I do that.

Our cow-alert-system would go off frequently during the night, making weird groaning noises or engaging in midnight whole-herd-sprints across the pasture.

The first night in the country we heard a loud clattering on the porch. Something had made it passed the cows and was here to sacrifice or experiment on us. The culprit opened our stainless steel dog food container and emptied the contents all over the porch. Our only cat at the time was thrilled with the all-night buffet, still we pulled the container inside.

After a week of nightly clattering, I spotted the bandit. Fun fact: raccoons can open anything. Metal trash cans, plastic storage bins, a checking account in your name…

Our raccoon liked to lift up the stainless steel dog bowls and bang them together like cymbals.

Some people enjoy the “quiet” of the country. Those people might also be aliens.

The stakes were raised considerably on Country Day 3.

On Country Day 3–we saw a chupacabra.

The Transcript:

Country Day 3:

Darryl: “What’s that in our yard?”

Me: “Probably a cat.”

Darryl: “No, it just stood up on its hind legs.”

Me: “Probably so. There’s one in the front yard that can do a flip.”

Darryl: “It’s not a cat. Look.”

Me: *looking past the two nail shop cats in the window at a large brown waddling thing*

Darryl: “What is that?”

Me: “Platypus?”

Darryl: “What? No.”

Me: “It’s way bigger than the things in Lubbock.”

Darryl: “What things?”

Me: “West Texas meerkats.”

5YO: “Meerkats live in Africa.”

Me: “I know, I said…west Texas meerkats.”

5YO: “Meerkats live in Africa.”

Me: “I know, I said west Texas meerkats–the ones with bubonic plague.”

Darryl: “Prairie dogs?”

Me: “Yes!”

Darryl: “OK, so it’s bigger than a prairie dog.”

5YO: “Can we get a meerkat? Since we live in the country now?”

Me: “Meerkats live in Africa.”

Darryl: “I’m just saying, that’s not really helpful. Lots of things are bigger than a prairie dog.”

Me: “OK, then. Maybe it’s a hippopotamus.”

5YO: “Oooh can we get a hippopotamus?”

Late Afternoon Country Day 4:

Darryl: “The creature is back. It has a pointy face.”

Me: *googling giant, pointy-faced rodents* “Could it be a beaver?”

Darryl: “There’s no water up here.”

5YO: “There’s a dam!”

Darryl: “That’s a woodpile, for firewood.”

Me: “Lazy beaver?”

5YO: “Lost beaver?”

Darryl: “It’s not a beaver!”

5YO: “I named it Dandelion.”

Me: “The internet says we can determine species by its gait. Should we chase it?”

Darryl: “It’s not a pet, and we aren’t chasing it.”

Me: *already opening the door*

Country Day 5:

5YO: “Mom! Dad! The chupacabra is back.”

Darryl: “Why did you tell her it was a chupacabra?”

Me: “She wanted to know why I was calling it ‘Chupy’.”

Darryl: “Chupacabras are monsters.”

Me: “No, they are goat suckers.”

Darryl: “That’s not a chupacabra.”

Me: “How do you know?”

Darryl: “There’s no goats.”

Me: “Exactly.”

Midmorning Country Day 6

Darryl: “I looked it up. It’s a marmot.”

Me: “From Game of Thrones?”

Darryl: “What? No. It’s a groundhog.”

Me: “Like from the movie?”

Lena: “Did it see its shadow?”

Darryl: “No. It’s summer.”

Me: “Didn’t we have this same conversation yesterday? It’s like we’re living the same day over-and-over…”

5YO: …

Darryl: …

Me: *still laughing hysterically at my own joke that no one else got*

Darryl: “We can catch it by putting out fresh cantaloupe.”

Me: “What are we going to do with if we catch it?”

Darryl: “Get rid of it.”

5YO: “Why can’t we keep it?”

Darryl: “You have 17 cats. We’d just let it go on a farm somewhere.”

5YO: “But we live on a farm!”

Me: “Yeah, that seems unfair. Chupy was here first. And a trap like that seems dangerous for other…wildlife.

Darryl: “What wildlife? Cats don’t eat melons.”

Me: “I was talking about me, but also, I think that one guy’s a puma.”

This picture was taken from really far away because we didn’t have health insurance for like a month and Darryl wouldn’t let me get a close-up. Chupy was much larger in person. Like the size of…a puma.

Liza Dora is an author, illustrator, and Texan living in Tennessee with her husband and two children. Liza graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in chemistry and is the proudest member of the class of 2007.

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