Monday 05 August, 2013 by Uncle Spike
Never been into pyjamas or ‘jim-jams’ myself, but I have to admit, ever since our son was born, boxers have become my thing. Quite handy too as any parent will appreciate, knowing the regularity at which you have to get up to see to the little one during those first few years – always requiring one to be dressed ready for battle at all times. However, living as we do in a rural setting in a pretty hot part of the world, I have also found my dress code to be the most practical of preferences. And here are just a few reasons why…, namely Wild Boar, Sheep, and Hedgehogs.
Bonzo is our farm dog. A mixed cross I suppose, with a hefty amount of Kangal, the big-ass Anatolian traditional livestock guardian, and a dash of German Shepherd. He lives outdoors, secured on a long chain under a big olive tree, He has a large hut to call his own, but he’s a tough guy; even in torrential downpours, he prefers to stand outside and face the elements head on. As with most dogs, he has a soft and playful side too, but I’d never let him off when the kids are out; he’s a bit boisterous and a bit of a thug if given half the chance. His favourite game with me when having his morning run, is a good old ‘play fight’, whereby he tries to bite my steel toe-capped farm boots, and as much as I try to land a hefty kick in his direction, he jumps back for more, over and over again. But you only have to say “Ok, enough Bonzo”, and he’ll then transform into Mr Gentle Giant, responding immediately to “sit”, “down”, and “roll over” commands in the off-chance a piece of double-baked biscuit will be thrown in his direction.
Our farm is situated beneath pine-clad foothills of the Western Taurus Mountain range in southwest Turkey. It is farming territory all round, mainly citrus fruit, and some arable and small livestock farming such as goat and sheep herding. To the west lies the Mediterranean; to the east it’s nothing but forested mountains for miles and miles until the rise of the Anatolian Plateau. Surrounded as we are by nature, night time is however not a quiet time. By day the sounds can vary from cows to an abundance of birdlife, from a few goats to the cacophony of all the roosters in the village doing their thing at the same time. Plus, on occasion you’ll hear the sounds of human habitation such as tractors, chainsaws and village-folk shouting at one another across the valley. But it’s at night that the real noise can kick off.
First we have the dogs, all of whom are Bonzo’s pals. Now every farm has one or more, mainly to ward off foxes, badgers or anyone who decides to wander near your place with a penchant for light-fingeredness. Of course, from dusk till dawn, the dogs like to discuss local politics, the latest collar types and general canine business. And just like politicians in parliament, they all seem to need to shout at once. But saying that, Bonzo is also our early warning system, letting us know when there is a fox on the prowl with more than a passing interest in our chickens, which generally roost in the tallest Clementine trees closest to Bonzo (they are not daft).
Second we have the nocturnal birdlife, with our rather more noisy feathered friends who are obviously going for some singing record to beat Elton John in terms of longevity. And in third place are the occasions when some goat-herder decides to move his entire entourage of 200 animals through the middle of the village, passing right past our land, at around 2am during summer moonlit nights.
All of the above, whilst not exactly adding value to the expression “a good night’s sleep”, do not represent a test for the Boxers – that is where the next three categories come in to play.
During the long hot summer, from early June till late September, the night visitors head down from the mountains in search of food, as the parched dry forests leave them with a hunger that is generally resolved by wandering down to the farms, munching on whatever they can find. We are talking here about Wild Boar; those rather large members of the Miss Piggy family with tusks, long hair and a generally bad attitude. Usually around 1:30am they arrive, stomping and snorting their way through the cornfield that adjoins our land. Our place is pretty much secure now, so we’ve never had much of an issue with them trampling through, but naturally, they send Bonzo into a state of berserk psychosis. His phenomenally loud bark/howl combo, which he has perfected to echo off the hills right back through our open bedroom windows, is enough to send me out there in my boxers and plastic slip on sandals. With summer night temperatures ranging from 23-35 (73-95F), you certainly aren’t going to be reaching for the jeans, welly boots and thick jackets. The anti-hog solution is a relatively simple one though, chuck about 10-15 fist sized chucks of rock in high arc throws across the dry riverbed into the adjacent field. Upon hearing the thud of the rocks landing, the sound of retreating trotters is sure to follow. Now they are not famous for being the most timid of creatures, so sometimes it does take 2 or 3 iterations of the bed-stairs-door-rock-throw exercise to persuade them to forage elsewhere, and thereby let Bonzo relax, and us to get a bit more sleep.
Although not a problem in recent years due to an effort to fence off most of our land, I do recall 4 or 5 sleepless nights back in 2009. This was the time a few local sheep had gone astray, and with so much overgrown wilderness all around, they did not concede their freedom rights for a good few weeks. Chasing sheep out of your orchard, alone, in the dead of night, when it’s over 30 degrees is not exactly the most enjoyable of pastimes, especially when some much needed sleep was all you had in mind. I’m so thankful that our neighbours are not that close, as I perish the thought of my welly-booted, boxer wearing antics ever appearing on You Tube.
The fifth and final reason that I tend to charge off down the stairs and fly out the door into the night in my boxers is as comical as it is predictable. Generally it’s during late spring and early summer, when I am often awoken by the strangest hullabaloo – Bonzo’s rendition of a demented screaming banshee. It’s a weird mix of ‘bark, growl, yap, and howl’. Knowing exactly what is going on, I grab myself a 20 litre bucket as I pass the woodshed. Right every time; Bonzo is trying to eat another hedgehog.
To this day he has never succeeded, but it never stops him trying. Often with bleeding gums from the sharp spines, he barks, charges, yaps and bites, followed immediately by a yelp of pain. I’ve perfected my response though, and that simply involves grabbing his thick 3cm leather collar and yanking him up by force with one hand (bearing in mind he is hell-bent on the task and he’s a big strong dog), whilst using my free hand to scoop up the little critter in the bucket. I then let go of Bonzo, who is foaming at the jaws by now in anticipation of his continued recreation, and hastily beating a retreat beyond the reach of his heavy chain. Then, I dump the hedgehog over the fence into the dry river bed, he wanders off into the cornfield, Bonzo sits down dejectedly, and I return back to bed, job done.
And you’ll be amazed at how many people I know say “Wow, how lovely to live in the peace and quiet of the country”… yeah right!