TW - some animal violence/death - but in context, and not intentional. It's legit self-defense

I work in the woods, and recently have had to hire a tree service to take care of some dangerous trees - mostly dead/dying ash. The area of the world I live in is an interesting mix of conservative, liberal, conservative liberals, and liberal conservatives. The further out from the cities you go, generally the more conservative the population. Obviously the woods are pretty far out of the city, so when it comes to hiring contractors, I tend to expect some significant differences in our respective views of the world.

Now - this is NOT a political writing - just a setting the stage for what's to come.

The first time I meet my tree guy, R, I see the "blue lives matter" flag on his facemask, and already draw some strong opinions. Again, politics is not the focus here. R is a tall, thickly built, gruff white guy, driving a big truck, and carrying big male energy. Ok, fine. Whatever. Can you do the job? He's already sold himself over the last guy though, having a real crew and NOT talking about climbing the super dead ash.

As we are walking the property to assess the trees, we start chatting about this and that, and I learn this guy is a strangely conservative person with a very liberal (nearly militant) view on the environment. He works with the trees, and avid outdoorsman and hunter, and an obvious love of nature. There is a fair amount of overlap in our opinions on important matters of the woods, and I find myself liking this guy. I don't want to, but I do.

Then, R starts telling me some of his stories. To this day, I have chatted with him on site about three times, and each time he has some new, insane, yet TRUE story to tell from his adventures as a tree guy. One is in the process of being the base of a short story I am working on.

First story:

One of the tools R has at his disposal is a remote controlled bucket truck thing - apparently known as a "spider" to some folks in the business. This allows them to access more remote trees that are not safe to climb, but also too far out for their trucks to get to. Now, R makes a point of being aware of tree dwelling critters, their nests, and their young. As often as he can, he will relocate them to safety before taking down a tree. This was one of the points that sold me to liking him. He truly respects nature.

R tells me about this one job they are on taking down a large tree, and he's 80 feet up in the bucket truck. His crew is running equipment, it's loud, he's taking down this tree and disturbs a nest of raccoons. Raccoons are not small, and they are VERY fierce. Somehow the Mother raccoon ends up IN the bucket with him, madder than a nest of murder hornets, and attacking R. Remember, he's 80 ft in the air. This raccoon is trying to bite him through his chaps and boots, fighting like hell; and he's essentially holding himself up as far out of the bucket as he can, unable to reach the controls as a result, hollering to his crew who can not hear him due to all the equipment. Unable to do anything else, he has to fight this raccoon, and ends up (sadly) killing her, but not after she has done some serious damage to his boots and chaps. He said he felt terrible, but there was nothing else he could do, and I believe that. He also said he had never been so scared in his life, and nearly pissed himself -I respect a "tough guy" who can admit to being that afraid.

Second story:

The next time I see R, he's tagging the trees we agree on, and we are chatting about this and that as we go. He starts telling me about the black vultures in a nearby town, along a major river. He and I both agree that when we think of vultures, we think of these large, bald birds who eat dead things. Really dead things. Well, not these ones.

R is sitting in his truck finishing some paperwork, and he sees a squirrel on the ground. He then watches as a group of these vultures surround the living squirrel and proceed to eat it while it is still alive. He's astounded. Showed me pictures even, because he did not believe what he was seeing. While this is happening, there is a man walking his German Shepard down the same road. At this point R is out of his truck watching the carnage, dumbfounded. He makes a comment to this man, and is told about how these birds are a real problem in this town. The guy says there are about 3 flocks of 40-50 birds, and they are wreaking havoc on the small animals in town - not just squirrels, but cats, and even small dogs (I'll spare you that tale). He says the people have been going to the town to insist on action being taken, though it has not happened yet. He even goes so far to demonstrate how much these birds do not give a fuck about people, and walks near them with his German Shepard, and they do not move. The guy did not disturb them further. He continues his walk down the street.

R sees a lot of these birds in a nearby pine tree, decides to get a little closer to try to take a picture. When he clearly gets too close, they all - and I mean ALL 40-50 birds turn and look at him. R takes the hint, backs off, and decides perhaps his truck is a safer place.

Turns out black vultures are known for not limiting their diet to things that are already dead, and are a serious problem in many places. They will even go after young calves.

Story three is about possessed squirrels in the Mother Tree. That is the one becoming a story right now, and I'll pipelink it when it's done and posted.

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