Of Craneflies and Kitties / by Beth Winegarner

Screen Shot 2019-04-18 at 3.21.28 PM.png

It’s cranefly season here in Northern California, and they seem to be everywhere. They bounce against the siding on the back of our house like they’re rappelling down a sheer rock face. They rest in the shade, hiding under windowsills. They mate for hours at a time, motionless on the doorframe or flying awkwardly across the yard.

When I come in from the backyard they dart through the opening in the door; you can almost hear the “woohoo!” as they swoop in. But then they sulk around the house, perching near the tops of walls, waiting for mates that are, generally speaking, outside. They resist efforts to shoo them back to the open air.

One made it all the way across the house into the living room, where it hung around the lamps in the evening and divebombed my head, landing on my shirt and tickling my chin before ambling off again. But it made the mistake one afternoon of flying close to the floor. Our cat, Pigeon, chased it around the room, chittering at it, and managed to trap it under her front paws. She opened her mouth and took it in, but somehow it got away. How does that even happen?

The cranefly escaped to the mantel, where it hid and caught its breath, so to speak. Pigeon had managed to injure one of its legs, which was leaking white goo. A few minutes later the cranefly braved a journey across the room, but this time it had a long trail of dusty spiderweb stuck to its gooey leg, weighing it down. Pigeon caught it again and made a few smacking sounds with her mouth. I haven’t seen the cranefly since.

Pigeon, as you may have guessed by now, is not a skilled hunter, even of bugs. (Last week I caught her bothering, but failing to catch, a fly that only had one wing.) She’s also really scared of cars -- to the extent that she won’t go near the front of our house, especially if she can see out the windows, because the sights and sounds of cars going by terrify her.

Today, though, the street was quiet, aside from a couple of workmen, and she got curious. She crouched on the ottoman by the window and carefully raised her head enough so that she could see outside. As she spied the workmen, her ears perked up and her tail twitched attentively. But a moment later, a car sped by, and Pigeon turned and bolted from the room.

She’s smart to be scared of cars, but I was impressed at her bravery. She knows she can’t tolerate the cars outside, but she tested herself anyway, going to the window and peeking out, letting her curiosity override her fear for a moment.