Although I’m not a mountain man, and I would never dare call myself smart enough to be a farmer, I do live on a farm back in the woods of Alabama. I hear people all the time referring to the various types of “night life” they encounter where they live, and I know they’re talking about restaurants, bars, clubs, and parties in the asphalt jungle.

But to me, “night life” means something entirely different, and I’m always reminded of that whenever somebody comes out to visit us. Here are some things I’ve learned about my own Southern Night Life – things I observed for myself, and things that some badly shaken visitors have pointed out to me rather breathlessly.

1) Several cows lowing together off in the distance sound like ordinary cows. However, one sad and lonely cow lowing all by herself sounds exactly like the smoke monster on the TV show LOST.

2) Pine beetles make the same sound as someone walking up on you in the woods. The pine beetle infests sick and dying pine trees, and speeds up the decomposition process. While burrowed inside the tree, he snacks and munches, and the sound of his chewing is a rhythmic combination click/crunch sound. Therefore, if it’s dark, and you’re in the woods, and there’s a dead pine log lying on the ground anywhere near you, you will SWEAR that someone is walking straight up to you, even though you can’t see anybody. It really sounds exactly like footsteps.

3) Since we live on top of the high ground, any sound created around us at a lower elevation is magically piped straight up the hill to our house. Therefore, when our closest neighbors (who live a mile away) start arguing with each other out in their yard, it sounds like someone is calmly talking to us from the woods right next to our house. Even our dog stares oddly at that little stretch of woods as if someone is in there.

4) Rabbits talk to each other in little chittery voices. The net result is that the two little groves of trees on either side of our house sound like they’re inhabited by invisible elves. We can hear them walking, and we can hear them talking, but we just can’t see them. We’re pretty sure they’re laughing at us.

5) “Who cooks for you?” The owl is not the only bird that is awake at night, and all of the rest of those night birds make some blood-chilling noises. Some of them sound like a lunatic woman laughing her head off, while others sound like a small child being strangled. My overall favorite is the Chuck-will’s-widow, which is a weird/cool bird.

6) It’s never, ever totally dark. Even on nights with no moon, there’s still enough ambient light to see things pretty well.

7) Turkeys that fly up into the trees near sundown in order to roost for the night sound exactly like the winged demon-thingy from the movie “Jeepers Creepers.”

8) There are parts of the ground that emit misty fog for no reason I can discover. It looks like little Old Faithfuls scattered around.

9) Armadillos and possums are currently tied on our farm for the dumbest creatures out walking around at night. We’ve had one representative of each literally walk right into my leg and bump into me as if I were not even there. We’re waiting on a tie-breaker to emerge.

10) Hollywood has no sound effect that can mimic a pack of coyotes at night. Good God.

Tom Daniel

Tom Daniel holds a Ph.D in Music Education from Auburn University. He is a husband, father of four cats and a dog, and a college band director who lives back in the woods of Alabama with a cotton field right outside his bedroom window. His grandfather once told him he was "Scotch-Irish," and Tom has been trying to live up to those lofty Southern standards ever since.

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