Tributaries: "Badgers Run"

By Andrea M. Jones

The three dark shapes ripple—not the fur so much as the bodies, undulating across the landscape like figments of a wave. I feel like I’m seeing the wind itself: a phenomenon usually visible only by its effects is glancing back at me across its shoulder. Having lived here fifteen years, I’ve only seen one badger, once. I often find their holes in the pasture, though—fresh-dug evidence of industry powered by stocky limbs and a predatory appetite. They hunt gophers, excavating narrow pipes of burrows to pits full of shadow.

The badgers manage to be simultaneously plump and flattened, their broad forms parting amber-colored bunchgrasses taller than them. The trio shimmers up the slope, headed for the fence line. My brain anticipates a break in their rhythmic gait. Fences, by design, interrupt movement. Even birds flutter and land, borrowing the taut strands as aeries from which to drop onto unsuspecting insects. Deer and elk stop and mill uneasily before jumping or bowing to nose under and, either way, I wince. The leaps don’t always clear the top strand, and passing under, which begins in forced genuflect, proceeds with a cruel raking by barbed wire and ends in an ignominious squat.

The badgers ripple smoothly under the wire and for a second my mind sputters, its expectations defied. I’m surprised at my own surprise, that the low-slung animals, still moving uphill and no longer looking back, are indifferent to a demarcation so obvious to me.

Andrea M. Jones lives with her husband on a high ridge in central Colorado, where she hikes, rides horses, and gardens during the short growing season. She is the author of the essay collection Between Urban and Wild: Reflections from Colorado. In addition to writing literary nonfiction, Andrea works as a freelance indexer and blogs at