As we move out of rural areas and into cities, as we fill ourselves with Animal Planet and PBS nature documentaries, a funny thing begins to happen: We forget that some of those majestic creatures we've been encountering through screens all our lives can kill us. Rilla Askew offers a simple reminder: Watch where you step.

Rilla was born in the Sans Bois mountains of Oklahoma. A writer of fiction and nonfiction, whose stories are often set in the harsh landscape of that state, she doesn’t think of herself as a “regional writer.” Rather, she says, “America is [her] subject, Oklahoma the canvas.” This essay comes from her 2017 collection, Most American: Notes from a Wounded Place. She’s also the author of several novels, most recently, Kind of Kin. Find her at RillaAskew.com.

Special thanks to Ralph Beliveau at the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication at Oklahoma State University for recording Rilla. Music in this episode comes from US Army Blues, Ralph Font and His Rumba Music, Kai Engel, Jahzzar, and Cullah.

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Sphecius Speciosus

Few insect sounds have inspired as much writing as that of the cicada. Our first act comes from Christa Spillson: Amid a 13-year cicada brood cycle, an ice cream shop introduces a new flavor. And in act two, Robbie Maakestad, as part of a trio of young warriors, defends the chattering insect from a small colony of parasitic wasps.

Robbie is a Senior Features Editor for The Rumpus and an Assistant Professor of Writing at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. He is writing a biography of place about Jerusalem’s City of David archaeological site. He has been published or has forthcoming work in Boulevard, The Normal School, Essay Daily, Wigleaf, and Bad Pony, among others. Follow him on social media @RobbieMaakestad.

Christa Spillson  is a graduate of the Master of Fine Arts program in nonfiction writing at George Mason University and teaches at Salisbury University in Maryland. Her writing has been listed as “notable” in Best American Essays and has appeared or is forthcoming in literary journals such as Boulevard, Crazyhorse, Diagram, The Rumpus, and Portland Review.

Music in this episode comes from Santosh, Thomas Helton and Kevin Patton, Salomé Lego Playset, Apache Tomcat, Quantum Jazz, Misha Dioxin, Kevin MacLeod, The Unnameable, Damiano Baldoni, and Lorenzo's Music. You can find all of those artists at the Free Music Archive. Also in this episode, cicada calls and choruses recorded by Mike Koenig and Dan Mozgai. You can find more cicada sounds on the website CicadaMania.com.

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The Girl Who Turns to Rabbits

A nervous schoolgirl transforms into multitudes of white rabbits. Despite her constant anxiety, she's okay with ending up bones.

This episode is based on a story of the same title by Melissa Goodrich, a writer based in Tucson, Arizona.  Her work has appeared in American Short Fiction, Artful Dodge, The Kenyon Review Online, Passages North, PANK, Word Riot, Gigantic Sequins, and others. She is a co-author of the collaborative collection The Classroom, from which “The Girl Who Turns to Rabbits” comes. She also produced the fiction collection Daughters of Monsters and a poetry chapbook entitled, IF YOU WHAT. Her rabbit's name is Oliver, but everyone calls him Bun Bun.

Music in this episode comes from the Barker Trio, cátodo dúo, la corporación, the Watery Graves of Portland, Gospel of Mars, Hernan Sama and Marcelo von Schultz, and Animals & Men. You can find all of those artists and more at the Free Music Archive.

Subscribe to Bestiary on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Anchor, or whatever app you use to tap into the podcast ether.

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The Island Wolves

Writer and environmentalist Kim Todd joins us to talk about her essay, published in July of 2017 by Orion Magazine, "The Island Wolves." In the mid-twentieth century, scientists began a study on Lake Michigan's Isle Royale, believing it to be a perfectly isolated, natural laboratory, in which they could study predator-prey relationships between wolves and moose, untainted by outside human influence. What they found would throw decades of scientific assumptions into disarray.

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Simple Coyote Math, part 2

Part 2 of our series on the North American coyote comes in three act, based on the rules that cartoonist Chuck Jones laid out for himself in his writing of the Coyote and Road Runner cartoons. Act 1 tells the story of a girl's death in 1970s Los Angeles and the madness that followed. In act 2, we revisit Mark Twain's coyote, that "living, breathing allegory of want." And act 3 takes us back to Eric's hometown, Erie, Pennsylvania, for a story about a coyote living among the city's dead.

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Simple Coyote Math, part 1

In 1999, Chuck Jones, creator of the Coyote and Road Runner, published his autobiography Chuck Amuck, in which he details, at one point, the nine rules that governed his writing of the cartoons. This miniseries on our relationship with the coyote takes its structure from those rules. Part 1 begins with Jones' first 3 rules. Rule #1: "The Coyote cannot harm the Road Runner except by going, 'Beep beep!'" Our greatest effects on coyotes come from the ways in which we alternately demonize and valorize them. Rule #2: "No outside force can harm the Coyote - only his own ineptitude or the failure of the Acme products." In our efforts to exterminate the coyote, we do as much harm to ourselves and the ecosystems on which we depend as we do to the coyote. And rule #3: "The Coyote could stop anytime - if he were not a fanatic," and so could we.

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All American Avians

During World War II, famed psychologist BF Skinner started working on a project in which he would train ordinary street pigeons to guide pelican missiles (the irony of which was not lost on him) into German warships. In this fictional episode, Eric imagines a piece of radio propaganda in which the US government asks its citizens to send their own pets to war--which, it turns out was not totally unheard of at the time.

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