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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: November 14, 2019

Jane Thibodeau Martin

Father Winter Coming Soon

The signs of winter are all around us. As I write this in Central Wisconsin on the 6th, light snow has been falling since early morning. The ground is already covered, and the windless hush that always seems to accompany this first snow has settled over the woods.

Just before the snow, my husband has brush-hogged our natural area, to suppress woody shrubbery and encourage the wildflowers that nurture the bees and butterflies. This annual task sends numerous rats, mice and other small rodents fleeing. At the same time our neighbor began harvesting his soybean field, also trying to beat the weather. This one-two punch of habitat disturbance means our woodlot is alive with little furry refugees so numerous the dogs have been able to ambush and kill some while I walk them on their leashes. They always love their walks outside; but when the scent of prey is so thick in the grass and brush, they are absolutely animated; tails erect and wagging excitedly, pouncing with their forelegs onto tufts of grass and snorting and sneezing. They are in their full canine glory, channeling their wild dog ancestry and doing what Mother Nature designed them to do.

Just as the dogs are animated, the deer hunters are anticipating the upcoming gun season. Our son, who absolutely loves to deer hunt, was fortunate enough to kill an 11-point buck on public land in Oklahoma during bow season. Mike and he are laying plans for gun season, when father and son will enjoy their first Wisconsin hunt together in several years. This passion for deer hunting is ubiquitous in our state, and I overhear deer conversations in the grocery store, the gas station and the local bar and grill. The human hunters are like the dogs, maybe less overtly joyous, but unmistakably full of anticipation and energy.

The fall rut is clearly underway. In the last two days I've seen three bucks. They have mostly abandoned their normal caution. One younger buck was walking along the road on the shoulder, nose down and tracking a scent as I approached in my car. It took him an unusually long time to notice me; in fact I was almost at a full stop when he suddenly lifted his head; started and took off running. Another one crossed the highway at a walk not far in front of me, never once turning to look at my approaching car. And best of all, last evening around dusk while I traveled to the animal shelter I watched a monster buck, at a dead run, come from the right side of the highway, cross directly in front of me and then head for the woods on the other side. He was truly magnificent and I felt fortunate to see him; even more fortunate that I spotted him before he and my car had an unplanned encounter. I am on red alert when I drive right now; I permit no distraction from my continuous scan of the shoulders and fields.

I filled our birdfeeder to the brim; but am still hesitant to put out the suet feeder. We draw a delightful and diverse flock of woodpeckers to this source of food, but last spring's uncomfortably close visit from a bear interested in a suet snack makes me want to wait just a bit longer before putting it out. I want to be sure the bruins are all tucked in for their winter sleep first.

And since I was a little behind in my own fall tasks, I feverishly planted 50 tulip bulbs Tuesday right before the snow. The ground was still soft enough to tuck the bulbs in; I may have been too late but if I do have red and yellow tulips in the spring I'll consider myself blessed.

Father Winter is upon us. While I haven't given up hope of a little "Indian Summer" interlude, today I brushed the snow off my favorite patio chair and put it away. I was hoping for one more sunny afternoon of sitting outside with tea, savoring the last of fall. Maybe I will still get it, if so, it will simply be a bonus. I am ready for the slower, quieter pace of winter.

A belated salute of respect to all our service veterans. I honor all who choose to serve; I also honor those who were drafted and responded to the call in our time of need. A very special thank you to the last of our surviving World War II vets. Your efforts and sacrifice will never be forgotten.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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