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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: October 7, 2020

By Jane Thibodeau Martin

The Dog's Annoying New Neighbors

A couple of weeks ago I was out alone on "Hank Lake" at dusk in my little pedal boat. I like just floating around silently and seeing what there is to see, but on this evening it was something I could hear that got my attention. There was quite a commotion on the north leg of the woods trail, and although I couldn't see the source due to the heavy leaf cover, I recognized the sound. It was a flock of turkeys, haplessly trying to fly into roosting spots in large trees for the night.

The woods are pretty dense there, without many small trees or low branches due to the heavy canopy. That makes it hard for heavy birds to maneuver. They are pretty speedy runners, and fly okay in open spaces, but they bumble, crash and burn trying to get airborne in woods like ours. I couldn't watch, unfortunately, but I could see it in my mind's eye, and it made me laugh. A healthy, tension-busting laugh. I have been able to witness this activity in person a few times and it beats the comedy shows on TV.

A couple of days later, I was walking along our woods trail just before dawn with our regular dog and our full-time emergency spare dog. None of us would have noticed the turkeys roosted in the big white pine as we approached, but the weakest link bird panicked and tried to fly away. Of course it crashed through the vegetation like a bowling ball hitting pins and that startled more of the birds, and another five or so made ill-advised emergency take offs. A few little dead branches rained down and the thrashing and thumping continued for a minute or two.

The dogs froze, stared upwards and were clearly mesmerized. Had a turkey hit the ground during their panicked takeoff, the dogs probably would have dragged me like a sled for miles. I was watching the flock of mixed waterfowl I could see on Hank Lake, assuming they'd take flight in fear as well, but maybe they are used to their avian cousin's ungainly departures because they seemed totally unconcerned.

We see and hear turkeys pretty frequently, but not in the immediate area of our house. I am assuming their food choices are shifting, and the acorns and apples falling off ancient trees near the yard are attracting them now. The big white pines, with their broad branches and wind-breaking needles, make good cold weather roosts. So they will probably stick around a while, providing me with lovely big feathers I find on the ground.

Yesterday afternoon Mike heard a strange rapping noise in the house. Dog one was napping, as she lets her younger helper handle most of the daily monitoring of the CEZ (chipmunk exclusion zone.) But this rapping got both of them in full Danger Red Alert status, and the chaotic barking and running from window to window to spot the source set all the cats fleeing in horror.

Mike discovered the source " a turkey pecking at the glass sliding door on the lower level of our house. Apparently it could see its own reflection, or perhaps it was just curious, or maybe it wanted to check out the contents of the basement beer refrigerator. However, the dog commotion caused it and the rest of the flock to flee at high speed on foot in clear view of the enraged dogs who watched the rapid retreat through the windows in total frustration.

As you can tell, I find our canine and feline housemates to be an endless source of companionship and entertainment. Our wild neighbors are also a source of fascination, amusement and learning. Non-fatal encounters between the two groups are probably the best antidote to the "safer at home" fatigue we have.

Note: Wednesday I was driving to Marinette to visit Mom. It was rather gloomy and overcast, but as I approached a small town, the sun peeped through and a patch of sunlight struck the trees surrounding a small, tidy home. It was traditionally decorated for fall, with pumpkins and corn shocks. The sight of the brilliantly colored trees lit up, and the charming yard decorations stopped me in my tracks. I literally pulled over and put on my emergency flashers to take it in. Being a few minutes late was of no importance. Taking joy in a beautiful sight made everything right in my world. and I was so happy I felt like getting out of the car and giving the homeowner a standing ovation of one. (Yes, I know, they probably would have called for the police to come and do a welfare check on the crazy lady clapping in front of their house.) Wisconsin is stunningly beautiful in the fall, do not let the sad, aggravating and scary news rob you of your chance to give thanks for the lovely place we call home.

Book I am reading: Nature's Best Hope by Douglas W. Tallamy. He finds hope for saving our plants, animals and environment in tiny incremental steps that any of us can take, using even a post-stamp sized yard. Advice on native species to help feed pollinators, birds, and animals along with reducing the spread of invasive species and use of harmful pesticides and fertilizers is presented in layman's terms and in small steps. Well-written and uplifting that even if we can't change what is going on at the national level right now, we can do the right thing in our own little corners of the world.

For those who e-mailed about Queen Elizabeth: She is on my lap as I write. She is eating well, gets lots of attention and naps, and seems serene and content. I am SO happy we adopted her. Thank you!

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


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