Me and Pooch and Daniel Boone

November 21, 2016

From “Never Met a Stranger,” due out soon-ish

 

Me and Pooch and Daniel Boone

Everybody has a secret soup bone.

Murphy had his Laws, Dr. Peter had his Peter Principle, and Pooch had The Great Soup bone.

Allow me to explain.

Years ago, I had this great dog named Pooch. I have not always been clever in the naming of my animal companions. In my own defense, I can tell you that he already had the name when I got him from a couple who couldn’t keep him anymore.

Pooch was friendly, happy without any good reason, and generally useless in a cheerful sort of way. He was a lot like most of my friends back in the day.

He was about one-third German Shepherd, one-third Weimaraner, and one-third marshmallow.

Like any other dog, Pooch’s ancestry went all the way back to the wolf. I think that’s pretty cool. I haven’t looked too far back on my own family tree for fear of what sort of termites and miscreants I might find.

Down inside, you see, Pooch saw himself as a Fearless Beast, a veritable Call-of-The-Wild wolf creature with fangs that would freeze the blood of a grizzly and a howl that would make a saint sweat.

Never mind that Pooch was a neurotic wreck. Never mind that he could let loose a marrow-curdling roar, but only if he knew the person at whom he was roaring.

I started thinking about Pooch today while talking with a friend about hunters. We were laughing about the not-really-very-funny fact that most of the deer hunters who die pursuing their sport do so from falling out of trees or from heart attacks.

Obviously, a person who spends 362 days of the year watching television or flying a desk is going have problems the other three days of the year when he tries to transform himself into Daniel Boone and go ridge-running after The Big One.

A friend and I were wondering why they do it, and I thought about Pooch.

I used to stop off on my way home from work and pick up a soup bone from a butcher I had befriended. Pooch loved to gnaw on the things and growl, and the cats looked at him with respect.

I guess I forgot to mention the cats. My wife and I had sixteen of them. We could not bear to give the kittens away and the females couldn’t bear to say “no,” and we had no money to have them spayed, so we had a lot. By the time the number got up to 24, I had left, but that’s another story, and it had nothing to do with the cats.

Anyway, Pooch would curl up in front of the fireplace and immediately six or eight kittens would curl up all over him. He would look at me as if to say “This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be, is it?”

One day, my butcher friend gave me a real treat; most of a cow’s backbone, with one rack of ribs still attached. The doggone thing was about four feet long.

Pooch was cross-eyed with delight.

He carried the gory thing around with him, neck muscles bulging, eyes popping with the effort, now and then uttering fierce little growls. I think he was trying to convince the cats and maybe himself that he’d killed this monstrous, ferocious beast.

The fantasy was pretty easy to put up with for the first few days. But after a while the hapless backbone began to take on a nasty greenish look, and the smell was astounding.

Still, Pooch would pick it up four or five times a day and strut past us, reeking to high heaven, bragging to us in dog-talk about what a fight this thing had put up.

Finally, one day when he was off scaring the wits out of a chipmunk, I took the backbone, which now resembled a prop out of the movie Night of The Living Dead, and dumped it in the Oconee River, which flowed by my back yard.

Pooch searched the woods for that disgusting thing for days. I think he suspected me. He probably thought I was jealous of his hunting prowess.

So, I sit around and shoot the breeze and tell hunting stories, though I can’t even remember the last time I shot a gun. I still like to walk in the woods, but I confess that the hills are steeper than they used to be, and the wind colder.

But sometimes, when the air turns crisp, I find myself staring wistfully at the gun racks in the sporting goods stores, and fight down a desire to go slogging through some of the world’s untamed places. But then I remember Pooch, who carried his fantasy around until it stank, and became a pain in the neck.

Still, I wonder if I could find a coonskin cap in my size.

 

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Garden Rain, Late Harvest

October 13, 2013

BURGER TO GO

By T.W. Burger

I sat down on the remains of an old school desk in my garden and watched the rain assault the burn pile, and listened as it drummed on the hood of my slicker.

The pile has been growing for a couple of years; garden waste, scrap lumber, brush and small trees, a couple of tree stumps. I figured it would not do to allow the pile to get any larger, so it was time.

At the end of a long drought, and with the pile only about 10 feet from a whole field of drying soybeans, I needed a rainy day.

I got my wish. The forecast called for two or three days of steady rain. I figured that would do.

It did.

Getting ready to do physical work takes longer than it used to: A brace for the bad ankle, one for each knee, another one for the back, and the aforementioned bright yellow slicker.

The fire crept slyly around the wet pile at first, but eventually its hunger won out and flames reached up eight feet or more. While I kept an eye on it, I began the work of getting the garden ready for winter.

I stripped the few remaining tomatoes, most of them a bright green, and then pulled up the vines.

Thick smoke danced from the fire as it burned down. I stopped my work and hauled half a dozen wheelbarrow loads of trimmings and broken branches from a couple of other spots in the yard and heaped them onto the fire, which roared back into life.

The heat felt good, so I sat on the old desk for a bit, enjoying the warmth, soaked through everywhere the slicker did not cover and under the slicker I was soaked with sweat.

The tomato patch reduced to a rectangle of mud, I moved over to the peppers.

Orange habañeros and long red chilis glowed bright as sparks against the dark compost. I fumbled among the slender stems, careful to leave the still ripening fruit undamaged. I rinsed the dirt off the colorful harvest and laid them in a bucket, and then moved to the former broccoli patch. The groundhogs got to the broccoli before we did, but a kind of strange, hybrid gourd they left alone.

I suspect it was the result of a liaison between a zucchini or winter squash and a pumpkin. The fruits are bright yellow and knobby, but baked and mixed with butter and cinnamon, there is nothing better.

Late Harvest 10-11-2013 6-34-49 PM 2448x3264.49

The garden is almost at an end. A few peppers and squash remain, and if the frost holds off for another week or so, we may get more.

The fire had died back to a sullen glow. I took a manure fork, flipped some unburned material over onto the coals, and piled the new debris on top. The flames found new enthusiasm.

I sat again, swirled about by aromatic smoke, pummeled by rain, sore, but content, my breath condensing in the cool air.

For the most part, the garden is a corpse, to be torn apart and composted or burned, piled with manure, and put into hibernation. There is still much to do.

But not today. I am done. My knees stiff, my back bent like Quasimodo’s, I hoisted my two buckets of color and lurched through the gray and brown garden to the warm house, a hot bath, some aspirin, and a touch of scotch.

As I started the house, the rain started to fall harder, coming down in sheets. I gave one more glance at the fire. It had become a few dark, smoking heaps, no flames visible. I began to think that I should have saved the wood for an ark.

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© 2013 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.

Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.

On a recent rainy Tuesday, I paid a visit to some fossilized bits of dinosaur and one of the people who discovered the bits.

“Bits” here being used advisedly: These bits were small compared to the critter they came from, but pretty doggone big to the rest of us.

The dinosaur debris belonged to one or more individuals of a species called Alamosaurus sanjuanensis, brought out of the New Mexican desert by Robert Sullivan, senior curator in paleontology and geology at the State Museum of Pennsylvania.

Sullivan has spent his summers for the past 30 years working the dinosaur bone-yards in the blank spots on the map to the northwest of Santa Fe and Albuquerque. It is hot, hard work, and the teams are small, only two or three people from each sponsoring group, in this case, The University of Montana’s Museum of the Rockies, and the State Museum of Pennsylvania. That means that only a small number of fossils per season can be dug out of their surrounding stone, prepared, and carried out in knapsacks or on stretchers. It’s got to be something you believe in.

 I am trying to remember how we ever really believed in dinosaurs until the movie Jurassic Park came out. And yet, we did. Even when all we had to rely on were drawings and paintings in National Geographic, the clunky “claymation” monsters in bad science-fiction films, and, of course, our own fevered imaginations, we believed.

I’m no spring chicken, and dinosaurs thundered around in my imagination as long ago as I can remember, without benefit of full-size, full-color, bellowing digital versions of the creatures. I have to guess that people working in the field today spent time as children looking out over a pasture or into a murky forest and imagined vast shadows moving, shaking the ground with each step.

Maybe they still do, looking up from editing research papers, imagining they just caught a shudder of vibration running through the heating ducts, a furtive rustle in the shrubbery outside.

Computer Generated Imagery in films like Jurassic Park brought dinosaurs to life, starting with the first film in 1993, and several times since in sequels with increasingly lame plots and acting. Well, for the humans, anyway. The acting on the part of the digital dinosaurs seemed top-notch, at least in my book.

With the advent of CGI, the monsters moved with a spontaneity that made one want to sit astride their lumbering backs, or run away squealing. On the other hand, I wonder if seeing them so apparently real has damaged our ability to imagine them. I hope not. We believed, back in those technologically deprived days, because we needed to. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was a need to believe in vast and dramatic lives in a time so distant it implied a hope in a world after our own. Maybe, for those of still children and feeling insignificant and powerless, it was good to populate our spirits with beasts so big as to be undeniable, unstoppable, and inexpressively awesome.

Alamosaurus is a pretty big deal. For one thing, it’s simply just damned BIG. Two of the recovered pieces are vertebrae, one from back around the beastie’s hips, the other from the lower part of its long, long neck.

The remaining piece is a little less than half of an Alamosaurus’ thigh bone. It’s nearly four feet long, meaning that this bone, from knee to hip, was eight feet long and more than a foot thick.

Bob wouldn’t speculate on the animal’s size because this particular type – long-necked and –tailed herbivore that ambled around on four legs – came in a variety of models that might have enough variation to make scientific guesses about its length, weight, etcetera, just that…guesses.

Even so, the University of Montana put out a graphic showing an estimated comparison between a generalized Alamosaurus and a typical full-grown human male. The other silhouette is a representation of one of the vertebrae found at the New Mexico site.

Feel humbled? You should. The Alamosaurus was one of the biggest creatures ever to walk on land, though there was another, similar herbivore, Argentinosaurus, which was slightly larger. Full-grown, Alamosaurus was more-or-less the length of an Amtrak passenger car.

Nobody has yet found the skull of an Alamosaurus, so nobody can say for sure what it looked like. It likely had a brain the size of a tangerine, so if it were around today it could probably run for public office.

There are a lot of reasons we can be grateful that the real dinosaurs are long gone, I suppose. On the one hand, I really do enjoy picturing one lumbering through the field across the road from my house, chomping and belching its way through the soybeans.

On the other hand, I think keeping something the size of a city bus out of my tomato patch would be a major pain.

A REALLY GOOD DAY

June 23, 2011

By T.W. Burger

It is hard to say just what makes one day more perfect than the other.

 

One day can be sunny and clear and in every aspect fine, but only run-of-the-mill fine.

 

The great thing about being a member of a species that lives longer than a mayfly, for example, is that most of us have an opportunity to have enough days and nights that we can compare one to the other, or at least note that one particular day has something that another lacked.

 

Or, maybe I just have too much time on my hands.

 

But, there it was. You just knew, in the way the rolling fields of timothy waved in the breeze on either side of Pumping Station Road, a scenic drive I normally would not normally take except as a detour.

 

The new bridge going up on the main road pushed me to this longer route, and most days I’m glad of it, except when I’m rushed.

 

I drove slowly, waving more impatient, and presumably more important, drivers around me, and ignored their scowls. I drove with the windows down, slowly enough to hear the breeze in the grass, and the rusty-hinge song of the redwing blackbirds.

 

Nearby, a man on a riding mower buzzed his lawn, an flying circus of barn swallows dive-bombing the bugs he stirred up. He seemed oblivious to the acrobatics of the birds, intent on making each row perfectly straight. There’s a parable there, I think; sometimes we pay close attention to all the wrong things.

 

But the day was too perfect for ponderous thoughts. Let the man keep his rows geometrical while a squadron of swallows filigreed the air. His loss.

 

Back home on the deck, a half mug of single malt at hand, I sat with my journal as the trees on both sides of the creek poured out cheeps and chirps, as their populations of songbirds held forth on their thoughts about the day’s proceedings, or on seed futures, or whatever they talk about at twilight, fidgeting from branch to twig, looking for a place to alight and settle as the shadows lengthen.

 

The leafy treetops flared in the setting sun, their green growing deeper closer to the busy ground below. Deer stirred in their thickets, preparing to make their clockwork trek from here to there on ancient paths now intersected with paved roads, and the predators slipped out, stretched, sniffed the air seeking prey that is not quite fast enough.

 

The leaves of the oak, hickory and maple waved coquettishly in the breeze, and I think I may have been a little drunk, but unsure whether it was the scotch or the day. I decided it was a little of both.

 

When it became dark enough that I could no longer see to write, I put away the pen, closed the journal. The trees across the creek had been reduced to jagged outlines against the pewter dusk, the air pestered by a convention of grackles griping about this and that, as they do.

 

Good smells drifted through the screen door from the kitchen, and I gathered up my things and moved indoors. The day wass gone, like thousands of others in my sixty-odd years. A real keeper, too.

           

 

© 2011 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.

Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.

Check out the two “Burger to Go” blogsites:

https://burger2go.wordpress.com/

http://burger2goclassics.wordpress.com/

 

 

The Bear

January 10, 2010

Inside this old farmhouse, the wood-burning stove roared like a jet, the heavy glass window casting a warm orange glow into the room. Monty the Springer spaniel laid in a snoring crescent not too far from the fire.

Good smells wafted from the kitchen.

It was Sunday night, the end of a visit to the farm from Sue’s kids who hail from, variously, Baltimore and Brussels.

The old house, well over two centuries old, rollicked with laughter, good food, good times. The kids and Monty explored the outdoors, skated, with assorted success, on the pond, and generally kept the rabbits and the family of red foxes on edge.

A couple of days ago, Sue’s youngest son discovered a bear track on the far side of the pond. He captured an image of it on his digital camera.

Last night I walked Monty along the lane gawking at the blazing stars, and kept telling myself that if the bear were nearby, the dog would surely bring it to my attention.

Monty was noncommittal.

Despite the cracking low temps, I kept Monty out for awhile after his errand was finished, just taking it all in.

It was cold, the coldest winter, so far, in a number of years. Hence the farm pond that will hold the weight of several rambunctious teens and a rollicking dog. And no, I didn’t try, though on last night’s walk, Monty was ready for another scramble on the ice.

Back inside, sexy Caribbean music rocked the old stones, and the smells from the kitchen intensified. It was almost time for supper, and leave-taking.

In the starry dark outside, I thought of the bear, an older citizen of these woods by far than this old farm, pacing the fields, the re-frozen snow crunching underfoot.
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© 2010 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.
Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.
Check out the two “Burger to Go” blogsites:
https://burger2go.wordpress.com/
http://burger2goclassics.wordpress.com/

•    I am grateful for the bench.

•    After a year of pavement and office floors, heavily wooded hillsides and mossy paths have been a rude shock.

•    Protests abound. My feet and ankles wave placards and rude signs. My knees brandish pitchforks.

•    I leaned the cane against the bench and take the camera strap from around my neck.

•    The cane is a concession to the knees, etc.

•    The camera is in aid of a fantasy that I might one day take decent photographs.

•    Huckleberry Cove sits, still and dark before me.

•     The tide is almost fully out, exposing the limp strands of greenish bladderwrack on the stony shore. A few gulls and ducks mill about on the far shore.

Huckleberry Cove, low tide

Huckleberry Cove, low tide

•    The gulls mutter like old men, and no and then one will rise into the air for no apparent reason, and come down only a few feet away. One flies to my side of the cove, plops into the water, swims around eyeing me. Then he flies back to the other side. Just nosy.

•    For the most part I ignore the camera. The moment is too perfect to be snapping away like the tourist that I am. Instead, I listen.

•    Back home, I forget what “quiet” means.

•    I remember it here.

•    Quiet is being able to hear a gull mumbling a few hundred feet away, orhearing the breeze sighing through the spruce and fir along the banks. Or the sound the small red squirrels make peeling pine cones to get at the seeds tucked down inside. Winter is coming, and the squirrels are busy with their hoardings.

•    The kitchen gardens uphill from me are full of pumpkins and gourds. The other tourists wear khakis and dark sweaters and talk too much. But down here, away from the graded, mulched paths, few of them come. There are logs to step over, a stream to cross, twice, on flat stones.

•    The trees sway. The gulls arc into the air then dip back into the still, black water. A red squirrel carrying a nut scampers only a few feet away, weaving through the tree trunks and into a jumble of granite boulders and is gone with no more than a faint rustle of leaves. The moment is full of a kind of grace.

•    I retrieve the cane and camera and lunge to my feet. I like to think that at the least I provide a nice contrast to the grace of the setting.

•     My left knee pops, then settles into place and wobble up the slope and the signs that will point me back smoother path, the one with the signs that will keep me from losing my way.

(Note: This is a slightly written version of a column written many years ago.)
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In the King James version of the Bible, the 19th Psalm has it that “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shewith His handiwork.”

These deep summer nights, when I watch the spiders harvesting moths snared from their ecstatic loops around the floodlights on the deck, it seems as though He is “shewing” us a dark, fevered Nature unlike the brave, noble version most of us were brought up to believe in.

In an earlier essay I wrote about the praying mantis that lived in a potted plant on the back porch of our apartment in town. I admired her for a number of reasons, not the least of which is her role as a reminder not to become overly sentimental about “nature.”

Most often, when you hear somebody say they love “nature,” what they really mean is they enjoy scenery, the “Nature” that they see in the advertisements for 4X4 vehicles and motor homes.

“Nature,” after all, is the whole package, from the dawn mists around a forest cataract, to the shelled and jointed things humping and dragging their way through the leaf mold. These are what the essayist Loren Eiseley called the “ugly, innocent, necessary” aspects of Nature with a capital “N.”

When I lived in town, I would often say, thoughtlessly, that I missed Nature. It is an absurdity, of course, like standing in a forest and saying I longed to see trees.

French naturalist Henri Fabre (1823-1915) once said his own back yard contained enough nature to keep him busy for a lifetime. I read somewhere else that the typical suburban yard contains some 40,000 spiders of various sizes and species, and a cubic foot of soil from that same yard may contain billions of individual living creatures.

American nature writer Edwin Way Teale (1899-1980), described his early interest in nature starting at his grandparents’ farm in Indiana. In his book “Near Horizons,” Teale described tucking himself away into a burrowed-out hollow in a field of rye, to spend hours observing ants, beetles, snakes, and other creatures in their everyday existence. He wrote that returning home that evening was like returning from a “distant voyage of discovery.”

What all this means, if one lives in town, is that one does not need to look far to find a very busy nature; one need only look more closely. Even in my third-floor apartment, surrounded by asphalt and a few houseplants, I still found plenty of things to watch.

The mantis, for example. She is cousin to grasshoppers, cockroaches, crickets and walking sticks. Like other insects, she has just enough brain to operate her angular body and that’s about it. Insects are hard-wired, operating on instinct, each species mass-produced by nature from a single mold.

Once I watched a spider, trying to salvage her web during a powerful storm, mooring one of the stays on a branch of my night-blooming cereus, near the spot where the mantis poised, all patience and severity. In the morning, the abandoned web fluttered in the light breeze.

The next day the mantis, calligraphy against white boards, watched as I walked past, her strange, triangular head pivoting on its ball-and-socket neck.

The next night I sat again, watching as she ate another mantis. The female mantis usually eats its mate. The unfortunate Romeo usually gets his head eaten off during the mating, possibly to prevent him from changing his mind.

This mantis lay horizontally before “my” mantis, clutched in the spiked front legs, being eaten aft to fore. Horribly, the victim continued to gaze about, only mildly interested in the proceedings, its antennae waving a vague semaphore while the clockwork mouth parts of its destroyer munched away.

These are the things that inhabit my summer dreams. The profligacy of insects is necessary but the stuff of pure nightmare. If predation and sheer accident did not kill most of the young, who wriggle and rattle near the bottom of the food chain, we would be wading through seas of the things in a matter of weeks. The clattering females of the thousands of species must each lay eggs by the tens of thousands in order to keep ahead of the mortality curve.

The same day I watched the little act of mantis cannibalism, I watched two dragonflies trying to lay their eggs in the parking lot behind the apartment. Female dragonflies lay their eggs by dipping their tails into the water of ponds and streams.

The dragonfly in flight is a spectacle worth watching; perhaps nothing else in the insect world is so graceful or so swift. Teale, who called them “winged bullets,” said some species can achieve speeds approaching 60 miles per hour. The largest living species reach wingspans of seven inches. Fossilized dragonflies with wingspans of 30 inches have been found.

The dragonflies are almost wholly creatures of the air. They scoop their prey into their clustered legs and eat literally on the wing, letting the drained bodies fall without missing a wing-beat.

For all their grace, they are not bright. The dragonflies in the parking lot tried to lay their eggs on the shiny roofs of automobiles. The hapless bugs flew from car to car, thudding uselessly against the shimmering surfaces.

I can watch this kind of thing for hours, on walks in the woods or along a pond, until I just cannot watch any more, and my uneasy sleep is haunted by hockey-mask faces and Rube Goldberg movements.

After awhile, though, I go back, ever curious. If I have learned anything in my somewhat spotty education, it is that “nature” like “art” is a process, never a finished thing. More importantly, as in art, one cannot begin to learn from it until one casts aside any expectations that it’s all going to be pretty.
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© 2009 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.
Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.
Check out the two “Burger to Go” blogsites:
https://burger2go.wordpress.com/
http://burger2goclassics.wordpress.com/

Pinhole

June 14, 2009

Remember that old saying, “What you see is what you get?”

It’s not really accurate, you know.

What you see is all you’re gonna get. There’s a lot more out there that you’ll never see, hear, or smell.

It’s been a little more than 30 years since I found out about all this and I’m still p.o.’d.

Imagine stuffing cotton balls in both ears and up your nostrils, then pulling a pasteboard box over your head with a single wee pinhole poked in it for you to see through, and you’ve sort of got an idea about how we make our way through the world.

It’s a wonder more of us don’t break our necks.

What you see, hear, and smell is just a sample of what’s out there. The human eye and its wiring see only a very narrow range of the radiation (that’s what you see, you know, energy…) that’s flying around out there. Lucky bees and moths and other critters can see a lot further onto either side of the visual spectrum.

Same goes for our hearing. We’re practically deaf, compared to a lot of our neighbors on the planet. Watch your dog sometime, tilting his head this way and that into the shadows at night, apparently growling at nothing.

Or watch him sampling the breeze of a summer evening. Heck, he’s reading the Encyclopedia Brittanica while you’re over there cleaning out your ears with your car keys and reading the church bulletin.

When I finally put together all this stuff I had learned, I caught myself standing stock-still in a public garden somewhere, looking around and wondering what I was missing.

To quote some famous figure in baseball, “We was robbed!”

A friend of mine pointed out to me the other day that there are a number of primitive societies that believe this whole experience we call the “real world” is nothing but a dream or an illusion.

Funny, huh, that we’ve always looked down on people like that and called them ignorant?

I never could figure out if the mouse butts were a gift or a punishment.

I’d come home in the wee hours and hunker through the wintery air, open the trailer door, and there they’d be, from one to as many as 10, little hineys poking up out of the dog-vomit-green shag carpet, nothing left of the little Mickeys but hindquarters and stiff little tails, pointing they-went-thataway every whichaway.

And there would be Phyllis, curled up contentedly in my late Aunt Audrene’s former favorite overstuffed chair, staring at me the way that cats stare at their humans.

I never did figure out if my reactions were the right ones. I’d pluck the miserable little mementoes out of the shag and toss them out the back door, by way of warning to future mice “All hope abandon ye who enter here.”

Apparently, none of the mice had read “Divine Comedy,” because they kept coming.

Phyllis took a long time to adjust to the move from the suburbs of the Georgia university town to a trailer on the edge of a cornfield in the wilds of Pennsylvania. I wasn’t sure if the furry little fannies were a snub for disrupting her life or a grateful sharing of the bounty.

Phyllis Killer was my cat for 17 years all together. Sleek, quick, black and white, with a white blaze shaped like Italy across her nose. She was a one-man cat, and didn’t cotton to anybody else, or any other cats.

In her youth, when I still let her roam outside, she rarely came home without some near-dead critter hanging from her teeth. This she would drop in the middle of the floor and watch while I caught and disposed of it. I think she was attempting to train me to hunt. She always looked vaguely disappointed.

The source of the mice was no secret. It was a cold winter, colder than most. The cornfield, a regular field mouse metropolis, came up to within 20 feet of the trailer, which was a lot warmer than the iron ground of the field. The mice found their way in, attracted to the warmth of the wood stove and gas furnace and, to be honest, my less-than-immaculate kitchen houskeeping skills.

But Phyllis was good at her job. Typically, she ate her prey from the head back to the hams and then, for reasons known only to her, stuck them on the carpet.

Typically, after a day at work, I’d find one or two of them. Once away for a week, I returned to find the food I’d left for her mostly gone and a grim forest of wiry little tails in the coleslaw-colored carpet.

And Phyllis, of course, curled in her chair, watching my reaction.

I think she had finally given up on training me to hunt. The mouse butts were handouts.
==============================.
© 2009 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.
“Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.
Check out the two “Burger to Go” blogsites:
https://burger2go.wordpress.com/
http://burger2goclassics.wordpress.com/

Spring mulches on

March 1, 2009

We’re at the center of some kind of bird convention.

It’s the sort of thing that happens every now and then in nature, that makes one feel as though something was going on and we missed the memo.

We live south of the historic town of Gettysburg, just above an old dam on Marsh Creek, which flows into the Monocacy River just over the Mason-Dixon Line in Maryland, and thence to the Potomac and the Atlantic. The pond here is about 100 feet across, give or take, and generally shallow. It attracts a lot of waterfowl, expecially in the spring and fall, as they make their way north or south during migration.

Fall is best for observing, because the birds tend to show up in clumps, like tour groups waiting for the bus to take them to the next historic site and buffet.

In the spring they tend to straggle back, traveling more at a mosey than a rush, and in smaller groups. They headed south as the leaves were starting to turn and the fields were browning, and they return as snowdrops stand out against the half-inch of snow we had overnight, and as the daffodils shoulder their way through the dark mulch.

Saturday morning it was a lone common merganser chasing fish for its breakfast. I stood watching for awhile holding one of the cats, who was more interested in me making my way to the container where the cat food is kept.

The merganser was only the beginning, the opening act, so to speak.

Later, coffee in hand, I sat at a window and watched as the new pile of mulch destined for the flower beds swarmed with bluejays, a pileated woodpecker tapped its way around the clematis vine that has climbed up the tv and police-scanner antenna tower, and another group of jays and a northern flicker hopped around in the grass, turning over leaves and pecking around in the litter. All together, there must have been 50 birds or more.

Now and then Amanda, the cat-in-charge, would stalk into the yard and disperse them all, something she apparently believes is her sworn duty. Then, when Amanda would return to her usual perch out of the wind, the birds would reconvene.

This morning I had yet another reminder that spring is just around the corner. Sore muscles, and a stiff back. And half of that mulch pile still there.
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