(Today's scribbling has been inspired by the ever so loverly Anna Pickard, (no relation to Jean-Luc) who recently played Pied Piper on the streets of Boston.)
Growing up in the Bronx, (pardon, da Bronx) the idea of "wildlife" usually takes on a vastly different idea than if one grows up in the country. A pigeon becomes a city boy's idea of a falcon, while squirrels and rats will often be big enough to challenge you to squatter's rights upon the ground which you might be standing. Of course, they have a serious attitude problem, and on more than one occasion, I could have sworn I saw some of them scurrying about with a Mohawk, mouthing the words, "You tawkin' to me?"
Pigeons, on the other hand, are simply rats with wings.......
So, it will come as no surprise that it took some adjusting on my part after moving here to the wilds of upstate NY, (yes, the real upstate, unlike most NYC folk who think that as soon as you step across the Bronx line, you are in upstate) to get acclimated to the far greater variety of fauna that populate these parts. Up here, I have been privy to animals that heretofore were simply pictures in a tourist pamphlet, or a page of National Geographic. (Yes, the same issue that would make you go blind, with naked pygmies on it......)
My first experience with what I only could describe at the time as a "rat on steroids," was not long after moving here in 1999.
The apartment we were renting had a laundry room at ground level, so one fine day I take my load of laundry to perform my spousal obligation, lest I feel the sting of the lash. There was a window that faced out into the courtyard of the apartment complex, and whilst I was loading my wife's unmentionables into the washer, something in the window caught my attention. I turned to my left, and saw something that, quite simply put, made me feel as though I stepped into the Fire Swamp. This was indeed a Rodent Of Unusual Size.
Struggling to keep my eyeballs from popping out of my head like a Warner Brothers Merrie Melody cartoon, I immediately looked for something with which to defend myself against this vile creature, though admittedly, I was fascinated by it. It was, to my estimation, the biggest rat I had ever seen.
The creature just looked at me, sniffed the air, and then ambled away. I was still standing there, terrified at the apparition from hell that I just witnessed, thanking the Buddha, Allah, Gilgamesh, Baal, and whatever appropriate deity I could call upon for saving me from what would surely have been a fate worse than death. Feeling my legs again, I ambled upstairs to the apartment. My wife saw the pasty look on my face, and with the caring, loving display of emotion she is famous for, inquired sweetly; "You did put fabric softener in, didn't you?"
All I could muster was a stuttering, drooling response. "Rat.....big.......really big......."
I was able to provide a description of the creature, hoping to regale her with a proud display of my manly bravery in driving off the beast. Her response was brief, and to the point. "That was no rat." she intoned. " That was a woodchuck."
"A what?" I said. (No clue what it was.)
"A woodchuck. You know, a groundhog."
"Wait," I said 'You mean those things that see their own shadow and forecast the seasons at the beginning of February?"
"Yep, same things." she said. (Unlike me, my wife did grow up in the wilds of upstate, and was infinitely more familiar with these woodland creatures.)
It was then and there that I knew I was no longer in Kansas. Well, or at least not the Grand Concourse.
This was the first of many a new experience in creature features. Not long before we moved to our house, I spotted a fox in the same courtyard, this time from the safety of our apartment window. I knew it was a fox, as I looked it up in the Boy Scout field manual I stole from the neighbor's kid. He didn't need it. The little bastard grew up here. He should know what a fox looks like anyway.........
My backyard now abounds with woodchuck, and as I came to find out, they are actually the largest member of the squirrel family. They like to dig holes. Big holes. In my backyard.
Oh, and looking at them headfirst, they also look as though they are saying, "You tawkin to me?"
Nice to know there are constants in the universe.
the state of windmills - This is a nice series of old windmills the USPS put out in 1980 the one in *Virginia* is located in Williamsburg, known as the Robertson Windmill. the on...
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