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WHAT THE WALRUS SAID--Our Authors' Blog--

CREATURE IN OUR CLOSET

We've had a trying week with nature.

 

Snowstorms. Single-digit temperatures.

 

Meanwhile, a deer mouse cached food in our car's heating system, requiring a visit to the dealer for an expensive fix. It's not our thing, but this time we set traps, because mice can severely damage a car. Also, a house's wiring. We caught four mice, and after that the influx stopped.

 

Then we saw what looked to be a tiny, dark-furred mouse racing across our living room carpet. This visitor—it's practically a pet by this point—didn't act mouse-like, because it regards us resident giants with contempt, practically running over our feet.

 

It turned out to be no mouse at all. It's a short-tailed shrew. It weighs about the same as a dime (we looked it up), but it's our smallest, yet fiercest, mammal. It's a predator. It will attack prey several times its own size. Luckily, we're bigger than dragonflies or mice. Shrews may fight each other to the death, with the victor eating the loser. Daily they must eat their own weight.

 

We tried a mousetrap baited with peanut butter. No dice. We tried a plastic pail with a bit of smoked salmon on the bottom and a ramp offering an easy way up, theorizing that once the shrew dove off the pail's rim to get at the salmon, it would be trapped.

 

No dice.

 

We'll be getting a Havahart humane trap, hoping for a speedy capture and release, far out in our woods.

 

Also, we've installed netting around our hemlock shrubbery to keep our neighbors, white-tailed deer, from decimating it this winter.

 

We watch them, on these frigid mornings, hoofing the snow to find plants to eat. We imagine living out there, as they do, and it horrifies us.

 

Once upon a time, animals had these forested hills to themselves, including the black bears who occasionally lumber across our lawn and the red fox that patrols our pinewoods and the wild turkeys marching across the snow, down by the pond, and the two resident woodchucks, currently snoozing for the winter in their burrows.

 

Now we're here, and we're trying for détente.    

 

--Joyce & Richard

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WHAT DOES A DOG MEAN?




A friend asked me—why, in most of your husband’s novels, is one character a Pembroke Welsh corgi?

And the answer is: “It’s personal.”

Sometimes that dog character is Henry. Sometimes he’s Tobi. But his real name—he was a real dog—was Nosmo.

“Nosmo King,” in full, chosen by his previous family because they quit smoking and named him for a “No Smoking” sign. Not a name we liked.

Then we realized Nosmo could be a Hobbit name, like Frodo or Bilbo. So he became Nosmo the Hobbit.

He was preternaturally bright. Read More 

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APPARITION


Joyce awoke in the night and looked out the window. She saw a full moon, shining on fresh snow.

I lay half-asleep. Then Joyce gasped. I bolted out of bed to see what alarmed her.

“Something’s out there,” she said.

I saw only snow. Then, behind the pond, I saw a shape, indistinct in the moon-cast shadows, but something huge.

Massive shoulders hunched, it glided across the snow.  Read More 

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MURDOCK WISHES YOU HIS HOLIDAY BEST

Our good friend and frequent visitor, Murdock Morse, sends his holiday greetings to all.

Go romp in the snow, he says. It feels good!

--Joyce & Richard

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GRACIE WEIGHS IN TOO!

Gracie Duke--another good friend of ours--wants to second her pal Murdock's message: celebrate!

It's the darkest days of the year, she says. So get out there and bark! Bark for the return of the light!. Bark loud! It'll come!

Joyce & Richard

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WOODCHUCK KARMA


We once tried vegetable gardening, but a woodchuck ate most of our carrots and green beans and squash. He got so fat he couldn’t run, only slowly waddle.

We say “he” because of his size. Females are smaller, and possibly more into weight watching.

Woodchucks have western cousins—marmots and prairie dogs—but woodchucks are more eccentric, like old-time New England hill farmers.

For one thing, they’re loners. In early spring, males go roaming the woods, hoping for one-night stands. Otherwise, they’re commitment-phobic. They’re just not that much into each other. No wives, no husbands. They don’t even want friends.

Here’s the karma part. Read More 

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NEVER GET BELLIGERENT WITH A GOOSE




We greatly enjoy our animal neighbors, from black bears lumbering across the lawn to Blackburnian warblers up in the sugar maples, but we have our limit.

That limit is…Canada geese.

Yes, the Canada goose is handsome, grayish white with a black neck and head and a white chinstrap. Yes, they mate for life, a devoted couple, and kudos to them for that.

However…

They are large, and a bit thuggish. If the geese land on our pond, the wood ducks and mallards and hooded mergansers don’t come. Mr. and Mrs. Goose sail around our pond like the battleships of an occupying force.

They also leave a noxious mess on the lawn, nothing you want to accidentally step in.
Additionally, geese have a provocative attitude. Read More 

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THE LUCK OF TUX

Tux When We First Met Him




Tux, the Cardigan Welsh corgi, needed a new home, and that would be iffy.

It would be iffy because, despite being a little charmer, Tux was a little dickens. It also would be difficult because Tux lived with Pam, and she wouldn’t let him go just anywhere.

We first got to know Tux when he was still a puppy—we’d been visiting in Florida that winter and heard about a neighborhood couple with a new corgi. Joyce allows no nearby corgi to go unvisited, if she can help it, so we met Pam and Wayne, and it led to a warm friendship.

Pam and Wayne were Conchs, which is what Key Westers call themselves. They told us wonderful stories about Key West, back in the Hemingway days. They’d brought Tux into their home late in life because Wayne really wanted that dog. Tux turned out to be an imp, super smart, the Energizer Corgi, with a PhD in play and mischief. Read More 

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Christmas Murdock

Murdock and Casey share their Christmas


Our friend Eric Morse sent us this photo of Murdock, the unofficial east-coast dog-race champion, and his friend, Casey, the old cat.

Casey actually does regard Murdock as his best friend. Murdock, not so much. It's complicated.

No matter what, these two, with their Christmas tree and presents, radiate warmth and good will, just right for this season. In these stressful times, we can all use some of that.

So, we're sending out this image, to share with our readers.

Also, we think that Murdock, deep down, likes Casey a lot more than he lets on. Sometimes they snooze side-by-side, don't they?


--Joyce & Richard Read More 
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BEAR-CUB LOVE, UNREQUITED



Just as we looked out Joyce’s home-office window, a large black bear hurried up our lawn.

Behind her, struggling to keep up, waddled a dutiful cub, worried Mom would outdistance him (or her—who knows?).

A moment later, at the lawn’s far end, a second cub burst from the bushes. This one stared in alarm at Mom’s receding back, then scrambled up the lawn after her and the dutiful sibling.

Now, her two cubs closely following, the bear stepped over the stone wall and started down the hill by the waterfall. At that moment, out from the bushes, burst yet a third cub. This latecomer eyed the rapidly disappearing family, then bounced up the lawn after them, jauntily—the naughty cub, the rebel, the I’ll-do-it-my-way cub.

Not that Mom seemed to care. She splashed full tilt across the stream below the waterfall, then disappeared into the pine woods, cubs hurrying behind. Mom, apparently, had an important date, probably with somebody’s birdfeeder, and if the cubs wanted to stay parented, they’d better keep up. No hover parent, this ursine tiger mom dished out tough love.

It brought back a memory: once I worked as a zoo’s bear-cub keeper. My twenty-eight charges lived in a broad round pit, with concrete walls they couldn’t scale. At the circular pit’s hub stood their nighttime cub cave, a stone igloo with an iron door. For climbing, they had a two-story dead tree, rising from the igloo’s top. They also had a little swimming pool, for taking a dip.

One of my responsibilities was warning visitors to stop dangling their toddlers down into the pit to pet the bears, an extremely bad idea, because my cubs were all little swatters. It was how they played and expressed themselves. I also cleaned the pit’s sand floor, but my hardest task was herding all twenty-eight cubs into their cave every night and shutting the door.

I’d get three in, go out for more. Meanwhile, the first three would seize the opportunity for a jailbreak.

Heading home in the evening, I’d stop first at my father’s shop—he tarred roofs and installed forced-air furnaces—where the two guys working with him always sniffed, then proclaimed: “Hey, do I smell bear?”

Here’s how tough my cubs were: once two of them got into a fight on top of their climbing tree, and one got swatted off. He plummeted two stories, bounced off the stone igloo, and sat on the pit’s sand floor, glaring up at his rival and literally shaking his fist, or paw.

I’d get home every night with new scratches on my arms. My cubs did love to swat.
They came in black, brown, and cinnamon, although they were just one species, black bears. They also came in assorted ages and sizes, from halfway to my knee (when standing erect on their hind legs) to just above my knee.

My littler cubs loved me. They’d stand up, throw up their arms (front legs) and beg to be lifted and held. Others regarded me with indifference. However, the biggest cub, whom I called “Gargantua,” hated me. I threatened his alpha-cub position, in his mind, and he wanted me to die.

He’d hide behind the igloo and when I passed by, from around the curve, a paw would flash out to swat.

Eventually I gave up trying to make friends and ignored Gargantua, who’d sit off to the side glaring at me. One evening, though, his glare seemed more thoughtful, as if he’d been pondering the situation. Finally, he made up his mind. I’m sure I saw him nod.

He walked to me and held up his front legs, as he’d seen the littlest cubs do, begging to be lifted up and held.

At last, I thought.

I lifted him up. I looked into his brown eyes, he looked into my blue eyes. His expression turned to triumph.

He gave me a powerful swat, on the cheek.

Then he jumped down and I could almost hear him sniggering.

Here’s what: I love bears, and I especially love bear cubs.

And the one I’ve always loved the most was Gargantua, who never loved me.

--Richard  Read More 
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