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Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category

Mom, He’s Copying Me!

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It was like shooting (or spearing) fish in a barrel for these big guys down at the pond today.  When water levels are high, birds dive for food in the glassy water. When it gets low, as it is now, the long legged water birds like egrets and herons just wade out and pick fish off until they are stuffed. There is another stage when it is reduced to puddles and mud and dead or dying fish lie all around. You would think that part would not be desirable. Ah, but you would not be a vulture. That’s when the clean-up crew comes in and takes away the stench, leaving the pond bottom clean and ready for summer rains that will keep it full most of the season. That’s when the soft shell turtles, bass, gar and other fish swim back over from adjacent lakes and ponds. No cycle is wasted as long as we let nature take its course.

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A local news story stuck in my craw the other day. That phrase from my Texas upbringing came to mind, and perhaps appropriately. The TV news reported a real stink in a neighborhood pond in the Orlando, FL area. Dead fish had floated to the surface and almost covered the pond. The resident interviewed was very upset. She could not open her doors or windows because of the smell. (Like we do that in Florida in August, anyway.) She pointed out that adding to the terrible situation were flocks of ugly, horrid, black birds all around the water’s edge.

 

I am, of course, yelling at the TV screen. “You *&#@. They are vultures, the clean up crew!”

 

Next day there was a follow-up report. Amazingly all the fish were gone. So were the vultures after filling their bellies. The lady was much calmer and surprised that BOTH her problems were taken care of. I will accept an apology on behalf of the vultures!

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So much hope, so little realized yesterday. Going door to door for our Neighborhood Watch group, I encountered wildlife without my camera, a major sin. As I stood waiting at the door, bushes began to rustle and shake. That was no lizard, but what? Suddenly an armadillo came waddling toward me. That is not what you expect in a suburban neighborhood, even one as wooded as ours. In a bit of a shock at seeing my first live armadillo outside Texas, I ran next door for my camera, for this house was right next door. But he was out of sight when I returned.

 

I walked around the neighbor’s house with the camera, hoping they would not mistake me for a stalker. And then: WHO WHO—WHO WHOOOOOO came a hollow sound from one of the live oaks down by our pond. I am easily distracted and the armadillo was obviously hiding. I followed the repeated bird call. It did sound like he was calling me. When I approached the tree the WHO WHO stopped. I waited and waited. Nothing. Was it a ploy, cooked up by the armadillo and owl to distract me? I’ll never know, but if it was, it worked. I have no pictures to post, just a futile search.

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CAT STORY #1

 

“You want to know how to wash a cat?” my husband said on the phone. “First you need two people. Don’t try it by yourself.”

 

SILENCE

 

“No, don’t use the whirlpool. Cats don’t like to be immersed in water.”

 

This is all being said very calmly with brevity. Then my husband hangs up.

 

“Who was that?”

 

“Haley,” he said, indicating our ten-year old granddaughter.

 

“Did they get a cat? They already have a dog.”

 

“I don’t know,” Jerry said, “I didn’t ask why she wanted to wash a cat.”

 

Now you see, here’s an example of big difference between men and women. Can you imagine a grandmother not asking right off why her granddaughter wanted to wash a cat? Did a strange cat wander into the yard all dirty or greasy and Haley wanted to help? I did that once. Embarrassing story below.* Did her parents finally agree she could have one?

 

So I catch her father on the phone later.

 

“Did Haley get a cat?”

 

“No, she and her friend started a dog and cat washing business. First they set up a table to sell lemonade and candy. Business was slow. Then a neighbor asked if they wanted to wash her dog for $10. Now they have a ‘business,” as she calls it, and have put $68 in the kitty already.”

 

I could not be prouder. At her age I was selling watermelons out front or seeds door to door. I thought this generation had no interest in such enterprises, but Haley is very proud of her business, as she well should be. I think our country is going to be in good hands down the road.

 

CAT STORY #2

 

Last night my youngest son, Jason, called and said he had a kitten. Is this Raining Cats Week? But the story was an interesting one.

 

Jason’s neighbor was given a loaner truck to drive while his was in the shop yesterday. It had a funny sound, like a cat’s mew, but he drove it all the way to Daytona (from Orlando) and back. The truck was still mewing when neighbors gathered to check it out. Jason could hear the sound was coming from the spare tire well up under the truck, so he dove under there. After three hours of struggle, he came out black and greasy, with a coal black kitten clawing his hands.

 

Someone gave him kitten food and he took the kitten in the house. Now we are looking for a home. If Jason wants to show someone’s future pet in its best light, I know where he can get a superb cat wash.

 

 CAT STORY #3

*Now for the embarrassing cat wash story.

 

A strange cat wandered into our yard many years back. The poor thing was covered in oil or grease and seemed to be pleading to me to help him. I got out soap, turned on the hose and this poor, strange cat let me wash him all over. I hoped the grease poured on him had not been hot and burned his skin. He didn’t seem to be in pain, but I washed gently. The smell was unusual, not like cooking grease, but I couldn’t place it – not until years later. I was sitting in the stands at a tennis match in Hilton Head. Almost everyone there was slathered with Avon Skin so Soft and the scent was overpowering – and familiar. The cat! But why? The same reason adults apply it to themselves some put it on their animals, I was told, to repel insects. OHHHHHHHHHH

 

 

 

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After four days of patient stalking, Emma (our Persian) finally flushed the wayward lizard from under the stove late last night. Speaking “in tongues” at the foot of our bed, Emma alerted us she had brought her gracious present to us. If the lizard lying by the bed skirt were still alive, it could easily crawl right up the bed covers. Jerry had fallen asleep and had no interest in throwing him outdoors. I tried to go back to sleep, keenly aware a frightened lizard lay between Emma and me. Soon I heard more scuffling at the foot of the bed when Luther, our Pixiebob, joined the huntress. I finally roused Jerry, who cupped the poor reptile in his hands and threw him out the front door.  Jerry dropped right off. The cats assumed the stance of “move along folks, there’s nothing to see here” before heading for bed. Yet I was too revved to fall asleep before 3 a.m.

 

Ah, life with cats.

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I hope Jerry and I are good grandparents. It surely didn’t start out that way. stjohns3-2-8-032-1.jpgThe first time her parents trusted us alone with our year-old granddaughter we took her to Birds of Prey. It sounded like a good idea at the time. Audubon Birds of Prey in Maitland, FL rescues injured birds and releases them back into the wild when possible.

Haley smiled at the white-faced, barn owl as we entered. That may have been her last smile. We pushed the stroller to the bald eagle cage. There poor, injured, no-longer-majestic eagles loped around an enclosure, some dragging a wing. Haley’s face began to screw into a tortured mask. We quickly turned the stroller toward the cage behind her. On every crooked limb sat an injured vulture. Their bald, blood-red heads popped from fluffy white feathers above their scruffy black bodies. Wings drooped on some, claws or feet were missing on others. The scene we had always looked on with pity we now saw with a toddler’s eyes. Before Haley lay a Tim Burton horror scene of deformed, hissing, grunting vultures. She screamed to the top of her lungs. We calmed her down and cut our trip short, feeling like failures as grandparents. We thought we would be better at it.

Haley is ten years old now and thankfully doesn’t remember our first little foray. Perhaps it had no lasting impact on her little psyche. When we are out in nature now my camera cannot rest in my lap. She shouts incessantly “Ahmaw, take a picture! An anhinga! A gator! An eagle! An osprey!” Is it just possible that we didn’t scar her permanently?

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owl2-8-0092.jpgducks2-8-0561.jpgThe joys of living in Florida! The beautiful hooded merganser duck wintered in our pond this year. They are found as far north as Alaska, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. We had eleven at one time, but they seem to be heading back home now. When I went to check on them late yesterday afternoon none were in sight, but I caught on camera one of our beautiful resident birds, a barred owl. He flew by me not just silently, but with an absence of sound, a white noise in flight. He was not at all skittish about posing for the camera as I came within feet of him and even used the flash, as it was getting dark.

Our little acre would never be called manicured, but it is home to so many critters. In fact, we are a designated Backyard Wildlife Habitat. If you’d like a little Zippity Doo Da in your life, you might think about certifying your property. It is a simple thing to do and brings great rewards.

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  • Do blogs with dark background tend to contain more dark, negative, angry messages? Just wondering.
  • There is concern in the financial community about imminent stagflation. Welcome to fixed income retirees’ world.
  • I despise searching for information on a subject only to be connected to a video link. If I wanted to watch video I’d turn on the TV. With a few exceptions, I’d rather read to search for facts. It’s certainly faster and I don’t have to watch a commercial to get to the subject. I’m just saying: warn me. I’ll click another link.
  • Do birds of a feather really flock together? Not at our bird feeder. Cardinals, woodpeckers, bluejays, and titmice come regularly and they plan their forays together. The feeder is either empty of guests or a waiting line has formed. Perhaps we need to rethink the old saw about birds of a feather.
  • As I passed through a room yesterday snapping doors closed, straightening rugs, picking up stray flotsam from the floor, straightening pillows, my movements seemed eerily familiar. Flight attendant! That was the feeling I got in my bones. And to think I was turned away from that job many years ago because of my height. I guess I’m showing them.
  • Wedlock. I know it’s a perfectly good word, but just doesn’t sound good. Is that why we mostly use it in a negative way? Ever hear of anyone being born “in wedlock?”

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The earth quivered, dust billowed and the rumble of his hooves set my heart racing. The bull in my recurring dreams was always a shiny black, snorting beast with one purpose—to get to me. Year after year he exploded into the night, bursting into my sleep. There was always a fence or tree behind me, but far beyond my capacity to climb even in my youth. As I aged my muscles turned from girly to jiggly and the chance of escape narrowed. But again and again I grabbed onto a branch or railing and prayed for strength to propel my body upward. In this position I could no longer see those bleached horns thundering toward me as I waited for the impaling. Then I would wake—always in time.

Even in the daylight “El Toro” inserted himself into my life. He was in the Texas pastures of my youth, the stock pens my dad and I visited the night before the auctions. Rodeos and bull riding were inescapable. But later in life I didn’t have to watch bullfights in movies or on TV or lock my eyes on the stock market bull when it filled the screen, but I did. What you resist you attract. There is no other explanation. The pull toward the menacing, magnificent animal grew stronger as the nighttime escape from him grew more intense. He was gaining on me, closing his distance before I reached the fence.

On a night about ten years ago I sat up after an encounter, my heart pounding. The screams that had no sound a second ago were muffled by my hand. No more. I could not take any more. I decided at that moment that next time it would be different; I would not run. I would not run. Could I will myself in that dream state to do the bidding of my cognizant mind? I was determined to try.

The bull was patient. He didn’t appear for months, but when he did, returned more menacing and determined than before. The familiar fear washed over me. He pawed the earth, looked up at me from his bowed head, and snorted.

“Go ahead,” my dream self said, “Do what you will. I am not running any longer. I can’t.”

El Toro’s massive muscles rippled as he aimed his blackness toward me. I stiffened my body and rooted my feet to the ground. He grew closer in a dust storm. Suddenly the thundering ceased, the dust swirled past me.

Morning came. I sat up in bed remembering his broad nose and forehead, gigantic even above his massive chest. I could see in my mind his long, black eyelashes. It was the last time I saw him.

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