Springtime in the Ouachitas is a welcomed interlude between power-line breaking ice and fried eggs on the pavement heat. We begin looking out our windows for glimpses of life, in the form of colorful birds at the feeder, or scurrying little critters sunning on the patio. Many of us break out the cane poles, attach a bobber, and pick a spot on the creek bank, on a quest for the catch of the day.
Yes, in this neck of the woods, we love all manner of wildlife. Some enjoy the thrill of the hunt, while others take a more relaxed, observatory approach. That is, as long as the little fellers stay in their proper places.
Like many of my neighbors, I have a bird feeder in the back yard, and welcome many visitors with blocks of peanut butter and suet, and yummy thistle and sunflower seeds. I’ve watched a cardinal couple bring their fledglings for a treat before venturing out into the wild. Red-wing blackbirds, yellow finches, and bluebirds add more color, and there’s a very handsome woodpecker who occasionally stops by.
When it’s time to build a nest, winged parents will go to great lengths to find the best spot to raise their brood. My mother has had the pleasure of watching a wren and her offspring in a window mounted flower box. Literally a bird’s eye view of a real life family drama.
A friend of mine had a surprise once when she opened her gas grill for a barbecue and found a nest full of little chirpers. Needless to say, outdoor cooking was delayed until that family was ready to move along, and a new device was purchased.
Springtime starts our motors running in earnest. I can remember cool mornings on the water with my step-dad, searching the trot-lines he had placed in hopes of a catfish feast. Sometimes, though, we would find the catfish partially eaten, and the perpetrator, an alligator gar, snared on the line. What happened to those ugly fish was certainly not pretty, as this usually jovial man did not treat them very charitably. I often told him that I hoped there was no such thing as re-incarnation, because he was bound to return as a gar, and suffer the same maltreatment from another fisherman.
Meanwhile, back in the back yard: squirrels often demonstrate their acrobatic ability when attempting to rob a bird feeder. They will stretch or jump from a nearby fence, hang upside down, and in general do whatever it takes to get ahold of the tasty morsels we intended for someone else. The same man who hated alligator gars loved watching squirrels, and even created special corn-cob holders which provided a place for the furry rodents to enjoy a feast. However, if they weren’t satisfied with their own food and coveted the bird seed, the gauntlet was tossed. My step dad devised a rope and pulley system which he could operate from inside the house. He would wait until the squirrel reached just the right position, and then . . . Whoops! Sorry, Charlie. Down the thief would go. Score update: enterprising man one, squirrel nothing.
Longtime friends of ours have a wonderful back yard with a spreading oak tree that seems to have attracted a colony of chipmunks. The animals constructed an elaborate village under the wooden deck, and used the privacy fence as their own superhighway, scurrying happily around, and surviving all sorts of eradication methods. These kind hearted folks learned to tolerate Alvin and his friends, as long as they stayed outside.
On one particular occasion, desperate measures became necessary when one of the little stripers ventured in through an open door and made his way to the master bathroom. The lady of the house recounts that her brave protector armed himself with a two by four and a plastic shopping bag and waited patiently for the animal to “become confident” and emerge from his hiding spot behind the commode. Then, using his best “Little Bunny Foo-Foo” method, the eradicator “bopped him on the head”. The plastic sack was then utilized to move the very still furry body to the dumpster. The next day, the victorious chipmunk hunter heard scratching noises coming from the dumpster and discovered that the creature had survived his ordeal. So, believing it only right that he concede and allow a reprieve, the man transported the chipmunk to a nearby creek bank for release. It is hoped that in the future, the chipmunk population will recognize the chivalry of this action, and properly observe their outdoor boundaries.
Happy Spring to all creatures, great and small!