Vigil for ducks (yes, ducks)

JOHN HARRIGAN February 22. 2014 9:27PM

All right, hold onto that beanie with the propeller on top: An "activist," whatever that means, announced a candlelight vigil for five ducks that were run over in front of a Nashua hotel. The incident quickly took on political overtones, to say the least, but that's not why Keith Carlsen of Keene says he organized the event. He withheld comment on the politics and said it was all about "five innocent ducks."

The ducks were mallards, a non-native species - but that doesn't make them bad ducks, even though they are highly adaptable to what passes for civilization (think "begging for handouts") and tend to push more reclusive, independent and somehow more noble and cussedly self-sufficient native black ducks out of their habitat.

For what it's worth, the duck vigil was to be held today at 11 a.m. at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Nashua. I'd have attended, but I had to duck the event in order to stay home and watch the famed Groucho movie "Duck Soup." And anyway, I figured I'd see a recap of the service in the cartoon strip "Mallard Fillmore."

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People seem to hold weasels in high regard.

Last week's mention of weasels brought mail from readers recounting their own Close Encounters of the Weasel Kind, all of them favorable, which means these were not people who had ever kept chickens. Weasels are among the few predators that seem to go on killing frenzies, another standout serial killer being its bigger cousin, the mink.

Weasels are loved by people who hate mice and hated by people who love chickens. It's a bit like woodchucks, I guess; people love to see them sitting up, cute and prairie dog-like, in verdant fields, but go after them with ruthless passion if they take up housekeeping anywhere near the garden.

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Sick of telemarketers? Me, too, and I try to be polite about dumping them, but I don't want to do even that - too time-consuming, too judgmental, too at odds with my huggy side. Presto! I've hit on a solution. What does this have to do with an outdoor column? Well, it involves guiding services, sort of.

When I answer a phone call, any call, I hardly ever say just "hello," but instead say "South Hill Hunting Safaris, Chief Guide Harrigan," or "South Hill Hilton" (there are two well-used guestrooms in the house), or something equally ridiculous.

Telemarketers are trained to home in on individuals, not businesses. If you make up some bogus business name, you'll have some fun, and your friends and other legitimate callers might, too. With telemarketers, however, you'll hear an instant "click."

For some reason, this scenario makes me think of black flies and deer flies and their ilk, which are programmed to go after darkish-colored creatures (i.e., bears, deer, moose, or you and me in dark clothing). Wearing bright colors short-circuits their little homing-in devices, at least for a nano-second, just time enough for us to reach for the Deep Woods Off.

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Berlin's government has authorized ATV access to more parts of the city on certain streets. It is part of a wide-ranging initiative to allow access to downtowns all over the North Country as part of a huge loop of trails from one side of the county to the other and through the huge tract of wild country between the two ends. The goal is to allow riders to plan multi-day trips; stay, eat and shop in the various towns; and explore offshoot trails as part of a circuit that'll ultimately take them back to their vehicles and trailers.

With more than a thousand miles of main and side trails, the grand loop represents the biggest circular trail system east of the Mississippi, and word has spread fast. The system was up and running last summer as part of a trial-and-error experiment, but riders from near and far had already heard about it. Part of the trail system involves a town road right by my front lawn, and many riders were obviously packed, front and rear, for overnight stays.

I saw no bad manners (local teens being the exception), and riders went by at a reasonable speed, with waves and smiles all around.

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Reader alert: After being gone for some time, just where Mr. Outdoor Answer Man will make a rare reappearance is unknown. Readers are invited to send in questions involving anything outdoorsy, no matter how silly, to the address below.

John Harrigan's address: Box 39, Colebrook, N.H. 03576, or

John Harrigan

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