In the backyard, right in view from the kitchen window, I maintain three bird feeders in the vainglorious hope that I can make a difference with small creatures, of the flying kind. These manage to fly in the worst of weather, in winds that would ground the 1st Airborne.
These feeders, only twice in all these years picked off by bears, are supported by a steel-tube swingset welded together a half a century ago by then-neighbor Roger Favreau, on Park Street in downtown Colebrook. I remember him fondly for several things, but best, during a family visit to his logging job in South Canaan, Vt., just across the river, for letting me (at age 6 or so) operate his bulldozer.
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For the past week, the plumage at the feeders has included Canada jays. These (aka whiskey jacks, camp robbers) are big, fluffy birds who do not act at all like the more aggressive blue jays, although they out-rank them in size. In line with our other Canadian neighbors, they seem more inclined to smoke the peace pipe.
These may well be birds propelled south in search of food. They are no strangers to anyone who's been to camps north of the Notches. When I called my son Mike, who's been to The Labrador with our Gang of Uglies, he said "Oh yeah, we had them in Jefferson," and we did.
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I had some feedback about my fear of letting the dog Millie out of sight in the dark of early morning lest she get nailed by a coyote. This is real stuff, as a coyote can move as swiftly as a heat-seeking missile, and Millie is a small dog.
A few years back, I lost my cat Moriah, as good a mouser as ever walked or stalked. She patrolled the perimeter around the house and laid all manner of potential house-invading prey on the shop floor, which I'd admire while singing her praise. Once (no kidding) she brought in a mink, which I felt sorry about. The mink, not a notorious household invader, had apparently just happened by. Moriah had not a mark on her.
One spring day, while I watched from just inside the barn door, a big fisher cat, its black coat glistening in the sun, humped across the back lawn. Moriah was on the back stoop, catching the warming sun. She spotted the fisher immediately, and did not move so much as a whisker, as it humped into the woods.
She was a savvy cat and lived a good life, but one day, to use the old joke, she turned up gone.
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It is the 10th anniversary of our building of the Camp in the Middle of Nowhere. People came from all over the continent back there in 2004, including two from Alaska, to help in this Huck Finn endeavor. We built the camp in three days, although the roofing required considerable followup.
How we pulled this off still amazes me. All right, we were 10 years younger. But then, all of the others did the heavy lifting. I was simply (apt term) the Walking Boss. I had time, in between arranging food and other sustenance and finding screws and nails, to help lift just one beam.
The camp is a 16- by 20-log cabin, perched on granite a stone's throw (well, maybe a six-iron shot) from Unknown Pond, which is just across Bottomless Bog, reached by an archaic skidder trail from Lonesome Landing, at the end of Roadless Road. For all but the Long Hunters and back-country wanderers and shed-seekers (antler-seekers) it is impossible to find, at least in the mind.
What a place to sit on the porch, with a fire inside, and regard a good book while the rain pelts on the tin roof, except that about now that would be snow, a softer hit but an old friend indeed.
Write to John Harrigan at email@example.com or at Box 39, Colebrook NH 03576.