Wildersmith March 25

Pussy Willow
Pussy Willow

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Gunflint Territory celebrated March’s supermoon even though it had to burn through the clouds last Saturday night. The effect in the upper Trail was not as had been expected. Nevertheless, it was still brilliant on the breast of our old fallen snow.

Meanwhile Zigwan (spring) was ushered in the next day in a somewhat unsettled fashion, with a thin blanket of overnight snow for openers, then rain during mid-day and sleet in the evening with temps hanging right around the freezing mark. Thus, the equilibrium of border country’s vernal equinox was dampened with cool gray.

Since this is pretty good hiking country, it should be no wonder that the Old Man of the North took a hike last week. Yes, Mr. Winter simply threw in the towel and left us with dripping rooftops and slush-clogged roads for several days in succession.

We have yet to get serious with mud on the Mile O’ Pine as the accumulated snow pack is so thick that the warm temps just let us sink into deep mushy ruts. The slippery snow-cone consistency has made maneuvering one’s vehicle challenging. Adding to our slip-sliding along, a bit of nighttime refreezing has complicated any thought of easy travel for the next few weeks. I’m certain that the same is true for all back country roads in this neck of the woods.

As certain as the swallows return to Capistrano, the crows have come back to our wilderness. The raucous jet-black scavengers are hanging out by the dozens at Wildersmith. With the murderous congregating, there’s not a moment of silence around our place. The baritone chatter goes on from dawn ‘til dusk.

While the early warmth grew last week, my daily trips to the mailbox afforded the discovery of pussy willow buds. The fuzzy tips are just beginning to break out of their comfy husks, and if spring bloomed more this past week, I’m betting that there’ll be a mass popping.

I’ve observed another sign of the times in the deer that browse about the yard. A number of the bucks have swollen foreheads. When they clean up spilled sunflower seeds under our deck, they’re close enough that, through the window, one can readily see the swelling lumps that will soon become velvet tines and, in a few short months, their crown of masculine status.

Speaking of deer, there is one doe here about that has something for which she can be thankful. That is life!

She has a rather significant bare scrape on her side with two puncture marks in the center. This surely must be the result of an up-close encounter with the local wolf pack. One cannot say for sure that this was the cause, but if it was a near-miss wolf attack, the predator got a big swatch of hide. The wound looks to be healing, but I wonder if this little gal has some flashbacks about nearly being on the fast food menu.

On a final note, to get the full effect, I’ve got to share a happening that is just one of those you just had to be there episodes.

Last week, the Smiths were casually driving to Grand Marais. Somewhere along the Trail in that 40 mile per hour zone, between Windigo and Norwester, out of the clear blue, something crashed onto our windshield, nearly startling us to death.

Thank goodness the splat happened near the window edge where it had some structural support, otherwise it may have brought the glass into our laps. Anyway, the point of impact was a gooey mess of bloody mangled body tissue, no feathers mind you, so it couldn’t have been a bird.

With no humans around and nothing observable in the rear view mirrors, we continued on to town. Once in town, the stop was made to clean off the now-dried-on mess. To loosen the glop, it took considerable scrubbing with one of those service station window squeegees, and as I did so, a distinct smell of fish suddenly permeated my nostrils.

To say the least, this was a bit fishy? The smelly mash apparently had careened from the heavens and, as bad luck would have it, found the Smith vehicle.

One can only guess at how this happened since we were some distance from the Poplar Lake shoreline at the time, so it was no fish flopping out of the lake (it’s still a huge ice cake anyhow).

My only clue is that this was a scavenged item from a fish cleaning site. I’m guessing that an eagle was in the process of transporting its afternoon snack and must have lost its grip from high overhead. You can imagine the speed at which this piece of finny was falling. Coupled with my 40m mph, it’s a wonder the squashing impact wasn’t worse.

Considering the chances of such an occurrence, maybe one in billions, what luck! It’s about like me winning the Powerball (then again, maybe I ought to go buy a ticket). So that’s the story, a fish in the face if you will, without exaggeration, one that got away and then didn’t get away!

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor the wilderness transition!

Airdate: March 25, 2011

Photo courtesy of saxcubano via Flickr.


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