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January 11. 2014 6:22PM

John Harrigan's Woods, Water and Wildlife: About another busted rib, and a close friend gone


 

THIS IS written (wait, that's the passive voice, which I loathe and avoid wherever possible). I write this with yet another flesh wound, to quote numerous war-hero movies, in this case another busted rib. I think I've broken every rib except Eve's, some maybe twice. There is nothing anyone can do about a broken rib except leave it time to heal and avoid laughing, coughing or sneezing.

When does one stop getting broken bones? Only when one does not move around much, would be my guess — say, only from the TV to the fridge and back, assuming there is no Cherished One at beck and call.

"Beck and call." Now there's something we hardly hear anymore. The same with "fetch," as a verb, as in, to a teenager idling around between TV and fridge waiting to snaffle onto a passing bit of food, "Go fetch some wood, you dolt." Well, perhaps more politely put, as in, "Would you please fetch some firewood before I padlock the refrigerator?" To which the kid responds, "Define 'fetch.'"

Does this convey that I've been involved in the raising and fledging of six kids? As Yukon Jeff (Fair) says in Alaska: Roger that. (Endangered Species List add-on: Teenagers who refuse to fetch wood).

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I busted the latest rib in a stupid move against the unyielding woodpile next to my outdoor furnace. With my pickaroon, I latched onto a 3-foot piece of maple, maybe 40 pounds, that would just fit where I thought it could go, there in the inferno.

On the first pull, I realized that a knot was wedged between adjoining pieces. On the second stupid pickaroon pull, this piece of hardwood, aptly named, came free and hit me hard as hardwood can, square in the ribs.

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The pickaroon was a gift from West Milan's Kevin Shyne, a longtime camp-mate who is soon off to Sacramento for a step up in profession, although we all, in our not-so-loose Gang of Uglies, will do our best to haul him back.

The pickaroon is meant to extend reach well beyond that of a pulp hook. Like chest-high waders, or a winch on a vehicle, or a wench in the passenger seat, it can get you into serious trouble. To me, the winch should be on the back, to get you out. Of course, this comes from getting older.

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On the morning after New Year's, while doing dishes, I noticed tracks from a rabbit that had earlier escaped my notice. It had run from the swamp behind my outdoor furnace to the bird-feeders on the old swing set, past my dining room windows and across the front lawn to the big spruce tree, which marks where the first settlers rolled up their cabin. Alert individual that I am, I went to a dining room window to look at these tracks and discovered that this rabbit (and please, purists, do not finger-wag at me with the misuse of "rabbit") had attempted a retreat back into the swamp. The tracks simply ended, without even a "poof."

Out I went to survey the scene. Indeed, the tracks had ended, even without the wing-marks I've seen in similar circumstances, most often a kill by a great horned owl. The rabbit was indeed gone, without a trace. Think comic books that show dotted outlines of where something used to be.

I called certain Learned Persons about this. They cited red tail hawks or barred owls or goshawks or eagles, which stay around until dead winter to hunt. Still, what about the absence of wing-marks?

Here is how I figure it. A bird of prey (pick one) saw the hapless rabbit running for its life, as rabbits do when crossing open spaces, toward the shelter and sanctuary of the old bull spruce tree, down there where the settlers pitched their cabin (the sill marks could still be seen when I was in my teens). It then waited, or lurked (to conform to dramatic theater), until the rabbit realized that there was nothing there to eat and attempted to run, full-bore, back to the sanctuary of the swamp. And then, the hawk leapt from its perch, and with all the thrust of a Sidewinder Missile picked off the rabbit in mid-hop, leaving nary a trace.

The tracks told the tale, and I was tickled to figure it out.

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Losing someone you've been with for four decades is a hard thing. Yet we all have to do this and endure the inevitable. Skip, The Italian Scallion, known variously as Giovanni and Geo and whatever else we called him that was not his real last name (Costello), bit the dust last week. He was part of a gang that has been together for going on 40 years. We're to meet and weep and hail him this weekend. He is the first of our original Gang of Uglies to go to the Great Beyond.

We gather to tell lies and stories, and hoist a glass. "Many like us," the toast goes in Acadia, "damned few better."

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John Harrigan's address: Box 39, Colebrook NH 03576, or campguyhooligan@gmail.com.


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