The release of the redacted Mueller Report has left us needing more answers to questions about a foreign nation, Russia, intervening in our election process. I find it extremely troubling that our President, charged with defending our democracy and nation’s security, has not evidenced a similar concern. Some issues are described in this NPR article. Our government officials, U.S. Congress consisting of the House of Representatives and Senators should all, regardless of their political party affiliation, be focused on investigating Russia-related issues to prevent any further threat to our democratic process, especially considering our imminent 2020 elections.
Efforts to undermine citizen trust in the viability of our elections, weakening the Legislative and Judicial branches of our government with power centralized in the Executive branch jeopardizes our democratic republic system. The Fourth Estate -- journalism/press serves as a check on government and big business but constant efforts to malign their credibility further erodes our system. Preserving our freedoms is of the essence.
Eaglets -- Reminiscences
While awaiting the Bald Eagle eaglets emergence written about in my previous posts I’ve been reminded of my first introduction at preschool age to the mysteries of new life beginning with wild bird eggs hatching. I recall a bird house my older brother had built for tiny little house wrens when we lived in a Great Lakes state. We didn’t have such a close intimate view of that nest as with the live cams focused on a nest in a tree as now.
Living in So Cal these many years later, outside my windows I’ve been treated to seeing finches and hummingbirds building nests, laying eggs, the eggs finally hatching, then the fledglings first flights to seek independence, some not always without peril.
I don’t remember when I first witnessed an actual birthing process of other creatures, but I had been well-prepared from the early house wren years by my mother. She gradually introduced sex education via the birds and bees, plants and animals, progressing to human concepts.
My first two and one-half pre-teen to early teen years I became fascinated with waiting for foul eggs to hatch when as a youth we moved to the country. We had Rhode Island Red chickens, allowed hens to hatch some eggs, but mostly sold the fresh eggs, also cream separated from the milk of our two pet Guernsey cows. Further new life emerged when our golden-hair German Pomeranian dog pair bore a litter of puppies. Then there was the several hundred pound black and white New Hampshire sow birthing a huge piglet litter one cold winter night in the barn.
Far from being dangerous as sows are said to be at such times, this mother pig had absolute trust in Pop as he climbed into the barn pen with her. She laid on her side in the straw, would give a grunt with each birth, then lift her head to see him pick up each piglet to wipe it dry, then place it at one of her teats. I hung over the edge of the pen entranced with this whole procedure. She had more piglets than she had teats so one little pig eventually became a runt, disadvantaged with constantly having to fight at nursing time for a place at the table in the weeks ahead.
We had some other animals including a black cocker spaniel that loved to chase wild rabbits. She had a litter of puppies but indulged her rabbit-chasing obsession while still nursing her little ones. One afternoon she returned home late dragging her hind quarters behind her, paralyzed. We were quite alarmed, but the days ahead we kept her inside so her forced rest allowed her body to recover all her movement, just as a veterinarian friend of the family had counseled would likely occur.
I was introduced to fishing, but with the requirement I learn to capture night crawlers and must bait my own cane pole line hooks. This former city girl’s progress was such that I was advanced to using a casting rod with other types of non-live bait. When Pop and I went fishing we had separate creek bank locations, so I was pretty much left in nature’s silence with my own thoughts those afternoon hours. I recall the delight of seeing a flock of ducklings, soon to be followed by their mother, riding the creeks current down the stream through some rapids, bouncing about.
Following his high school graduation a family member who became like a brother to me came to live with us for a year. He acquired a coon dog he named Zip. We soon discovered to our incredulous laughter he was zipping all right -- we would observe him racing full speed on a hillside opposite where we were sitting for the sole purpose of observing his behavior. Zip’s nose was to the ground for a scent and he was bellering as only a coon hound can. Hot on the trail he would eventually lose the scent, but merely turned around and back-tracked the route he had run, bellowing loudly as though he was headed straight toward his prey.
We took Zip to the woods one night as part of his hunting regimen in training to see if he could stalk deer. I learned to recognize the sight of a doe’s nest where she likely birthed a fawn and the unique musty odor indicating possible recent occupancy. Zip had already run ahead seeking what -- we weren’t sure. Walking softly through the trees the night was becoming darker the further we went. Zip was making no sound so we didn’t know where he was. We finally sat down, remaining silent to listen for Zip as we leaned against a tree. Eventually the silence was broken by Zip’s sudden bellowing with shortened but increasingly exciting-sounding bursts indicating he had found something!
My “brother”, the outdoorsman, immediately left to pursue Zip’s location while I remained seated by the tree, alone. My senses became increasingly alert to every sound the longer I sat there -- a feeling of unease began to creep through my body. The night was quite black now and I literally couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. Once Zip’s baying stopped, what seemed like interminable time passed, though it was likely only minutes until I was startled by the feeling of something cold and wet against my cheek. Momentarily freezing, holding my breath, I realized it was Zip, to my great relief. The outdoorsman soon appeared and I learned Zip had, indeed, found a critter – he had chased a raccoon up a tree, who likely had a harrowing or humorous tale of fooling a hound to tell his or her friends. Our evening had ended and we returned home.
Weeks later the outdoorsman brought home a young raccoon he had come upon and decided he would tame this animal to become a pet -- just like the adult pet we had visited at a local farm. Sitting in that family’s yard with their friendly raccoon pet on a leash, we had been intrigued as he busily went through our pockets looking for a snack, or anything else he could find. So, outside our house, raccoon living quarters had been built and the taming process began. I was cautioned to not touch the caged wild raccoon since a severe bite would be the reward for my friendly gesture.
Outdoorsman always wore heavy leather gloves and was the only one who handled his raccoon. He brought him in the house one time, but that was the last as retrieving the raccoon from in and around the dining room furniture proved to require an acrobatic gymnastics effort well beyond any activity anticipated, arousing my mother’s increasing concern. Outdoorsman eventually decided his work hours and other activities prevented him from devoting enough attention to handling the raccoon for taming purposes, so he released him back into the wild.
I also experienced the then accepted practice of some hunters and trappers, as outdoorsman had learned them from generations before him, when some wildlife was viewed and treated differently than today. Accompanying him once when he “ran his traps” set along creeks for muskrats and mink he captured for their pelts, I was repelled by that process, and yet people bought those furs.
He also harvested squirrels. When his father had been younger and more able to hunt, he included ducks, snapping turtles as prey along with most variety of fish. No creature was ever taken for sport, only the matured and only those whose meat would be cooked and consumed as part of the family diet. These decades over half a century later much has changed including attitudes toward wildlife treatment.