Friday, September 18, 2009


There is a conspicuous quiet in Kickapoo Center. Dawn ( the time of day, not my wife) in summer is a cacophony of bird songs. I make the time distinction because my wife often takes residents on strolls around the retirement home. They spot a huge crow, almost the size of a raven. She says, "Watch this." Her startingly accurate mimicry of a crow distress call, sends the big black bird flapping for cover. Already half past September, all the hummingbirds have departed for warmer pastures. Starlings massed by the hundreds and flew away. I haven't seen a robin in weeks. The winter residents are popping up here and there. A jay calls out from the edge of the cornfield and woodpeckers hunt for insects in the maple trees. Blackbirds, i.e. , red wings, purple martins, & cow birds who carried on noisy conversations in the massive cottonwood tree on the south fence line are non-existent.

Bluebirds we haven't seen all summer save for a nesting pair in the spruce tree on the highway berm, feed on the front lawn. Dawn and I worry the cat will discover their feeding patterns. We can relax, though, since he's developed a paunch and has trouble leaping on to the deck rail. I do not caution Mandy for finishing off his breakfast. The cat needs to go on a diet.

When the juncos appear, it'll be the signal that winter is around the corner. We'll lay in a stock of high quality bird feed. Short on cash, I feed the birds sparingly because I enjoy their company in the winter doldrums. In Lacrosse I buy inexpensive lard and mix it with seed for suet feeders. Red headed and downy woodpeckers hang from the feeders as well as chickadees and nuthatches.

Mandy's quietly snoozing in the sun on the carpet in the entryway. I keep an ear tuned to her movements. Saturday the Amish will babysit while we travel to the big city for supplies. Dawn comes home with stories about the county fair and carny workers. The public market which rents open space to merchants has several thefts of laptops left unattended for customer use. Tatooed carny workers are eyed suspiciously as they wander the public market. The honor system of paying for items in unattended stalls, samples opffered for a donation and even the Amish's corn stalk/pumpkin stand along the highway are an unspoken standard. The retirement home's apple pie wins second place at the fair. Other entries of less popular divisions all win first place for lack of entries. Spending 12 years of my life within walking distance of the Wisconsin State Fair, the Vernon County fair lacks the excitement. There's a horse and colt show coming up which draws me to the horse pull. On the same weekend the apple orchards all along the ridgetop from Soldiers Grove to Gays Mills celebrate Apple Fest. I seek out the organic apple orchard outside of Gays Mills to avoid the apples grown with the aid of of chemicals and pesticides by mainstream apple growers.

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