By Scott Sullivan
Letters from Home
Dear addled daddy, How did the base you start and go from become so scattered? You’re a deer, addled daddy, no one follows.
“Throw them off scent,” you say? Who’s hunting you. “Not enough wild places to retreat to?” I’ll deforest further. “City attractions detract, in fact?” No one makes you go there.
I chase light looking: A felt-horn whitetail is munching Dunegrass greenery ringing the “Wind Dancer” sculpture. I’ve seen him there before on the paved-stone entrance circle before the coded gate, tame and wild like most of herd crossing Perryman Road on their daily graze routes between here and Lake Michigan. Is he exiled? Are the rest on the woods and dunes nearby? In late p.m. light now I can’t see them.
Guard deer react first to car tires purring up from ahead, behind or between other feeding members. They freeze, gaze over their shoulders at the shooter intruder who means no harm.
The velvet horn, solo, preened for the nearby picture taken through short Canon telephoto with popping flash unruffled, proud of his growing horns being nature-enriched, fearless, foolish, threatening, trusting, I had a friend.
The herd makes hay of gardens, many near the lake expansive, meticulously-kept, they are (or were) works of art. At the hardware you can pop for boxed steel fencing folding compactly inside.
Home, you extract it and set it up in hinged-at-the-elbow sections to approximate a circle or oval around your plot, sink feet of each into topsoil. There, you dust your hands, deer deferred now.
Next morning your Maginot Wall’s down, stepped over, breached, budding harvest ravaged. The night herd sneers at your gestures, rookie, as they feast.
Hmm. Putin uses poisons. Maybe proper application of legal Bambi-specific toxins will do the trick and spare nature their further depredations.
I wanted to warn my aspiring herd sire and later leader of nightly fees watch for caution signs such as mandated chemical-caution postings read them, take preventive steps, dine elsewhere. Here is, after all, why we teach humans language.
I was a chaos gardener when I lived in the woods. Why garden at all? Study day by day how the wilds grow through your back window while cooking or, perhaps, typing.
With computers the keyboard clatter was softer than the electric typewriter I would pause while herds passed, but monitor protruding above blocked seeing the larger picture outside.
Move into the woods they move into you. Mice, chipmunks, shrews … My rescue cats ended that and began leaving carcass trails indoors and out I could follow like breadcrumb paths to scenes of the nature not-crimes with life going on as was.
Squirrels were too big for the puddy-tats but refrained attacks to outside birdfeeder hung from corkscrew under the den/kitchen window eave.
These marauders, plus still larger climbing raccoons who came nights, pillaged my puny beginner’s efforts, much as deer do to with doomed garden fences, to live with nature my way, excluding other parts of it.
A certain thunk at night meant the Acrobat — hung upside down, back claws dug into roof-edge shingles, you had to admire him — had batted my seed tube into the outside wall, dislodging it from the hook to break open on the ground below.
There all — first his nocturnal family, then passing fellow-nocturnal skunks, at dawn birds — feasted on what was left.
I hoped unscoured seeds hid in the earth next spring would regenerate in sunflower, corn, barley and thistle fields to behold till they topped my window view and I had no choice but harvest, feast on their life forces, share with pilgrims. But oh no.
I’ve since worked to ban what so disappointed me. Every man needs a mission. The fact wildlife died after eating seeds — never mind how long after — should suffice for most juries. Plus it’s sour grapes now to smirk at it.
Bang-a-gong 1 a.m. after rain meant my bandit buddy had dove from an overhanging pine bough through a left-open dumpster top door to find bounty waterlogged, then him too; he could not leap out from his growing-fetid quarry.
His steel prison was heavy but portable, two wheels one side plus a top handle you could lean into and leverage emptying — not in this case into the weekly trash truck but sand two-track leading t½ mile west to Lake Michigan.
He scuttled out, paused and looked at his savior. Sucker, I’ll be back.
Skunks moved into the crawl space under my shabby manse. Nights came scratches, screeches and hisses, then a plume would rise. I could no longer launder out fruits of their domestic disputes from my clothes nor carpet on which I took magic rides in the living room.
On old box GE TV with rabbit ears, in glowing ions, one early fall 1988 night appeared Dan Quayle waiting in prey for Lloyd Bentsen. Quayle, George H.W. Bush’s 1988-annointed V.P. pick, was a handsome young Indiana senator too naïve to be any future threat.
He proved it being so unrehearsed for debut debate on national stage he bungled into the trap he had set, with a bit of help from Democrats,
, comparing himself to martyred ex-President John F. Kennedy.
Bentsen, JFK’s party mate long ago, sprang, “Sen. Quayle, you are not Jack Kennedy.” That November he won and established himself, as second in command, for his spelling prowess.
The reek below grew insufferable. I boxcutter-carved a hole through my other window screen to escape and returned to find bugs, birds and bats dropping in to enjoy their new sheltered portal.
The cats went ballistic, leaping and performing mid-air acrobatics of their own — Isn’t the animal kingdom wonderful? — to catch the invaders … in vain until one night black Miao regathered himself, gauged the chickadee’s flight so at the apex of his launch parabola he would bat down his prey with claws.
First the bird was just winged but, now flying even more erratically and disoriented, tried to fly through the closed glass portion of the window and dropped to Miao, waiting. Supper time …
Addled Daddy, why? asks my daughter. The caged mustache parrot downstairs squawks, repeats “night night” and his name Pony Boy. Is that why?