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Wildersmith on the Gunflint - November 8

Wildersmith (375x500).jpg
Wildersmith (375x500).jpg

Wildersmith on the Gunflint     by     Fred Smith
November 8, 2019    
The last chapter of 2019 is unfolding, and the Ojibwe, “freezing over” moon, unquestionably defines the theme. Our last few days along the Gunflint Trail have been cold with temperatures locked below freezing.                                                                                                                                                                        
Although not too unusual, the shivery conditions have crept onto the scene quicker than some had hoped. We commence a long, beautiful time, of stillness in the forest.                                                                                                                                                                  

The earth up this way is now frozen to about four to six inches, and going deeper each day, so it’s now able to support snow. This neighborhood had a thin layer of white as I set to keying this weeks’ scoop and has added more since. At the same time, water on smaller inland bodies has been under a “Zamboni” spell since our last meeting on the radio.                                                                                                                                                       

With exception of the big lakes, ice has skimmed in varying thicknesses, smooth as glass. Barring a heavy dose of snow anytime soon, rough seas and/or a warm-up, hard water should grow to be safe for human usage perhaps by Thanksgiving. I can see water solidarity being a skaters’ delight based on current surface observations.                                                                                                                                                                                   

The onset of “Biboon” (winter in Ojibwe) up the Gunflint has shown dramatic changes. Visitor traffic has suddenly come to a halt as most businesses have closed down for this shoulder season. About the only excitement up or down the Trail are “white knuckle” navigating of Byway slippery spots, and roadside explosions from hosts of “winter welcoming” snow buntings. Oh yes, there’s an occasional critter crossing as well.                                                                                   

Speaking of critters, on a recent trip up to Trails’ end I met up with a dapper cross-fox. I had crossed paths with one up on the Sag Lake Trail this past summer, but it was in motley summer attire. It’s hard telling if this was the same I met earlier. Regardless, this one was outfitted in regal winter fleece, a mixture of black, silver and rust, with a luxurious fluffy tail. Truly a striking example of nature’s wonder!                                                                                                                                                                 

Another report came to me, regarding a border country battle for the attention of the opposite gender. Somewhere up in this neck of the woods two Bull Moose were observed in an antler to antler confrontation. Other than hearing of this happening, I have no word as to a winner being declared.                                                                                                                                                                             

Betting that bears have turned in for the winter, I have commenced opening the deck side feeding station. Within minutes, “wild clamor” must have echoed through the forest on the “moccasin telegraph.” Chickadees, nuthatches, juncos and blue jays swooped in and have been here non-stop ever since.                                                                                                                                                                          
Of course my ever present squirrelly friends sprung out of the trees too. There is frequent mayhem for the mini-red rodents as they nervously try to minimize jaybird access. It looks to be a busy winter at the Wildersmith seed cafeteria, and I’m anxious for return of those whiskey jacks and pine marten cuties.                                                                                                                                                                                   
While nearly every Gunflinter seems to have a fox tale to tell, a fellow recently shared one of his, after reading of the return of my furry red friend.                                                                                              

As the story goes, this guy and his family raise free range chickens. Among them, a rooster is “Chair-chicken of the Board.” It dictates control over most all things chickens do, including hen scratching areas around the yard.                                                                                                                                                     
Mr. Rooster is quite territorial and scurries around keeping others of the flock out of his pecking territory. Further, it gets after several household cats too. Guess the cats fear this feathered bully too.                                                                                                                                                                       
A while back, this ruffian cockerel discovered a fox in his part of the yard. Perhaps mistaking foxy for one of the felines, it decided to assert his jurisdiction by lighting out after this uninvited visitor.                                                                                                                                                                
Now the fox was having none of this, and reversed pursuit on this rascal rooster. The chase was short as this barnyard fowl obviously “bit off more than it could chew.” In fact, it became the “chewee”, He’ll strut and crow his stuff no more, a final lesson learned.                                                                                          

As in many lifetime happenings, for beings of all species, timing is everything. The fox didn’t even have to get into the hen house for its chicken dinner while for the rooster, neither timing nor judgement favored him on what turned out to be a bad feather day.                                                                                                                                       

For WTIP, this is Wildersmith, on the Gunflint Trail, where every day is great, in the land of whispering pines!