A Wild Neighborhood

A Wild Neighborhood

John Henricksson
Illustrated by Betsy Bowen
Copyright Date: 1997
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 192
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttskg7
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  • Book Info
    A Wild Neighborhood
    Book Description:

    Beautifully illustrated by award-winning artist Betsy Bowen, author of Antler, Bear, Canoe: A Northwoods Alphabet Year, this collection of elegantly written essays celebrates the creatures that share our place in the woods. From kitchen-table gossip about the black bear’s recent attempts to raid the bird feeder, to the retelling of Native American myths about the mischievous raven, Henricksson illustrates his respect, humor, and love of northwoods creatures.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8848-7
    Subjects: Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xx)
  5. 1 Most like a Man
    (pp. 1-16)

    Even though we have no theaters, shopping malls, or video stores in the wild neighborhood, there is plenty of entertainment, and we don’t feel deprived. Quite the opposite. The natural world of this boreal forest region provides grand theater, and the stage is constantly busy, changing scenery, playbills, and casts with the seasons. The timber wolves provide drama, and moose and bald eagles bring majesty to the stage, with a musical score by a variety of warblers, the olive-sided thrush, and, of course, the loons. We get mystery from the owls, joy and pathos from the deer, bawdy comment from...

  6. 2 First Citizen of Minnesota
    (pp. 17-30)

    On one of early June’s more hospitable mornings, Julie and I were making our desultory way along the bog shoreline of Gunflint’s narrow, westmost bay, canoeing with no destination, just poking around. The little bay was calm, but out on the big lake little gusts of wind sent wavelets skittering around in several directions, as though the morning wind hadn’t yet made up its mind about a direction.

    Early June in the north is seldom the best time for comfortable canoeing. It can be cantankerous, with an occasional cold squall dragging along in the wake of retreating spring, savage hordes...

  7. 3 Hunter of the High Places
    (pp. 31-42)

    Our few acres of the old forest rise gradually from the bouldered shore to a dirt road in back and are dominated by a couple dozen old giants, virgin white pines whose sunreaching strength has pumped them high above the surrounding trees and spread their irregular branches into a shimmering dark green crown. These big pines are the signature trees of the Gunflint region and are sentinel posts for bald eagles, gossip fences for the lugubrious ravens, and prime hunting grounds for the luxuriantly furred lightning bolt of the forest, the pine marten(Manes americana),the only predator that hunts...

  8. 4 A Parliament of Owls
    (pp. 43-56)

    Birds of mystery and the deep silences, barred owls are our shadowy companions in this old forest. Likely because of its nocturnal habits, unblinking stare, and weird night noises that penetrate sleep and log walls, the barred owl remains a spectral presence, making its legendary role as death messenger or omen of tragedy seem quite believable.

    At the Gunflint cabin we often hear its doleful requiem during the wilderness night, but seldom are aware of it during daylight hours. Last year a barred owl visited us regularly during the afterglow of the westering sun and gave us a rare glimpse...

  9. 5 The Magnificent Seven-Footer
    (pp. 57-70)

    One sun-spattered morning on the Clearwater Road, which doesn’t have a straight or level stretch of more than a hundred feet, we were moving along slowly, listening to the drumbrush rhythms of pine boughs swishing across the hull of the canoe belted securely to the top of the car. In a deep valley to our right was a boggy pond of tanninstained water ringed by heavy growths of sedges, cotton grass, and some stunted black spruces. In nodding clusters, back from the water’s edge, grew pitcher plants, their waxy, burgundy blossoms bending low over the carnivorous pitcher-shaped leaves that trap...

  10. 6 Rascal in a Gray Suit
    (pp. 71-82)

    The gray, or canada, jay(Perisoreus canadensis)and I have some things in common: we prefer the boreal woodlands, we both love to eat, and neither of us can sing very well. The gray jay has a variety of calls, most of them strident and unpleasant, but it can purr like a cat when it is begging.

    Some bird writers are impressed by their vocalizing. Charles Bendire wrote, inLife Histories of North American Birds,“While some of their notes are not so melodious, I consider this species a very fine songster.” I have never heard a gray jay I...

  11. 7 The Empire Builder
    (pp. 83-98)

    There is a beaver pond nearby that is bisected by a gravel fill road we check out often in the early summer, looking for feeding moose. It is a small pond, maybe six or seven acres, with a beaver dam and lodge on one side of the road and open water on the other; it’s surrounded by floodkilled spruce, splotched with dead stumps, and fringed with cattails.

    There is something growing on the bottom of this pond that moose like, probably pondweed or bladderwort, because when we go that way we often see moose wading on the open-water side of...

  12. 8 Along Came a Spider
    (pp. 99-108)

    Perhaps don marquis was right when he said, “Beauty has the best of it in this world. . . . the only insect that succeeds in getting mourned is the butterfly, while every man’s heel is raised against the spider.”

    I can’t seem to find the word in my dictionary, but arachnophobia—a fear of spiders—seems a logical construct. The arachnids are a large family, including mites, ticks, and chiggers, but none of them inspire the fear and horror that spiders do. EspeciallyLycosa,the wolf spider, who sends the arachnophobes shrieking and running for their baseball bats. What...

  13. 9 Helen Hoover’s Deer
    (pp. 109-118)

    Many generations of white-tailed deer(Odocoileus virginianus)have passed this way since author Helen Hoover lived in the cabin next door, but her spirit must watch over them because they are still here, even though some biologists have been wary of their future for years. The old-growth forest just isn’t deer country, they say. This is moose country.

    There haven’t always been deer in this region, and even after they came, their populations had their ups and downs. It wasn’t until the end of the logging era, from about 1910 to 1920, that the first deer population explosions occurred. The...

  14. 10 More than a Bird
    (pp. 119-132)

    I trudge slowly up the wooded hill, moving as quietly and inconspicuously as possible, crouching behind a moss-covered boulder here and a blowdown spruce there. I know the raven(Corvus corax)is up there somewhere, probably high in the gaunt and grotesque branches of the dead white pine near the crest of the ridge. It has been “quorking” about something since sunrise. Probably broadcasting the morning’s gossip to the rest of the flock. Or perhaps, this morning, it is the watch raven. Ravens have the most sophisticated and varied communications system of all the birds; quorks, mews, whines, yells, gargles,...

  15. 11 Icon of the Wilderness
    (pp. 133-144)

    Once in a while on magic winter nights when the stars seem to prowl the topmost branches of the big pines, I hear the wolves(Cants lupus)howl and am transfixed by this wild music—discordant, unreal, hypnotic—that seems a chorus from the spirit world. It is one of the oldest animal sounds on earth, over a million years, and I thrill to it now out on a frozen lake in northern Minnesota, watching satellites ranging over electronic trails across a midnight sky.

    “Nature’s pipe organ,” someone called the music. It has an intense, complex power. Some imagine shadows...

  16. 12 Ghosts
    (pp. 145-162)

    The old-growth forest is spirit country: deep shade, strange night noises, distorted faces in the foam at the edges of rapids, spirit fires smoldering along ancient hunting trails, footfall sounds crossing the cabin roof at night that disturb sleep but leave no tracks. Ghosts of all kinds. Phantom canoes full of singing voyageurs have been seen down among the islands near the long portage. Sometimes I find that the weird night moaning is only trees rubbing together in the wind, but mostly I believe in the ghosts.

    Because this is such an ancient habitat, predating history, it is certain that...

  17. Recommended Reading
    (pp. 163-170)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 171-171)