Sunday, September 25, 2005

New Neighbors

OK, to recap:

We live outside a small village in rural Wisconsin. We have one neighbor in shouting distance. Literally. Nice folk, but our schedules don't coincide. We usually see them at school events. There are 3 other houses that we can see from our yard, 5 if the trees are bare, and you count the ones on the horizon. There is a local paper. It comes out weekly and is 8 pages (half-sized) long, 12 pages if Homecoming Week. We have met a few of our neighbors, defining "neighbor" as someone who lives in the same zip code, usually as they pass while we are outside. One I met while signing in to vote. They own several horses a 1/2 mile down the road and identified me as an owner of the house that took down all the nice horse fencing. Being neighborly, I offered the fencing to them, should they want it. They may take me up on the offer in a few years.

We are not in the hub of the neighborhood gossip, such as it is, as the entire neighborhood is quiet, retiring, and a-ways from each other.

This Saturday, we joined all the other parents in the zip code and gathered at the grade school soccer fields for the first of the Saturday Morning Soccer Club games. Fully half of the school's kids are in soccer, which means they "practice" one day after school and "play" each Saturday morning, while the parents stand around like Jr High kids at a dance, clutching coffee and gabbing. Clearly, this is THE place to be.

Sure enough, we get there and are soon chatting with our "next door" (loud yelling distance) neighbor, S. His son is on Colin's team. After the usual pleasantries, he fills us in on The Big News. Seems there is a bear in the area. Well, actually two bears: A mother and a juvenile. There have been about 6 separate sightings, two by the milk guy, who is deemed reliable. One of the sightings was in the yard of the cool log house about a mile away. It is at this time that M wanders over. She has the farm sort of across from the log house and sells her home grown produce in the front. We discuss the sightings and M deems them "certainly credible", given the source. This is not always the case, she tells us. Apparently every few years, there is a rash of cougar sightings, mostly from one person in particular, and coincide with a flurry of his UFO sightings.

So, cougars from space.

A few years ago, the then park ranger sent off some castings of purported cougar prints. M didn't know what the results of the identification were, but as it didn't make the paper, she felt comfortable in their lack of authenticity as far as being from a large predatory cat.

Charles and I have seen bear scat once in our lives. This was while visiting my beloved aunt and uncle on the southern Oregon coast. They have a lovely place with a very productive garden and have attracted a bear, who they have named, "Buster". Buster, for our benefit, I'm sure, laid us a big old pile with a single, partially digested (yet amazingly intact) raspberry balanced on the top, just like a soda fountain treat. I am a bit concerned as Buster seemed to be in league with their deer, Buster leaning against the deer fencing, toppling it, and allowing the deer egress to the garden's bounty. I fear things may go poorly here, if such an alliance is made, and am just grateful that we did not plant fruit trees.

And, yes, the trash went out this morning, not last night.

In related news, I had my first full fledged coyote sighting a couple of days ago. He was standing along our road about 1/4 mile from our place, looked at me as I was driving toward him, and then sauntered into the woods. Based on his size and attitude, I surmise he was about 15 years old in adjusted people-years. Great. I suspect he was out having a smoke, away from the eyes of his parents. I imagine he is off to the hole in the tree where he has stashed his gum.

When we do get a kitty, she will certainly be an "inside" one. I need to keep her away from the bad influences out there. Sometimes, homeschooling may be best.



Blogger Teri said...

My in-laws lived in far northwestern WI (after retirement). They built a house which included a lovely screened-in porch. They were fairly rural, although not quite as rural as you, and their house was on top of a wooded hill, which basically meant that the screen porch was more-or-less right up in the tree canopy. It was my father-in-law's delight to sleep on the screen porch come a warm summer's eve, until one night he awoke in the middle of the night to a grumbling sound and hot air blowing on him. Opening his eyes he discovered a bear staring right at him, nose less than a foot away from him, pressed right up on the screen. He hightailed it back into the house proper, locking the doors behind him, and never again slept on the screen porch (which I can vouch was indeed lovely to sleep on, and would have been hard to give up).

6:53 PM  
Blogger Rozanne said...

Not to boast (and not that this is something most normal people would boast about), but I saw bear scat yesterday, several piles of it--although none as aesthetically pleasing as the one you described. (It was mainly huckleberry, if you must know.)

I am pretty surprised, I must say, that there would be a bear sighting so far south in Wisconsin. What can that mean? I fear it means the environment is out of balance. But we knew that.

Bone up on your bear-scaring strategies.

8:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We saw a mother bear and two cubs in the Canadian Rockies right next to the road. Idiots were rolling down their windows and feeding them from the car in front of us. We just sat there in the RV, nice and high up in the air and kept our windows rolled up. The lucky tourists got bored before the bears did and drove off. I just waited until Momma bear and the two baby bears crossed the road in front of me, then started up and went on our way, all fingers and toes accounted for.


2:06 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

Teri- Oh, Yikes! Pity about no longer being able to sleep on the porch but what a way to wake up! I am sort of thrilled to have the bear sightings but certainly am keeping a good, respectful distance and do all those "bear safety" things you learn about. We are also getting a can of bear repellant for when we forray into our bit of woods, singing loudly as we go.

Rozanne- That is cool, although I do think Buster Bear gets full points for artistic shitting. Last year, the reports were of a bear seen 20 miles away. Here's hoping, while displaced, they find our area healthy. Given the encroaching sprawl from Madison, though, I am sure they will soon be pushed out, again. We do have a nice protected pocket of connected woods framing the fields and pastures as well as the local State Woods.

Morris- Stupid people everywhere. Yes, they are "people accustomed", which means they have lost their natural fear of people. The stories the park rangers must have to tell.

8:21 AM  
Blogger Cagey said...

I am impressed you saw a coyote! When I lived in the country as a kid, we definitely had them around because we could hear them, but never actually saw them.

9:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Deinitely all these sightings were not as cute as Alice, your grandmother's "pet" bear when she lived up the McKenzie River--that's in Oregon, Gang--and had to put down everything she would be carrying so Alice could have a peek to see if it was milk or not.

Saw what bears "do in the woods" in Montana over Labor Day. Did not see and bear warning devices in it though.

The Ole RF-er

12:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Deinitely all these sightings were not as cute as Alice, your grandmother's "pet" bear when she lived up the McKenzie River--that's in Oregon, Gang--and had to put down everything she would be carrying so Alice could have a peek to see if it was milk or not.

Saw what bears "do in the woods" in Montana over Labor Day. Did not see any bear warning devices in it though.

The Ole RF-er

12:38 PM  
Blogger moegirl said...

I was with my mom yesterday after her knee surgery (went very well, and the nice doctor showed me pictures of my mom's knee bones and tendons- not many daughters get to see that) Her dog recently died and she believes it was coyotes that dug up the remains. Sadly, a cat she has had since '91 died, however mom buried her in a metal ammunition box, so she can rest in peace, unlike her poor dog. She too, lives in a rural area (between Estacada and Molalla) I wonder because of sprawl that critters are becoming more bold?

2:03 PM  
Blogger CarpeDM said...

Cougars from space. The milkman is deemed reliable. Raspberry on pile. Oh, my God. That is hilarious.

Soccer is cool. I am hoping that is what Josh decides to play. It is cool and doesn't interrupt karaoke. Kari has pretty much decided he is not playing football or becoming President so his options of supporting me in my old age are becoming limited.

1:23 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

Cagey- That's it. They are definitely "heard but not seen" creatures. It took a minute or so for it to sink in that I was actually seeing one.

Dad- Ah, yes, the Alice-the-bear tales. Grandma certainly had the stories.

Stace- Sounds like your mom has had a rough time of it lately. I'm glad she is still living there, it is a beautiful area. I think you are right. The sprawl displaces them and they become more desparate. We are about 30 miles outside of Madison but already the sprawl is coming. Lots of homes being built on farmland as it is so much cheaper here than in Madison. Houses there, while not Portland price, are about 2 times more expensive than in the country and here, most have at least a couple of acres attached. We are fortunate in that our street has been zoned to keep the farms and prevent breaking up the land, but laws can change.

Dana- Isn't it funny? I swear you can't make this up. I felt as though I were in an episode of Northern Exposure. I think your sister is wise in her stance. Good that your nephew is young, plenty of time to "encourage" him in lucrative auntly pursuits.

8:29 AM  

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