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A Wild Neighborhood by John Henricksson

By John Henricksson

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It sank its teeth into the bacon and tugged downward with all the strength in its little three-pound body. It shook its head violently from side to side, braced HUNTER OF THE HIGH PLACES 37 its feet wide, and tugged some more. No good. The bacon would not tear off the nail. This was a big problem. It was completely exposed on that bare tree trunk, and this really bothered it. Between bouts of jerking on the bacon strip, it would run up the tree to some low, bushy branches and assess the situation, chirp excitedly and run back down to resume its tugging.

Most wild creatures are very wary when with their young. One will occasionally break that rule, and when that happens, I have a tendency to anthropomorphize the reasons; that is, I find some human trait in their behavior. Hiking down the Iron Lake Road one spring morning, I saw a low-slung, dark brown dragon coming toward me about one hundred feet down the road. At least that's what it looked like: close to the roadbed, undulating, and about six feet long. It disappeared down a shallow dip, and I stopped, waiting for it to come over the rise.

We spend quite a bit of time looning in the spring, because the normally super-shy loon gets a little care19 20 FIRST C I T I Z E N OF MINNESOTA less during its preoccupation with romance and does not seem to mind a canoe floating quietly nearby. The male swims in tight circles around the female, flaps his wings, and rocks back and forth. His lady watches demurely, but if she decides in his favor, they dance off together, frothing the water and making an awful fuss. They nest close to the water and aren't very clever about camouflaging it.

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