Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Groundhogs, Llamas, Turkeys, Deer, and Other Natural Wonders

The Groundhogs have spoken. Sun Prairie's Jimmy the Groundhog, and his better-known fellow prognosticator Punxuntawney Phil, have agreed: don't put your boots and long underwear away any time soon.

Sun Prairie's Jimmy IX is a charming little animal who is calm enough to visit schools, unlike his cranky predecessor Jimmy VIII. Jimmy IX was rescued after a roadside accident. The vet said he'd survive but couldn't return to the wild. Jimmy can't walk a straight line because of motor nerve damage. So when he visits a school, his handler can let him stand on the table without a leash, because Jimmy doesn't wander. And he doesn't need to walk a straight line to tell the mayor whether he's seen his shadow or not. Election to the office of Mayor of Sun Prairie confers the ability to understand groundhog speech as one of its perks.

Somebody on the radio said yesterday that "If you drill a hole through 38 inches of ice and shiver out on the lake waiting for dinner to swim by, you might be from Wisconsin."

Yesterday I drove James to the bus stop, and took the scenic route home. There are three farmettes with llamas on one of the back roads. God invented llamas to demonstrate His sense of humor. Take a good look at a llama. He has a round, sheepy body on camel legs, a long neck with a gawpy-looking head and big eyes, like a furry, rounded ostrich. At one farm, a sleepy big brown llama draped his long neck across the shaggy back of his spotted buddy.

That ridiculous looking little cousin of the camel does an excellent job of guarding sheep, or so I have read in that wonderful fountain of information, Highlights For Children. Llamas are tall and can see trouble coming a lot sooner than sheep can. They will protect sheep too. Coyotes have learned not to mess with creatures whose long legs can kick very hard.

The wild turkeys have adjusted very well to the edge of suburbia. I had to honk at one to encourage him to cross the road. Another fat tom strolled around the parking lot of the water filtration plant on Sunday.

I will keep the emergency shovel in the hatch after spring comes. I have needed the shovel in the past to gently swat a strutting tom who was too preoccupied with his lady friend to notice traffic. Shovels also come in handy when way out in the country near creeks. You do not want to run over a snapping turtle the size of a medicine ball; and you don't want to try to pick one up, either.

Saturday's thaw brought us a lovely bird chorus and a rapid drop in bird feeder grain. Sunday's drive to church revealed an intricate lacing of deer tracks along the road. The deer have certain preferred crossing places. A network of tracks funnels to one point on the road, and fans back out on the other side.

Six more weeks of winter. I'm ordering my seeds today anyway.

Mrs James

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