Monday, November 09, 2009

Traveling with Harry

A year ago Harry Studebaker Sr. and I went out for a wildlife ride on the mostly private posted roads surrounding Lake Koshkonong. He showed me the place were the Bank Swallows nested, we found deer, and all sorts of beasties. This year he had to pull himself out of bed after two back surgeries and a reopening of the incision for a massive staf infection. So today accompanied by his wife Carol, my cousin, off we went.

Harry is a mountain man born in the wrong century but as a youngster he spoke to the old people who were the last mountain men and to the single Native American who lived on a remote lake in the area illegally not having been carted off to a reservation, his presence a rather open secret to the locals who's opinion it was that as he wasn't being any trouble to anyone why shouldn't he live there? Harry was the kid sitting on the porch listening to the old people's stories and when the Wisconsin Historical Society ran across an anomaly of some kind, something inexplicable about an Indian Mound, they called Harry to come take a look paying him the wages he would have made for that day.

Plus Harry was a plumber and he pumbed many of the newly built house's septic systems back in the day when the wild places around the lakes were being turned into lawns. So day after day Harry dug holes and Harry found things. He can show you the spot where you can still see the ruts created by General Anderson's wagons when they were chasing Chief Blackhawk as he lead his people for their last hurrah of freedom. He's the man who knows the best places to dig for arrowheads and where the mounds are that haven't yet been despoiled and always he knows were the game is, though he hasn't hunted in years. And Harry, well Harry loves to go look for deer the best and that is what we were up to today just shy of sunset.

But first we tootled up a multi posted road that had three, count them, three signs declaring the privacy of the thoroughfare. But what Harry does as is the local courtesy, though he is currently quite frail, gone is the man who could carry a claw footed cast iron bathtub up three flights of stairs by himself without puffing, Harry complete with his aged overalls, tottled up the walk of one or another little old lady of his acquaintance from his days of plumbing and asks about looking around for wildlife. They always say yes.

The nice lady he spoke to first made sure to remind him that there were hunters out at the moment, it's deer bow season, and we should be careful.

Our first stop was a pond sized backwater off the main lake, see above photo. Suddenly I noticed some teeny duck like fowl, diving and coming up for a few seconds and then diving again. I got out of the car with my camera, walked a few feet closer and ---they all dived under the water and never came up. At least they didn't come up where we could see them which was grossly inconvienent. I didn't recognize them at all. I knew I'd not seen them before and when I got home I looked them up. so if I'd been quicker on the click, there would be some Least Grebes floating on that blue water up there.

Peterson's Field Guide places Least Grebes in the uncommon and restricted categories. Drat.

Last year we'd discovered a large herd of deer in this field, but today there is only one doe. We continued on past the Bank Swallows mound of sand and came to a second meadow.

And here we found seven deer. All does with perhaps some young barely spiked stags. You see during hunting season, the bucks which are the main prey of hunters aren't dummies. They know what is going on and though keeping an eye on the does of his harem, he hangs back in the shadows until nightfall when he too will come out of the woods to avail himself of the green vegetation in the meadow.

Harry tells me that the darker deer on the left are likely the older does. It seems deer darken as they age. Who knew? Not me.

The group saw us and there was a little scampering about and a flip or two of white tails but Harry said, they're not all that nervous. They know how far an arrow can fly. And besides we stayed inside the car with the motor running most of the time. And as we know in Wisconsin, if your motor is running the wildlife put you on the security category of pale yellow, i.e. keep an eye peeled but these folks are unlikey to be a problem.

Then off we went to find another private road to invade.

We come around a curve and perhaps twenty feet away stands a deer staring at us. We stop, she keeps staring.

Then a cohort appears and she's off with a flip of her white flag.

And Harry tells me that is likely their mother peacefully grazing just across the way.
Once again we take to the road, and just as I'm giving up seeing a stag, I see of tawny glint in an open spot in the woods. Sure enough there's a stag and with shake of his broad antlers he turns leaps and bounds into the trees with speed. Beautiful.
Donegal Browne

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