Saturday, September 17, 2005

It's Your Thing

Summer is waning and we're heading fast into my very favorite time of year. Oh my, September has arrived in Northern Michigan and I'm excited. Fall in the northwoods is outstanding and September has to be the absolutely best month of all!!

Many of you know that I see more than my share of wildlife close to home. The south side of my property borders thousands of acres of State Forest. I live in these woods and have a good five acres between me and any neighbors to the north. But occasionally I’m reminded they are there, usually on holidays when the neighborhood comes alive with the sounds of music, children, and the occasional piece of power equipment. As the crow flies, my neighbors are pretty close. As the dog wanders, it’s not such a short path. So on this Labor Day, when I discovered my dogs had decided to go on a little outing, I headed north, not expecting to see much wildlife. But I knew the dogs would head towards people, activity and, most importantly, food.

As I marched up the road and came within earshot of yapping dogs and the smell of BBQ, I was sure I would find my runaways. This first stop was a Labor Day family reunion that looked more like a blend of Johnny Cash and Elvis convention goers. Everyone was dressed in black, complete with either biker boots or cowboy boots and big belt buckles. And just what bottle did all that black wavy hair come from? There were a lot of little dogs I could not identify. But you know the kind. The ones that can easily sit on your lap and discriminately snack right off the plate of picnic food you’re balancing on your knees. I politely accepted some potato salad as I was told my dogs had just come through heading north. As I moved on in my search, the karaoke machine was being turned up to full volume and one of the senior members of the group was at the microphone belting out his rendition of “I Walk the Line.”

One more house to the north found me in the middle of a big truck Labor Day party. In fact that’s exactly what the sign said, “Big Ass Truck Crossing.” It appeared everyone came to this event in trucks you could only access with a step ladder. I’m guessing that’s not how they really get in those trucks. Pulling out your little ladder does not quite seem manly enough for this group. But I was too shy to ask these beefy, beer-embolden guys for details. If anyone knows the real secret to getting into one of these “bad” machines, please email me. Besides, I had dogs to hunt down and the smell of grilled meat wafting through the neighborhood woods suggested I had my work cut out for me. These jumbo men were, however, incredibly friendly as they offered me a beer and jovially informed me my dogs had just moved through and headed across the creek.

So I rolled up my pants and made my way to stop number three. These dogs on the other side of the creek were all hounds and this appeared to be some sort of Labor Day, pre-hunting season gathering. I can’t report much about the food at this event except that it was most likely wild game that had been simmering for some time in a gravy sauce. I accepted an offered piece of venison jerky and moved on. Hound dogs baying as I exited.

Next door were more pickup trucks. But this time the trucks were not quite so high off the ground or laden with dog boxes and spot lights. Instead each truck had a ladder rack and a tool box in the bed. This group was building a log cabin. Grilled kielbasa and hot dogs was the fare. I opted for a handful of chips and kept moving as I was told my dogs had last been seen heading back across the creek.

I felt a little like Alice in Wonderland as I watched the farmer who lives down the road and his buddies fly over the tree tops of my neighborhood in their ultra lights. Ah, if only I had that advantage on my dog search. Alas, that was not the way I was traveling. I rolled up my pant legs and waded back into the creek.

I finally caught up with the delinquent pooches at the most famous of all Labor Day traditions, the annual yard sale/picnic. Chicken was on the grill. I opted for a piece of chocolate cake as I made my purchase of a wooden-handled spatula.

With my runaways in tow, a new spatula and a full belly, I hoofed it home while wondering how, in a world of such diversity, we’re able to find those we will most connect with. Our choice of pets, food, and transportation seem to be some common factors. I’ll keep you posted as I figure it out. I can suggest that if you want to experience some wildlife and diversity in your own neighborhood, you might start by owning a couple of dogs. Or is it that they own you?

"While the spirit of neighborliness was important on the frontier because neighbors were so few, it is even more important now because our neighbors are so many." ~Lady Bird Johnson

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