a childhood saved

A Naturalist's Notebook

When I was 14-15 years old, I wrote a series of 23 essays as a weekly assignment for my high school English class. I called the series "A Naturalist's Notebook." Naturalist's Notebook Table of Contents

Unusual Experiences: January 23, 1974

I have had many unusual experiences in the 13 1/2 years I have been here (I'll be 15 on January 25. I was born in Oakville, Ontario and we moved here in October of my first year) and most of these experiences have been fun.

For instance, there was the skunk I found in our garbage can when I was 5 or 6. My brothers took the can and put it in the garage! My dog, Minx, who has marking somewhat like that of a skunk (except he's much bigger!) ambled into the garage and tipped over the can. We stayed out of the garage for a week.

Or how about the time I caught a bird in a bird cage? I put a lot of seeds on the ground and put a bottomless bird cage over the seeds. There was a little door, and I left it open. No sooner did I step back and look at the finished product when a chickadee went right inside! He took a seed and tried to get out, but seeing me, he panicked, couldn't find the door, and battered himself against the top. I lifted the cage, picked him off the top, gave him a seed for reward, and let him go.

In our house, we used to have a few old miniature wooden crates, about 3 inches square. I used to fill these with seeds and set them out for the birds. A certain gray squirrel came down from a tree and I invited him to eat seeds from the crate. Instead, without hesitation, he picked up the whole crate and ran up a tree with it. Weeks later, I was still finding little pieces of that crate.

More recently, I had a memorable experience with a starling. Our suet cage (a wire light-bulb cage fastened to a pole and filled with suet) was rather empty, but a starling could see a few crumbs down at the bottom. Instead of flying down to the bottom, he squirmed right into the cage [and got stuck there]. After getting a few hard pecks, I got him out.

My mother loves to give names to animals, and I often help her. When the talk turns to local animals, she will tell you about Ken and Ada (Ken+Ada=Canada), our two Canada geese that stayed one spring, Wilbur and Orvilla (Wilbur and Orville Wright), our two flying squirrels, Raymond the wood rat (for reasons too long to explain here), Petunia the skunk, Adam and Eve, our two pet goldfish, Checkered Chickadee, a mutation who had white spots on his head, Spot, a squirrel with three whit spots on his back. I have given names to a few other animals also.

Next: "Winter Journal" January 23, 1974