Foxy Lady, Red Tail, Pen Men and Opportunistic Feeders

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Foxy Lady is back.  She comes mostly in the late morning, on the hunt for careless squirrels and helter-skelter rodents that putz around the feeders. So far, she’s been alone. But I expect to see some kits tagging along in April. It’s fun to watch the whole gaggle practice their ‘mousing leaps’. Let me be accurate. A group of foxes is actually called a skulk. It’s a raging good name for these shrewd critters that prowl the woods and make the rounds of the yard. During the night, I hear the foxes bark, howl and whine. Sometimes, there’s a  whiff of their ‘skunky‘ smell when they mark their territory.

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Red Tail never left.  The hawk soars overhead, with occasional slow and deliberate wing beats. I hear her raspy scream, kree-eee-ar, watch her swoop down in a controlled dive, legs outstretched ~  to catch a bird in flight or chase a vole over the snow.  Sometimes she perches atop the tree at the edge of the woods ~ her sit-and-wait style of hunting, scanning for prey.  Time well spent.

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The stick-and-twig nest is used year after year, repaired regularly with bark strips, vines and small branches. The hawk pair perch here to hunt and preen. They’ll have a clutch of eggs in early April, and in a few months, the chicks will fledge. They’re altricial, helpless at birth, but in a short time, they’ll start to play-chase things that look like prey until Momma forces them to hunt on their own.

Foxy Lady and Red Tail are classified as opportunistic feeders. And so are the raccoons that camp out under my deck, sleep all day and and raid the feeders at night. They all take advantage of opportunities to snare prey and feed on whatever is available.

I suspect writers are opportunistic feeders, too.  In the best sense of the word, of course.  Writers take advantage of opportunities and circumstances, are crafty and astute.  Take some of our favorite Pen Men, for example. I don’t mean Goose Gossage or Al ‘The Mad Hungarian’ Hrabosky, the guys with funny nicknames in the bull pen who came up with new ways to snack, chew, use and abuse bugs and rodents. I mean Pen Men. As in…. Men. With. Pens.

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Local writer Owen Canfield sits-and-waits by the front window, finds a memory in a great white hedge of snow. Then he takes us along for the ride in a clumsy arc of a Packard on the night he meets his Sweet Ethel.

I love his style, its small town intimacy. It’s good company ~ ordinary people, ordinary lives.  Owen is a storytelling journalist, he’s the voice and spirit of the tale.

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And then there’s Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post,  a self-proclaimed smartass, who visits a charmless city. He walks its streets with slow and deliberate steps, and warmed by the heat of a bonfire, shows us that anything is possible in America. Weingarten notes this and that as he goes along, play-chasing, giving us a first hand look at a town synonymous with The Armpit of America.

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Art Plotnik, The King of Word Wonkery, swoops down on the revered Elements of Style (aka Strunk and White) and, with a mousing leap, snares the opportunity to set writing free, bend the rules and spring writers from their ruts. Now that’s what I call keel-over cool. Don’t miss his new book, Better Than Great: A Plentitudinous Compendium of Wallopingly Fresh Superlatives. http://www.freshsuperlatives.com

I’m intrigued by the idea of writers as opportunistic feeders. What’s their hunting style?  Go read their stuff.  It’s aMAYYYzing. They do it all. They talk to strangers, roam and wander, read everything everywhere – walls, bulletin boards, classifieds. They overhear conversations in cafes and on park benches and find interesting stories in their own day-to-day lives. They seek out people that fail, not just the ones whose dreams come true. They ask questions, wonder a lot and probably hang out in bars.  Everyone tells stories in bars.

The Urban Dictionary defines an opportunist as a wise person who knows a lucky happening when he sees it, like the guy who starts taking a bath if he accidentally falls into a river. Owen, Gene, Art ~ each one as smart as a fox with eyes like a hawk. They beat the bushes, follow the scent, cast about, scratch around, track down, sniff out, and sometimes, just schlepp along.  And then ~ they tell one heck of a story.

Toni 3/4/11