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Creek Running North

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December 17, 2003


There were storms last week; they blew all the leaves off our fruit trees. Well, all except the avocado, and that’s lost a couple to the winds despite being evergreen. Around the corner a neighbor’s forty-foot persimmon stands completely leafless, utterly covered in bright orange fruit. Christmas tree enough for me. The persimmon I planted last year will be that large in twenty or thirty short years. I can’t wait!

With our cold snap came the mice. One banged around a few days back in the tray beneath the oven. I pulled the tray out, and found a gnawed piece of lasagna noodle. Over the next few days there was mouse track in unexpected places. Out came the traps and the warfarin.

The night Maddy died, Zeke cornered a mouse under an ottoman. He’s always been an efficient mouser, one facet of his character that makes me wonder if he is, as people always ask, part wolf. If a mouse runs across the floor where Zeke can see it, that mouse is soon dead — surgically whomped by paws at the end of rigid, locked front dog legs. He’s killed both mice and rats, a dozen or so over the years. He enjoys the hunt. When I go out to turn the compost, his head is always in the way of the pitchfork, as if the only reason we keep the pile going is to provide him with a game refuge.

The mouse beneath the ottoman was dying, stiffening and relaxing, stiffening and relaxing, over and again. I eased it into the next world. I'm sorry, mouse. You did a fine job.

Oddly enough, Zeke has no trouble distinguishing pest rodents from pet rodents. We’ve had a number over the years, from Harley — Zeke’s current guinea pig pal — to Freda, a sweet little tan rat who lived with us when Zeke first came home from the pound. Freda (her last name was Katz) used to nestle comfortably in Zeke’s fur, and the two of them would sleep happily.

Freda’s been gone almost ten years, and we miss her. She would steal bills from my wallet and sleep in them: I’d find them in her cage still clean and neatly folded. She learned that the sound of grocery bags coming in the front door meant she would soon be given fresh fruit, and she’d climb atop her cage to wait. She loved berries and bananas, but her favorite thing in the world was a ripe persimmon.

Posted by Chris Clarke at December 17, 2003 04:51 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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Luvly post!

Posted by: nobbog at December 17, 2003 05:31 PM
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I was astonished that our cats (one of them a skilled hunter of birds and rats) understood immediately that the flightless crow who took refuge in our apple tree was not fair game. the hunter, in fact, was better at telling our crow apart from his family than I was. When he was at the window making his fierce, rapt, frustrated "k-k-k-k-k" sound at a crow in the grass, I could be confident that it was not Croker, but one of his visiting relations.

Our milder-mannered cat used to lounge companionably on the lawn with Croker, which the hunter apparently felt was beneath him, but they both were extremely tolerant of him -- only once or twice batting at him when his attempts to steal their food became too outrageous. How did they know he was a pet? And why did they care?

Posted by: dale at December 18, 2003 03:52 AM
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Beautiful, funny post. I've always been amused by that two-leg pounce dogs (and foxes) do when tackling mice. Nice circularity with the persimmons, too -- you have a knack for that! :)

Posted by: Rana at December 18, 2003 12:41 PM
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I liked the persimmon circularity too. Freda sounds like a real character. Still jetlagged, but wanted to offer a "peace and hugs" over the loss of Maddy. I'm so sorry, Chris.

Posted by: Pica at December 19, 2003 05:31 AM
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We just opened a new box of warfarin too, alerted by the scurrying feet in the walls near the bed and bathtub. Now that we are cat-less, I'm afraid the winter population thinks it has free rein.

Oh, persimmon trees! It's hard to imagine. Here we have to make do with the occasional crab apple that refuses to shed its red fruit, or the alderberries in the swamps, each with a tiny cap of snow.

Posted by: beth at December 19, 2003 03:24 PM
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Merry Xmas all!

Posted by: Jack S at December 22, 2003 03:49 AM
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