Nuttin’ Honey.

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November’s here, and, as promised, I’m getting back to nature again.

The rain is driving me nuts!

This post recounts my last trek to Council Point Park this past Tuesday.  Unfortunately that would be the last time I walked as well.  No, I’m not resting on my laurels, as I still have 90 more miles to go to reach my year-end goal.

The rain has definitely worn out its welcome in my humble opinion.  The weatherman says we’ve had double the average amount of rain for this time of year – in October we had 4.8 inches of rain, plus we’ve added another 2 inches in the first two days of November.  I am sure everyone else is tired of the incessant rain, including my furry pals at the Park.

A tough nut to crack.

But, there are more furry critters at the Park these days.  You may recall my “Predators in the Park” post last week?  Since then, there are two more coyotes.  One is a pup.  Please don’t say “aw, how cute … a wee one” as you know what is like for parents defending their young, human or otherwise.  Furthermore, the coyote situation is not great because the City has tried to take matters into their own hands, and shot one coyote.  They got him in the leg, and he went limping off with a wounded right front leg.  He (or she) has been sighted around the City, and our City Facebook Crime Site forum lit up with pictures of a coyote meandering around the City streets Halloween afternoon.  I’ve been following this crime site hoping to gain more insight, but there have been no further updates as to any of the coyotes’ whereabouts – perhaps they are good at dodging the authorities, so this case will be a tough nut to crack.

Needless to say, I am worried.  I thought the original coyote in the Park was just taking a quick tour then on to other venues; two coyotes and a pup and sightings around our City means they’ve settled into the neighborhood.

In the meantime, I have cute squirrel photos and an accompanying story that’s been bubbling around in my brain the past few days.  So, before my brain gets moldy from all this moisture, let me unleash those thoughts.

Walnuts – well, why not?

I knew we were going to have an ugly weather week, so I wanted to ensure I took extra treats to the squirrels on Tuesday as I knew no one would be beating a path to walk at the Park in the pouring rain.

So, on Monday I took a brand-new bag of peanuts to make up for running out of peanuts on Sunday morning and leaving poor Parker (or his doppelganger) starving on the curb in the parking lot.

I went through that entire bag of peanuts, doling out double portions to each squirrel, and a triple portion  to Parker, who evidently forgave me for my Sunday sin, as he came racing over to greet me when I arrived Monday morning.

Tuesday, I went flying out the door, since I had stayed up way too late the night before working on my post about slinging hash at the diner, then replying to comments that morning.  I keep forgetting I really wasn’t a night owl when I was younger, so why would I be one now?  Thank goodness we set our clocks back this weekend and I’ll be able to leave a little earlier in the morning, so perhaps I’ll get back on track again.

I decided to take the walnuts I had bought for Thanksgiving and Christmas as a special treat.  The squirrels are foraging like crazy right now and three days of rain would put them behind schedule.  So, Linda came to their rescue.

They don’t sell whole walnuts at Meijer so I got these instead.

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Parker was the first one up as he met me in the parking lot.  I guided him over to the grass and put a little pile at his feet.

Of course they got the sniff test first.

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The walnuts passed muster and I could tell they were a hit right away, so here you have a squirrel enjoying walnuts … a nuttin’ honey.

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I took a few photos then went on my way, doling out walnut pieces to each of the squirrels along the way.  They didn’t look for peanuts so I knew they were a good treat for them.  Parker nabbed me as I got off the trail, so he got double walnuts.

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I am weighing my options for excursions for this weekend.  Amazingly, the rain will hold off until late Sunday.  The possibilities are not endless as many of the trails will be soggy or muddy as it is still raining as I write this post.

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Monster Mash-up.

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We sling around a lot of lingo on social media … memes, mash-ups, gifs and even emoticons.  It wasn’t all that long ago that we got pretty excited when tapping the keys for a colon and right parentheses would yield a smiley face and a left parentheses made a frowny face.  Woo hoo!  Soon we were sending e-mails with smiley and frowny faces and feeling very high tech.  The epitome of computer cool was when Windows 98 users played Elf Bowling

Stop that Linda … you’re really dating yourself!

If you are current with your cool computer lingo, you know that the “Merriam-Webster Dictionary” defines a mash-up as something created by combining elements from two or more sources – maybe movies, music – even still photos.

Since it is Halloween, I thought I’d do a mash-up of an evil-looking squirrel and some shady-looking characters i.e. a few fine-feathered friends that you will recognize as ducks and a crow.  Plus, I’ve included a collection of photos from a ghoulish and ghastly graveyard.  Some of these photos are just bad to the bone.  Now I’ll admit this is not my usual shtick, so we’ll trend back to nature in November, okay?

In the meantime, please enjoy my favorite Halloween song, “The Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers.  Here is the original and best version

About ten days ago I wandered along Emmons Boulevard to check out all the great holiday décor.  The homeowners on this street have a plethora of pumpkins and creepy creatures and I always ensure I take at least one trip here to gather some pics for my Halloween blog post.

I didn’t walk this morning because it was raining, no – correction, it was pouring, so I stayed inside.  There is no walk for tonight either because it is Halloween.  Tomorrow we turn the calendar page to November and now there are only two months left to accomplish my goal of 1,051 miles walked in 2018.  I have tallied up all my steps to date for this post.

Do you think my total was a trick or a treat?

It’s a treat – I’ve walked 961 miles and have 90 more miles to go to reach my goal.

And now I’m off to work, so Happy Halloween everyone and …

stay scary

Here’s the creepy collection:

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It was forty years ago today …

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… since I left my hash-slinging job, and, though these photos below may be a little blurry and faded, the memories are not.  I’m going to stray from squirrel stories and Fall foliage to time travel today, where I’ll revisit my job at Carters Hamburgers, the diner where I waitressed during my college years.  A local artist’s rendering of the diner is featured in the photo above.   Sean Manuel has captured the image of Carters as I remember it best, because now the building is burgundy and named Harry’s Corned Beef and Ham.

I believe there are certain choices you make which are life-changing.  I can honestly say that starting a walking regimen, then writing about it, are two decisions that have been very positive moves for me.  Working at Carters, a friendly little diner here in Lincoln Park, was the best decision of my life.  Taking a job slinging hash was one that changed me forever.  It turned this shy, just-turned-17-year-old girl into a confident young woman.

On October 29, 1978  I donned my white uniform and perky black apron for the last time.  It was my final day for slinging hash, and, by the way, that’s a job description you don’t hear anymore.  That is because we are a politically correct society (some of the time), so the more correct term would be that I was a server, or a waitress.  Honestly, to say I was “slinging hash” sounds like I was Flo, the tall, wise-cracking, gum-chewing waitress from the old T.V. series “Alice” – you may even recall her Southern twang and favorite expression “well, kiss my grits!”

Well I was no Flo and my boss was not named Mel.  His name was Erdie.  Erdie Eugene Pugh.  And, on the final day of my employment, he wrote his name on that last paycheck giving me his autograph.

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He was my first real boss and I thought the world of him, and his wife, Ann, who was one of the waitresses and had worked alongside him for decades at this burger and breakfast joint.

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That last day was a real drippy goodbye, full of hugs and tears for all of us, because for Erdie, it  also marked the end of a long stint of managing Carters, and before that, managing a coffee shop at the busy Michigan Central Train Depot.  Though Ann was ready to retire, Erdie was not, and he had to have been close to 80 years old by then.  He was spry, full of wit and the customers and employees all loved him.  But, Erdie was retiring because the new owners were bringing in family members to manage and run the restaurant and he had taught those new folks all that he knew, so it was time to turn over the reins.  The previous owner had died suddenly in late Summer of 1977 and the new owners would take possession of Carters on November 1st.  When I graduated from college in June 1978, I knew about the new owners and told Erdie I would stay on for weekends, so he did not have to hire someone for only four months.  Thus, Sunday, October 29th was my last day on the job.

Here is how it all began.

I consider my waitressing gig at Carters my first real job, as I don’t count that brief stint at Kentucky Fried Chicken back in June of ’73.  It was one week before graduation from high school and I landed my first job at Kentucky Fried Chicken.  In those days, we never called it KFC – that just happened when people started balking at any food that had the word “fried” in its logo, so Colonel Sanders’ famous chicken dinners were rebranded to KFC.

I started this job the day after high school graduation.  I had my food-handlers card and a fresh white uniform when I began the shift at around noon.  I was a little bleary-eyed, as the all-night party sponsored by our high school had just ended hours before.  I was handed a red-striped apron which was mine to keep and wear for when I worked my shift.  In the course of that first week, I learned how to run the cash register, tell the five pieces of chicken apart – sure, it is easy to tell a drum and a wing, but there was the keel (breast) and thighs and ribs.  When it had the Extra Crispy coating on that chicken, and I peered into the big oven with my “metal grabbers” and my wire-rimmed glasses steamed up, it wasn’t so easy picking those pieces out.  But I caught on, plus I learned what chicken pieces went into a barrel, a bucket, a family meal and a snack pack.  I learned how to don a huge plastic sleeve over my forearm and spoon a ton of mayo into a large vat of dry coleslaw and swirl it around.  Ugh!

I came home stinking to high heaven of grease from peering into the warming oven.  My hair and skin smelled of fried chicken.  Oh my!

I received my first paycheck after a week’s work and was feeling pretty pleased with myself, especially after my boss said “good job, so maybe we could make you an assistant manager one day – would you like that?”  I reminded him, as tactfully as I could, that once college started in the Fall, I would have to cut my hours significantly.  “College?  Cutting your hours – what do you mean Linda?  We just trained you!”  In short order, I was told a replacement would be found for me, then I’d be out.  That happened in a matter of days.

Truthfully, getting let go was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

I scoured the classifieds for a new Summer job, one that I could also work part-time once school started.  But everyone had already scooped up those jobs before school ended.  My mom suggested I go to Carters as she remembered seeing a help wanted sign in the window when we had driven by recently.

I walked to Carters and the help wanted sign was still in the window, so I went in and asked for the manager and/or an application.  The manager, who wore a jaunty paper cap on his head, and a large apron to cover the front of him, came out whistling.  I told him I was there to apply for a job, and, without pulling any punches, I told him why I lost my last job.

“So, do you have any waitressing experience Linda?”

“No” I answered while shaking my head.

“Oh” was his answer, then rather reluctantly he asked for my name and number and said “I’ll call you because a couple of girls are coming to interview this week.”

I thanked him, but felt dejected.  Two days passed, then three … my mom suggested I return to Carters and ask for the manager and tell him our phone was not working properly and inquire if  he might have called and we missed the call?

That sounded a little far-fetched to me, but I rehearsed my story as I walked to the diner.  The sign was still visible in the front window.  I didn’t have to ask for the manager this time as he was standing at the grill and glanced up when he heard the door open.  He came over to the register, and was whistling.  I laid my spiel on him, and he paused for a moment or two, then said “well I didn’t try to call you, and I was hesitant because you have no experience.”  Silence.  I piped up with “I’ve got a food-handlers card, three new white uniforms and white shoes and nowhere to use them.”  He smiled and asked if I could start tomorrow. “I sure can” was my answer.  “Okay, my name is Erdie, so, get yourself a little black apron and be here at 6:45 a.m. before shift change, okay?”

I know I floated out the door.  My wages would be $1.10 an hour and I could keep all my tips.

The first day.

I was there the next morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to take on the world.  Erdie told me to just watch and observe Ann as to how to wait on the customers and where everything was, then after the morning rush was over, I’d go out on the floor alone.  Suddenly, my confidence was waning and I was nervous because I was so shy.

At 10:00 a.m. he said “okay you’re up Linda, good luck and your first customers are Jack and Bernice Loveday – they own the Dairy Queen down the street.”  Erdie said “you can set your watch to Jack and Bernice; they get here every day at 10:00 o’clock sharp.  They want to be waited on promptly, to be out of here by 10:45 to open the Dairy Queen.  I was introduced to them.  Jack, a retired Lincoln Park police sergeant, was a flirt.  He made me blush after mentioning my short uniform and long legs, but hey … 1973 was the age of miniskirts, after all.  Bernice gently reprimanded him for being foolish and he winked at me.  I know I stumbled and bumbled around while getting their small order just right, but it was all good until I didn’t bring the coffee pot around a second time. After they left, I went to pick up the dishes and wipe off the counter where I found a napkin twisted up to look like a Dairy Queen soft-serve “curl” and, after I untwisted the napkin I found $0.12, a dime and two pennies, plus a note on the napkin that read: “half coffee, half tip” … well, I was crushed and Ann and Erdie laughed and said “don’t worry about Jack, he’s a kidder, but always give them their second cup of coffee!”  They would become my all-time favorite customers and I looked forward to their return every Spring to open the Dairy Queen again.  I had a standing invitation to go visit them at their Florida condo on my Winter school break, although I never took them up on the offer.

Those first few days, even weeks, became a college of hard knocks several times.  I’d write out customer’s orders very neatly and Erdie got on me the second day asking if I was there for penmanship or to wait on customers.  He meant no ill will as he said it with a gleam in his eye and a smile on his face.  He told me “better yet, memorize the customers’ orders – they like it when you do that and you’ll be faster.”  That was easy … most customers ate the same thing every time they came into the diner.  For years after I left, I’d see my former customers and would greet them by their name and rattle off an order like “two cheeseburgers with, a side of fries and a Coke – no ice.”  What a memory, huh?

A slow metamorphosis began as that shy girl was no more.

The best thing was interacting with the customers.  Most all the employees at Carters were from the Deep South and most of our clientele were as well.  Erdie and Ann met as high school sweethearts in Alabama, and our cook’s name was Georgia and she was born in that state.  People would spent half their lunch hour driving to the diner to down Georgia Massey’s homemade soups and chili – none of that waxed chili in a block for Carters; we only served the real deal.  So many Southern customers came up north to work at the Big Three.  They missed their kinfolk  and how life was back home, so they dropped by to be with other Southerners.  I  even picked up a few expressions and could ease into a Southern twang at the drop of a hat.  For years I said “it’s coming up a storm” instead of looking outside and saying “it looks like rain any minute.” I had never known Southerners before Carters and I found them to be the nicest, and most-genuine folks I have ever met.

At the diner, we prepared all the Lincoln Park prisoner’s meals and various police officers would come in to pick them up.  Policemen always got a free cup of coffee and a donut, or a reduced price for their meal.  I got to know most of the patrolmen, and often I’d be driving or walking and they’d see me, turn on the sirens and call my name on their loudspeaker, then wave.  The old me would have been mortified; the new me laughed it off and smiled.

Carters was also a break-time stop for many of the City workers.  They came in shifts for their morning and afternoon breaks.  There were all the guys who ran the street-sweeping machines.  All the Parks and Rec guys.  It was bedlam twice a day, as a rush of about 20 workers filled up the stools quickly when coming in to down hot coffee or icy-cold drinks.  They’d clear out in about twenty minutes’ time, leaving a large load of dishes.  One day the Parks and Rec guys told me they had left a special present at my house and I got home to find a huge tar “X” at the foot of the driveway.  My father was furious and it took many years to wear off.

I was hired to work all Summer, six days a week, then during the school year I worked every weekend, any holidays and/or semester breaks.  The only time the diner was closed was Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.  There were swivel stools throughout the diner and the counters were like two horseshoes with about five stools over the sink area.  I had my own horseshoe during the week and worked the entire diner every Sunday.  I got about 15 minutes to sit down and eat and other than that I ran around the entire day.

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In the cold and snowy Winter, though I don’t like to drive in that weather now, I was fearless in my Biscay Blue VW Beetle back in the day.  But sometimes Erdie would call the night before and tell me he’d pick me up the next morning so “you don’t have to stand out in the cold and snow in your short dress and coat scraping snow off your little car” … your boss couldn’t say that to you nowadays, as it would be considered harassment.  I would just grin and say thanks and I could sleep in a few minutes later too.

At the end of the Summer, the day before my first day of college would begin, Erdie told me he was glad he took a chance on hiring me.  He confessed “when I saw you walking along Fort Street on that first day, in your short uniform, the apron almost as long as the hem, I wondered if I’d made a mistake.”  So, I told him it was my turn to confess and said “there was nothing wrong with our phone” to which he said “I knew that, just as I knew you’d get around to telling me sooner or later!”

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A couple of years later, Erdie’s granddaughter, Leslie, was hired to work the other “horseshoe”  during the Summer months and Saturdays during the school year.  We got to be friends at work as well as outside of work and still keep in touch via Facebook.  Erdie and Ann’s family were close to them and they always were popping by to visit.  When Leslie started working, I realized how close she was to her grandparents, especially Erdie, and I began to envy her as my own grandfather had been an ogre, not the kind of grandpa where you’d climb up onto his lap for a bedtime story when you were young.  In fact once he yelled at me when I was a toddler and I went onto the floor and bit him in the ankle.  I was not a precocious child, but I was upset and I got a lickin’ when I got home for biting him, but I never regretted my action.  I got to meet each member of the family and when Erdie had his 90th birthday party, I was invited and got to see everyone all grown up – it made me feel kind of old, but special too, for being welcomed into this special family gathering.  Most of the kids had been pre-teens or teenagers and some were now married with kids of their own.

More memorable moments.

During the course of my five years of employment, the 40-something owner of the diner decided he wanted to marry and start a family.  He returned to his native country and brought back a young wife and the following year they had a daughter.  She was named Linda, after me, because Jimmy said he admired women who wanted to further their education.  He doted on that little girl, who was beautiful with her springy black ringlets and dark brown eyes.  He’d bring her in and I was immediately given a break to sit there and chat with my namesake, or he’d thrust a $5.00 bill at me and say “you and Linda go play the jukebox with this money.”  Linda would be long gone and tunes would still be playing – I think they were three songs for a quarter back then.  After Jimmy died, his wife and Linda returned to their homeland and I never saw them again.

I planned a surprise party for my mom’s 50th birthday in 1976.  I arranged for my grandmother and aunt to come from Toronto by bus and I met them at the Greyhound bus station downtown.  We went to the diner where Erdie had picked up a pre-ordered cake earlier that day.  We had a meet-and-greet and then he drove the three of us and the cake home.  I opened the door and said “Mom, I’m home” and my grandmother carried in the cake.  We pulled it off and my mom burst into tears, as she was so surprised.

One of my favorite customers, a guy named Charlie Brown, won big at the racetrack one day and came in for his usual one cup of black coffee.  He handed me a $50.00 bill and told me to keep the change – of course, I was over the moon with that tip.  That was the first and only time anything like that happened – but wow, (and remember this was the mid-70s)!

I learned how to cook on the grill and could take over for the cook when he or she had to take a break.  The poor clean up boy was also the official onion chopper for all our burgers and every Saturday, he’d sequester himself in the backroom, where he chopped up a 50-pound mesh bag of Spanish onions  We daren’t go back in that corner for fear of teary eyes, so if I needed more diced onions for burgers, I’d have to stand at the doorway and yell for him to bring me some.

Earlier this year I wrote about a post about going to Carters wearing my graduation gown on the day I was to graduate from Wayne State University.  Because I had a mouthful of metal braces I refused to smile as I posed with Erdie at the counter…

linda and erdie on graduation day

… and then took another picture at the side of the diner with both of them.  (It is poor quality unfortunately.)

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Ann wrote me a beautiful note which I’ve kept, along with these mementos, in a scrapbook all these years.

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On the last day of work, many of the regular weekday customers stopped by to say goodbye.  One brought his family and I resorted to writing out a receipt, and turned to Erdie and said “I couldn’t memorize the order, but I made it messy, just for you.”

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I visited Ann and Erdie every Summer.  I’d walk over to their house and sit on the porch and spend some time with them.  I’d call on their birthdays and catch up with what was happening with their family.  When each of them passed away, I couldn’t bring myself to pay my respects, as I wanted to remember them as I last saw them, at Erdie’s 90th birthday party.

I was feeling nostalgic and wanted to share this 40th anniversary story.  I originally was going to post it as a “Tuesday Musings” on Bosses Day, October 16th, but decided against it, choosing to make this a fond, look-back post instead.

Artist rendering by Sean Manuel.  The rest of the photos are my own from my photo albums and scrapbooks.

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Great Expectations.

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My favorite season has been plagued by gray and gloomy weather and relentless rain.  After a soggy Spring and a horribly hot and humid Summer, I had great expectations for Fall.  But instead, this usually awesome season has turned into a rather abysmal Autumn. Yesterday was an all-day rain and this morning there was a window of opportunity to get in a walk, as rain was holding off until mid-day, then a steady rain through the evening would ensue.  I knew I’d better make the most of those few hours.

I always carry my compact digital camera with me because I would hate to miss a great shot just because I left it at home that one time.  What I did leave behind, however, were my mittens with the convertible flip-back to half-fingers, which I use for taking pictures in the cold weather.  One look at that gray sky told me it was doubtful I would be pulling the camera out of the case.  I grabbed a half-bag of peanuts and didn’t even bother dividing them into Ziploc bags.  I knew I’d finish them off since yesterday’s rain likely kept everyone off the walking path.

The car needed a run and I arrived at the Park to see only a handful of cars in the lot.  Most of the walkers must have been at church, Sunday brunch, or looked at the sky and took to their treadmills instead.  I did see Mike, one of the regular walkers, who was headed to his car.  He said “the squirrels were looking for you because none of us were here yesterday due to the rain.”  Mike also feeds the squirrels, so my quick retort was “they’ll look at me like they haven’t eaten peanuts in days, having already eaten some of yours, so they’ll feed on my handouts, as well as my sympathy!”  He laughed.

Against a mottled gray sky, the trees looked like rich jewels dotting the blah landscape and soon the squirrels also dotted the still-damp perimeter path looking for peanuts, which I doled out here, there and everywhere.  I was sure I had enough peanuts to last my entire visit on both the “critter-laden side” and the “boring side” and I planned to cross the street into the neighborhood in case Parker was there.

Now that the City has cleared some bushes and trees permitting us a bigger glimpse of the Ecorse Creek, though I initially resisted the wide-open look, I’ve been able to peer at the mallards and check out the foliage on the opposite side of the Creek.  So, when I spotted a splash of red across the water, I took out the camera to capture that image.

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They were a row of fire bushes.  I must say my fire bushes have never looked a vibrant shade of red – ever, and they were planted back in 1985.  I wondered how I never noticed this riotous red color before today?  I decided to venture down to the Creek banks to get a better photo.  I’d not been down that way since the male swan chased after me last Winter.  You may recall I only wanted a photo, and he got in my face, snorting and stomping the snow with those wide-webbed feet.  I scattered peanuts on the ground and beat a hasty retreat.

I picked my way carefully along the slippery and muddy makeshift trail …

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… while pushing aside a few tall reeds and overgrown weeds, hoping the photo op was worth this much effort.

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The bushes were beautiful and I also had a nice view of the wider portion of the Creek.

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I got my shots, then turned on my heel to walk back to the perimeter path, only to find a squirrel looking up at me.

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Whoa, well hello there!  He was lucky I didn’t step on him as I was not looking down, but instead was distracted by not sliding on the slippery leaves and wet mud, which likely had already oozed into the ridges of the soles of my shoes.

He looked like such a pitiful wee soul sitting there.

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I don’t think this furry fellow was one of the “regulars” as he was cautious and skittish, yet HE had approached me first.  I dug into my bag and the crinkling of the hard cellophane seemed intensified by the still morn.  That noise spooked him, so he ran up a tree.

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I told him not be afraid and to come closer and held out a peanut, then dropped some on the ground.

He came down the tree reluctantly.

The leaves that are littering the path and grounds make it tough to see the squirrels sometimes, let alone for them to see peanuts. I try to move the leaves so they see where I dropped those nuts and sometimes the squirrels blend right into the leaves and landscape, like in these photos where it appears as if he was playing peek-a-boo, before inching over to see me.  Well, we were making progress.

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He grabbed a peanut and ran away, reluctant to sit there next to me like the squirrels often do.

My eyes followed him to his sanctuary where he noshed on his peanut.

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It was so peaceful … there was no one around, and even the mallards were silent, instead of their usual cacophony of quacking and splashing antics in the Creek.  I could hear his teeth cracking the peanut and then the shell falling down onto the dry and crispy leaves.

This is what peace sounds like.

H scrambled over for another nut then scurried away again, still unsure if it was safe to stay near this tall stranger, even if I did coming bearing gifts.  That’s okay –he is wary and perhaps he has tangled with a human before and had a reason to be scared.

I bided my time, sneaking a few more peanuts into his little pile on the grass, awaiting another potential photo op.  He returned, grabbed another peanut and this time he raced over to the tree with the graffiti on it, that beautiful twisted tree, framed by the Creek.  Hold that pose please!

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Before I got back on the paved path, I walked through the sopping wet grass to clean my shoes off.  I saw more squirrels, all who acted like I had not trod that pathway two times already and dropped peanuts at their feet.  By then I was travelling on near-empty, with only about five peanuts left and those had Parker’s name on them.

I decided to head over to Pagel Avenue to see if Parker was there.  I tried not to cloud my mind with images of him versus a hawk or the coyote, since I had not seen him Friday morning either.  Here, I was greeted by a Fox squirrel who made a beeline down a maple tree to greet me and danced around the toes of my walking shoes while I dug the peanuts out of the bottom of the bag.  I still held onto the camera in my hands which were freezing since I’d taken my glove off a good half hour ago and it was just 40 degrees.  I happily spread the five peanuts out and he happily went to eat them.

OK, time to go home – I’d seen Stubby and Parker and a slew of other squirrels, so I was good to go.

But … I got to the parking lot and neared my car and discovered a squirrel sitting next to the driver’s side and he came over to me … well, that had to be Parker!  Wait a minute, who was that a few minutes ago, the squirrel who emptied my bag of peanuts and danced around my feet?  I assumed he was Parker!  Well, this squirrel did similar antics – is there an imposter?

Meanwhile, I was mortified and apologized for being empty-handed.  I even took the bag out of my pocket and turned it inside out saying “Honey, I’m sorry I have nothing for you – I’ll make it up to you tomorrow.  I’ll bring you a peanut butter sandwich, heck – I’ll even bring one of the two bags of walnuts I’ve bought for Thanksgiving and Christmas.”  But those eyes pleaded with me for peanuts.

For a minute,  I toyed with the idea of making the two-mile round trip home to get more for him.

My fear was he would not move from the car and I didn’t want to run him over.  I opened the car door, and his head popped up and I thought he might try to climb into the car.  There was no one around to ask to watch where he was so I could pull away.  I honked the horn to chase him away from the car but still didn’t see him.  I waited and waited – no one came along, so after 15 minutes, I honked again and pulled away, saying a little prayer he was not underneath a tire.

As I backed out of the parking space, I was scared to look up.

But I did.

There he was, sitting on the curb staring at me.  My heart melted.  He was safe.  I got out of the parking lot in a hurry before he followed me, feeling badly.  I’d better be real nice to him tomorrow morning.

As I was pulling up in the driveway, the first little spits of rain splashed onto the windshield and the rain hasn’t stopped since..

It seems we were all full of great expectations today … me that the weather would cooperate so I could get a long walk in, and my furry pals who awaited a fill-up by their favorite benefactor.

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Color my world.

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The roller-coaster temps and wacky weather continue to march on.  Yesterday it was sunny, but frosty; today was about as gray and gloomy as you could get, albeit some 15 degrees warmer than yesterday.  Quite honestly, I’d have preferred the sun to poke through the clouds, but that didn’t happen.   Rain is slated to arrive this evening and continue through the weekend – ugh!

Luckily, I took lots of photos at Council Point Park Wednesday and Thursday so I could share more of Michigan’s ever-changing color palette with you.

Talk about a BRRRRRisk walk!

Yesterday, we awoke to temps around 30 degrees and we’d had a hard freeze.  It was a brrrrrisk walk to be sure.  When I first arrived at the Park, it was so sunny, I was momentarily blinded and had to shield my eyes with a gloved hand for fear of tripping over, or stepping on, any squirrels who might circle around, or gather at my feet.  Large areas of the grounds were covered in frost, the blades of grass looking like stiff white bristles.  I stopped for a picture before I started on the trail.

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No missed mist opportunities for me!

Almost immediately, the walker who told me about his coyote sighting the day before, rushed over and said he was glad he had found me. I’m not always an optimist and immediately thought the worst … was the coyote still roaming about the Park, or, worse … had that coyote hurt or killed any of the squirrels?  I was almost afraid to ask what was up.  He told me the mist was rising on the Creek and the mallards were in that mist swimming around, so he knew “The Camera Lady” would probably like to take a picture.  I thanked him and said I’d hurry right over there.  Whew!  I had to smile because I already have the moniker of “The Peanut Lady” so I guess I have a new alternate name.

Now, I must admit I’m a creature of habit.  I always start on the perimeter path on the first loop, right-hand side, each and every time I walk at Council Point Park.  Evidently those savvy squirrels know my walking habits as well.  They likely already saw me start, then abandon, my regular route.  Those squirrels are no slouches because they decided to join me.  Soon there was a passel of peanut pals following me as I cut across the frozen grass, my heavy walking shoes leaving indentations on the frosty blades, as I hustled to get to the opposite side of the loop.  Just as I arrived at the cement precipice where the heron scopes out his breakfast, I could see the mist swirling and hovering over the Ecorse Creek.  I pulled out the camera and took a few shots in case the mist dissipated quickly.

Arch in Mist

Trees in Mist

Fallen Tree in Mist

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Meanwhile, out of the corner of my eye, at least a half-dozen squirrels had gathered around me, circling closer, and impatiently waiting for peanuts to be handed out.

I finished my shots, plus another of the frost on the grass while I fed them.

 

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Frost with squirrel

The Park’s color palette has been changing this week.

Those beautiful trees and bushes I recently spotlighted, that were ablaze in rich shades of red, burnt orange and golden yellow, have now dropped their leaves.  A few more trees have begun their transition with the maple trees giving the prettiest show of colors.

This maple tree must be diseased as it has these ugly spots on it, but it still managed to turn a vibrant shade of red as you see in the frost-tinged, spotted leaf below.

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Frost-tinged leaves

Lots of green leaves still remain, but these Autumn color tones sure are pleasing to the eye.

Green

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Mixed Bag

Golden leaves perk up the perimeter path …

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… as do these brilliantly colored berries.

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I wonder what type of berries they are?  They’re shiny and look soft and squishy.

Red Berries

I researched a little, but can’t identify them.  These bushes are scattered around the Park and I’ve never seen any critters feeding on them, unlike the mulberry trees where the squirrels, birds and even the groundhog, have a go at those berries during the Summertime.

Some delicate purple flowers, the hangers-on that didn’t die off from that hard freeze,  rise above the Creek bank to lend a pastel tone to the landscape.

Hangers On

In the second walking loop, the part of the figure eight perimeter path that is not so colorful, nor critter filled, I noted that the trees are starting to turn and I’ll try capturing their vivid hues again next week, but, in case tomorrow’s stormy weather makes the leaves wriggle free and land on the ground, I took these pictures.

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Red Tree

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Parking Lot Tree

Fenced in Area

By the second time around, the mist had started to lift and in this portion of the Creek, I got a better view of the mallards, as they swam on what looked like a golden pond from the reflection of the trees onto the water.

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There was a new and unexpected addition to the Park.

Graffitti

Sadly, as you can see my favorite nature nook has begun transcending into Winter. Soon the trees will have no cloak of colors, whether it is green or a kaleidoscope of hues, but instead they will be bare and stark looking in contrast to the snow.  I am reminded that once the snow and ice arrive, my daily walk will sometimes become a trudge, if it happens at all.  But for now, the journey was joyous and my trek was tranquil.

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Happiness in the ‘hood.

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The past few days have been splendiferous and since Ol’ Man Sol was actually around, I could start my walk earlier, thus eking out five miles each day.  Last Sunday, the weatherman said we’d have great Fall weather (‘bout time) through next Sunday evening and I was ecstatic since it is all about bulking up my steps right now before the snow starts a flyin’.  By Tuesday, there was a slim possibility of rain on Saturday and on Wednesday it was “sorry folks, we’ll have off-and-on bouts of showers and cold weather Saturday and a couple of rain showers on Sunday.”

I wasn’t happy to hear that – another weekend tarnished by bad weather.  For me, it’s hard to embrace a rainy walk at any time, let alone, when the air temperature is around 40 degrees.

So, these sunny days have been welcome and I’ve been wearing a silly grin on my face, just like this scarecrow.

It was really cold when I went out this morning.  We’d had another hard freeze and there was a frosty glaze on the grass.  Right away I saw my breath, a swirl of thin vapor that filled the morning air.  The chimneys were spouting out great puffs of smoke.  This is way too early for all this nonsense.  Not only did I hear the crunch of leaves when I scuffed through them as I made my way to Council Point Park, but the sound of ice scrapers doing their work on car windshields also factored into the morning noise equation.

At the Park I was told there was another coyote sighting in the field by the large electrical tower – well great, just great.  But my walk was without incident  … three loops, two on the interesting side, and one on the boring side, peanuts doled out, smiling faces (well I think the squirrels look like they are smiling sometimes).  I left the Park and checked for Parker and pals at our usual “meet-up rock” and he was nowhere to be found, so I began wending my way along Pagel Avenue to head home.

I’d already tucked the camera away, closed the Ziploc bag of peanuts and zipped up my coat, when suddenly I heard a rustling noise.  It was close by.  Was it the coyote prowling around the ‘hood?  I saw no wild critter when my eyes took in a cursory view of the street, but I did glimpse a Fox Squirrel sitting atop a massive, lumpy-looking pumpkin that was part of a homeowner’s harvest décor.  Oh, for goodness sake – I had to get a picture of this squirrel sitting there like he was King of the Hill.  I knew the photo would not come out very well as it was quite shady thanks to a big tree on the City property, but I dragged out the camera anyway.

GREAT PUMPKIN FINAL

KING OF THE HILL

He looked right at me with a rather indignant look on his face, so I got this shot …

SQUIRREL ON LID

… and then he bolted from the pumpkin top to quickly scramble up the cornstalk to hide from me.  I wanted to call out “I still can see you, but you do blend into that cornstalk nicely.”

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He made a loud rustling sound, as he climbed and maneuvered around the dry cornstalk, his sharp nails hugging the tree and his furry body blending into the brown and ochre-colored background.  I  took out the Ziploc bag and shook it, then put down some peanuts.  The peanuts on the sidewalk piqued his interest and seemingly was an incentive to pose, so he turned upside down and headed down toward the top of the pumpkin again, but he was stubborn and made no move to come over to see me.

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At least I now knew what the initial rustling noise was I heard.  There was a little black squirrel similarly climbing around the cornstalk only in the back.

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I left him some peanuts on the sidewalk too, but he didn’t budge from exploring the smaller pumpkins and probably trying to take a chunk out of them.  I was already running late and figured I’d better pick up the pace, so I tucked the camera away and headed for home.  But in the next block was another black squirrel who was perched on a small rustic wood wagon.  He was eating the mum plant and  it would have been a great shot had the camera been handy.  I reached to unzip my coat and he bolted, scared by the sudden movement of my hand.  He hi-tailed it up a tree.

CLIMBING UP

Then from his lookout he studied me.   I offered peanuts and a little sweet talk and soon convinced him to clamber down from the tree, get some peanuts and pose for me.

B

E

I dropped a pile of peanuts at his feet when he was at ground-level and said “now that wasn’t so bad was it?”  He was so cute and enjoying his peanuts so much, I almost picked him up under my arm to take him home as a pet.

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The sun sure felt good and I hated to end my walk, but knew I must get home for work.  I had a double treat … walking in my favorite nature nook and some harvest time happiness in the ‘hood.

I’ll leave you with this quote:

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” ~~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

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Predators at the Park.

HERON AND DUCKS HEADER

It was back to Council Point Park this morning, after an absence of just one day.  When I arrived, Parker was pacing, running back and forth on the pavement in the parking lot.  As usual, he raced over to see me, melting my heart when he put his front paws on my left shoe and gazed at me with such a plaintive look.  In one easy motion, with my left hand I unsnapped my jacket pocket and popped open the Ziploc bag, then fished the camera out of the other pocket with my right hand.  “Just peanuts today for you and your friends Parker” I told him.  “Number one, it is National Nut Day, and number two, you’ll get cavities if I keep feeding you cookies.”

I gave him a little pile of peanuts and he trotted off happily, with a pair of them clenched between his front teeth.  With a parting glance, he turned and looked me straight in the eye.  Hmm – was this his way of saying “thanks” or was he looking to see if any other squirrels were trying to steal his pile of peanuts he reluctantly left behind?

The not-so-friendly skies were bright-blue and hawk-free today.

Like Parker, I also glanced around, but for a different reason than my little buddy.  As I walked through the parking lot, my eyes scanned the skies, then the trees, because I remain on “hawk watch” for any predators that might swoop down on the squirrels while I am feeding them.   I’m still mindful of Stubby’s narrow escape from the Cooper’s Hawk in late Summer, but unfortunately, I cannot be there all the time.

I’ve often mentioned how Parker greets me once he sees me in the neighborhood across from the Park entrance.  Sometimes he follows me across the street when I leave to walk home.

ROCK AND SIGN

He may often be found on this big rock where he’ll perch, using it as a lookout so I don’t miss him, thus ensuring he’ll get another load of peanuts.  He’s a pretty smart cookie!

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People often underestimate the intelligence of our furry and feathered friends

People incorrectly give the nickname “bird brain” to our fine-feathered friends.  This is wrong, because birds are much sharper and savvier than you realize.  I know because I had pet birds for most of my life.  So, evidently a Cooper’s Hawk was watching the near-daily interaction between Parker and me on this street corner, because one day I was leaving the Park to head home and still had the camera in my hand.  I saw a bird alight on the top of the street sign near Parker’s rock.  My initial reaction was  “ouch” because those signs are metal and likely sharp and it could cut its feet.  The bird looked large and I thought it was a starling or even a crow.  I zoomed in and took a few shots.  When I uploaded the photos and studied them on the screen, I saw the bird was a Cooper’s Hawk.  Clearly it was waiting for Parker to come along.  I feel a little uneasy.

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New to the area:  a furry, four-legged predator.

This morning I had another predator on my mind, not one of the winged variety, but a specimen that walks on four legs.  As I neared the pavilion area, I shielded my eyes from the sun and looked up and down the trail for a furry and four-legged predator.

Here’s the backstory.

Saturday, after I walked at Council Point Park, I continued on my trek to the City of Wyandotte to take photos of the harvest and Halloween décor at the stately homes along Emmons Boulevard.  I was just past the City limits, enroute to my house, and knew I’d not be taking any more pictures, so I put the camera away.  That was a dumb move on my part, as a few minutes later I saw something large streaking by me out of the corner of my eye.  I turned to find a coyote running near the fence on the corner house at Emmons Boulevard and Electric Avenue.  I know I did a double take and my mouth was a large “O” and by the time I got the camera out of the case, turned on and focused on that coyote, it was a half-block away.  I managed to get one shot, albeit of his back and tail.

COYOTE

He ran over to the grounds of a large church a block away and disappeared into that neighborhood.

I didn’t run from that coyote, although I had no clue whether it would attack a human, and I did think he was pretty lean looking.  I went over to the church area but he was gone.  When I got online later that day, while uploading my photos, I Googled around to read up on coyotes, specifically if they would confront humans, and also, if squirrels were one of their food choices.  I learned coyotes shy away from humans, unless they are rabid, or if they are very hungry and there is a food source around a home and then they get a little braver and venture closer.  Sadly, squirrels are on the coyote’s menu.

I checked on our City’s crime site on Facebook to see if anyone reported seeing a coyote .  This crime forum encompasses many newsworthy items like traffic congestion/ accidents, broken water mains, missing pets, burglaries, and most recently, last week’s murder in our city.

Sure enough, several people reported seeing a coyote in Wyandotte (as you see in this photo I took from the Facebook crime site), then in Lincoln Park, right at Stewart and River Drive, at the site of Council Point Park.

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Truly, there’s nowhere for a coyote to live at Council Point Park.  It has a woodsy feel with the trees and bushes that line the Ecorse Creek and run parallel to the walking path, but it is right in the middle of a residential neighborhood.  I can’t put a Google map photo here due to copyright issues, so have a look at this link here

The area of trees to the right of where it says “Council Point Park” are on the other side of the Ecorse Creek.  Thus, I don’t think a coyote would be inclined to make a home at this venue, but I’ll still be wary for myself and the squirrels.  This morning I walked along the perimeter path, glancing toward the water where I saw the heron standing on a log, near some ducks.  It was a peaceful and idyllic scene, and part of a nature nook highly unlikely to be home to hawks and coyotes … at least I hope so.  A fellow blogger told me the squirrels run faster than the coyotes – hopefully the squirrels don’t get too roly-poly and can only waddle.

HERON SELF

I paid for a Metropark pass to go to larger parks to check out “wild things” and just a mile from home, there was a coyote loping along without a care in the world.  I’ve only seen pictures of them in the past, and oh yes …  the cartoon character Wile E. Coyote.

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