By Jack McShane

Just a quick follow-up on my divergence last month from local Field Notes to a note on an incident during my career in the NYC PD in the 60s and 70s. If you recall, I had an incident with a very tough pimp that resulted in his arrest. Later I questioned myself as to whether that arrest was “just,” and wondered if it was also “right” as the young girl assaulted by the pimp was never seen again. In my final two years I was assigned with a few others to “the girls” working the streets of Manhattan. The same pimp was still out there functioning, very tough reputation intact and impossible to arrest as there was no one to file charges against him. One fateful day a very brave young girl, one we called an “independent” as she did not work under the direction of a pimp, came into the station house and asked to speak to one of us. She explained how Lenny, the pimp that I had the encounter with years ago, had placed a “bounty” of $5,000 that he would pay to anyone out there that would take out one of us, as he thought that we were targeting his girls unfairly. Checking with informants on the street we found it true and well circulated, a very serious threat considering the number of druggies, very bad guys and nut jobs with guns on the street in that era. A conundrum: go to the police? no, we are the police, go to supervisors? automatic response, “Don’t bother us with that (expletive), take care of it yourselves.” We did, Lenny was no longer “working” in Manhattan. After some time there came word that Lenny was now working in the Bronx where we had no jurisdiction, right or just, and the bounty repealed. I feel and am comfortable with what was done, which may not have been “just,” but definitely “right.”

With that world far behind, you now know why I find great respite and joy watching and writing about the fauna and flora in our natural world here even in the winter. So let me get right into it as this is why most of you take your precious time to read my scribblings:

The activities of the birds that inhabit the ground below the feeder and vie for the seed spilled and scattered is dynamic to say the least and generally dominated by the bluejays whom I call the bullies. The general group is made up of the jays, juncos, chickadees, the occasional downy woodpecker and the two very docile mourning doves. Last year there was a bright red male cardinal, but not this year. He is sorely missed. One morning there was an extreme aberration from my stereotyping of my avian friends. A new, rather scruffy-looking, but alpha nonetheless, mourning dove had arrived on the scene. This guy would not tolerate a bird of any species including the bullies and those of his own species within one foot of his circle of territory. Docile and tolerant doves of peace? Lesson: Don’t stereotype the critters as it doesn’t always square with reality. There is always the outlier. Another example was a doe (I call it a doe but it could have been a buck as they have now lost their antlers) which charged down the hill it was on with others to chase off a bewildered yearling which was quite distant from the charger, then headed toward me. Eventually it backed off, realizing that I was not a young upstart of the deer species. Now, was this a bully or an emotionally disturbed deer (EDD)? Maybe a combination of both.

Reports in the press of critters causing trouble: 1. A Delta flight had to turn around mid-journey when the pilot spotted a small bird in the cockpit. 2. A tiny dog (8 lbs.) was snatched from a Pennsylvania backyard by an eagle and was found a day later 4 miles away on a roadside, rather shaken with a few claw marks. The owner states, “She doesn’t want to go out anymore, and I don’t blame her.” 3. We all have heard of the Hadron Collider in Switzerland. Recently it was shut down twice, once by what was thought to be a weasel, but turned out to be a stone marten that had chewed through some wires and hence wound up electrocuted while performing his treachery. A second instance was thought to be caused by a baguette dropped from above by a passing seagull. What naughty evil critters!

On the local level and at our house a year or so back: I had a main harness of wires in my Subaru chewed through by a porcupine. $600 worth of damage luckily covered by comprehensive insurance. More recently, a red squirrel had chewed through the gas tubing on the barbecue grill suffering due capital punishment. Ironically, as I was taping up the new tubing to prevent another episode, our computers were going offline. The technician from Margaretville Telephone Company discovered our problem: wires chewed through by a mouse. I do love living in the country among all the critters that abound and I enjoy writing about them, but lines in the sand must be drawn. Porcupines, red squirrels, and mice, these rodents are not endangered species and must suffer consequences for their misdeeds!

My lovely wife Nancy very kindly took down one of her paintings, giving room for my road-killed mink and window-hit killed ruffed grouse which had been skillfully mounted by Borow’s Taxidermy up in Delhi.   (see photo on left)

“When we lack the society of our fellow-men, we take refuge in that of animals”

French entomologist Jean-Henri Fabre, late 1800s.~