Nick Varney

Nick Varney

Unhinged Alaska: Sea Side Story: ‘The Rumble’

Well done, September.

August owes its buddy, September, a big-time apology. It showed up so late with its benchmark cool weather and prodigious rain-spawning clouds that ole number nine on the calendar had to perform double duty trying to get fall organized before October came knocking.

Special note: Well done, September. The flora finally donned its fall fashions and we’ve received enough rain that migrating waterfowl are overnighting in an overflow pond on our access road. So, back off a bit, OK?

September was a dazzling flyby of 30 days that tempered fires, rejuvenated the landscape and encouraged the charge of milling silver warriors up the cooling and rising streams.

Nice things happen when Mother Nature chills after one of her “hot around the collar” snits and allows her four seasonal offspring to resume their customary playtimes.

It wasn’t long after the region was refreshed by soothing veils of moisture working their magic on sunburned leaves and parched lawns that the fauna surrounding our cabin by the sea started to strut rather than sulk.

Example: In a fishing column few weeks ago, I noted that as dawn morphed from a dull steel radiance to a crimson ember’s glow, I stepped out of the cabin to head out for an old fishing haunt when a bizarre fracas broke out in the middle of our driveway.

A large gray hare had been nibbling along the edge of our sun-mugged lawn and had begun a leisurely hip-hop back into the surrounding brush when a clutch of adolescent pheasants suddenly appeared from the adjacent foliage.

The floppy-eared critter froze as the curious youngsters approached, bobbing and weaving like wannabe Jets from “West Side Story.”

Most of the brood were cautious and merely seemed interested in inspecting the furry creature, while others were the “bad boy” types showing off their ruffled, cock rooster, youth-muted colors in addition to signaling imminent gangsta assaults.

The hare looked somewhat bemused by the feathered mob but held his ground until one of them would get too close, then went Bruce Lee on the encroacher with an impressive spin kick that never hit a thing but startled the testosterone out of the offender.

The dustup lasted until the avian ruffians finally realized there was a minute possibility that the annoyed bunny just might luck out and permanently rearrange their beaks, so they faded into the underbrush, leaving the critter sitting on its butt wondering, “What the hell was that all about?”

If that encounter had transpired 15 days earlier, the faux toughs would have just stood there watching each other sweat until they either suffered heatstroke or regained enough common sense to stagger into the nearby shade.

As of this writing, Sea Side Story standoffs between The Chicks and The Hares (another one has shown up) continue periodically but neither side has laid a claw or a hairy foot on each other much to the chagrin of the hawk watching from a nearby spruce.

I figure he is patiently waiting for a full throwdown kerfuffle so he can swoop in and nail an unsuspecting combatant that is more interested in landing a peck or a punch than watching the skies.

The way it looks, the raptor might as well go back to snacking on field shrews because the rumbles between these two factions are more of a display of heroic puffery than fur and feathers flying. They should be embarrassed.

I’m sure all of the back-forty drama will dwindle as quickly as the daylight hours when the first icicle winds burst across the fields announcing that it’s winter’s turn to frolic across the landscape.

Come to think of it, that time may not be far off. Last week, during a lull in the progression of played-out tropical storms rolling north to die, the shrouds of overcasts receded enough to view the mountains across the bay. There was no question as to what lurked over there. The highest peaks and glacier walls held undisputable evidence that old man winter had peeked over their zeniths while brushing what looked to be the residue of a mini, powdered sugar, donut from his beard depositing a light cloak of termination dust on the apexes.

It was a shot across our bow that only those with the brainpower of a breakfast burrito would ignore so it’s time to gear up and gear down depending what turns your crank over during the ensuing months.

As for us? At the moment, we are dealing with a couple of new arrivals in our little patch of paradise.

After a two-year hiatus, ermines are back in our woodpile and they are welcome because they are ravenous assassins when it comes to being local “meet and eat” rodent greeters although they can be a bit mischievous at times.

For now, they seem content to scramble up to the top of a deck post that gives them an excellent view of the weenie stand-offs between the two gangs.

What they are contemplating, I don’t have a clue, but it wouldn’t be surprising to walk out the door one morning and find a pile of fur or scattered feathers on the disputed turf. Man, oh man, will that p.o. the hawk.

Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com.


Nick can be reached at ncvarney@gmail.com.


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