ALL I WANTED was a quiet place at the end of the road where I could write my memoirs.
About the years of struggling it took to become an overnight excess with a publishing empire stretching from Oil City to Whiskey Flats dedicated to shining the light of freedom on truth, justice and the American way.
If I could just find the time.
Something is always interrupting.
It’s all part of the nightmare we call country living.
It started with the drumming.
It was sort of a Bo Diddley- on-a-bender beat that just kept going and going and wouldn’t stop.
Naturally, I assumed it was just another Sasquatch drum circle heating up.
Sometimes I think that’s all they do.
Maybe I should apologize, but somebody has to work.
Financing the hunt for Bigfoot and baiting them in takes major funding.
Peanut butter and jam sandwiches don’t grow on trees, you know.
I opened the door and stuck my head out, ready to holler into the woods to get them to pipe down for a while, and saw the real reason for my disturbance: a cute little woodpecker.
With a bright red head and a great big beak, the woodpecker was pounding a hole in the side of the house.
Woodpeckers are some of the dumbest creatures on the planet.
Maybe it’s because they spend their lives beating their head against trees.
It only makes sense that an ecological niche that involves brain damage could lead to an evolutionary dead end.
Shooting the woodpecker was not an option.
That would contravene the Geneva Convention of Birdwatching and possibly upset the neighbors.
There are simple rules to get along in the country, such as drive slowly, mind your own business and don’t spray the neighbors with birdshot.
They could shoot back.
And besides, you have a lot better chance of borrowing stuff from the neighbors if you don’t shoot at them first. Enough said.
Not to mention woodpeckers are a protected species.
The birds seem to sense this.
When I tried to scare it away, the woodpecker looked at me like I was impacting his habitat.
I thought we could all just get along.
And we did until the starlings moved into the woodpecker hole.
This is a curse I would not wish on my best enemy.
First, there is the endless process of the starlings building the nest, which means they have to pull the pink fiberglass insulation out of the wall, scatter it over the yard and replace it with a flammable nest made of moss and dry twigs.
Eventually, the babies hatch.
You will know this from their constant shrieking for food from dawn till dark for weeks on end with a distinct aroma wafting through the wall.
It’s a congealing mass of rotting starling nest just waiting to be used again next year.
I sprang into action.
It was going to be too easy.
I grabbed a fish net and beat on the wall.
When the starling flew out of the woodpecker hole, I caught it, then drove it to town to turn it loose.
I could not imagine a crueler fate.
That was until I returned home to find the starling had beaten me back to the house.
The net trick wouldn’t work anymore.
I had to borrow a ladder from the neighbor and nail a board over the woodpecker hole.
For a moment, there was peace.
I’d just sat down to type a really good column for once and heard a woodpecker beating another hole in the wall.
Here we go again.
Pat Neal is a fishing guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.
He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patneal [email protected]