PAT NEAL: The quarantine chronicles continued

  • Wednesday, April 8, 2020 1:30am
  • Opinion

SOMETIMES IT SEEMS like living in today’s modern world is a lot like having a flock of woodpeckers live in your head. Many choose to complain about having to stay home and quarantine while others are forced to leave home and endanger their health by working at essential industries for the good of us all.

I choose to look at the positive effects of staying home and doing the simple but important things that really matter, like organizing the sock drawer, finding all of the mismatched Tupperware lids and overhauling my tackle box.

One of the more positive side effects of our current stay-at-home quarantine is the reduction of noise pollution. Unfortunately, just as I was reveling in the silence of the wilderness, there came a grating metallic hammering that made me jump right off my stump.


The unhappy coincidence of the self-isolation home quarantine and the woodpecker mating season has produced a perfect storm of avian audio pollution that interfered with my hibernation experiment.

Then I discovered the woodpeckers decided to self-quarantine inside the walls of my house, again. That is no joke.

Woodpeckers get up with the chickens and hammer away through the lengthening days until it’s too dark to hammer any more, leaving humans with scarcely a moment of silence to ourselves and little chance to slumber through this season of solitude.

It is a cruel irony that, recently, scientists revealed modern man has been responsible for the extinction of somewhere around a million species of animals and birds worldwide, but the woodpecker is not one of them.

You may consider that a harsh judgment. But few have tried living with woodpeckers.

It began with the mechanical rapping against the rain gutter. It seemed harmless enough. Even if it did go on for hours at a time.

This rapping was the bird’s pathetic method of a calling a mate. Even more pathetic was the fact it seemed to work.

Suddenly, there were two woodpeckers, and I was outnumbered two to one.

The metallic hammering stopped, and it was replaced by a steady rapping of the birds drilling a hole through the outer wall.

Suddenly I knew the sock drawer, the Tupperware lids and the tackle box would have to wait. This was war with the woodpeckers.

People said I should just shoot the woodpeckers. That was stupid and illegal, and chances are, I’d just blow another hole in the house, which would be bad. It’s already got more holes in it than one of my fish stories.

Instead, I decided to use my head — I mean, my net.

I waited until the woodpeckers flew into the hole in the wall and snuck up with fish net to catch them when they flew out again. I figured it would take some time, but that was OK. I had plenty of time and nothing else to do.

Minutes turned into hours. The woodpeckers did not appear. They must have been taking the stay-at-home order seriously. The only problem being, they were staying in my home, scattering pink insulation all over the lawn.

After an hour or so, I felt a distressing need to go to the bathroom. Was it a disturbing symptom of the dreaded coronavirus or a side effect of the leftover chili? It didn’t matter at the time.

I wasn’t even sure the woodpeckers were in the hole anymore. All I knew for sure was that, once I stepped away, they flew out of the hole like nothing ever happened.

The woodpeckers won that one. I surrendered.


Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting 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].

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