Be­ware of bul­lies in the back­yard!

Westside Eagle-Observer - - OPINION - By Dodie Evans

Warn­ing … this is go­ing to be one of those “C” col­umns where C doesn’t mean ‘cuff, but rather it rep­re­sents “con­glom­er­a­tion,” a mix­ture of top­ics that might stretch from the ice­bergs of Ice­land to the trop­i­cal beaches in the Caribbean … but as promised in the last ‘cuff, no pol­i­tics!

There has been a bully in the neigh­bor­hood for sev­eral days. In fact, there have been two bul­lies. As I watched them out the back win­dow, they demon­strated what bul­ly­ing re­ally is. The sad part is there is noth­ing that can be done, or that I want to do, to con­vince them they over­stepped the bounds of de­cency, con­sid­er­a­tion and car­ing — traits that are found in the rest of their fam­i­lies, and in most of the hu­man race. They op­er­ated in a com­plete con­trast to what the rest of the neigh­bor­hood demon­strated. Sound bad? Yes, but hon­estly it must be part of the DNA of these two who were ful­fill­ing a trait that has served for who knows how many gen­er­a­tions.

I must ex­plain a bit: The Evans house­hold has two feed­ers in its back­yard. Filled with su­gar wa­ter, the feed­ers have been vis­ited by hum­ming­birds for more years than can be re­mem­bered. For sev­eral years, some­time in April, the feed­ers have been vis­ited by a sin­gle hum­mer. I call him scout be­cause he perches on a metal hang­ing bas­ket frame and then goes from one feeder to the other — just wait­ing, per­haps. A few days later, an­other hum­mer makes an ap­pear­ance and he im­me­di­ately swoops, dives and charges through the air, chas­ing the in­ter­loper away. It’s un­be­liev­able to see him in ac­tion. This con­tin­ues un­til a few days later when a small flock — if that’s what you call a bunch of hum­ming­birds — ar­rives and be­gins feed­ing at the red stuff. The bully bird stays in ac­tion for an hour or two — at least it seems that way — un­til that in­ter­loper dis­ap­pears. Peace and har­mony set­tle in, and watch­ing the whirring wings and dart­ing aer­o­bic tiny bod­ies is a reg­u­lar pas­time. Re­fill­ing the feed­ers be­comes an al­most daily chore.

But this year … sud­denly, with­out no­tice, the flock dis­ap­peared. The feed­ers re­mained full — and soured. The feed­ers were re­placed with smaller amounts of the nec­tar. An oc­ca­sional hum­mer would stop by, sip a bit and then take off into the big some­where. Just as sud­denly, two of those del­i­cate birds ap­peared. One sat on a limb near one of the feed­ers and the other be­came a pos­i­tive look­out on a high limb near the other feeder. They ig­nored each un­til … un­til about a half dozen of the tiny winged crea­tures ar­rived. Im­me­di­ately, the two be­came the “ter­ri­ble two” as they swarmed the yard, guard­ing the feed­ers while chas­ing the wouldbe din­ers away.

This bul­ly­ing con­tin­ued for sev­eral days un­til — you guessed it — that whole flock dis­ap­peared; and now, in early Oc­to­ber, the feed­ers con­tain small amounts of that red sweet stuff which hope­fully will pro­vide a meal for hum­mers who stop by on their way south. I hope the bul­ly­ing is over. Though it is fun to watch, it stretches the imag­i­na­tion on how to help the hun­gry hum­mers at least get an oc­ca­sional meal.

I’m tempted, when it’s time to close up shop and place the feed­ers on the shelf, to con­sider leav­ing them there next April. Wanna bet that will hap­pen? My DNA says “feed the birds” even if only the bul­lies ar­rive. What would you do?

Chang­ing di­rec­tion: The “C” stands for ci­cada. Re­mem­ber those big in­sects which screeched noises from tree­tops? And when one would fly by your head, it sounded like a small air­plane. (Some­times I get a lit­tle car­ried away). Can’t you just al­most hear or imag­ine their squeal­ing songs as they stroke their wings or legs, or how­ever they cre­ate that eerie rasp­ing sound? Their singing has al­ways been a part of the hottest sum­mer evenings. Sev­eral of them saw­ing their fid­dles to­gether could sound like a sym­phony orches­tra — well, maybe not ex­actly. In the good old days, kids would search tree trunks for crispy skins the in­sects left as they shed the 17-year-old gar­ments. Weren’t they some­times called lo­custs or just “screechy bugs”?

Re­mem­ber how robins would gather on the lawns in early evenings try­ing to spot one of those creepy look­ing bugs (in­sects) as they crawled to­ward a tree trunk to climb or even a sturdy grass plant? Once in a while, one would prob­a­bly get lost and end up on a win­dow screen to molt and grow glassy wings be­fore tak­ing off into the siz­zling sum­mer evening. There are sev­eral va­ri­eties of ci­cadas, some which are called 17-year in­sects. No won­der they screech. Wouldn’t we all screech af­ter be­ing cooped up in the rock in­fested Ozark soil?

The big ques­tion is, did you hear many of these lo­custs this year? Were the tree­tops silent? Weren’t the robins hav­ing a hard time find­ing a meal? And grasshop­pers? Wasn’t there a mighty slim pickin’ of those fish baiters this sum­mer? How about web­worms? And army­worms? Oh yes, I think “Bill” men­tioned a crop of those crit­ters a few weeks ago.

Mov­ing on, there seemed to be a good sup­ply of fire­flies this year, even those which soar higher in the trees, flash­ing their lanterns while search­ing for a mate. They usu­ally ar­rive later in the evening. Do kids still catch ‘em and put them in jars? Is that why we called them jar flies? I won­der if you caught a cou­ple to­day, would your hands still be sticky and have a sharp bit­ter odor? Re­mem­ber, didn’t it taste pretty bad if you got it in your mouth?

That’ll do for this ‘cuff. We didn’t make it to Ice­land or the Caribbean, but we have to add one more bit of na­ture news. Re­mem­ber, a ‘cuff a few months ago said a late frost killed all the sweet gum balls (hooray) and the buck­eyes. There is an ab­sence of sweet gum balls (hal­lelu­jah), but a dou­ble hand­ful of buck­eyes have fallen from the top of our buck­eye tree. I even beat the squir­rels to a few of the shiny arthri­tis cur­ers. Isn’t that why some folks carry a buck­eye in their pock­ets? It might be worth a try. Old timers used to swear by it — that and a cop­per wire bracelet. So, till next time and later … en­joy these beau­ti­ful autumn days, marvel at the col­or­ful hills and the un­mis­tak­able odors that autumn brings. Maybe by next ‘cuff, at least a part of the po­lit­i­cal car­ni­val will be over. Don’t hold your breath.

Dodie Evans is the for­mer owner and long­time editor of the Gravette News Herald.

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