Life with Mil­dred

A gre­gar­i­ous grouse adopted this farm fam­ily as her new flock.

Farm & Ranch Living - - LOVIN’ THE LIFE - BY DI­ANE GOULD

MLIVERMORE, MAINE y hus­band, Tom, has al­ways been good with an­i­mals, but I was still amazed when he be­friended a fe­male ruffed grouse. It’s un­usual for a grouse—or partridge, as we call them in Maine—to have any con­tact with peo­ple. In fact, they’re hard to spot, be­cause they usu­ally fly off when they hear hu­mans ap­proach­ing.

This grouse came into our lives in the spring­time. Tom was work­ing in the field when he no­ticed her walk­ing around at the edge of the field. She was sur­pris­ingly un­afraid and seemed to be cu­ri­ous about what he was do­ing.

Tom saw the grouse sev­eral times, and she got more com­fort­able around him even when he worked with the trac­tor or chain saw. She es­pe­cially liked the sound of the four-wheeler and would come run­ning to see what he was do­ing. We quickly grew fond of the bird and de­cided to call her Mil­dred.

One day, as Tom was work­ing on the side of our drive­way, Mil­dred came within a few feet of him to watch. Tom pre­tended he didn’t see her and kept work­ing to see what she would do next.

Ap­par­ently, she didn’t like to be ig­nored. She’d run up and peck at Tom’s hands, then back off to see what he would do. This went on for about 20 min­utes, un­til Mil­dred be­came tired of the game and went back into the woods.

As spring went and sum­mer came, Mil­dred started to come out more and more of­ten. We thought she might have seen us feed­ing the chick­ens and was look­ing for a hand­out, but she had no in­ter­est in the grain or corn we of­fered. One time we gave her a rasp­berry, how­ever, and dis­cov­ered she loved them.

Even­tu­ally Mil­dred felt se­cure enough to jump up on Tom’s leg and stay put long enough for me to get a pic­ture of the two of them to­gether. This friendly grouse soon felt at ease not just with our fam­ily, but with any­body who walked or drove by.

When hunt­ing sea­son opened, we put a sign at the end of our drive­way ask­ing hunters not to shoot our pet grouse. My fa­ther, who lives down the road, also warned peo­ple not to shoot her. In fact, hunters would stop and take pic­tures, be­cause they had never seen any­thing like her.

Mil­dred be­came a celebrity up at our farm. When rel­a­tives came to see my par­ents, Dad would drive them in his Kub­ota to see her, and she’d never dis­ap­point.

We hope that when the weather warms up, she’ll come back to check on the farm­work again. If not, we’ll al­ways have some fond mem­o­ries and sto­ries.

Mil­dred grew com­fort­able enough with Tom Gould to hop on his knee for a visit.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.