and their denizens. Federico Calbolli sent me this video of a hunting fisher in Canada. It is a great hunting scene– watch how she overcomes the hare -pure speed and focused audacity!
Here is the video, and text:
They are splendid but slightly scary creatures. Long ago I lived in western Mass, in a drafty 1700’s farmhouse on a ridge overlooking Quabbin reservoir, in a place that shows on maps as the January Hills– a perfect name, though nobody ever used it in my presence. (Think of Ray Bradbury’s October country, the idea as well as the book). There we sometimes saw one, usually crossing the dirt road below, often in a single bound if they were in a hurry.They are fearless and brook no trespass; a Maine bowhunter I know fired an arrow idly at one and it came halfway up the tree to his stand, baring its teeth and hissing like a cat. Look at the way that thing just sucked up that hare. At the beginning, I wouldn’t have given it a chance. She did it with almost frightening ease.
They are also one of the few carnivores who regularly prey on porcupines; they get under them somehow and attack through the belly. We had a ead tree in the woods side of our yard that for some reason was a magnet for mating porcupines very early in the spring. As at the time one of us had an exceptionally dumb bird dog, a German shorthair, who constantly tried to kill porcupines in revenge for the pain that the last one had caused him (try holding down a large pointer sedated only with a pill, with a broomstick in his jaws to give us access to his mouth and his jaws tied tight with a rag- and removing, often, over a hundred quills with needle nosed pliers, and you will guess how we felt about porcupines).
But then then the fisher found them. In a week they were all gone.We picked up three hollow carcasses, neatly emptied. We never saw a porcupine in that tree again.
That area is between Shutesbury and Franklin, where the road north dead-ends in a forgotten town so as not to drop off into the Swift river, and the tiny dirt-road towns on the east side of the hills were high enough to avoid drowning when Boston secured secure water by drowning seven (I think) towns in the valley.
It’s a beautiful place, full of wildlife. Seventy-five miles from Boston you can see many deer, occasional moose, a solitary mountain lion, the wolf-like coyotes that I don’t think are a new phenomenon. You can see them killing deer on the ice in Quabbin in the winter. Bald eagles nest there, and all small predators and game animals — it’s a great place for goshawks.
But there is something sort of creepy about it: it is full of old abandoned ghost settlements, deep in the woods. There are open stone wells that are as hazardous to you as to your dog when you are out grouse hunting. There are at least two inhabited houses dating back as far as the 1600’s, with that black Puritan architecture, and tiny leaded windows. This was one of the battlefields of King Phillip’s War, and there are even signs of that. Libby and I took directions to a stone underground structure about 5 miles up one of these dirt tracks. It was big enough for both of us to fit comfortably, and we peeked out through roots of a giant white pine.
“This too has been one of the world’s dark places..” (Writer? Bonus points for narrator and setting).
H P Lovecraft wrote about these brooks and hills, and peopled them with monsters. He also used his knowledge of the drowning of the towns to write his story “The Color Out of Space”. I think the only place more Lovecraftian is Providence at sunset. It used to be my home, and sometimes I miss it just a bit, though I was iving off clean roadkill and sometimes poached deer, shooting grouse with a 16 gauge Browning and a 20 bore LC, and running a successful wood business. I was also the acting editor of English Literary Renaissance, where Arthur, my boss, asked me to cold-call Phillip Larkin and ask him for a contribution to our Marvell issue, as they had both been librarians at Hull. Since I was so young and dumb I did not know I should be scared of him, and he was very nice, and contributed one. I also got one from my friend -to- be Gerry Cox, but it was 40 years before we actually met…
Update: here is a fine block print by the master of the medium, Francis Lee Jacques, for Victor Cahalane’s Mammals of North America . Forgot I had it, which was not as weird as the incident of my copy of Birds of Tibet. Remind me…