PacK Rat

by Doreyl  

The wind screamed and moaned , whipping around my Yurt studio without rest. Like a ship at sea, the walls of the yurt moved with the wind. My husband Jerry & I paid little attention to the turmoil outside, for we were deeply engrossed in our highly competitive ‘Upword Bound” Scrabble Game. This being our favorite game to take our mind off the weather when winter stops for a visit in these mountains, we kept focused on the words.
“I challenge that word!” says Jerry. “ There’s no such word as ‘sylvan.’
“Oh yes there is,” I replied with gusto. “ we’re living a ‘sylvan’ life-style right now!”
Jerry pulled out the dictionary and looked for the word.
“Oh, no!” says Jerry. “I lost my turn. Here it is. Sylvan means “living in the woods.”
We laughed together and continued our game.
For the past eleven years Jerry and I have homesteaded in the woods of Tuckasegee, Little Canada section of Jackson County in western North Carolina, USA, on our nature preserve called Nature’s Home. It hasn’t been easy. In the woods you give up the idea of the TV commercial’s idea of “Mr. Clean.” We learned to be comfortable with lots of dirt, friendly insects, rodents, wild birds and marvelous little hairy creatures who’s footsteps we hear on the roof at night. It’s what you call “living in a sylvan society.” The rules are different here in the woods than in the society of towns and cities. You learn about the different species of every kind of creature instead of the human kind.
Talk about a small footprint, here at Nature’s Home many different species of rodents make their home. Always on the defense, their dark eyes sparkle with life and their furry bodies constantly adapt for speed. One of the cutest species, the Golden Deermouse, is named for it’s golden colored fur. Shy and secretive, you rarely see this good looking mouse. To find it you need to look in the branches of shrubs, vines and small trees. Sporting a strong flexible tail, the Golden Deermouse curls its tail around twigs and branches to keep balanced when sitting high up.
Meanwhile, down below, the Pine Mouse makes its home just under the leaf layer on the forest floor. Adapting to a burrowing life-style for safety, its tiny ears, short stubby tail and short fur make the digging process easier. It’s fur lies flat against the body when rubbed in either direction which helps when backing up in tight quarters.
On up Nature’s Home road at Moonshine Gap you’ll find the Southern Lemming Mouse. This short-tailed mouse’s fur grows so long and shaggy, you can hardly see it’s ears. This curious type of mouse eats the seeds from the tops of tall grass. Having to trim the grass in the middle to reach the seeds, the mouse leaves behind neatly stacked clipped grass stems. Because snakes, foxes and hawks take them in large numbers, the Southern Lemming Mouse is extremely cautious and hard to find. How you know they’re around is to follow their criss-crossing run ways through the grass and find the neatly stacked grass stems.
Inhabiting rock crevices and rugged mountain slopes here at Nature’s Home, the Eastern Woodrat ranks as the most unusual mouse of all. Almost humanlike, the Eastern Woodrat’s habits have earned it the nickname “Pack Rat.” The Woodrat collects all sorts of unusual objects and debris and hordes them in its nest. Their nests can become quite large, sandwiched between rock crevices. They prefer shinny things, like nails, bits of foil, coins, paper clips and broken glass. Remarkably, where ever they take an object, they leave something in its place. Backpackers have found acorns and pinecones in their pockets replacing lost keys and coins. Is this a sense of fair play for exchange? No one knows. When you’re hiking at twilight you can get glimpses of them; they look like a normal mouse but have a longer hair-covered tail and more conspicuous ears.
Our cats, Smutt and Ashe, know even more about the rodents than we do. They keep them at bay from our yurt “ship in the wind.”
Living in a Sylvan Society does help your word skills during the winter months. When it’s snowing outside we’re nice and warm inside our yurt, with our Scrabble board close by.

Click on Photoblog:   to see "Pac Rat," one of my art prints. Then look to the right for more to read about!


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