Page 74 - Color Tour 2018
P. 74

Recalling a simpler time
music with which we are both famil- iar. A small creek runs across that yard, coming out of a land too hilly and too marshy to farm. In the winter when the ground is frozen this tiny creek sounds like a Caribbean barrel drum song.
Beyond the house itself, other than some logging in the 1850s and again in the 1950s, the place has been almost-wilderness since time imme- morial, uninhabited by people other than the Anishinabe, the original peo- ple, who were once everywhere on the peninsula, here before any others. Sometimes in the spring mushroom hunters would come to that woods but even then, usually only people who had grown up there as children, coming to the places known only to them in early May.
“My brother, Bob, and his wife, Sharon,” Mrs. Priest says, “were back in there,  nding morels, about three years ago. They saw two cougar babies on the forest  oor. Bob said, ‘Don’t look up. The mother is here, somewhere. If we make eye contact with her, she will attack.’”
With all due respect, the couple moved, quiet as shadows, back to the old logging trail through the woods. That woods, part-hilly-forest and part-spring-fed-stream-and-marsh,
would be a safe place for a shy and wild creature like a cougar. Animals rarely seen on the Leelanau Peninsula even in the early 1900s, animals like bears, cougars, wolves, coyotes and bobcats, are now moving back in because of the growing number of people and houses, and the scarcity of their preferred habitat. This is hap- pening all over the world, according to the Manchester Guardian of May 20, 2017, and corroborated by many articles ranging from the New York Times to the Denver Post over the past 10 years. In some places such wild animals are being sited even in urban areas and suburbs.
A raccoon was found in June 2018 on the 12th  oor ledge of a St. Paul, Minnesota skyscraper. Raccoons are really good climbers.
In the fall the woods around the Lake Leelanau Narrows bustle with raccoons and other small mammals trying to fatten up for the long winter ahead. Buck deer snort and paw the ground, preoccupied by the drive to  nd a mate. In the spring the woods ring with the singing of songbirds. The small birds come north to build their nests, calling to their mates, a symphony of sound. The cardinal calling, “Teacher, teacher, teacher,” and the oriole, “I’ll be home for din-
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the air as they skim low through the cattails and  nally perch in the wav- ing yellow branches of a willow, as if they think they won’t be heard except at the peak of shrill.
Nancy Priest has watched and lis- tened to the wildlife from her home on the Lake Leelanau Narrows for almost 50 years.
“One day I saw a wolf crossing on the ice,” she says, still amazed by the memory, glancing re exively out her picture window as though she might see it again, reliving for a moment the awe she felt at that singular event and the sheer otherness of the wolf. “It was winter. He was crouching, low. He was large. His fur was black- brown, rippling in the light. A mag- ni cent creature, very handsome. He disappeared into the hills. I called the sheriff’s department. I said, ‘I have just seen a wolf.’ (The deputy) said ‘I believe you. We’ve received a few calls.’ This was about six years after Don died.”
Don Priest, her husband of many decades, died in 2011.
“We had two male swans who got
in a  ght,” Mrs. Priest says, looking out at the water, remembering. “They’re very territorial. My hus- band rowed out and broke it up. They would have killed each other. We had a female swan, Regina, she lost her mate. He hit an electrical wire. They had two cygnets. She mourned up and down the Narrows for years.”
Swans mate for life. And contrary to their name, mute swans do make a sound, although rarely, a little cough or slight, low quack that’s not very audible.
Mrs. Priest, born Nancy Howard, grew up in the woods at the edge of a marsh about a mile west of the vil- lage of Lake Leelanau. To my sur- prise, she lived as a child in the same house I lived in for 36 years until recently, back near Provemont Pond, adjacent to 80 acres of Leland Township recreational land and now the sewer lagoons. The sur- round-sound of the frogs in the spring around that old Leelanau homestead, the hammering of the woodpeckers in the distance, the roar of Lake Michigan from the top of almost any hill when the wind was strong, this is
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