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Cold Iron consists of random bits of irreverence, surliness, and contumely; sometimes it's even funny. Reading it is entirely optional.

...the iron monger and rusticater himself


Cool Iron
(archive)

"Never hit someone over the head with a hot iron. Wait until it cools so you don't burn them."

...the source of my ideas

A Wicker Chicken and the Savage Squirrels

November 1, 2018


A Wicker Chicken and the Savage Squirrels
On the one hand …
… it has been with us now for over fifteen years, a gift from a friend when we moved to an apartment – our first real home since moving back to the Midwest from Maine. We think of it as a wicker chicken although it could well be a duck. It’s one of those things you look at and wonder how in the world did someone make that? It reminds me sometimes of rug weavers, another impossible task that always seems more magic than craft.
Chicken or duck, it has had many nests, all of them outside – front steps, back steps, in a garden, on a tree branch (currently – see photo above). It has endured torrential rains and blizzards, sub-zero temperatures and the blazing humid heat of summers. Without comment it has witnessed the horror of 9/11, our country’s longest war, Sandy Hook, George Bush, and Barack Obama, along with countless family gatherings, a few deaths, a neighbor’s idiocy, the publication of five books, a fall off a ladder, several surgeries, three new cars, the purchase of a new home, grandchildren, and, well, that plethora of minutiae in a life that’s never committed to memory.
A thing is all it is and we are, of course, surrounded by things. The tenure of our wicker chicken, though, has proven longer than several televisions, a beloved dog, a lawn mower, a couch, a furnace, a washer and dryer – all durable things that couldn’t outlast our silent sentinel. Doggedly, she sits her perch impervious to the harshest winds because they blow right through her much in the way that the winds of change blow through so many of us. As Heraclitus once said, you can never step into the same river twice.
Permanence grows increasingly rare in a digital age where a year of change takes about a week. While it may seem rather droll to find my El Capitan in a bit of stick sculpture, still, as I look out my front window as the sun rises and I see her on our miniature crabapple tree – maybe a bit wet and drippy, perhaps covered in snow – I’m reassured that this particular sun will rise, that this day will come to be, and that a wicker chicken might well have made it all happen.
On the other hand …
… I might wish that it presented a bit more in the way of ferocity. Indeed, if it could at least emit a fearsome cluck or two a minor holiday tragedy might have been prevented.
Every year in the fall we buy, along with a gazillion other people, a few pumpkins to decorate our front steps. Just pumpkins – a sign of the changing seasons. We’ve never gone all out and done the cornstalk thing along with an array of gourds and pumpkins. Out here in farm country cornstalks are hardly a novelty and I’ve never quite understood the function of gourds.
Nor have we gotten into Hallowe’en decorations, said effluvia now supposedly a multi-billion dollar profit center each year. I’m not sure I understand the whole business of putting up lights and ghoulish figurines for what is really just a minor calendar moment. Just a couple of blocks from here we have a house with a front yard literally full of every piece of Hallowe’en junk that Menard’s or Lowe’s or Party City or Kohl’s ever had on sale. There is no theme, no pattern, no scary story being suggested, just a massive placement of plastic ghouls and witches and spiders and ghosts and skeletons.
So, not to be totally bereft of autumnal joy, we buy our couple of pumpkins and put them on our front steps. Often they’ll be there until Thanksgiving, a little worse for wear by then with maybe a chunk or two sampled by the squirrels.
This year they lasted barely a week.
As mentioned, pretty regularly we’ll see that a bit of gnawing has taken place, but nothing more. Within a couple of days, however, one pumpkin was totally gutted with even that woody green stem reduced to fibery bits. It was, perhaps, half gone when the squirrels started on the second pumpkin with, by then, our steps and sidewalks a messy mush of pumpkin parts and seeds. Truly, they ate half of each (roughly) ten-inch pumpkin.
You don’t always get a lot of feedback from your readers, but, since this had never happened before, I like to think this was payback for the nasty comment I made in a recent Cold Iron about the squirrels eating our sunflowers and how I hoped our neighborhood hawk would get them.
I wish our little sentinel could have put a stop to the carnage. It is, however, just a wicker chicken and the squirrels are cunningly savage.
G.K.Wuori © 2018
Photoillustration by the author

Selected Works

Novel
I think this book would appeal to anyone who likes a dark crime story set in a rural, somewhat remote part of Maine in a time when the radicalism of the nineteen-seventies was sweeping the country.
Ellen DeLay, an upstanding citizen of Quillifarkeag, Maine, suddenly and unpredictably leaves her happy, twenty-five year marriage for a lonely cabin deep in the Maine woods, where she makes a living dressing hunters' kill - bears, moose, deer. It seems an idyllic life, punctuated only now and then by rifle fire as she shoots into the air to scare off cheeky teens who come to taunt "the crazy woman."
Novella
A small-town lawyer in the middle of a gruesome murder case finds salvation in the world of a homeless woman and her daughter.
A young woman's morning walk through her small town finds her immersed in a small tragedy, an indifferent government, and the "science gone mad" of her best friend's husband. Quirky, goofy, nutty - yes, but a gentle look as well at some of the values that keep us from falling off the planet
Essay
A hint of generally true autobiography, this piece is part of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill's "How I Became A Writer" series.
Stories
Quillifarkeag is a state of mind, one marked by innocence and regret, by guile and sympathy. The people there will let you into their lives - but not very far. Go too far inside and things start to echo, people get close. Honesty becomes negotiable. Bare all and someone might still say, "Were you naked or nude?" It's an important distinction. In a small place like Quilli the naked truth is hurtful. The nude truth is not so bad.

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