Notes from the Island
August 1997

Recent fishing reports are always posted on the daily greeting, and observations by resident fishing expert George Malusky can be found. Anyone with a locker or canoe rack who has access to the web should check it to verify the information is correct, and if not, notify the Caretaker. On the Island it is invaluable to keep up with the river stats and forecasts, and without cable TV the web offers the closest thing to a real time radar picture for approaching thunderstorms. Actually, Montgomery Cable called again last week with an offer to install cable service. For the 1200 feet of cable they would have only charged $5,400.00. Imagine!!!@#*!

Having been invited to go fishing at Snake Island, it is now understandable why the water level can not go much lower. Geese were standing on top of the "dam," and the water flowing over it came barely up to their ankles. How high is a goose's ankle?? I estimate a quarter inch. The water level has officially been down to 2.74 feet at the Little Falls gauge. It is so dry that there is very little mosquito problem in the evenings. The grass is suffering, having been chosen for the continuously damp soils of last winter.

Last week as I bounded out the door I glanced into the screen porch and saw that Madelyn, our smallish black cat, had sort of cornered a small racoon kit only a little larger than she. The extremely cute racoon seemed calmly concerned but not actually frightened, although Madelyn had to be called back from her stalk and pounce mode. I grabbed Madelyn and sat down to watch from near the open door while the racoon methodically investigated the screen porch, neither panicked nor in too big of a hurry. When I did move from the door the racoon ambled out, and Madelyn and I followed him around the island from a distance for the next 30 minutes while he checked things out. Sure seemed to be looking for places instead of food. It brought to mind the huge animal nest that Tryon and I discovered in the bottom of one of the lockers during our inspection, but surely this nest pre-dated Fred.

And then. there I was... sitting at the computer a few nights later... certain I was alone... when I heard someone outside.! I actually walked out the door and up the stairs to the Club Room. The outside lights were on because George Malusky and his fishing colleagues had just left. But no one was about and I returned to the computer. Then I heard it again... too loud to be an innocent night noise. This time I turned right and went into the porch... turning on the light so that I could see. Nothing! As I walked out of the screen porch I saw Barney, our white cat, looking in. Following his gaze under the table, I saw the top to the garbage can... on the floor. I thought then that Madelyn, our black cat, must be in the garbage. I took three steps to the garbage can and looked down. There, half submerged in the can was... wait... not Madelyn... but the small racoon kit seen on the porch two days ago!!! The racoon looked up and saw me looming overhead... and calmly stuck his head back in to the garbage. Unafraid... and in such an innocent way. I was ignored.!!!

I pulled up a chair and sat next to the garbage can. Occasionally the kit would raise his head and gaze at me while chewing. Barney came in and they glanced at each other. I realized then that they already knew each other... already we were all family but I was just finding out. I must have sat there for 15 minutes... speaking frequently to accustom him to my voice. I would almost describe him as tame, but that would give humankind too much credit. Merely preoccupied is more like it.

So I went back inside and made him a hot dog. By this I mean I went in and nuked a hot dog in the microwave so it would not be cold out of the refrigerator. I know it was bad and sending the wrong message but I was curious to see if he would eat out of my hand. I stood over him and extended the dog... Hebrew National... real stuff. He sniffed it briefly... then stuck his head back into the garbage. We must have classy garbage. I sat down again, this time close enough to reach out and pet him. But I dared not, knowing that my ego would not survive making such an intimate gesture and being again ignored.

For the last several days I have seen many of the large, tubular blossoms of the trumpet vine floating down river. They are lovely, and their being native to the area, I am sad that we have none on the Island and have resolved to remedy this lack. In fact, having an affinity for vines as a gardener, I noticed while mowing a large wisteria vine growing across the grass beyond the volley ball area. I will definitely transplant it to a safe place. Unfortunately, it is too late this year to move the many sweet autumn clematis plants growing wild between the volley ball area and the swimming area. There are many of the large, fragrant plants hidden in the brush and fighting for there lives that would be splendid specimen plants if transplanted to the proper location.

Ann Kip has hung a curtain in the doorway between the women's locker room and the women's bathroom. This is a result of the casual way in which children or uninformed male guests use that bathroom, and now women can change in their locker room with some greater feeling of privacy, without worrying about strange men of any age walking by the door and being able to glance in.

-- Doc Taliaferro, Sycamore Island Caretaker