Rep. Michele Bachmann announced that she won’t seek re-election. She will be missed at fairs, carnivals and tractor pulls.
In Mrs. Hall’s third grade class, only the best and brightest students got to sit in the back row. Each year, Mrs. Hall would pick the top boy and the top girl to sit in what she called the “honor row”; being picked to sit in the back meant extra privileges. When the rest of the class was assigned busy work, the honor students watered plants, cleaned the back chalkboard, and any other little odd-job Mrs. Hall might have. On the first day of class, anticipation would fill the room until Mrs. Hall announced her final decision. As expected, Mrs. Hall picked Corky and Peggy.
Corky was always good in school and everyone loved him; he was also a good athlete. Corky just had one of those swaggers; everybody knew he was special. Peggy was short, with black curly hair. More often than not, Peggy would wear little dresses: yellow, pink, red, blue, always bright colors.
Corky liked that Peggy wore dresses. On rainy days, when Peggy’s hair seemed more curly than usual, Corky thought she looked like the little Indian dolls his parents had brought back from the west. Corky would spend hours watching Peggy from the corner of his eyes. When his friends started to notice the attention Corky gave to Peggy, they would remind him that she was a girl, and in the third grade girls were the enemy.
Corky didn’t always think of girls as the enemy. Secretly, Corky adored Peggy; in front of his friends, he would hardly speak to her. Chris and Ed were always riding Corky about Peggy and for being a teacher’s pet. Chris had extremely wild hair that was always out-of-place and he would crack Corky up with his antics from the front row. Ed would just look back and forth between the two and laugh, until Mrs. Hall would notice. The whole class would get busy work; Corky and Peggy would water and arrange the plants.
Mrs. Hall had many rules about her plants; she had collected most of them on trips around the world. Colored stars, to indicate where the plants had come from, were placed on the maps that covered the back wall. Most of the older plants were in fancy pots that Mrs. Hall had gotten from her mother and Corky and Peggy were well versed in the proper care.
Occasionally, Corky would finish his homework while Peggy watered the plants and cleaned the chalkboard. Peggy would clean a little, flirt with Corky a little and clean some more. The classroom seemed unnaturally long on those days, with most of the students way up-front, with rules and Mrs. Hall. Corky would laugh at Chris and Ed from the back, while they were busy on some problem set.
It was on one of those long-room days that Corky and Peggy’s relationship changed. Corky was working at his desk when he heard some noise behind him. There was a small crash, followed by the sound of water hitting the ground. As Corky turned to see what had happened, he noticed Peggy standing on a chair. She had dropped the eraser, and tears ran down her face. Peggy looked down at Corky with her doll-like eyes and said, “Don’t tell.” It was only then that Corky noticed a liquid pouring down Peggy’s leg.
Time seemed to slow to a stop as Corky looked back and forth from Peggy to the front of the class, where Chris and Ed sat. There was only one thing to do. With a flash, Corky was standing on his chair and as the class slowly turned to see what the noise was all about, Corky yelled, “Peggy’s peeing.”
The return of bluebirds to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem occurs like clockwork. I usually see my first bluebird of the year between the second and third week of March. This year, it was on March 20Th. During spring, they are still dispersing and when you see one, you see several. The way their bright blue color flashes across a snow-covered hillside is a sure sign that winter is coming to an end in this rocky mountain habitat. When I worked as a snowcoach driver in Yellowstone, I would see my first bluebirds in a meadow just west of Canyon Village a week or so before the winter season was over. In those days, that was a sign that my friends and I were about to head to the desert southwest to escape the snow.
Here at the Cirql H, we see Mountain Bluebirds. At your house, you may have a chance to see Eastern Bluebirds or Western Bluebirds, depending on where you live. In those areas, they are still recovering from the land clearing and habitat loss that happened in the 1700s and 1800s. As civilization expanded and land was cleared for crops, much of the good nesting habitat was lost. Bluebirds are secondary cavity nesters; they use abandoned woodpecker holes in trees and similar spaces to nest. As forests and dead or down trees disappeared from the landscape, so did the bluebird.
To help with the recovery, bluebird boxes started to appear all across the country. You most likely have seen them spaced along fence rows in rural areas. There are very specific parameters for bluebird boxes. They should have an entrance hole one and a half inches around and the boxes should be no higher than five feet off the ground. They will inhabit spaces that are higher if that is all that is available. In the 1800s, farmers built elaborate multilevel bluebird houses to attract bluebirds; that practice was more of a way to fight off mosquitos and other insects.
So, this is where you ask,”How do wolves help bluebirds?”
In the early 1990s, I was working as a guide in Yellowstone; I drove park busses in the summer and as I mentioned, snowcoaches in the winter. That was during the time that the big push to reintroduce wolves was in full swing. As guides, we would speculate on how wolves would alter the landscape. With more wolves there would be less coyotes. Less coyotes meant more red fox. Wolves also meant less elk and the elk that were still around would behave more like elk; they would tighten-up their herds and those herds would be on the move more than they were when the top predator was missing. The increased movement helped the riparian edges in Yellowstone recover from overgrazing; elk would no longer be able to spend days eating all the new growth along the park’s rivers and streams.
That is where I see the connection between wolves and bluebirds. As willow bushes, cottonwood trees and aspen trees rebounded, so did beaver. The habitat really changed. As beaver began to repopulate the area, they built dams that flooded meadows and created ponds. Many of those new beaver ponds flooded forests and killed trees. Those dead and decaying trees created habitat for our beloved bluebird.
So as I welcome bluebirds and spring back into my world, I find I have a better appreciation for the connections found in nature. When I hear a so-called outdoorsman complain about wolves, I ask myself, “What the hell do they have against bluebirds?”