Nathan and Willow, enjoying a chip snack together.

There’s an old Gary Cooper movie, High Noon, where this dude tries to retire from gunslinging but–like every other western and samurai movie ever made–discovers he has one last annoying guy to shoot. They wind up in a lunchtime faceoff on Main Street, firing away.*

Just discovered that Willow and the cats re-enact that faceoff scene in The Resident Carpenter’s office every morning. Willow, heavily pregnant but still hungry for cuddles and nuts (not necessarily in that order), enters through her own personal door, a hole in the window screen, right above her wall-mounted squirrel house.

If The Resident Carpenter is, well, resident, she’ll perch on his knee, cuddle on his shoulder, or take over his keyboard, chewing up nuts and cherries and whatever chips or peanut butter crackers she can steal.

Squirrels sun by flattening themselves like pancakes and going into a semi-coma. Willow is sunning on her squirrelhouse roof, halfway through her door into Nathan’s office. Tail inside, toasty-warm squirrel outside.

That innocent face belies the squirrel-hunter inside

Willow vanishes into one of her outside nests every sunset, safe from nocturnal predators, because squirrels are diurnal. Mice are not, and that Willow-sized hole in the screen must look like the Holland Tunnel to a mouse.

At least one has discovered her incredible inside inventory of nuts, dried fruit, seeds, and more, so Nathan’s office has become the hottest late night supper club on the mouse circuit.

Nathan, realizing that Resident Mice aren’t exactly on my bucket list, started quietly inviting Lola and Nikki into his office for mousehunting patrol every night. He leaves the door open so they can come and go freely.

(I refrained from pointing out that if the cats can come and go freely, so can the mice. By now, they probably have a satellite bistro set up in the kitchen.)

Who would have thought this cute little boxcat would be an expert predator?

Anyway, that explains why Lola and Nikki have deserted my bed for the past 10 or 12 nights; they’re mouse-hunting in the RC’s office. Even better (for the cats), mouse-hunting comes with a bonus: Around 7am or so, Willow heads into the office for breakfast…or did.

Every morning, Nathan finds both cats on the office’s window seat, staring intently at the hole in the screen. Willow sits just outside, on her squirrelhouse, equally intent and staring back.

Faceoff. 

It’s one of those sad turnabouts: The cats washed, loved, and protected Willow-the-squirrel-baby. Yet Willow-the-outdoor-mama is the feline equivalent of a blue plate special.

So Nathan intervenes, shooing out the cats and closing the door so Willow can come inside. She scolds Nathan soundly for neglecting to remove the feline vermin earlier, thus delaying her breakfast. Lola and Nikki, meanwhile, loudly protest the lockout from the wrong side of the door, accusing Nathan of keeping that delicious squirrel all to himself.

Some days he just can’t win.

One thing I’ll never get used to in the great Pacific Northwest: Portland dressing

Me, I’ve seen (and felt) Willow’s claws and those nice long fangs; if I were the cats and wanted to keep my nose intact, I’d give her a wide berth. So far am unable to convince the cats of this.

The faceoff probably contributed to Willow’s seeming decision to have her babies elsewhere. She’s shown no signs of wanting to deliver in the cozy nest in Nathan’s coat rack.

She has at least three nests outside; we were betting on the one in the redwood tree for becoming a maternity ward…until Nathan discovered the world’s largest opossum in residence on another branch, same tree.

It came creeping down the tree trunk while Nathan policed the veggie beds; he yelled and pulled out his blowgun (do not ASK me why that man has a blowgun; I thought it was a glass blowpipe until he shot the dogwood with it). He blew a blunt-tipped dart into possumbottom; the possum hissed and glared but was otherwise unmoved.

That made us a bit anxious–opossums eat squirrels when they can catch them, especially babies. Anxiety ratcheted up another couple of notches when Nathan discovered that a coyote has been sleeping in the backyard; he found coyote poop and a big depression in the bark where the coyote had dug in…right between Willow’s nest trees.

Wilderness has set up housekeeping in the backyard in a big way. Fox and coyote and owls and possums and raccoons and probably grizzly bears. Oh my. The deer are nibbling on the front, apparently because there’s enough food that they don’t need to jump the fence. The bunnies do that handily enough already; they’re eating Nathan’s strawberry plans and digging up his morel mushrooms.

Nathan has been incensed enough by this wanton chowing down that he’s invited the cats to hunt bunnies with abandon. Lola and Nikki looked at the bunny trail and yawned, more interested in having squirrel for lunch.

I think I liked it better when the only things back there were plants, squirrels, and the occasional bluejay.

There are many things I love about the Pacific Northwest: Lush greenery, frequent gentle rain, great food, wonderful people, all the glass (and other artforms) you can swallow, an incredible number of pokestops and gyms, etc.

Northwest wilderness, however, I’m still coming to grips with; the whole “nature, red in tooth and claw” thing is a bit unsettling. Where I come from, fun consists of doing stuff that won’t get you eaten.

Nathan has convinced me that fishing is fun, and that you can actually eat mushrooms you pick yourself (although I’m never EVER gonna try that on my own). He’s still working on “camping as a relaxing-and-enjoyable-not-horrifyingly-filthy-pasttime,” but he’s got my entire childhood to overcome.

It’s hard to forget standing naked in an icy stream at midnight, screaming because I’m covered with biting ants, while the rangers focus their jeep’s headlights on me, looking for bears or something. I may be scarred for life.

Still, my plan is to become a true PNW Adventurer. I likely never will dress in Portland’s signature schizoid style–for some reason they think sandals and ski jackets go together and black tie means “wear the jeans without the holes”–but I’m ok with that.

Mostly, my wilderness adventures these days involve pokie-hunting with Pokemon Go, but I’m finding myself less and less enthusiastic about THAT. Nathan decided I needed to understand the basis of the whole Pokemon game, so he hunted up Pokemon cartoons and had me watch them last night. (And no, hard as it apparently is to believe, I’d never had ANYthing to do with a pokie-anything before loading that damn game on my phone)

It was one of his rare mistakes. When I discovered I was actually recapturing the magical, Barney-the-dinosaur-like, terminally cute moments of millions of small children, I was, uhm…disconcerted. Kinda like when I took the grand, first, and second prize for my cinnamon rolls, then found out I was the only entry in the entire cooking competition. (which still begs the question: SECOND prize?)

I’m thinking of switching over to a more grownup game, like one of Nathan’s FPS (first-person-shooter) games where you pull someone’s spine out by the roots or something.

Or dealing with a probable downstairs rodentoid restaurant.

Oh, Lola!!! Nikki!!!! Here, kitty kitty!

Sigh.


  • I think. The only time I watched it I fell asleep about ten minutes before high noon so I never saw how it came out. I presume that Mr. Cooper lived.