A Wild Neighborhood by John Henricksson

By John Henricksson

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Loons do not "fly" underwater; that is, they don't use their wings for propulsion like some sea birds. The shearwater, the eiders, and the puffins are among the best of these underwater fliers. When the loon swims underwater, its wings are folded tightly against its body. Its propulsion comes from heavily muscled legs and its paddle-shaped feet. 22 FIRST C I T I Z E N OF MINNESOTA It seems like heresy to say anything but shining words about the loon, icon of wilderness waters and First Citizen of Minnesota.

Its black-and-white checkered cloak is distinctive. According to an Inuit legend, it was a gift from Raven, the Creator, who tattooed the design on the loon's back with his wingtip dipped in charcoal dust. But many birds are as handsomely turned out as the loon—the king eider, the ring-necked pheasant, the snowy owl, and the wood duck, to name just a few. No, it has nothing to do with the loon's appearance. It's The Voice. FIRST C I T I Z E N OF MINNESOTA 23 It sounds like a soul in torment, calling from the other side; a cry from distant, unseen places.

A wordless shrug of the shoulders was the only answer I got. The mystery is still unsolved. 3 Hunter of the High Places This page intentionally left blank O UR FEW ACRES OF the old forest rise gradually from the bouldered shore to a dirt road in back and are dominated by a couple dozen old giants, virgin white pines whose sunreaching strength has pumped them high above the surrounding trees and spread their irregular branches into a shimmering dark green crown. These big pines are the signature trees of the Gunflint region and are sentinel posts for bald eagles, gossip fences for the lugubrious ravens, and prime hunting grounds for the luxuriantly furred lightning bolt of the forest, the pine marten (Manes americana), the only predator that hunts these high places.

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