9

Why Wolverines Left Michigan

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Background: When Michigan became a state in 1837, there were thousands of wolverines roaming the state. So when the day came to choose a state animal, the winner was the wolverine. When the University of Michigan began playing intercollegiate football in 1879, they were the Michigan Wolverines. By the middle of the 20th century, wolverines were scarce. By 1997 there were no wolverines in Michigan, and the white-tailed deer became the state animal.

Here is the real reason there are no wolverines in Michigan. (All narration is done by wolverines.)

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1879 (Ann Arbor)

Jimmy: Dad! Did you hear the great news? Some humans are going to play a game called football. And they named the team after us wolverines because we’re so tough.

Dad: That’s nice, Jimmy. Now help me catch something for dinner.

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1890 (Lower Michigan)

Walter: This meal is delicious. I never knew you were such a good hunter.

Emily: Thank you sweetie. I heard something terrible from Betty. Do you remember her nephew Benny?

Walter: Not really. She has about twenty nephews.

Emily: Anyway, some humans got him.

Walter: That’s awful. Did they turn him into stew?

Emily: No; that’s the strange part. They put him in a cage and said they were taking him to school as a mascot.

Walter: What’s a mascot?

Emily: Betty wasn’t really sure, but they said he’d be great on the sidelines.

Walter: How very odd.

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1900 (Lower Michigan)

Joe: You’ll never believe who we saw today!

Peggy: Who?

Joe: George! That guy that the humans trapped last year to take to school.

Peggy: Really? How’d he get out?

Joe: A few of the humans took him out of his cage. They wanted to paint him maize and blue. He didn’t know what it meant but he saw his chance, bit a guy, and raced out. Well, we don’t really race, but you know what I mean.

Peggy: So did he tell you what a mascot is?

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Joe: Apparently when these humans play a game, they like to have a tough animal to represent how tough they are. And if they actually have one of those animals, they show it off to intimidate the other team.

Peggy: Goodness! How awful for the animal.

Joe: George said it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. They fed him as much as he wanted and walked him and gave him a good place to live. But the games were really noisy. And they wouldn’t let him eat any of the injured players, even if they were on the other team.

Peggy: Humans are strange. You would think they would want to eliminate as many enemies as possible.

Joe: George said that they will look for a replacement. We all need to move.

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1910 (mid-Lower Peninsula)

Paul: It looks like it might be time to move north again.

Jan: But it’s so nice here. We have the lake, the sun spots, the children have lots of friends. And there’s plenty to eat.

Paul: It seems that some of those “football players” live around here. They took Jenny with them when they went to school.

Jan: Oh, no! They took a girl?

Paul: Yep. But humans are clueless. They probably can’t tell the difference.

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1920 (below the Straits of Mackinac)

Bill: We’re going to have to do something. Those humans can still find us up here.

Jack: And they want more than one of us now. “In case one dies or runs off.”

Pete: I heard that some of the other students want us as pets. It’s ridiculous. Don’t they know we’re vicious?

Bill: I heard that some of the girl humans think we’re cute.

Pete: Grrr

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1930 (far west of the Upper Peninsula)

Don: Hon, I don’t want to scare you, but the students found us again. They have some kind of contest to see who can capture the biggest, meanest wolverine as mascot. The rest are going to be pets down there.

Ann: I am frightened. You’re a big, mean guy. What if they take you?

Don: It’s OK. The guys and I have a plan. Tonight we’re all going to move over the border to Wisconsin.

Ann: Don’t they have mascots in Wisconsin?

Don: Yes, but they’re badgers. And the fewer of them the better.

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Bucky Badger is the mascot for the University of Wisconsin

Note: Cat is a Michigan alum and would never have a wolverine as a pet. Go Blue!

(All pictures are courtesy of Google Images)

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11

Mama Cat and the Badger

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It was Christmas Eve, and Mama Cat was totally exhausted. Her reputation as an herbalist and healer was spreading and she building a good practice. But all that work had put her behind in her Christmas preparations. She had just finished the baking and wrapping. But the house was a total mess.

She was startled by a loud knocking at the door. She hoped it wasn’t that lousy Tom. She should have known he had two other kitten mamas. Mama Cat opened the door.

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It was a very large badger. Mama Cat almost fainted with fear. He asked if he could come in. She nodded and pointed to a seat.

“Are you here to eat me?” She was terrified.

The badger looked hurt. “Of course not. I am asking for your help.”

Mama Cat looked confused. “What could I possibly do for you?”

The badger looked at her hopefully. “My name is Reginald Badger, and I live in the forest. My son was playing with some friends and it got a little rough. He was clawed rather badly. My wife says that you can heal animals and was hoping that you would help our son.”

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Mama Cat looked around the house. “But it’s Christmas Eve, and I have five kittens in the other room who are waiting for Santa Claws.” Reginald looked crestfallen and nodded. “I told Margery that you probably couldn’t make it. I apologize for intruding.” He got up to leave.

Mama Cat looked at his sad face and then around the room. How long could it possibly take? And how could she let that little badger die? “I think there is time to help your son before the kittens wake up. Let me get my things.”

As she gathered her things, she hoped that she wasn’t volunteering to be Christmas dinner for a family of badgers. Reginald took her bag and offered a ride on his back. Mama Cat was feeling worse and worse about her decision.

As Reginald ran through the trees for what felt like an extremely long time, Mama Cat began to worry about getting home in time to finish getting things ready for the kittens. “I wonder if Santa Claws will leave presents at a house that doesn’t offer him a bowl of cream?”

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Finally Reginald stopped. Mama Cat climbed down as he opened the door. She swallowed nervously and followed him in.

Suddenly Mama Cat was being hugged. “Oh thank you Ms. Cat for coming all the way out here on Christmas Eve! I’m Margery Badger, and we are so grateful that you are here. I know that you can help Eugene. Let me show you the way.” Mama Cat was a little overwhelmed. “Please call me Belle. I hope I can help.” She followed Margery into another room.

There was a much smaller badger laying on the bed. He was asleep but was moaning in pain. Belle looked at the wound. “It is rather nasty isn’t it? Let me see what I can do. Would you please bring some warm water so I can clean it out?”

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Margery quickly returned with the water. “Now would you please boil some water and let these herbs soak in the water for 10 minutes?” Belle carefully cleaned the wound and got a better look at it. It was deep, but didn’t seem to have caused much damage.

She took some spider webbing and put it in the wound to stop the bleeding. When Margery returned, Belle poured the hot liquid into a cloth and applied it to the wound. “You will need to re-apply the poultice every six hours for two days. Belle handed Margery a second herb. “Make a spoonful of this into tea several times a day. It smells and tastes horrible, but it will help with the healing.”

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Both of the badgers hugged Belle and asked how they could repay her. Overcome with fatigue again, she said that a ride home would be nice.

When she opened the door to her house, Belle was amazed. It was spotless. There were gifts from Santa Claws for the kittens and a note on the table.

“Dear Belle – Since you were away helping the badgers, I decided that the best gift for you would be to have an elf clean your house. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! All the best – Santa Claws.”

Belle thought she must be dreaming and curled up with the kittens.

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2

Surely the Underworld is Carpeted with Weeds

And they are ruled by King Thistle, ably assisted by Lords Kudzu and Creeping Charlie.

                     

I am an intermittent gardener, at best. I can’t blame nurture. My mother grew fruits (raspberries, strawberries, etc.) and vegetables. Both my maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother had amazing flower gardens, specializing in roses. Grandpa also had a large selection of dahlias (some of them his own breeds).

My husband has a vegetable garden in the backyard. I wanted flowers in the front. After several years of intense neglect, I decided to take another shot at making it look like more than a weed patch. My son suggested that I salt the earth and put in a rock garden.

I began with a small patch in front of the house. I had to dig out all the weeds by hand (actually shovel). So far, so good. Turn over the dirt; rake out the weeds (and many years of rotting leaves). Hmm, what is that hard thing I keep trying to shovel? We have rocky soil, but this is ridiculous.

Finally, I scraped away all of the detritus. Oooh, it’s the sidewalk! And there are things actually growing on it. How embarrassing. Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound (guess that saying survived from Colonial times – otherwise, it makes no sense whatsoever). I trenched along the edge, swept away the dirt. Voila! It was all still there.

So I shoveled along. Guess what? Myrtle grows on the sidewalk even better than weeds! I always thought nothing grew better than weeds. I moved on to a section full of lily-of-the-valley. I love them and wanted to move some of them to my newly discovered soil.

The only problem was that they were “protected” by some really healthy thistles. I’m told that thistles grow in abundance on the moors. I’m going to look into a repatriation program for the ones in my yard.

There is only one good way to get rid of thistles. Dig them up by the root. The whole root. Don’t worry, says a friend. All you have to do is cut off the top of the stalk and spray Round Up on the opening of the stalk, and it will travel directly to the roots. (For those of you unfamiliar with Round Up, it is an extremely toxic herbicide that is dangerous to both humans and animals.)

I don’t believe in herbicides, but the thistles were three feet high. I bought the least toxic type. It didn’t kill the thistle. My husband pulled them out for me (root and all). I threw away the Round Up.

I bought some blue spruce sedum to plant along the path to the garage. It’s been really dry and the ground has never been used for anything except scrub grass. (You didn’t expect Kentucky Blue, did you?) My husband used the tiller, and they went in with no real problems. They like dry soil, so all is well.

The house is on a small hill. It’s almost impossible to mow, so I decided to put in moss (easy to grow, spreads well). My husband offered to till it for me. For logistical reasons, I decided to start at the top, just past the sedum. He had just started to till when he heard a crunch. He’d cut a copper pipe to something. It would have to be fixed before he could root up any more weeds.

My moss was in its nursery containers looking a little unhappy, and my husband and son were leaving on their annual fishing trip. So back to the shovel. In dirt that had seen no cultivation in the fifty years since they moved the house from its original site on a farm. Oh goody.

It was like digging through cement. Once I managed to get the first shovelful out, it became a little easier. (As I’m typing this, I just realized that I should have rented a badger. I read that they can burrow through anything, even cement. I wonder where you rent badgers?)

I finally had enough space for my 12 moss plants. I dug the holes. Hmmm. I bet the soil in Ireland doesn’t look like clay that’s ready to be fired. The lady at the nursery said to mix sphagnum peat moss with the soil to loosen it for the plants. I had a bag. I needed a bog.

So I planted them directly into the sphagnum. I used her extra-special root food and hoped for the best. It’s been a couple of weeks and they haven’t died. Maybe I should play them some Celtic folk music.

I wonder how much the salt and rocks would have cost?

(pictures courtesy of Google Images; creeping charlie via University of Georgia, badger via Liverpool, UK)