THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
From My Window
Sounds of the Seasons
By Jane Thibodeau Martin,
I am inside, as usual on a July weekend, since I refuse to go outside and try to do anything when it is over 100 degrees. Right now it's "only" 99 but due to the Oklahoma humidity heat index, it "feels like" 110, and I believe that is a significantly understated description of the incinerator-like conditions. Even inside though, you can hear the racket of the "heat bugs," the relentless loud sound hundreds of cicadas make when the weather is like this. I love the sounds of nature, normally, but this just reminds me of how intolerably hot it is out there. (Yes, I know it was hot in Wisconsin recently. Believe me an afternoon here would make you long for home immediately.)
So I fondly think about my Marinette County childhood seasonal sounds as a diversion.
Spring was the time of the "peeper" frogs, the clear signal that winter has finally died and warm weather has arrived. The chorus from the wetlands could be heard nearly everywhere and was a much-anticipated and welcomed proof that the mittens could be washed and put away.
Summer brought the sounds of lawn mowers, the scent of the fresh-cut grass and at night, my avian favorite, the Whip-Poor-Will. These birds only call at night in warm weather, and they are so well-camouflaged by their mottled coloration at night that I only caught a glimpse of one a couple of times. There are none near my home, but I have heard a very similar call in remote Oklahoma campgrounds at night " I suspect a subspecies with a little different "accent" in their song. I absolutely loved lying in bed at night hearing these birds in the big Oak trees just outside my second floor bedroom window.
Fall brought the incessant whine of chainsaws as our neighbors prepared the heating fuel for the winter. It was easier to work in the woods once the mosquitoes and deer flies were gone, and the amount of physical labor needed meant the cooler temperatures would reduce the sweating during the work. I could tell which neighbors were making wood by listening for the direction and volume of the saw noise. It was the sound of preparation for winter, of neighbors helping one another, with a break in the work clearly audible when the Packer kickoff occurred.
When I was a teen, the first big snowmobile craze hit, and at night I'd hear and see the headlights of long chains of machines, sometimes 10-15 at a time, running down our rural road. This was also a happy sound for me " many of the neighbors were snowmobilers, and it was a great way for them to bond and be outdoors at a time when most of them would have been bunkered down inside before the invention of social snowmobiling. And the daytime counterpart " the utter silence of the woods after a big snowfall. Most animals took cover and waited it out, but the first proof the worst of a big storm was over was the cheerful sound of the little Chick-a-dees, with their optimistic cheeps that always made me smile. They are an anti-depressant tonic for the ear in the winter.
I hope the rural Wisconsin property I will be living on it two scant years has a healthy population of Whip-Poor-Wills, but I can be sure I will not have to bear months of heat bug serenades.
I have received a reader request to do a column on the many acts of kindness and support made by Badger Paper Mills to their employees and community in the early years of the mill. I have a family story, but would love to have additional stories to share from some Peshtigo old-timers. If you have one to share, please forward it to the Peshtigo Times via e-mail and they can forward it to me; or you can reach me by mail at 3310 E. 171 St., Bixby, OK 74008. Thank you for supporting this project " and please let me know if it is okay to use your name.