This Saturday I'll be selling and signing copies of my books Blinded By Darkness and A Wicked Good Play (I found a box of copies from the first printing in the back of a closet) at the Ranger Days celebration in Ranger, Georgia. I'll also be selling and signing copies of the anthology By the Chimney With Care, to raise money for Toys for Tots. I'll be there from 4:00 PM until at least 7:00, maybe later. Ranger is a tiny place, really, but some very fine folks live there. They recently rehabbed the old Ranger schoolhouse, and made it into a community center. They have done a fine job with it, and I'm proud to be part of the community.
Lara and I are making progress with the pump house for our well, but it started raining last night and it is still pouring, so I doubt I'll be working up there today.
While we were up there working yesterday, our dog (Buddy) surprised us. He is not a barker by habit, being half-Basenji. But at one point yesterday Lara and I heard what sounded like two large pieces of sheet metal being rubbed against each other. We looked at each other in puzzlement. We couldn't figure out if it was a dog barking or someone doing metalworking. Eventually I said, "That's a dog, and it sounds really upset!"
Now, we have coyotes in the area, as well as Ursus Americanus, or the black bear. I didn't know if it was Buddy or not, but I didn't want to think of Buddy getting eaten up by something, so I grabbed a gun from my vehicle and headed off to see what was going on. I followed the barking sound, and sure enough, it was Buddy. He was standing in the middle of a small pine thicket, trees about two inches in diameter at the most. He was looking up into the trees, occasionally jumping up to place his paws on one, obviously VERY interested in what was there.
I discovered the problem quickly enough. It was a groundhog, also known as a woodchuck. In this area of the U.S., it is also commonly called a whistlepig. Here is a picture of the little guy (or girl; I didn't get close enough to check.)
The whistlepig didn't seem all that upset by the attention it was getting. Very calm, all things considered. I stood watching him (I'm going to call it a him) for a while, and took a few pictures as you can see. He sat there ensconced in the pine branches, maybe twelve feet up in the air. He looked around, blinked occasionally, but otherwise made no sound or any indication of being perturbed. The little guy appeared to be in very good health, with lots of fat stored up for the winter. Must have weighed eight or ten pounds. Here's a close-up view:
I finally talked Buddy into leaving the whistlepig to mind its own business by making the point that his kibble at home did not bite back or have large claws. I believe he understood that, because (with a lot of longing looks over his shoulder) he reluctantly agreed to come along with me.
If you are in the Ranger area this coming weekend, I'd love to see you and sell you a book to support the Toys for Tots. I'll even sign the story I have in there for you!