Spenard: It's a state of mind


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July 14, 2005

Sometimes life at the Ranch is a little like Wild Kingdom. 

Last night, around midnight, birds in the front yard started making a huge racket. Usually midnight is a pretty quiet time for the birds. The only animals making any noise around that time are the asshole neighbors in the six-plex across the street who think midnight on a weekday is the perfect time to party in the parking lot. 

But not last night. Last night it was the screeching of birds that brought me out into the front yard. There were two robins in the mountain ash tree and  one of the Ranch cats, Sara, sitting on the ground nearby. Sara is always in the yard so we couldn't figure out why the robins were freaking out. One of the robins seemed to leave shortly after we walked outside, but the other flitted around the yard, chirping like mad. Sometimes, it seemed as though it was trying to lead us away from the front yard - luring us away from the scene and then quickly returning.

All became clear when Sara flushed a baby robin from one of the flower beds.  Still too young to fly, it waddled across the lawn. Angela & I sprung into action - she scooped up the baby bird while I grabbed the cat. There was no place I could put the cat to keep it away from the bird in the long term. Sara lives with Steve in the cabin next to our house (Steve is currently out of town). If I put her in the cabin, she can easily get back outside. If I locked her in our house, then my cat (Marley) would have a fit. Her & Sara just don't get along.

So I did the only thing I could think of - I grabbed the supersoaker water gun that we use for breaking up cat fights and ran back out to the front yard. Angela put the baby bird back down on the ground while I held the cat off with the supersoaker. There was no way this was going to be a successful long term strategy - especially at this time of night. 

Angela set the baby bird in a spruce tree, out of reach of the cats. 

But it wasn't long before it fell to the ground inside the branch cover of the tree. I immediately could hear the rustle of Sara running through the brush. This bird was lost to the food chain. There was just not much we could do. We had no idea where the robin's nest was and there didn't seem to be a safe place to leave the baby where the cats couldn't reach it. I couldn't bring it inside our house. While Marley may generally be a pacifist (she's been caught letting mice eat out of her food dish), bringing a baby bird into the house just seemed like too much temptation.

Eat or be eaten - sad but true.

This morning, Angela found another baby robin on the ground in front of the cabin. There's no way it could be the same baby bird. Now, there were four cats in the yard - Sara, her brother (Ado) and two opportunistic neighborhood cats. Momma Robin was still there and still freaking out. 

Angela picked up the baby bird and placed it in an empty birdfeeder suspended from a tree in the back yard. While now out of reach of the cats, it still wasn't really safe. The cats circled underneath the feeder like ground-bound vultures.

I went out to the compost pile and dug up an earthworm. I brought it back to the baby bird who immediately opened its mouth and waited to be fed. I held the worm above the baby's head and slowly lowered. Okay, the worm didn't seem to thrilled with the idea, but like I said - Eat or be Eaten. 

The baby bird grabbed the worm and bit it in half with its beak. Then I remembered something about how the momma bird would basically shove the worm down the baby's gullet. Just as I was contemplating how to properly force-feed a baby robin and whether or not it was my place to even try, Momma Robin showed up bringing a worm of her own. 

I left the scene, figuring Momma Robin knew better than me how to feed her young'n. Besides, I had to be to work in about 10 minutes.


I want my mommy!


I wasn't at work for more than an hour when Angela showed up at my office with the baby robin in her courier bag.

Turns out the baby had fallen out of the bird feeder and was being harassed by chickadees. The cats, no doubt, would've shown up in minutes. Angela called the Bird Treatment and Learning Center for advice on what to do. They told her to bring the bird into their office - this is just the sort of thing they do: rehabilitate sick, injured or orphaned wild birds. While technically neither sick, injured or orphaned - the baby robin was in a jam and Bird TLC was its only chance for survival. 

So, Angela tucked the baby bird in her bag and rode her bike down to Bird TLC. It  looks like at least one of Momma Robin's babies is going to make it. 

Our best guess is that recent winds must've knocked the babies out of the nest - or perhaps even dislodged the entire nest. Who knows how many babies were in the nest?  There was another bird that Sara killed yesterday that was probably one of the robin babies. We can't really be sure because the only evidence was a bunch of  feathers scattered all over the inside of Steve's cabin. 




July 4, 2005

Happy Birthday, America!


Fourth of July. It rocks having Monday  off. Angela & I got up early and drove down to Seward - about 2 hours south of Anchorage. (Or about 2 and a half hours the way I drive. Sorry, but I just think it's crazy to go over 60 mph on that road.)


Angela found this American flag discarded on the ground the day before and brought it home so we could fly it on the way to Seward.

The first thing we did when we hit town was go to the SeaLife Center. Angela had never been there before but I'd been about 4 or 5 times before. I love to watch the Stellar sea lion. Absolutely hypnotic.



But this time there was something even cooler than the ginormous sea lion (drum roll, please):

baby octopi!

Yep, that's about life-size. While my camera has great zoom capability, it doesn't focus too well on tiny things a foot away.


After the SeaLife Center visit, we enjoyed an old-school, small-town American summer celebration complete a parade down the main street, church bake sale, hot dogs, military personnel rockin' out and a world-famous foot race - the Mount Marathon.


Check out Elvis on the left.


For the last 90 years or so - before Alaska was even a state - Seward has hosted the Mount Marathon every Independence Day. The race starts in beautiful downtown Seward and goes to the tippy-top of a nearby mountain and back. Of course, In the grand Alaskan tradition, the race traces its roots back to a bar bet. Miraculously, there are people who complete the race in less than an hour. Or should I say: Miraculously, there are people who complete the race.


Just walking from downtown to the base of the mountain made me tired. But then I am weak and soft.  The people who run this race are neither weak nor soft.



Check out this this 76-year-old man about 1/4-mile from the finish line.

I'm hoping I can wipe my own ass when I'm 76 years old, much less run up an down a mountain.



We ran into Emil Churchin - our dog musher friend. Notice the stack of brochures tucked under his arm. He's hawking summer dogsled rides to the tourists. Watch for him in next year's Iditarod.


I also saw Matt Hopper at the base of the mountain where he was being chatted up  by teenaged girls. I would've loved to stay to see  him play the Yukon Bar since I haven't seen him play in well over a year, but Angela & I had planned to be back in Anchorage by the time he hit the stage. But I'm sure a good time was had by all who packed the joint Monday night.


The drive home was uneventful until we got about 45 miles from home. We rounded a bend and found traffic at a standstill, winding down the road as far as the eye could see. 



It wasn't long before it stacked up just as far behind us.


We had planned to be home by 7:30pm, but instead made it home by 9:00pm - just in time to find out the local news wasn't going to tell us anything about the traffic pile-up. But on Tuesday, the Anchorage Daily News said there was a car accident between Anchorage & Girdwood - which was miles away from where we  stopped. But when you're coming from a place where there is essentially only one road out of town, you have to be prepared to be cut off from the rest of the world from time to time.

The Seward Highway is one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the country. I've driven a lot of highways so I know of what I speak. I usually prefer to be a passenger on this particular stretch of road so that I can stare out the window and watch for beluga whales, Dall sheep, bald eagles, moose, windsurfers, bore tides, heinous car accidents and sunsets that defy description. But it's not every day you get to sit in the driver's seat and read the paper while parked in a 65 mph zone of the Seward Highway. That was a pretty sweet silver lining.




July 2, 2005


It's not just another neighborhood. In many ways, it's the last frontier town on the Last Frontier. If you live in Anchorage, Alaska, you already know about Spenard. If you come to Alaska on vacation, you will probably only see Spenard from the shuttle on your way from Ted Stevens International Airport to your downtown hotel. That's a shame because you will miss the truly wild side of Alaska.

Spenard is where women of the evening (and morning and afternoon) still walk the streets. Spenard is where your next door neighbor may be an actor, a biker, a teacher, a waitress or a meth manufacturer. It's never boring on our street. There's always something happening. If there's nothing good on TV, just go stand in the front yard and watch Spenard. You won't be disappointed.

On Saturday afternoon, someone in the trailer court was getting their Rent-a-Center furniture repossessed. Why you would go through the bother of renting furniture for a shit-hole trailer is beyond me. Especially when there's perfectly good furniture for free next to the dumpster on the corner.

There's a six-plex on that corner and someone moves out every month. Just wait a couple weeks and a new selection will appear as the landlord readies a unit for new tenants. Free furniture for the taking. Well, Saturday afternoon, the Rent-a-Center truck pulls up and the trailer park dude didn't wanna give up his shit. One thing leads to another and trailer park dude ends up pulling a gun and five cop cars show up. The life of a repo man is always intense.

Four cops were strutting up and down the block with assault rifles. Being a nice summer day, the neighbors came out to watch.


In the end, nothing really happened. The cops put their rifles back in their trunks and drove away. The only person we saw get busted was a fellow rubbernecker who decided to jump a fence to get a better look - even after the cops told him to back off.


My guess - by looking at his pants - is that he was unable to run away. I had watched this kid walk to the point where he jumped the fence. In those 25 yards, he had to hike his pants up three times.

Hey, boy! Yo daddy wants his pants back!



All in all, it was still better than anything on TV.




Comments? Questions? Spare change? 

Send it to Jackie at RanchoSpenardo.com


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