By John Henricksson

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Some careless canoe handling bumped us along the tussocky shoreline grass, and, in the process of pushing at the grass with the paddles to get the canoe back into deeper water, we were abruptly confronted by an irate loon, flame-eyed and very upset at our intrusion. We assumed it was the mother loon on the nest, but couldn't be sure because both sexes incubate the eggs and appear identical. It was probably Ms. Loon, because usually the female will cover the nest during daylight hours and the male takes over at night.

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.

I asked. 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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A Wild Neighborhood by John Henricksson
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