Hello. My name is Tom Seymour. I wrote a number of columns for The Republican Journal [TRJ] from 1986 through 1998. Then, when TRJ went under new management I, along with a number of other old-time writers, was not re-hired. Well, I’m delighted to say that after four long years, “I’m back.”

This, my new column, will cover various aspects of rural life in Maine, the happy and sad, humorous and thoughtful. I’ll try and paint a picture, with words, depicting how rural Mainers live. I look forward to developing a whole host of new friends and acquaintances through my new column and also, getting reacquainted with old friends and longtime readers.

Springtime Symphony

Ah, the peace and tranquility of life in the country. Quiet nights, blissful mornings with sweet birdsong and dreamy, tranquil days. That’s how someone who has never lived or spent time off the beaten path might view country living. I have to say it’s not quite a true picture — far from it.

Spring may stand as the noisiest time of the year out in the country. Birds are a real nuisance right now. I’m not talking warblers and robins here. Oh, no. It’s owls and geese that deserve credit for shattering that elusive concept of peace and tranquility.

Owls, specifically barred owls, exist in far greater numbers than we might imagine. For instance, I know of three different barred owls living around my place. I know this because they wake me up at night. The owl barrage usually begins in the pre-dawn hours, just when the deepest form of sleep descends upon humans.

It starts with one owl, this one very close, perhaps 50 yards away, letting go with a string of hoots. These owls have loud voices that carry far, so the first blast of, hoo hoo hoohoo is usually sufficient to jump me out of a sound sleep as neatly as if someone had poured a glass of cold water in my face.

Once this rascal begins, it doesn’t stop any time soon. This might have something to do with the response it most always gets after the first few hooting phrases. The owl that answers usually sits much further away, but close enough for me to hear without too much difficulty. And of course, by now, I’m wide awake.

So now we have two owls noisily talking with each other when the rest of the world craves nothing but silence. It gets worse. A third owl, this one far, far away but nonetheless close enough that if I cup my hands over my left ear I can just barely hear it, often chimes in. And, being thus rudely awakened by the two nearer owls, I naturally resist all thoughts of returning to sleep and try my best to see how long I can hear the third owl. In fact I’m sure that once, I heard a fourth owl.

Honkers

Canada geese were once scarce here in Maine. Then in the 1970’s the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, in an attempt to establish a breeding population, acquired some nuisance geese from New Jersey and released them here. Well, the fish and wildlife folks succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Geese are well established and their population continues to grow.

How can geese offend anyone, you might ask? Well, ask any golfer who has ever played on a goose-infested golf course. How about people with farm ponds? Once geese take up residence in a small pond they begin raising families and return to do the same year after year. Geese quickly foul the water and also, make for dicey walking anywhere near the pond. A goose-filled pond is a nasty pond.

But their greatest offense, at least in my estimation, lies in their echo-chamber honking at all hours of the night. And it doesn’t take a gaggle of geese (okay, I’m not quite sure how many geese it takes to make a gaggle) to make lots of noise. Two individuals, flying together, suffice to drive sleep away from the most tired and sleep-deprived individual.

Even after the springtime migration has ceased, local geese have their twice-daily routes between ponds or waterways. This goosey commuting occurs at night, as in late night and again early in the morning, some time prior to dawn.

I sleep in an upstairs loft in a little frame cabin I built many years ago. It suits me fine. But I’m thinking I need to add on a new bedroom. These crazy geese pass over my place within spitting distance of my loft and it sounds as if they are in the house with me.

The list of wild noisemakers goes on and on and it includes wild turkeys, bullfrogs (an echoing, “Jug-O-Rum”), howling coyotes and even the stray black bear. Bears huff and snort and also break sticks and bounce into things as they run.

Sorry to dispel the idea of the idyllic country life. That notion has only a grain of truth to it. But for all of that, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.