Over the years our home at Brant Lake has become a co-op, except no one has appeared before the co-op board requesting approval. They just moved in. I am not referring to the 19 people who might visit on the weekend. The squatters at our property consist of animals and birds.

Some birds are welcome and dine at our birdfeeder. But this year we have been overcome by an influx of ducks. Uninvited. In fact, as I sit outside on my terrace, a mallard with dazzling shades of blue and green prepares to walk over my feet in search of seeds. We seem to have domesticated these ducks, a not too difficult procedure as I will explain in my forthcoming book: How To Tame A Duck.

I am also concerned about the reputation of our house. We have one family of ducks, a mother leading her newly born children to the birdfeeder and this is a pleasure, but I also count a somewhat motley collection consisting of three female ducks and only one male duck. It is a different male duck on each visit! I am afraid that the female ducks could be running an illicit operation–––if you know what I mean!

In addition to the ducks we have a robin’s nest on the porch and barn swallows are constructing a nest of mud and twigs on a window sill. I hope we will not be fined for multiple dwellings, all constructed without a building permit, in a single occupancy residential area. Also, moles live in the garden, chipmunks under the porch and a brazen group of frogs inhabit the driveway. Oh, how I wish they would croak!

All of this leads me to the tale of Jay who lived further up Route 8 and also housed aliens, although he was not aware of his occupants until–––.

It was early summer. That time when the city folk take the wicker furniture out of storage, turn the water on and sweep away the cobwebs. For Jay, a highlight to summer preparations was the moment when he positioned the tennis ball machine on the court. Jay loved tennis! He took lessons, he watched the French Open and Wimbledon and he practiced on the ball machine from dawn till dusk. So there he was, Jay on one side of the net, the great green machine on the other. Jay bowed to the machine. The machine did not react. Jay filled the machine with bright new yellow tennis balls. It was time to play. He got into position. His knees were bent. His eyes were focused, white tennis shorts blowing in the breeze.

Ready! He turned on the switch of the ball machine and waited for the wondrous site of a yellow ball shooting across the net. Here it comes! A blur of yellow. Except it was gray. And not round. It was a mouse! Who ever heard of a tennis ball machine shooting out mice? Whoever heard of a mouse that loved tennis? Jay tried again. A second mouse. Once more. Little baby mice. Those mice might have had a ball but they did not satisfy a tennis fanatic like Jay.

Jay went closer. Looking down the chute where the balls were theoretically stored, he noticed straw and shreds of paper as well as the filling from a couch. It was a mouse house. While everyone else wintered in Florida, the mice had settled into Jay’s tennis ball machine. Smart mice! They knew that in real estate the key is location, location, location.

Thus, I conclude that for those seeking privacy in the North Woods, research the environment. You never know who may be living with you.

Brant Lake

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