Part 1, Chapters 5-6 Summary

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Chapter 5

One late spring day, Paulsen was running his team on a country road near his home when he came upon a dead ruffled grouse. The bird had left a nest with fourteen eggs in it and, out of sympathy, Paulsen carried them home and placed them in the care of a banty hen called Hawk. When the eggs hatched, Hawk adopted the chicks and raised them as her own. All went well until the baby grouse were old enough to fly. Banty hens cannot fly, and Hawk, furious at losing control of her brood, took out her anger on anyone unfortunate enough to venture into the yard.

Among the targets of Hawk's ire were Paulsen's wife, who had to cross the yard to hang laundry; the family's small terrier, Quincy; and Paulsen's six-foot-two-inch son, who entered the forbidden territory to fetch the mail. Fred, the resident Labrador retriever, and a hapless fox who had come to pilfer one of the chicks from the yard, were also victims of the feisty hen. Hawk finally mellowed when the baby grouse grew up and returned to the wild, but it was a long time before anyone—human and animal alike—could venture across the yard without looking over their shoulder when she was present.

Chapter 6

Paulsen recalls a number of mysteries—"unexplainable, out-of-place" events—that he experienced during his sojourns in the woods. In one incident, he was feeding a cookie to a small chipmunk when a red squirrel, normally a passive, non-carnivorous creature, appeared out of nowhere and tore the chipmunk to pieces. Paulsen was at a complete loss as to how to explain the random, violent encounter.

In another incident, Paulsen was running his dogs in the dark when the team was spooked by an eerie, green-yellow glow emanating from a spot down the trail. Initially not alarmed, the outdoorsman became frightened when the dogs began to keen a death song. Drawn by a curiosity which was stronger than his sense of dread, he ventured forward to investigate. The light was coming from the rotten stump of a tall tree; it had somehow sucked phosphorus from the ground and held the light from the day well into the night.

Paulsen remembers two scenes which were notable for their complete improbability. He once found evidence of a grouse killed by a fox in the middle of a clearing, with no tracks leading to or from the site. Another time, he was witness to a flock of cedar waxwings settled in rows on a series of limbs in a cranberry stand, with eight or ten birds in each row. The woodsman watched in disbelief as, in each row, the bird closest to the berries would take one berry and pass it down the line. The last bird would keep the morsel, and the process would be repeated until each bird had a berry; then, in unison, all the birds faced front and methodically ate their treats.

Finally, Paulsen recalls three unlikely encounters involving deer in the wild. In the first, he was fishing in a canoe with a young boy, the son of a friend, when a fawn walked out into the water and allowed the child to touch it. The author was amazed and overcome with gratitude to have seen such a thing.

In a contrasting situation, this time in the heat of summer, Paulsen was again in a canoe when a doe, driven to madness by a swarm of flies about her head, leaped out of the woods, over the canoe, and into the shallow water nearby. She doused her head into...

(This entire section contains 748 words.)

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the river, temporarily dispersing the tormenting insects, then looked up to discover that she had landed in close proximity to her natural enemy, man. There was no fear in her eyes, however; there was only "raw...frustrated, ripping anger." After glaring defiantly in Paulsen's direction for an instant, she turned, and was gone.

In the most disturbing of his experiences with unlikely phenomena in the woods, Paulsen tells about an event that occurred while he was again running his dogs at night. Suddenly, the lead dog stopped and the dogs in the back of the line tried to climb into the sled in fear. Stepping forward to investigate, Paulsen discovered a deer standing motionless alongside the road: she was dead, frozen solid on her feet, "perfectly...upright." Unnerved by the vision, the outdoorsman maneuvered his team around her and exited the scene as quickly as possible.

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