Charlotte Grace was river rat through and through. Traverse Island on the Upper Mississippi had been her summer home before her parents ever knew they would have a daughter, much less fall in love with one another. Charlotte was sure the river water was part of her blood, she felt it in the very marrow of her healthy bones. Her parents never quite understood her obsession with the place, but they did seem to indulge it, helping her to grow her grandfather's little summer resort fishing business into a year round enterprise.
As she swatted at mosquitoes walking the long, shaded path along the Wisconsin channel she noted that Nessie, her trusty old Jack Russel Terrier was still taking great satisfaction in her favorite past time; squirrel spotting. The industrious little dog had always taken her varmint control function very seriously, smart enough to comprehend that she would never run a gray squirrel to ground like a fox, she had become quite expert at squirrel spotting as they leaped from tree to tree.
Woman and dog were on their evening constitutional, returning from their walk to the western tip of Traverse Island having watched the sunset from the old rope swing. Charlotte began cursing herself for her repeated failure to bring along bug spray, knowing full well that after a wet summer the blood-sucking parasites would prey upon her naked ankles if she hesitated for even a moment on the muggy, shady path. But Nessie had become distracted, as her breed tended to, and she was not readily responding to Charlotte's sharp whistle.
"Damn dog," Charlotte muttered under her breath. "NESSIE, come NOW!"
Fine fine fine. Just give me a minute to see if I can sniff out this big squirrel over here in that huge cottonwood. Wait a minute. That's not a squirrel. It's that funny big eagle that lives up by the dam.
Hey. What are you doin' down here. We never see you down here this time of year. You usually don't grace us with your presence until you're hungry for open water in the winter time. Do ya miss us?
It's too loud down here in the summer time. I just want to warn you that there's trouble up on your little sandbar by the dam. You better tell your people. Nobody's gonna want to eat the fish or play in that part of the river for awhile if they don't deal with the mess.
Okay okay okay. I gotta go, Charlotte's whistling and she gets pissed when the blood-suckers are this thick. Thanks for the tip. See ya!
Charlotte had just swatted a particularly full insect that splatted blood across the top of her foot. She did her best to smear away the viscous fluid as she attempted a second burst of whistles when her beloved canine companion burst through the bushes to revisit the walk home.
"Where the hell have you been?" she griped at the dog. And then a particularly large eagle gave a cry and circled over them across the end of the island as he skimmed over the treetops and dropped into the river valley, cruising for fish.
"Aha," Charlotte surmised, "keeping tabs on that big eagle. Looks like he finally got his adult plumage this year. I think he must be that same one we saw a couple summers ago when he was learning to fly. It's nice that you two have maintained your friendship." Nessie wagged her tail faster in her odd pattern of an up-and-down stutter rather than a side-to-side swipe. Charlotte always suspected that damage had been done when Nessie was a Wisconsin farm puppy and had been hauled off to the vet to have her tail docked like all good Jack Russels. Silly habit. Poor little Nessie just had a snub of a tail, but she was adept at using what she had to express her emotions.
Sometimes Charlotte Grace had some funny notions about all the critters in her river centric world. Having spent so much time alone on the island as an only child, she had often "adopted" wild animals and domestic critters alike to populate her domain with characters that resembled all the folk of A.A. Milne's Hundred Acre Wood. The adult Charlotte had not shaken this habit and her husband, friends, and family all tolerated her anthropomorphizing animals with respectful interest and a little bit of good natured teasing from time to time. But Charlotte always maintained that the island critters gossiped just as much as the human folk, and if you paid attention you could learn as much from the critters about the local environment and the antics of the local inhabitants.