Friday, January 1, 2021

Editor's Corner

By Mary E. Adair

January 2021

“We will open the book.
Its pages are blank. We are going to
put words on them ourselves.
The book is called Opportunity and
its first chapter is New Year's Day.”

– Edith Lovejoy Pierce.


Welcome to an exciting issue! Not only does it end our year which starts in February, but we have a new poet, we have an update from a former columnist, and more than a dozen poems to peruse. And we are looking forward to the New Year, trusting that it will be happier and open new avenues for everyone.


First let's meet the new author, Lucy Hennessy. If that name rings a bell it could be because she is one of Phillip Hennessy's daughters. Her poem "There Was A Life" is thoughtful and hopeful. Be sure to click her byline and see her bio. Her father Phillip has a new poem, "Virus" which echoes his experiences in the U.K. He just received news that another of his poems from pencilstubs is being made into a Song...."When you're Lost, in the Dark" by a group in South Africa.


Coincidentally, the poem by Diane Lynch aka Spirit0662, employs titles of Hennessy's poetry to cleverly form her poem, "You Must Have Known." Walt Perryman, our poet from your editor's section of western Texas, has three poems: "Christmas Eve," "A West Texas Tumbleweed Christmas," and "About New Year's Eve."


Bruce Clifford submitted three also, one is for song lyrics, "I Don't Even Know." The other two are "Spreader" and "A New Day." Bud Lemire, who suffered and recovered from a bout of Covid, composed "On The Ventilator" for a friend who is, then added a lovely poem "Snow Was Falling." His salute to 2021 is upbeat for himself and others in "A New Year."


The poem "You Say" by yours truly, was dashed off in exasperation and was initially shared on Facebook, but another verse kept sounding in the brain, so it had to be added. If you saw the first verse, check out the second.


"Two Plastic Pans" and "Winter Branches" were received from John I. Blair. His column "View from My Back Steps" is on a subject not in your editor's realm of knowledge and may emlighten many readers.


Marilyn Carnell shares her plans for celebrating New Year's Day in her column "Sifoddling Along" with certain reservations. Mattie Lennon, in "Irish Eyes" clues us in on a famous murder incident in Ireland, that is couched in mystery, rumors, and perhaps finally the truth.


Judy Kroll's column "On Trek" asks a question then supplies her solution in her quiet, considerate way. Thomas F. O'Neill (author of "Introspective") explains how he began teaching in China, and admits to his surprise that it has become his preferred way of life.


Melinda Cohenour continues on the genealogy of husband Rod Cohenour's family, with more info than she has space to share for this issue. Finding so much material to formulate into just one column of "Armchair Genealogy" has proven impossible but she says "stay tuned." "Cooking with Rod" steps up with traditional menu's and adds an inspired new dish recently concocted that promises to be a favorite.


Bethany Davies Whitaker, former regular columnist with Pencil Stubs Online, signs in to add her wrap up of 2020. Always insightful amd compassionate, her words may chime with your own hopes for next year. The plus for your editor is that Bethany is one of her four great-granddaughters.


My heart is filled with gratitude to Mike Craner, Webmaster and co-founder of this eZine, for his original suggestion that we "try putting it online." His ingenuity and consideration has been and continues to be a blessing.


And yes, that is me behind the mask.



We will see you in February!


Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.
This issue appears in the ezine at www.pencilstubs.com and also in the blog www.pencilstubs.net with the capability of adding comments at the latter.

Armchair Genealogy

By Melinda Cohenour

The Cohenour Line


Chapter 2


      Research continues in connection with my husband’s Cohenour line. The earliest ancestor to have used any form of the surname that has evolved into COHENOUR (as we prefer) was Basthli Sebastian Gachnouwer, born in 1543 in Goch, Kleve, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. From Wikipedia, we learn Goch is an archaic name, originally spelled either Gog or the Dutch form, Gogh. “It is a town in the district of Kleve, in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is situated close to the border with the Siebengewald in Netherlands, about 7 miles south of Kleve and 17 miles southeast of Nijmegen.”

Further, “Goch is at least 750 years old: the earliest mention of Goch is in a document dated 1259. It was a part of the duchy of Cleves. During World War II, the city was completely destroyed by Allied bombers during Operation Veritable.” All of this leading up to the family belief that the Gochenour-Cohenour name (in all its many permutations) derives from its earliest ancestor residing in this ancient town. One of the oft-repeated tales about how the surname evolved is that “Goch” referred to “Hill” and that Gochen were people who lived on the hill, and that Gochenour were people who had lived on the hill but were now Gone From The Hill. We find that Goch in German; however, refers to a bog, a fen, a marsh, or similar low-lying body of water. Goch, the ancient village, was close to Kleves (originally Cleves) where the duchy of Cleves held sway. The ancient castle there is the Schwanenburg Castle. Wikipedia informs us: “The Schwanenburg Castle, where the dukes of Cleves resided, was founded on a steep hill. It is located at the northern terminus of the Kermisdahl where it joins with the Spoykanal, which was previously an important transportation link to the Rhine. The old castle has a massive tower, the Schwanenturm 180 feet (55 m) high, that is associated in legend with the Knight of the Swan, immortalized in Richard Wagner's Lohengrin.

Medieval Kleve grew together from four parts – the Schwanenburg Castle, the village below the castle, the first city of Kleve on Heideberg Hill, and the Neustadt ("New City"), dating from the 14th century. In 1242 Kleve received city rights. The Duchy of Cleves, which roughly covered today's districts of Kleve, Wesel and Duisburg, was united with the Duchy of Mark in 1368, was made a duchy itself in 1417, then united with the neighboring duchies of Jülich and Berg in 1521, when John III, Duke of Cleves, married Mary, heiress of Jülich-Berg-Ravenburg. Kleve's most famous native is Anne of Cleves (1515–1557), daughter of John III, Duke of Cleves and (briefly) wife of Henry VIII of England. Several local businesses are named after her, including the Anne von Kleve Galerie.”


      All this makes me wonder if the early Gochenour folks lived upon another hill, similar to and nearby the one that housed the Schwanenburg Castle?


      This column, though, is devoted to tracking the line of descent from Basthli Sebastian Gachenouwer to my dear husband, Roderick William Cohenour. It has not been an easy task as the documents (if they exist at all) are not accessible through Ancestry or any other typical website. It has been an arduous task to seek out family histories and your author is forever grateful for the work that has gone before by family researchers. In our following reports, we shall delve into the stories that highlight this proud line of Cohenours from Goch, Germany in 1543 to California, United States in 1945. This, then, is the result of our initial attempts to verify the direct line ancestors.

First Generation: 10th Great-Grandfather
      Basthli Sebastian Gachnouwer, born 1543, date of death unknown, 10th great grandfather of my husband. Sebastian married Adelheit Heidi Huber (b. 1538) in Goch. Their known children were Anna, Sebastian II, and Jorg (George) Gachnouwer (1569-1610).

Second Generation: 9th Great-Grandfather
      Jorg (George) Gachnouwer (1569-1610) wed Maria Weber on 13 Jul 1589 in Fischenthal, Zürich, Switzerland. This couple had a son named JACOB (also called Hans Jagli) GACHNOUWER whose date of birth is not known but whose baptism was recorded 28 Jul 1605 in Fischenthal, Zürich, Switzerland.

Third Generation: 8th Great-Grandfather
      (Hans) Jacob (Jagli) Gachnouwer (abt 1605-1685) married Margaretha Peter on 26 May 1624 in Zürich, Switzerland, born 1601 in Stralegg (which, presumably gives rise to her complicated naming in most of the family history volumes as Elsbeth Margretha Petter der Stralegg (Petter from Stralegg). Jacob was the first of the family to convert to Anabaptism (later Mennonite), after his marriage. His wife’s family was one of the early converts. Jacob would pay a high price for his faith, stripped of all belongings, his children removed, his wife exiled, while he spent years in a dank prison as punishment for his religious beliefs.

Fourth Generation: 7th Great-Grandfather
      Jacob and Margaretha’s son Heinrich Peter Der Stralegg Gachnauwer (baptized 30 Apr 1631) was but one of their children to be removed from the home and placed with “responsible community members” while their father languished in prison. It is known Heinrich wed, but the name of his wife is lost to posterity. The following notes have been recorded for Heinrich:
NOTES: Birth recorded in Fischenthal Church Register April 30, 1631; Heinrich, Jacob Gachnouwer "on the hill" and Margaretha Peter, Anabaptists, had a son baptized. Sponsors; Heinrich Schoch, "Weibel", said to be a low public official and Adelheit Zuppinger, who is Joe Furrer's legitimate wife.

Heinrich Gachnauwer who was baptized on April 30, 1631 in the parish of Fischenthal is the only family member known to have survived the slaughters that took place in Alsace, France, about 1670-1680. He relocated in the city of Heidelberg, Germany.

In the Palatine Mennonite Census lists, Heinrich is listed with eight children in 1685. the list of his children has not been found, but this record is based on a list project by Dwayne Coughenour, San Antonio, TX.

1643 Heinrich, about twelve years old, was placed as an apprentice with a tailor, Fred Issler, who was to received payment of 50 Taler from the State, plus a gratuity to his wife, for three years during his Father's imprisonment in Othenbach Convent Prison.

Fifth Generation: 6th Great-Grandfather
      Joseph Gochnauer, Sr. (sometimes Christian is added as his second given name), the son of Heinrich, born somewhere between 1698 and 1704, depending upon the resource) is the Immigrant Ancestor of our line. His identification is made difficult as it appears Heinrich named two sons Joseph with birth and death dates either obscured or researchers have created a duplicate record. At this point, your author has not clarified that fact. Thus, we shall use the data that appears factual. Joseph married at least two times and, perhaps, three although the documentation for that third marriage will need to be researched more completely. Wed to Elsbeth (Elizabeth) Naff (Neff), they named a son Joseph Christian Gochnauer II.

Sixth Generation: 5th Great-Grandfather
      Joseph Christian Gochnauer II (1726-1763) married Mary Magdalena Neff in January of 1757. They had three children, the eldest being Henry Neff Cohenour. Family legend indicates this Joseph was killed by an Indian’s arrow while working his fields.

Seventh Generation: 4th Great-Grandfather
      Henry Neff Gochnauer (1754-1787) was born and met his death in Hempfield, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Henry also spelled his name Coghenour, the earliest mutation in the surname that would morph into Cohenour. He and wife, Magdalena Fulwiler, were married in 1783, just four short years prior to Henry’s death. They had three children, the eldest son being John born 25 Aug 1784. (Their daughter Elizabeth Coghenour married Jacob Neff, one of several of these two families’ intermarriages.)

Eighth Generation: 3rd Great-Grandfather
      On 14 Nov 1805, John Kochenauer (also often spelled Cohenour) married Dorothea Ellen Lorentz at the First Reformed Church, Hempfield Township, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. This couple had ten children, the third in line named Jacob Neff Cohenour.

Ninth Generation: 2nd Great-Grandfather
      Jacob Neff married three times, the third wife, Sarah Jane Layton, was widowed within months of giving birth to their first surviving child, Elmer Layton Cohenour. Sarah’s husband died 15 Nov 1868. Little Elmer Layton Cohenour had been born 5 Mar 1868. Sarah had not long to live. By the time Elmer was three years old, his mother had also passed, leaving the care and custody of Elmer to her sister, Clementine.

Tenth Generation: Great-Grandfather
      Elmer Layton Cohenour married Martha Jane Lauterbach (Louderback) 30 Oct 1890 in Fairbury, Jefferson County, Nebraska. This couple would have three daughters and two sons, the first in line being Leo Bertram Cohenour, my husband’s Grandfather.

Eleventh Generation: Grandfather
      Leo Bertram Cohenour served in World War I as a Lieutenant, J. G. in the Navy. He was a physician and surgeon. He married Anneffiel Ethel Ann Warner 2 Aug 1917. They had two sons, the second William Edward Cohenour.

Twelfth Generation: Father
      William Edward Cohenour served in the Navy as a surgeon and physician during World War II. He married Suzanne Cecilia Miller on 10 Sep 1944 in Denver, Colorado. There were four children born to this marriage: Roderick William, Christopher Kent, Suzette Cecilia, and Patricia Ann (Patti). Dr. Cohenour continued his practice until his death 10 March 1982.


      Future columns will update the research into this family line, clarify where possible the multiple marriages and numerous children reported by various sources, and – most importantly – provide some of the stories that make this Cohenour family’s history so colorful.


Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Cooking with Rod


By Rod Cohenour

As we come to the end of an extraordinarily difficult year, we need to reevaluate and refocus on the things most important to us. For me that's family, friends, good health, peace, harmony, and - of course, good food!

We have put forth a recipe for a traditional New Year's good luck dish and, additionally we've provided a link to our column for New Year 2018 so you can pick and choose from the array of recipes provided. Also, the wife and I conspired to create a palate-pleasing dish that makes that leftover turkey into a warming, comforting chowder with a spicy twist.

Our menu for New Year's Day includes a glazed spiral ham, golden mashed potatoes, baked yams with cinnamon and brown sugar, Hoppin'John, Pineapple-Cranberry-Pecan Dressing, broccoli-cauliflower-carrot blend, Cornbread, and hot crusty dinner rolls.

It is our sincere desire to see our world break from the disastrous events that have haunted 2020 and to find our loved ones (friends and family) free to enjoy a year filled with health, wealth and joyous camaraderie.

May your New Year's feast fulfill the portent of better things to come. Bon appetit~!

Southwest Turkey Corn Chowder

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups roasted turkey, diced
  • 2 (15 oz) cans corn, drained or use 3 cups fresh or frozen kernels
  • 6-8 stalks celery, de--string then chop in small moons, reserve leaves for garnish
  • 8 oz baby carrots, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 Bell Pepper, de-seeded, diced
  • 1/4 cup (4 Tbsp) butter
  • 32 oz. Chicken broth
  • 1 can green chiles (7 oz)
  • 1 can (10.5 oz) green chile enchilada sauce
  • 1 can (26 oz family size) cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup milk
  • 8 oz grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 3 cups rice, uncooked
  • 2 cups water


Instructions:

    1. Dice roasted turkey and set aside.
    2. Drain corn and set aside.
    3. Prep vegetables (celery, carrots, onion, and Bell Pepper). Melt butter in large stewpot, when melted add veggies. Saute over medium low heat until onion is transparent but not carmelizing.
    4. Add chicken broth, cover, and let simmer but do not boil or scorch.
    5. In large bowl, whisk together cream of chicken soup, milk, green chiles, and green chile enchilada sauce. Add dash of ground black pepper.
    6. Fold in grated cheddar cheese.
    7. Add turkey, corn kernels, soup mixture to the simmering vegetables. Stir well to fully incorporate. Let this simmer but stir often to prevent scorching.
    8. Add rice and water (NOTE: may need more or less to ensure enough liquid for rice, basmati types call for ratio of 2 to 1 liquid to rice. Instant rice requires equal amounts rice and liquid. Both methods result in a thick steamed rice mixture.)
    9. When rice is TENDER (cooked but Not mushy), check thickness of the chowder. If too thick, add a bit of milk to achieve your desired thickness.
    Serve hot. You may garnish with grated cheddar cheese, celery or cilantro leaves, chopped green onions (stalks and bulbs) or even a dollop of sour cream. A hot pan of cornbread with tableside butter is a fabulous accompaniment.

Hoppin' John



Hoppin' John


Ingredients:
For peas:

  • 1 Tbsp corn oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 1 Tbsp butter (or oleo or margarine)
  • 3 cups ham chunks, fully cooked
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, de--string and cut in half moons
  • 1 small or medium Bell Pepper, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or about 1 Tbsp from jar
  • 1 lb. Pkg. dried blackeyed peas, picked over, rinsed thoroughly and drained
  • 32 oz chicken broth
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • Dash salt or Mrs. Dash (prefer blend used with poultry)
  • 2 tsp chile powder


For Rice:

  • 2 cups rice
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 med. can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 med. can stewed tomatoes with bell pepper and onions
  • 1 sm. can tomatoes with chiles (Rotel type)


Instructions:

    1. Prepare peas. Pick over to remove stones, grit etc. Rinse several times in colander. When clean and drained, put in stewpot and cover with water plus one inch. Bring to boil. Boil one minute. Remove from heat, cover and allow to sit overnight.
    2. Next day. Drain and rinse peas. Set aside in colander to drain fully.
    3. Prep onion, celery, and Bell Pepper. Set aside. Add butter and oil to stewpot and heat until butter is melted. Add ham chunks and let brown then stir and brown all sides. Remove ham, set aside.
    4. Add diced veggies back into stewpot, stir with wooden spoon to loosen ham brownings. Add more butter if necessary. Saute veggies in pan with pot liquor and butter, stirring almost continually until onion is translucent, 3-5 minutes.
    5. Add peas, ham, and chicken broth to veggies in stewpot. Add minced garlic, black pepper, chile powder, and Mrs. Dash or pinch of salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat immediately, let simmer until peas are tender, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Add water or broth as necessary as liquid tends to evaporate.
    6. Meanwhile, prepare rice. Place rice and water in small stewpot. Cook per directions on rice packaging. When steamed and fluffy, add fire roasted tomatoes, stewed tomatoes and Rotel. Stir well. Cook gently until tomatoes are heated through.
    7. Serve peas with ham over spicy tomato rice mixture.


Tomato Rice

 

This dish is a traditional New Year recipe. Its ingredients are said to ensure blessings throughout the coming NEW YEAR. Ham foretells sufficient food, peas bring good luck, tomatoes bring health, and Hoppin'John should be served with golden cornbread which symbolizes "gold in hand".
 

New Year 2018 column link:
Cooking with Rod, New Year 2018


Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.


 

Irish Eyes

By Mattie Lennon

Songs, Stories and a Murder

How did you get over Christmas? I suppose we are not too bad on this island. We have the vaccine now.


It’s thirty years since, Jim Sheridan’s tale of murder, rural codes and the Irish hunger for land was premiered in the Savoy Cinema, Dublin. It became an instant classic on its release, mainly due to outstanding performances by Richard Harris as 'Bull' McCabe and Brenda Fricker as his wife.


But what is the story behind "The Field"?


John B Keane wrote a stage play of the same name in the early sixties. The first professional production, in 1965, was directed by Barry Cassin and starring Ray McAnally as The Bull McCabe.


What inspired the talented Keane to write it?


Dan Foley and Moss Moore were neighbours and friends in Reamore, which is about 15 miles from Listowel. Dan Foley erected a boundary fence along the strip of land between his land and Moore’s. Moore claimed that the fence was on his land and he moved it. Foley moved it back. Moore brought a court case which was to be heard in a Tralee courtroom in December 1958. It was alleged that Foley had said that there would only be one man around for the case.


Where the body was found.


On Thursday, November 6, 1958, Moore disappeared after a night playing cards in a neighbour’s house. Locals reported to Gardaí that Moore had been murdered, not missing. Nine days later his body was found by a stream overgrown with rushes only 35 yards from his house. He had been strangled. Dan Foley was prime suspect. He wasn’t ever charged but was convicted in the court of local opinion. He was Boycotted, bombed and shot at.


John B. wrote "The Field" which is about an obsessive hunger for land.


He drew inspiration y from an unsolved murder of Moss Moore and the character of “The Bull” he based, largely, on Dan Foley.


Ray McAnally the first “Bull” suggested that it be made into a film. Twenty years after the first stage performance following protracted negotiations between John B. and Jim Sheridan (It lasted up to fifteen minutes at the counter in John B’s) a deal was struck and the rest, as they say . . .


It would appear that the great playwright was convinced that Foley was the killer but his son Billy is not so sure. He has produced a documentary entitled The Real Field which was shown by RTE after Christmas. Billy went through the cold case with as much diligence as is possible after more than three score years.


“People still talk about it,” says Billy “I was always interested in the murder case because I felt there was so many loose ends. I was never sure who did it. Everyone said it was Dan Foley. I wasn't completely convinced.”


Billy himself does the narration and he is ideally suited for it. His uncle Eamonn was deemed to have one of the three best speaking voices of the twentieth century; the other two being Dylan Thomas and Richard Burton. Billy says, “There’s elements of a whodunit in the documentary, but it’s the tragedy that takes over. It has always nagged away at me.”


Billy Keane at the site of the disputed land.


Billy concluded that, “Foley can well have been an innocent man.” Dan Foley’s nephew, a contributor to the documentary, implied that someday he would be in a position to name the person whom, his uncle Dan believed, killed Moss Moore.


Look out for "The Real Field." It’s an eye-opener. "The Real Field"


John Hoban, that Castlebar man of many parts who, in his own words, has been, “All over the world and a few other places” has brought out his fifth solo recording, Fad Saol, a double album: the first CD consists of original, covers and traditional songs accompanied by 12-string guitar and mandocello. John has composed words and music of 7 of the 11 tracks on this disc. The second CD is traditional, original, instrumental fiddle music accompanied by mandocello, banjo and mandolin. John has composed 13 of the 15 tracks on this one. The recording captures the quality and energy of a live performance. John says, “It’s taken me 40 years to get to really sound like myself.” He has played music all his life in the Troubadour tradition. He chose to learn his music with care over many years from some of the world’s most respected master musicians. He is an accomplished player of fiddle, banjo, whistles, mandocello, guitar, kora, in addition to being a singer and composer of wonderful songs and music. John is a musical legend at home and abroad


We are back in Kerry. If you listened to Frances Kennedy’s CD Live and Kicking you are aware of her versatility and you will be delighted to hear that she has brought out another one, We Are All Related. This time all proceeds go to Kerry Parents and Friends Association. Details from: info@kpfa.ie.


We had the League of Decency, in Ireland, in the 1970s. And aren’t you glad that you didn’t live out in “Island of Saints and scholars” in the 1930s when we had Eamon DeValera’s “Vice Act.”


Happy 2021 and I’ll see you in February.


Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

View from My Back Steps

By John I. Blair

What Is A Drey?

This is the time of year when things that have been going on in treetops during the summer and early autumn become visible as leaves fall. Among the most interesting of those things are the big bundles of leaves snagged snugly in branch crotches high up in the bigger trees. These, I learned some years ago, are called “dreys.” They are the homes of squirrels who don’t have holes to nest in. Which in these parts, where the tree population is dominated by hardwoods like oaks and pecans, is most of the squirrels.


Dreys are usually built of twigs, dry leaves, and grass, although they may include a variety of other materials. They are sometimes referred to as "drey nests" to distinguish them from squirrel "cavity nests" that are also termed "dens" and may be in cavities ranging from hollow trees to the attic of your house. (If you get a squirrel nest in your attic, that is grounds for immediate eviction before the squirrels in question have damaged wiring or insulation or even your ceiling.)


A favored height for a tree drey is at least 30 to 45 feet above ground level. Evidently the height and location are determined by the need to compromise between defense against tree-climbing predators like cats and raccoons and the need for the drey to be supported by branches strong enough not to break off in wind or ice storms. The smallest tree around my house that has a drey is a mulberry across the street that’s only 25 feet tall. That drey is on the small side and may be the product of a first-year, amateur builder. The tallest tree with a drey is a red oak at the side of my front yard that supports two dreys, one of them quite small and likely abandoned before completion, the other quite large and sturdy and about 40 feet up – likely higher than any housecat and possibly most raccoons might be willing to climb.


In North America, dreys begin as a collection of small, gnawed-off branches bearing green leaves. Harvesting these branches well before autumn (when the leaves would naturally fall) allows the leaves, though they turn brown, to hang on tightly through the winter, which is important. A finished drey is a hollow sphere, about a foot or more in diameter, with the branches and other rough materials loosely woven on the outside and an inner surface lined with a variety of finer materials, such as grass, moss, leaves, shredded bark or pine needles.


One drey I personally examined, after it fell to the ground during a storm, was lined with fur from my long-haired dog, gathered by some industrious squirrel from areas where my dog napped outdoors. That must have been an especially cozy nest!


There may be one or occasionally two entrance/exit holes in a drey, usually close to the bottom and angled toward the trunk, which keeps rain out. A second hole can also be used for an escape route if the squirrel has a predator coming through the front door. Incomplete or flat dreys that are sometimes seen may be hot-weather sleeping platforms or, as mentioned above, abandoned efforts built by very young, inexperienced squirrels.


Drey construction materials and sizes differ according to squirrel species and region. Eastern gray squirrels, for example, tend to use the leaves, bark and twigs of deciduous trees such as beech, elm, and oak. Southern flying squirrels will often employ fungal growths, deciduous leaves, bark and twigs in their nests, while northern flying squirrels often use shredded cedar bark (among other types of bark), lichens, mosses, leaves and twigs in their dreys. In the Pacific Northwest, the northern flying squirrel employs a common local lichen as the primary material.


Squirrels sometimes occupy a vacant drey that was previously constructed by another squirrel, often of a different species. Dreys must protect against the environment, and require constant upkeep to remain water and predator-resistant. Squirrels often build more than one in a season, with the second as a reserve nest in case the primary drey is disturbed by predators or overrun by fleas or lice. Some particularly well-built dreys have been observed in use for more than a decade by multiple generations of squirrels, although the average drey may be used only a year or two before being abandoned. Remnants of abandoned but well-built dreys may be visible for years.


Male and female squirrels may share the same drey for short times during a breeding season, and during cold winter spells squirrels may share a drey to stay warm. However, females nest alone when pregnant. In North America, squirrels produce broods of about three "pups" twice a year. After leaving the drey, a young squirrel is termed a "juvenile" for its first year of life. The June broods are sometimes born in dreys, but January broods are usually born and raised in tree cavities, if available, which are much safer. Drey broods are about 40% less likely to survive than tree cavity broods, so long as the cavity entrance hole is no wider than about four inches, which can keep out hungry raccoons. I have no statistics on survival rates for my own yard, which has cats, raccoons, and possums, plus occasional large hawks and owls, as potential predators. But despite these hazards, my local squirrel population consistently runs about five to ten adults and juveniles each summer, assisted no doubt by the ample supply of sunflower seeds I keep available in and beneath six tube feeders, plus acorns, pecans, elm seeds, hackberry seeds, and cherry laurel berries in large quantity.


It’s difficult to predict which of numerous potential trees my local squirrels will choose for building dreys. For years they used the big elm trees in the yard just east of mine but one of those is now gone and the survivor has gotten sparse with age and bad health. It hasn’t sported a drey in about 10 years. Also for a long time dreys were regularly built in one or both of the slash pines in a yard behind mine. That always seemed a strange choice since it required hauling in deciduous leaves and twigs from trees some distance away, but the pine needles may have provided a good supply of “hooks” to attach the dreys to, plus more shelter from winter weather.


For the past three or so years, the tree of preference for dreys here has been the fine young oak (previously mentioned) at the side of my front yard. There the attraction may be the profusion of leaves plus loads of acorns for convenient food; and that tree has achieved the necessary height after growing rapidly for 40 years without much competition. What surprises me is that the very tall oak in my back yard (planted by me 45+ years ago), which is upwards of 90 feet tall, never seems to have dreys in it. I’m still trying to figure this out.


Dreys have been a part of our northern hemisphere environment for millions of years and of our human environment for tens of thousands of years. Most of us, I think, never even notice them, much less get curious about them. We should!


Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.