The Other Flicker

We haven't seen the flicker this winter. I hope he's okay.

Our neighbors, Bob and Joy (he of the big power tools) have an apple tree right over the back fence. It's a Fuji, full-size (unlike our dwarf trees), and because Bob subscribes to the chain-saw school of pruning—cut off anything within reach—it has its apples way up there, well beyond human access.

Fujis are winter apples. They plump up and fill out with juice in late fall, but don't actually get ripe and sweet until December—mind-bogglingly late for us Wisconsin-grown folks.

Since Bob and Joy don't care much for apples—hence the pruning—Denise and I collect windfalls from our side of the fence, plus what ones we can pick from ground level. There are always a few big, juicy apples way up at the top of the tree.

Enter the flicker. I don't know what he eats the rest of the year—insects, I presume, aren't they a member of the woodpecker family?—but in December, it's apples. He'll perch on the topmost branches and diligently hollow out every apple he can reach. Occasionally, he'll knock one down for us. It looks like the Death Star: a perfect orb with a huge crater in one side.

This last year was a terrible one for apples. None of our trees had any; even the big Gravenstein over in the Lutheran Church lot had only a few. I hope the flicker's okay.

In the meantime, I'm painting him on dessert plates, vases and pie plates.

Apple, for preference.