Sue's frog meditating in our neighbor's fish pond
Sue’s frog meditating in our neighbor’s fish pond

My sister, Ann, stopped by over the weekend and we had dinner out on the deck. She is back to work, behind the jewelry counter at Parkleigh. We tried to keep our distance but I think she might have forgotten that we are in a pandemic a few times, like when she leaned in to show us a picture on her phone. Somehow we came around to the types of meals we had when we were kids.

Even though my grandfather was a butcher there was very little meat on the menu. Maybe because there were nine of us counting my parents. Tuna melts were one of my mom’s go to’s. Warm and creamy served over Pepperidge Farm toast. We had Spaghetti from a can, Chef Boyardee until Ragu came along, with the pasta all swollen and soggy. Rice A Roni, the San Francisco treat, was in regular rotation. There might have been some chicken pieces in that. Seems like we had Sloppy Joes once a week. The spices came out of a French’s foil pouch which was mixed with loose hamburger and served over a toasted roll. We loved this stuff!

We ate a lot of steamers, boiled skinny red hot dogs. At least once a week. We ate canned corn, peas and mixed vegetables. Occasionally my father would give my mom a break and make what he called “Mickey Mouse sandwiches.” Little cubes of ham were stirred in with scrambled eggs and served with ketchup. For some reason my father always cut the crust off the bread, all four sides.

There were some clunkers. Chicken Pot Pies were a regular but invariably gave me indigestion. I think it may have been the lard in the pie crust or maybe it was the chicken. Every other week or so we would have Salisbury steaks, one notch above hamburgers, pounded flat with a hammer that left a pattern of upside down pyramids in the meat. I would often put the piece in a napkin and feed it to the neighborhood dog. Of course Motts applesauce was served with that.

My mom’s cookies and raspberry tarts were out of this world. Desert was always a hit.


Beginning Of A Great Adventure

Baby robin on our deck
Baby robin on our deck

Peggi went out on the deck to water our lemon grass plants and found this little guy, standing there, unafraid. And didn’t fly away while she watered the plants. We didn’t recognize the bird as a baby robin but continued watching from inside and saw its orange breasted mom land nearby and drop a worm into its mouth.

I was thinking of Lou Reed’s song where he kicks around the idea of having childen.

“I’d keep the tyke away from school and tutor him myself
keep him from the poison of the crowd
But then again pristine isolation might not be the best idea
it’s not good trying to immortalize yourself”

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Soft Curating

Book cover for Paul Dodd artist book "Brief History of the World • Vol XIX"
Book cover for Paul Dodd artist book “Brief History of the World • Vol XIX”

Will Heinrich reviewed a 56 Henry virtual art exhibit called “Labyrinth of Solitude” in this morning’s NYT and described it in a way that sound very familiar to me. The curator, Jens Hoffmann, chose 13 masterworks from the Metropolitan Museum, and matched them with new paintings in themed pairings that elaborate on the timely theme of solitude, from “Death” to “Salvation” and “Identity” to “Isolation. The show is presented online as if it was hung but the Metropolitan paintings were never borrowed.

One of my pandemic projects is creating eBooks from my artist books. Called “Brief History of the World,” they are an ongoing project and are constructed in a similar manner. Old and new images, mostly borrowed from newspapers , are presented in pairs. I have five of them online now. I suggest starting with Volume XIX, the most recent of the five. It’s an easy and safe read.

The book can be viewed with any reader on any device but the phone is just a bit too small. And the book reads best in 2 page spreads because there is a dialog there. Here is the link to the free download of Brief History of the World Vol. XIX. I hope you enjoy it.

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Another Beautiful Day

Outlet on Durand Lake, next stop Lake Ontario
Outlet on Durand Lake, next stop Lake Ontario

The Times ran a story this morning about the small percentage of people who voted for Trump in 2016 but won’t vote for him again. One woman, a 53 year old finance executive. was quoted as saying, “I think if he wasn’t such an appalling human being, he would make a great president .” And I think her point is that he has been incredibly effectual. He has stacked the courts with conservatives for decades and he’s rolled back so may regulations we may never be able to restore them.

I probably shouldn’t follow politics. There’s so many shades of grey. We watched Trump steal every item in the Republican playbook and then knock off every candidate in that large 2016 pool. He is formable. You have to give him that. I think Biden should run with the campaign slogan that Thomas Friedman gave him. “Respect science, respect nature, respect each other.” That is a winning platform.

Haim’s “Summer Girls” borrows from “Walk on the Wild Side” and that only makes it better. But my favorite is “Want You Back” because a poster for the Hammer Museum is featured in their early morning walk through Westwood.

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No New Normal

"No New Normal" sign
“No New Normal” sign

I always liked the Ramones’ “I’m Against It” and I think of it often. Especially when I see something like this. But just what does this mean? The two of us walking up to Aman’s Farm Market with our masks is not the old normal. So the guy likes the old normal and denies the very existence of the new.

When we got home I visited the web address listed on the sign. According to the site “There’s quite a lot of medical debate about whether masks work.” They want to flatten a different curve than the rest of us – the economic curve. “We believe that the government has overstepped its authority and is impeding our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. They are no longer able to prove a clear and imminent threat.” And that does sound like the old normal.

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Things To Look For

"Pick up after your pet" reminder on sign at Durand Eastman
“Pick up after your pet” reminder on sign at Durand Eastman

We got an early start this morning and hardly ran into anyone on the trails which was a good thing because Peggi forgot her mask. Down by the lake we were following a couple with two German Shepards, his and hers, one off to the left on her leash and one off to the right on his, like the dogs didn’t get along. We slowed our pace so we would not have to pass them but they stopped while the guy’s dog arched up his rear end and we watched a big pile slither out, a sight only a dog owner could love.

We moved quickly to pass them while they were on grass between the trail and the lake. I asked Peggi if she thought they would pick it up or wait for us to walk by and then just carry on. I was thinking there was a fifty/fifty chance. They left it there for someone else to step on and I turned back, looked down at the pile and up at him while I gestured with my hands open. I’m not looking for a fight.

I’ve had a few dogs that I loved. I am not anti-dog. But I have been bit three times now, the worst while we were out walking when I turned the back of my hand to let the dog sniff it. Don’t ever do that. I could not get my hand out of the dog’s mouth and wasn’t able to play drums for three months. And because I couldn’t remember if the dogs was wearing a tag I had to get a month’s worth of Rabies shots.

We cut back toward the park and took the ridge trail along the golf course. I found seventeen golf balls! I wasn’t bushwhacking or anything. I just went down for one and then spotted the next and then another. They are not all white anymore. I brushed off and made a note to shower when I got back to wash off any ticks.

As we left the trail that connects to the end of Hoffman Road we ran into my brother Tim, putting out on the green with three other guys. We talked long enough for him tell to us his friend just found out he has Lyme.

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Taste Of The Tropics

Durand Beach early this morning just after the rain.
Durand Beach early this morning just after the rain.

It was pouring when we woke up and the first thing I thought of was the groundhog in the Have-A-Heart trap that I put right next to the downspout of our gutter. We caught him on Friday down in the garden in our neighbor’s backyard. I called the town and they will pick him up on Monday morning and relocate him. He had not drowned but he didn’t look too happy. I fed him scraps from our compost pile. Cilantro stems (Peggi had just made a batch of cilantro pesto), banana skins, some cantaloupe rind and an orange peel. His first taste of the tropics for sure.

It was supposed to be raining at 7 and that’s all it took for everyone to stay home. Not even the dog walkers were out and by the time we got to the lake it had turned into another beautiful day in paradise.

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Bike Stories

Muggs Up located where Sibley Library is today, across street from Eastman Theater - Paul Dodd photo 1976
Mugs Up located where Sibley Music Library is today, across the street from Eastman Theater – Paul Dodd photo 1976

My brother Mark, arranged a sibling Zoom meeting on his recent birthday. Four of the seven were present. It seems everyone is riding a bike during the Coronavirus and someone asked if we were. I rode one everywhere when we lived in the city. We only ever had one car and Peggi drove out to Pittsford to teach for ten years. Since we moved up near the lake we mostly walk in the woods but we’ve taken long bike rides each year. And bike riders in the woods really bug me. I’m happy to hear my siblings are riding. They prompted me to pump up our tires and oil the chain.

I biked downtown to work in all four seasons for many years. There were not many others out there in January and we would nod to one another. I would pass the serial killer Arthur Shawcross on East Main as he rode to work at G&G Foods. I’d ride to the HOG on lunch hour and then back downtown at night to band rehearsal in the Cox Building. When the City clamped down on the hookers on Lyell they moved to East Main and I was propositioned on my bike as I rode through their new area. I rode out to Webster on Wednesday nights, down the big hill at the Bay and back up, to babysit for my sister’s three children.

Over the years I had someone open a passenger door while I was riding between it and the curb. At a signal light on Alexander I pulled up next to a pickup to wait for the light to change. I looked to my left and the driver yelled “Fuck you!” I clobbered a pedestrian who stepped off the curb in front of Music Lovers downtown. I hit him so hard, I flew over my handlebars and landed on the street with three broken ribs. I went back to pick up the guy and he was knocked out. I was afraid I had killed him but then he came to. I repeatedly asked, “Are you OK?” After a few minutes he said, “Jesus Christ!”

And this is the craziest thing. I took the photo above in 1976. Mugs Up was right across the street from the Eastman Theater. I ran into the guy just one block west of Mugs Up around 1978. I believe this is the same guy.

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What I’m Doing With My Summer Vacation

Performance of Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" at Téåtre des Champs-Elysees in Paris in 1913
Performance of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” at Téåtre des Champs-Elysees in Paris in 1913

I’m scanning the fourth column of my “Brief History of the World,” preparing to digitize a copy and make it available as an ePub download. It is an ambitious project. Assembling the twenty spiral bound notebooks, 3-hole punching the white 110 pound card stock and pasting cut out pictures from the newspaper was easy. I did that over a twenty year period. Scanning each image and reassembling the books in a page layout program is time consuming. The image above is from “Brief History of the World Vol XVI.” It is available as a free download here.

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Green muck in Johnson Pond, Rochester New York
Green muck in Johnson Pond, Rochester New York

When I said hi to the couple walking toward us in the park yesterday the man wished me a happy Father’s Day. Not the first time and not something that bothers me in any way. It’s just odd considering the odds that any guy would have offspring. This year I was more interested in commemorating Juneteenth than Father’s Day. 

In Maureen Dowd’s column she talked about regretting not telling her father, a former cop, that she was proud of him. I would imagine many people share that feeling. I know I do.

My father’s bone cancer came on so fast it made for some awkward conversations at the end but I’m pretty sure he knew how I felt about him. Although I do replay the scene from his last doctor’s visit, where his doctor, having just reviewed scan results, told my father to go home and get his affairs in order. My father was stunned. Outside the office I tried breaking the silence by saying what was going through my own mind, what I might go to if I was given that news. “Well, it is inevitable,” I said. Needless to say that fell flat.

Of course it is inevitable but he was in the middle of so many projects. He was not done living yet. Back in the car I asked if he had anywhere else he wanted to stop and he suggested the barn on Westfall Road, the one he was trying to convince the town to preserve. I helped him walk out there and I took a photo of him standing in the barn with his sketchpad.

After moving to Irondequoit, he took a liking to an unlikely part of the park, Johnson Pond, at the Camp Eastman entrance. He found Wood Ducks there. I guess they are not so common. He took a photo of turtles sunning themselves on a log on the land and the newspaper used it as one of their daily panoramas. We walked over to Johnson Pond the other morning and found nothing but green muck.

Regrets. I’ve had a few. I am sort of haunted by this one. While picking my dad up for an earlier appointment I stuck my head in my parents’ bedroom and said hi to my mom. I told her we were off to the doctor and we’d be back soon. She said, “I’m so proud of you.” It was one of the last lucid conversations I had with her and I couldn’t just accept the compliment, one that I don’t remember ever hearing her say before. I had to throw it back at her by saying something like you don’t have to thank me. Why couldn’t I just say “Thank you?”

Later she pleaded with me to get something from my doctor that she could take to end her life. “I know you can do it.” Her vascular dementia was turning her waking hours into a nightmare. It is past time for another contribution in memory of Mary to “End of Life Choices New York”, 120 East 23rd St., 5th Floor, NY, NY 10010.

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Mama snapping turtle looking for a place to lay her eggs at Conifer and Hoffman in Rochester, New York.
Mama snapping turtle looking for a place to lay her eggs at Conifer and Hoffman in Rochester, New York.

We’ve seen/heard the Tulsa, Oklahoma band, Jacob Fred Odyssey, three times at Rochester’s jazz fest. In 2006, 2010 and 2012 when they performed their Race Riot Suite. We bought the record and had them sign it. The band was so damn musical in a free wheeling boozy way. The back of the lp had a brief history of Tulsa’s Race Riot, enough to get me to read more about it. How come we weren’t taught about this in school?

We’ve been pitching in to help the Little Theatre by renting the movies they offer during the pandemic. The last is a threesome, three movies for twelve bucks! We started with the raw but powerful documentary on Ferguson. Six years on and Minneapolis has just unfolded as a video rewind of Ferguson. The Toni Morrison documentary was second up, a rich tribute to a clear headed,  powerful voice. And then the great James Baldwin movie, “I Am Not Your Negro.” We had already seen this one when it played at the Little. We sat right next to total strangers without masks back then. The movie is so jam packed it deserves a least a second viewing. 

Tonight we’re working our way through “15 Essential Black Liberation Jazz Tracks,” most from my favorite musical period, the early seventies, and many I have never heard before.

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Not Exactly Holding Our Breath

Back side of Sea Breeze Amusement Park in Rochester, New York
Back side of Sea Breeze Amusement Park in Rochester, New York

We put another row of carrots in yesterday. According to Peggi’s notes we put the first one in on March 13th. Our neighbor, whose property our garden is on was out digging up black swallow wort, the invasive plant with the root ball that makes it almost impossible to pull up by hand. He told us he had seen a family of woodchucks, at least three, and he suggested that we set our trap before they gobbled down the greens. I grabbed a small piece of cantaloupe out of our compost pile and set the Have A Heart trap. We were down at the pool when he texted that we had caught one. I called the town and they will transport him somewhere and bring the trap back.

Our neighbor told us his wife had brought home some local strawberries from Wegman’s so we planned to walk up to Aman’s Farm Market to pick some up. We waited for them to open and called to make sure they had some but our favorite cashier, the teenager who pretends to not be engaged, said, not yet. We walked over to Kathy’s place and sat out on her pergola overlooking the bay. We kept our masks on snuggly as she told us she was quarantining after attending a funeral downstate for a relative. We too are in day seven of our countdown since the thirtieth birthday party we attended for our neighbors’ daughter.

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What Happened Steam Shovels?

Dredging barge out on Lake Ontario
Dredging barge out on Lake Ontario

The lake was calm again today and at first I thought this was the Mississippi style party boat back in action, the Spirit of Rochester, the one with the paddle wheel that doesn’t propel the boat but just spins as the boat moves while people dine and cruise in and out of the bay. Only when I brought the photo home and enlarged it did I see there is what we used to call a steam shovel on the boat deck with those two big stacks. It must be the barge that dredges the mouth of the river and then dumps the sediment out in the lake. But a barge is usually towed by another boat and I didn’t see one.

Tom and Barbara were driving by as we headed down to the garden. I walked closer to their car to say hi but they both pulled their masks up and it was hard to carry on much of a conversation. This virus situation is uncivilized.

We put in a new row of spinach, right where our first row of the year was. That one had pretty much gone to seed. We have spinach every day now in one form or another. Peggi plans to make Espinacas con Garbanzos with the two big bags we brought back. We put another row of cilantro in as well. This would be our third or fourth planting this year. We put it on everything. Tomorrow we plan to plant a second row of carrots. Our neighbor tells us a groundhog has a new family down there so we may have some competition for the produce.

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Dream State Cont.

Bright blue couch at curb on side street off Wahl Road, Rochester NY.
Bright blue couch at curb on side street off Wahl Road, Rochester NY.

Because our mail-in ballots for school board elections had to be in by the end of the day, we walked them up to Pardee Road School on Norton and dropped them into a secure box. It gave us the opportunity to walk by Case’s, the nursery where we usually buy our plants. This year we made a Corona project out of it and started everything from seed. We cut through the neighborhoods on the way back and found this beauty out by the road.

Evolution has kept the earth in balance for a long time. Whether it has met its match with mankind is still an open question. Hopscotching around the world, taking advantage of people in other countries while walking all over people in our own is tipping the scales. The Coronavirus and BLM movement has radically altered our bad habits and refocused us.

The virus has been disastrous for those affected but for us, the lucky ones, it has produced an extended dream state where we have lost track of the days. Spring came in ever so slowly and it hung around forever. We don’t go anywhere other than by foot and oddly, that has been ok. We may come out of this in a better place.

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Nullifying Nature

Sea Breeze pier with white caps on Lake Ontario
Sea Breeze pier with white caps on Lake Ontario

We tuned into a conference call that our financial advisor did with all his clients this morning. We were early and the mics were all open. Todd said good morning and then offered that this was the type of day we all live through ten months of bad weather for. Before our mics were muted I said, “We like the other ten months.”

Our daily walks often take us to the lake and as everyone who lives near the lakes says, “it looks different every day.” We usually work our way up there, either to Sea Breeze or Durand, by way of the woods or trails through the park. Some of those trails cross the golf course and the manicured greens are a striking contrast to the woods. An even more glaring contrast is the golfers themselves, usually men in shorts and polo shirts. A look that attempts to nullify nature. And they don’t wear masks.

We were waiting for two guys to tee off today before crossing the course and one of them, an insurance man and friend of my brothers, recognized us. He came over to say hi and we stepped back. He came closer and Peggi pulled up her mask. I had almost a dozen golf balls in my two hands, my biggest haul this year, all found near the trail. I stepped back again and this guy came closer. I thought he was going to shake my hand. America is opening up again.

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A Glimpse Of Civilization’s Demise

Durand Eastman Beach during Covid Days
Durand Eastman Beach during Covid Days

It was supposed to rain this morning, thunderstorms even, and we’re guessing that is what kept everyone inside. We walked with our rain gear but never had to use it and because there were so few people out, we walked along the beach. It felt a bit like a Mad Max movie or maybe the way the sets would look just after shooting.

It was early so the City had not had a chance to clean up from the night’s parties. Fire pits were still fuming, that damp smoky odor almost overwhelming. Driftwood doesn’t make the best firewood but generations will try. I was thinking back to the night after my senior ball and the party we had on this same beach. We were probably just as reckless.

Fireworks canisters and empty wine and beer bottles were strewn about. A soggy half pizza was draped over a log. A full gallon sized plastic container of cheese doodles was left in the sand and further down a bag of Smartfood cheddar cheese popcorn. Young green trees were snapped off at the trunk and probably thrown on the fire. Someone had started a fire under a fallen tree, a big tree. They scooped out the sand beneath and succeeded in burning a good bit of the trunk while the thirty foot tree stretched out along the beach. A two foot column of red plastic drink cups was still in a plastic bag. And a park picnic table, one those with tubular metal legs was in two big pieces, just small pieces of the charred wooden top and seats still attached.

Margaret Explosion CD "Civilization" (EAR 18) on Earring Records, released 2017
Margaret Explosion CD “Civilization” (EAR 18) on Earring Records, released 2017
Tonic Party by Margaret Explosion from cd Civilization
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Needle In A Haystack

Garden figure in blue jeans in Sea Breeze neighborhood
Garden figure in blue jeans in Sea Breeze neighborhood

It wasn’t until we were done playing horseshoes that Rick noticed he only had one of his hearing aides in. We’ve been standing apart, throwing both our shoes one after the other rather than taking turns and then stepping away from the pit to let the other throw. Rick’s mask is one of those that loops around his ears rather than behind his head and he would occasionally lift his mask to clear his glasses when he stepped away. So there was a lot of ground to cover.

We don’t have much of a lawn. Too many trees for that. What we have mostly is chewed up leaves. In fact the pits, this early in the season, are about six inches deep in chewed up leaves. We looked for about an hour, long enough for Peggi and Monica to join the search.

Peggi suggested the magnet stick that our former neighbor made. It was in our garage, where it was when Leo died. I walked up and down with that and at some point I found a tiny battery attached to it. We all assumed the hearing aide was nearby until Rick remembered he had replaced a battery in that spot a few weeks ago and dropped the old one.

After watching us walk back and forth in the front yard, our neighbors across the street came out with masks on and pitched in. Rick was resigning himself to having to spend his stimulus check on a new $1500 hearing aide. Someone suggested a metal detector and we texted the neighbor who has one of everything. Peggi picked that up and was fine tuning the beeping noises while I sifted the tiny pieces of leaves in one of the pits. Bingo. I found the needle in a haystack.

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Mary, Mary

Paper Bark Maple in the park
Paper Bark Maple in the park

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row

I thought of this while watering our garden. It is something that’s been floating around in my head since grade school or before. Where did the rhyme come from and what does it mean? I went to Wikipedia.

One theory is that it is religious allegory of Catholicism,  Mary, the mother of Jesus, bells representing alter bells and the cockleshells the badges of the pilgrims to the shrine of Saint James in Spain (Santiago de Compostela). We have a couple of those badges. The pretty maids could be nuns, but even within this strand of thought there are differences of opinion as to whether it is lament for the reinstatement of Catholicism or for its persecution.

Another theory sees the rhyme as connected to Mary, Queen of Scots (1542–1587), with “how does your garden grow” referring to her reign over her realm, “silver bells” referring to Catholic cathedral bells, “cockle shells” insinuating that her husband was not faithful to her, and “pretty maids all in a row” referring to her ladies-in-waiting – “The four Maries”.

The “Quite contrary”part is said to be a reference to her unsuccessful attempt to reverse ecclesiastical changes effected by her father Henry VIII and her brother Edward VI. The “pretty maids all in a row” is speculated to be a reference to miscarriages or her execution of Lady Jane Grey.

I love the fact that no one really knows what it means anymore and yet it is still around.

I picked a variety of greens for our first dinner salad from the garden, basically thinning the rows of greens we had platted too close together. Romaine, mesclun, cilantro, some basil, butter crunch, arugula and some spinach.

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First Morning On Earth

Doe with its fawn with its mother in our back yard. Photo by Peggi Fournier.mother in our back yard
Doe with its fawn in our back yard. Photo by Peggi Fournier.

I was up at six, my Covid era wake time, and down in the basement checking on our dehumidifier which started acting up this spring. So I didn’t even hear Peggi when she tried to call my attention to this newborn and its mama in ouR back yard.

Our neighbors sent us pictures of a doe being born just outside their window last week and we have come across three other mothers with their brand new offspring since. It could be a bumper crop. One mother had twins.

They come out a little wobbly but they are walking in minutes. The one above could be just hours old. The young ones stay close to the mother but then stay put while the mom goes about their business. We are told they have no scent and are safer without their mom for long periods of the day. We heard a coyote just yesterday. We’ve come across the newborns alone under a tree in the woods.

Amazing how they have evolved. But they aren’t done yet. There are too many them in our area. I don’t give a hoot about neighbors’ ornamental shrubs, they do way too much damage to the woods.

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