If you’ve ever been around a pile driver sinking the steel supports for a big building into the ground, you know what a racket that can be. But I bet you don’t know the origin of the term “pile driver.”

According to The Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins (Harper Collins, 1962), “In the colorful language of the West, a pile driver is a horse that, in bucking, comes down to earth with all four legs stiff.” ______________________________________________________________

No pile drivers here. (Photo by Scott Stine)

My neighbor Scott Stine and I two weeks ago hiked up a hill next to Mitchell cabin to photograph the foot of Tomales Bay and the landscape around it. The scene was stunning, but the real wonderment occurred when I sat down to pull some stickers out of my socks.

Immediately a herd of horses moseyed over, probably hoping I was carrying something to feed them. They took turns nuzzling me, sometimes two at a time, and before long one was scratching the top of its head on my back.

It was a carefree lovefest until one horse went too far and began nibbling on a cuff of my pants. I then had to play coy and tuck the leg under me. _______________________________________________________________

Mostly hidden by tall grass, a fawn grazes on another part of the hill. As the year wears on and the fawn gets larger, it strays further and further from its mother but returns to her side every few minutes.

Deer can also be dear. In Venus and Adonis, Shakespeare uses deer as a metaphor for lover. Speaking to the ancient Greek god of attractiveness and desire, Venus tells him: “I’ll be a park, and thou shalt be my deer;/ Feed where thou wilt, on mountain, or in dale:/ Graze on my lips, and if those hills be dry,/ Stray lower, where the pleasant fountains lie.” _____________________________________________________________

Two mother quail and four chicks. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

Another of the bard’s sensual creatures.

“For reasons not entirely clear,” The Morris Dictionary notes, “the quail has long had a reputation for what one source calls ‘an inordinately amorous disposition.’

“In Shakespeare’s time harlots were known as quails and he refers in Troilus and Cressida to Agamemnon as ‘an honest fellow enough who loves his quails.’

“A variation on this sense was common in mid-century US slang.

“A San Quentin quail referred to females below the age of legal consent. Misconduct with one such might lead to jail, San Quentin being one of the most notorious of the federal prisons.” _______________________________________________________________

A foxy lady takes a nap on our deck. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

In one of the Brothers Grimm fairytales, The Wedding of Mrs. Fox, a fox pretends to have died to test his wife’s fidelity. When suitors then show up, the vixen rejects them because they aren’t foxes but bears, wolves, and so forth.

Finally a fox shows up who looks like her supposedly dead husband, arrangements are made for a wedding, but her husband appears and drives off the groom and wedding guests. ____________________________________________________________

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), meanwhile, has gone the furthest in promoting a loving compassion for animals.

In its campaign against wearing animal fur, PETA has enlisted numerous celebrities to pose in the buff, albeit with their strategic parts covered.

Celebrities taking part in PETA’s campaign range from retired NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman to these former Miss USA winners — Alyssa Campanella, Shanna Moakler, Shandi Finnessey, and Susie Castillo.

Their message is always a version of: enjoy your own skin and don’t wear an animal’s. Who can resist entreaties such as these?