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Long ago, on a particular day when John F. Kennedy was president of the United States and I was a little boy, my mother took me to the doctor’s office. There I was encouraged to swallow what I remember to be a thimble-sized cup of sweet yellow or orange fluid. It was a polio vaccine, made fr…

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Whether you call these birds woodpeckers, as I do, or peckerwoods, as some of my neighbors in Mississippi did when I worked as a park ranger at Gulf Islands National Seashore, they peck wood for their livings, each species in a distinctive way. There’s the yellow-bellied sapsucker, for examp…