Here are some better photos from the game cameras:
It was bound to happen. While clearing trail –– it's on the to-do list whenever we first get to the Would-Be Farm –– we found a game camera that we'd forgotten all about...16K photos of waving grass. I guess that's why we lost track of the danged thing. I'll spare you.
Here are some better photos from the game cameras:
So, okay, maybe the big raptors like Bald Eagles and Snowy Owls are more impressive, and coming eyeball-to-eyeball with a Sandhill Crane is even more alarming, but Great Blue Herons are darned impressive birds.
In my Shell Island Shuttle days, when we'd rescue birds –– mostly untangling them from fishing line, but sometimes popping them into a pet carrier and ferrying them over to the local rescue outfit –– the Great Blues were among the most challenging to help.
They are fierce, even as they are fragile. Those long legs ––! They aim those impressively big beaks RIGHT for your eye, and they have quite a reach.
They do not give up after they've been caught.
Magnificent, cranky creatures.
In a book whose heavy style I enjoyed a lot –– though, sadly, after my godfather Dan complained about the many factual errors he'd found, and I did my research, I too, became less enchanted by the novel –– here's a lovely passage including a blue heron:
In his mind, Inman likened the swirling paths of vulture flight to the coffee grounds seeking pattern in his cup. Anyone could be oracle for the random ways thing fall against each other. It was simple enough to tell fortunes if a man dedicated himself to the idea that the future will inevitably be worse than the past and that time is a path leading nowhere but a place of deep and persistent threat. The way Inman saw it, if a thing like Fredericksburg was to be used as a marker of current position, then many years hence, at the rate we’re going, we’ll be eating one another raw.
And, too, Inman guessed Swimmer’s spells were right in saying a man’s spirit could be torn apart and cease and yet his body keep on living. They could take death blows independently. He was himself a case in point, and perhaps not a rare one, for his spirit, it seemed, had been about burned out of him but he was yet walking. Feeling empty, however, as the core of big black-gum tree. Feeling strange as well, for his recent experience had led him to fear that the mere existence of the Henry repeating rifle or the éprouvette mortar made all talk of spirit immediately antique. His spirit, he feared, had been blasted away so that he had become lonesome and estranged from all around him as a sad old heron standing pointless watch in the mudflats of a pond lacking frogs. It seemed a poor swap to find that that the only way to keep from fearing death was to act numb and set apart as if dead already, with nothing much left of yourself but a hut of bones.
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier, 1997. Page 16.
PS: I actually prefer Cold Mountain the movie. Exception proves the rule.
Imagination is like the common cold virus: it's always there, lurking, waiting for the chance to nip in and take the wheel. There's no sure cure, though you can treat the symptoms. Medical advice says let it run its course.
Today's fiction prompt: a photo I took on a fishing trip to Wyoming.
Rudolph was no fiberglass elk, bugling soundlessly on the street of Thermopolis.
He was neither the victim of a fierce electrical taping nor did he lose an ear during a wrestling match with a drunk guy.
He did not lift his rack of fiberglass antlers into the wide Wyoming sky in an effort to voice his pain.
He did not wear a saddle-pad of twinkling holiday lights.
He did not sport a compact fluorescent bulb painted red at the distal point of his noggin.
They might have let Rudolph join in any reindeer games, but little matter.
Was he like Bartleby before him, preferring not?
Or like Robert Cratchit, beetling away for the chance of a day's liberty?
Or Balthazar, with the insight to know what lay ahead?
Or maybe, inert as can be, he is like the Yule log, waiting for the dark to yield to light and then celebrate another year beginning.
Hope your season is bright.
Trachinotis carolinas. Characterized by small silvery scales, forked tail, related to Jack-fish but highly valued for eating.
A Fishing Story –– Version 1
Caught me a biggun. Though he had me whupped, but I turned the tables on his bipedal ass. Bootless meet toothless. How do you like them airless apples? Huh? Swim like a fish much?
All he had to do was let go, but it's greed what catches em, every time. Sparkle sparkle! Just let go and get back to your spot, but no. Gotta cling. Dunno why it's called landing when you reel one in. Land's the one thing they ain't much of in that situation, if you know what I mean. I figure he'll eat pretty good, give him a few days.
A Fishing Story –– Version 2
A short list of ways I've avoided writing today: rearranged the fiction bookshelf, cleaned my stainless water bottle with bleach, followed by cleaning the bottle-brush. With bleach. Made a few calls. Perused Writer's Digest. Bootlessly researched a specific twitter from a specific Twit. Cleaned the keyboard with rubbing alcohol and q-tips. Listened to samples of Billie Martin's songs on iTunes. Decided listing my excuses was nearly as good as writing anything. Words are words when you are trying for a daily word-count.
A Fishing Story – Version 3
Swimming, swimming, swimming, biting at a shrimp.
Shrimp has sharp –– ow!
And damn! What the hell?
Swimming swimming, vaulting into air.
Tractor beam or something yanking.
Don't beam me up.
Swimming, running from the grasp.
I read Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey only after we'd hiked in Arches National park in July.
We started the Devil's Garden trail at 6:30 perhaps –– the sun was up, but the shadows were long when we left the paved trail at Landscape Arch.
Bonus travel tip: Even in the busiest and most popular national parks, we found that by hiking a few hundred yards down nearly any trail*, we could leave most of the seething mass of vacationing humanity behind.
Sad truth: few tourists do more than meander to overlook, snap a photo, and then roar off in an air-conditioned car.
Edward Abbey was right: "What can I tell them? Sealed in their metallic shells like molluscs on wheels, how can I pry the people free? The auto as tin can, the park ranger as opener."
Desert Solitaire p 290.
*Exception to the trail rule? The Narrows at Zion. It was kind of the only game in town after the landslides of 2018 (aside from scaling bare rock faces). That hike –– a wet, awe-inspiring meander up the slot canyon –– did fill up considerably come lunchtime. Early morning or off-season recommended.
So, back to the dusty devilly trail.
Devil's Garden trail is nearly 8 miles there-and-back again. A good scramble up red sandstone rocks, along ledges, through dusty piñon pine groves. We ran into families of deer –– the females showing ribs and the fawns leggy and curious –– a couple of parties of human hikers, lizards of various stripe, intriguing tracks in the sand, and the odd path marker.
Some markers odder than others. To a certain sort of thinker, this is an ambiguous sign:
I read it first as a series of nouns: road + leaf + laundry.
A series of verbs: follows + goes + cleans.
Er, nope. Because, you know, why? But interesting. Return to this thought later, I told myself, tucking the camera back into my pocket.
I stopped for a sip of water a hundred or two hundreds yards later. The words transposed themselves: Trail Wash Leaves.
That seemed nearly probable: maybe the trail had a new name. The National Park people seem to engineer their signage so that visitors can have a more genuine park experience, complete with navigational anxiety and an understanding that maps are imperfect representations of the truth.
Maybe. But probably not.
The pieces fitted together a half mile or more later: Alert, hikers: your trail, which has followed the path of this dried stream-bed –– known locally as a wash or a gulch –– is about to diverge from the stream-bed.
For the rest of the walk, series of words started presenting themselves. Triangular structures, each side a simple word that goes both ways: One can trail one's hand on the trail. One can leave the leaves behind, one can wash the wash.
Stone Ride Ice.
Rein Plant Saddle
Mount Slide Hollow.
Chant Riddle Stop.
Then we arrived back at the start of the trail.
And in the blink of an eye, we were addressing ourselves to pizza and cold beverages and a bookstore on the funky little main drag of Moab.
Half asleep in our narrow berth inside Base Camp, we are roused by sound: a crunching, rattling, scratching assault on the recycling container, a lengthy effort to unsnap the cooler, a hissing dust-up over a piece of aluminum foil that once held roasted chicken.
Eventually, Mr. Linton or I will have had Just About Enough and shout at the intruders. Angry-Daddo-Voice invective, which sometimes works, but does require warning the other person. ("Hey, I'm going to yell." "All right." "GERRROUT OF IT!")
Scamper scamper scamper.
This autumn, they discovered both suet and the bird feeders.
As Jeff put it: they ate a whole LOAF of suet.
Naturally, they knocked a bird feeder over and emptied it also.
However, the raccoons did.
The first morning, I found the jar tipped over, the lid unscrewed and a small, tidy spill of seeds on the porch.
In the morning, the birdseed was not on my mind. I was blithely drinking my coffee and being all China-to-Peru about the dew-laden field opposite the porch.
I changed lids and put the jar inside. Thin the tin walls of Base Camp may be, and permeable as sponge, but there is a geographical limit to transgression.
You'd think, anyhow.
When the light slants just right, a distinct handprint can be seen on the window that looks into the sleeping nook at Base Camp. Maybe two inches across, the little handprint is smeared on the window that stands a good three feet off the ground.
I try not to imagine why a raccoon climbed up and appears to have pushed –– pushed!–– on the window that looks into our sleeping quarters.
Nevertheless, I find myself weighing a few options:
Which is where I hit pause. The bandits were here first. They raid for a living.
I'll start by making it prohibitively difficult for them to get satisfaction around Base Camp before taking lethal steps. Muah ha ha.
But in shadows? As with every happening hotspot in the known world, predators are just waiting for the opportunity to prey.
It might be a small life-and-death drama, but at the Farm, we are talking actual life and death.
Along comes the big bad. Slithering. Licking the air with a forked tongue for the scent of mousey love. Perhaps the big bad has developed a taste for these tender morsels in their nuptial bower. Or wants to.
In a moment comes a squeaking in the humid dark. A thump perhaps, and a scrabble...A fierce little battle that no diminutive St. George can hope to win.
A final squeak and silence fills Base Camp.
The big bad curls around a full tummy and snoozes for a day or a week, and wakes to the delightfully stretchy feeling of impending shed. The nuptial bower now a spa room. Exfoliation and microderm abrasion. Buffed. Polished.
And then vamoosed.
Leaving the mess for the maid.
The modern game-trail camera is an enduring pleasure. Eight lithium batteries and a 16-gig card about doubles the price for one of these sturdy little gizmos, but it's still an bargain peep into the wildlife show at the Farm.
Each season brings its surprises past the motion detector. Sometimes a bear. Sometimes a bird –– or squirrel! –– mid-flight. We nearly always have coyotes and deer.
But the surprise this summer was the repeated photo of a free-range Highland Cow (knows in Scotland as the Heeland Coo).
We were rooting for her: she the last of her herd, escaped from the roundup when the neighbor sold off all of his cows in the spring. We heard how she'd jumped the fence and headed for the hills.
When wrangled into an old barn, she leaped through a glass window for freedom. Burst out and was gone with what I imagine was a sassy flick of her blonde tail.
There, we thought, is a cow who knows which side of the fence is which. Cue the music from Born Free.
She looks so at home, as wary as a deer in the woods.
I didn't want to ask the follow-up question in September.
Let's all pretend that she's running free still.
Let's pretend that instead of thinking about whether she irritated the guy with the gun, or how she got packaged by the pound. Or any of her last moments.
Thanks Matt Munro, for the words Andy Williams sings on the dopey movie that gave me an unreasonable penchant for dented old Land Rovers: "Stay free where no walls divide you/You're free as the roaring tide/So there's no need to hide. Born free."
That. Ain't. No. Bird.
Enter your amusing name for this creature, or a caption, or something –– in the comments area below and I will pluck a lucky winner from the crowd and award him or her a prize.
Such as, perhaps, a bar of homemade almond-oatmeal soap –– or an actual physical book. Or maybe lunch. As the whim takes me. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks in advance for playing!
From the prairies to the mountains to the desert and back to coastal Florida, a thread of rodential threat wove through our big park trip.
Welcome to the Park...be careful of the rodents!
Prairie dogs, which look like a slim, chirpy woodchucks and live in "towns" that stretch for acres, do in fact get the plague.
As in Yersinia pestis, the bacteria that caused the Black Death, which wiped out an estimated 2/3 of the human population of Europe in the first half of the 1300's.
Lucky for us, the disease burns through prairie dog towns very quickly. It's worth noting that the ranger did recommend that campers avoid handling dead prairie dogs, ESPECIALLY not if we happen to come across hundreds of dead ones at a time.
No fear of that.
I was not expecting the range of rodentia on the trip.
The usual suspects –– red and grey squirrels –– showed up, while Uinta chipmunks, cliff chipmunks, red-tailed chipmunks, and grey-collared chipmunks also frisk about gathering nuts and startling hikers.
Oh, the variations on chipmunks and squirrels –– like the Kaibab squirrel, which has enormous tufty ears and a white tail and can only be found on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. A fearful, shy creature (every family has its oddball, I guess), the Kaibab squirrel prefers the seeds of the Ponderosa pine over human leftovers. Bless them.
Marmots are what happens when woodchucks take up mountain climbing. We spotted tons of Yellow-bellied Marmots. There's also a Hoary Marmot, (poor thing! His parents did not spare a thought for how that would sound) but he was even less photogenic.
We spotted super cute kangaroo rats and thirteen-lined ground squirrels (once known as the leopard-spermophile, which just knocks me out).
Out West, speaking of names, the common woodchuck or groundhog is known as a whistle pig. These creatures are universally unappreciated, whistle pigs. "They are good for sighting your rifle," was the comment we heard more than once.
Also antelope ground-squirrels, which skitter away with the same flashing white butt as the prong-horns. Only much smaller, of course.
Somewhere in the middle of the chippy-to-groundhog spectrum perches the ubiquitous rock squirrel. As a group, rock squirrels are fearless. They have the sleek look of the prairie dog, with chipmunk-ish tails, but with the shameless, aggressive begging native to a city grey squirrel.
According to one park ranger, the rock squirrel is one of the more dangerous creatures at Zion National Park. They bite the hand that just won't resist feeding them. And that results maybe in stitches and a course of anti-rabies injections. Talk about unhappy campers.
No fear of that on my part, but still.
I almost wrote "It's hard to predict what they will do." But it isn't hard at all.
They will search for food wherever they have the slightest chance of finding it (In a backpack? Yup! In the fruit orchard? Yup! On the sidewalk under your very feet? Yup!).
And they will persist, twitching and chirping, whistling or holding unnaturally still from their various lairs.
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