Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How You Get Born

The strange night sound from the meadow kept repeating itself. Sounded like a buck snorting -- but over and over, rhythmically. Never heard the like, and nervously I stepped out on the porch a few times over the evening hours to listen. It didn't go away. And with my wild, city-bred imagination that is full of ax-murderers, etc., I decided not to get a flashlight and venture out to seek the source. Locked the doors and went to bed.

A week passed and toward dusk I saw the local doe and she was nosing along a very small fawn -- "a football with legs," a friend had described it. Just one fawn. (She usually has two.) But just this one. And I added 2 plus 2 and realized what I had heard that evening was the doe in labor. I could have seen a fawn being born under a meadow of summer stars! I missed it because I made myself afraid!

Monday, July 28, 2008

The 20-Foot Waterfall

Back in the woods is an intermittent stream. On its way to LaBarque Creek, the stream makes a leap and then plunges down a sluice, 20 to 25 feet in length, that in size and shape resembles a water slide, and ends in a fresh cold pool. The way to get there and see it as I did today is to bushwhack through steep, rocky, jungly, and pathless Eastern Ozark terrain. Or you can see the photos, the first I've ever taken of this secret, unnamed waterfall.

Hummingbirds Return

Hummingbirds are back, just about at normal numbers here in eastern Missouri. Ecstatic to see mine. I asked them where they had been, but they didn't answer. That means, "Don't question us. Just enjoy us." and so I do! I hope everyone else who missed their hummingbirds has seen them "come home."

Monday, July 21, 2008

Love in the Body Shops

His bald head showed scars, and I immediately knew how he got them. He owns the auto-body shop. The scars on his tanned scalp were pink and white, all shapes, some more vivid than others, so he'd collected them over time. He wore a short-sleeved, very clean, very creased, tucked-in blue shirt, with an oval over his heart with his name, embroidered in brown: Don.

Underneath cars most of his life, Don had cut his brow open on them at least six or seven times, badly enough to leave permanent scars. Another body-shop owner could have probably read them like a book. I saw in them his love of cars and loved him for loving anything that much, even when it hurt him.

"Adds up fast," he said, apologetically, handing me the estimate: $606. "That's 'cause in that one place it's scratched down to the metal. We take off the door handle so you won't have any tape marks on 'er when it's repainted. You'll have to leave her here two-three days, so the paint can dry. . . "

I would have to look for a lower estimate, and drove to another body shop with an office not 8 feet by 12 feet, lots of it taken up by four-drawer steel file cabinets. A neat rack of car keys hung from the door. The estimator, a stringbean with glasses, name Jim -- no other name was possible -- had color pictures of his 20ish daughter on his Steelcase desk, and all sorts of little certificates and state licenses and awards and thank-you plaques exactly lined up on the wall. I loved him for loving his daughter and for lining everything up just so. He typed up his estimate for me: $470.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Beautiful and Rare

Highways here in Ozark foothills used to be lined with native coneflowers, the flowers in the photo. Then somebody decided they were a commodity called echinacea, and lowlifes went around ripping up every single one by the roots, even on County Highway F where the road is perched on a steep and treacherous ridge. They even stole them from patrolled, private land -- coming up the river by boat and sneaking onto the property. Rip, rip. To them, Missouri is worth $6 a pound.

The word from the naturalists is that the bee population, nationwide, is way down. To my own eyes it's obvious only that the coneflower population is way down, so I planted my own, and they attract plenty of beautiful bees.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Deep Woods Mushrooms

Living in the Missouri oak and hickory forests, you learn how to read animal tracks and identify trees, how to beat poison ivy and where to find edible berries, and all about wild onions and greens. Now I'm starting to learn about one of the most mysterious of life forms: mushrooms and fungi. If you want, you can learn with me! Mushroom ID guides tend to be big and bulky -- so I just took photos and ID's them at home. Growing on the fallen log you see False Turkey Tail. The pink stem and beautiful tutu belong to the poisonous Sweating Mushroom -- I think -- or it may be a Bulgarica. I wouldn't think of eating any of them without having been formally introduced!