The legal description of the 50-acres of wooded shore front my parents owned noted a huge boulder at one edge and a brook at the other. The watercourse was called Smelt Brook because every spring the smelt – anchovy-size minnows used mostly for bait to catch larger fish – would run into it to spawn.
Fisherfolk from town would show up, as well, and that’s the crux of this tale. They would bring their beer and build small campfires next to the creek, and be sociable. The smelt ran at night when kids my age were supposed to be in bed, so dad and his long-handled, fine-webbed smelting net attended the party alone.
I wonder what he thought of the stranger standing alongside the road. He had seen humans, sometimes walking, sometimes driving a tractor, carving rows in the soil.
“There’s nothing there,” they almost uniformly pronounced.
Well, not quite but, relatively, close.
“Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me. I want people to know why I look this way. I’ve traveled a long way, and some of the roads weren’t paved.” Will Rogers said that, and I agree. I have invested a considerable portion of my travels searching out unpaved roads. Or at least roads less traveled.
Continue reading Odometers, unpaved roads, and tire wear
Monday morning, the Secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources cut a ribbon making a 560-acre parcel abutting Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve an access to Michaux State Forest. The move was a good one.
When I was young, finding water was fairly easy. An old farmer would take a forked apple branch, some of the younger fellows used a wire coat hanger bent into the requisite “Y,” and head out to the area one proposed digging a well. It was called “dowsing.”
Holding the branch by the short legs, the long end poking out in front, the dowser would begin to walk around. Eventually, the tip of the divining rod would dip toward the earth. At the point the rod dipped deepest – hopefully, pointed straight down – the person in need of water started digging.
I woke early Tuesday morning, to the sound of July thunder, and the splattering of humungous raindrops on the roof above my pillow. In my childhood memories, the lake ice is becoming unsafe to walk on. Soon it will turn to crystals that tinkle in the waves of a light spring breeze. One morning soon, the first loon of the year will issue the celebratory call announcing open water.
While many of us have been quibbling over the details of our Distracter-in-Chief’s latest tweet – or more recently, his sudden lack of early morning digital shouts to his public – most of us are, for various reasons, not paying much attention to some of the more important edicts he has, with less fanfare, issued and will continue to issue. It’s not that what he is doing is secret; too many of us are simply not paying attention.
When Scott Pruitt was made head of the Environmental Protection Agency, we understood on some level that he would like to abolish the agency, and there was media commentary noting the incongruity of placing in charge the guy who had mounted 14 lawsuits to block the his new subordinates from doing what their name seem to indicate they should be doing.
President Trump has been busy the past two weeks. He made some promises during the campaign, and he is trying to keep them. Or look as though he is trying to keep them. If unemployment rises, he will get the blame, so his claiming credit for job creation seems somehow fair, though he has little really to do with it, either way.
But his edict about banning immigrants from predominately Muslim countries has prompted me to consider my own genesis and belief on the subject.
A few of us had a rather nice conversation on Facebook, of all places, the other evening. One could follow the discussion and read what each said and know which side each was on. We kept talking. The participants were respectful, though in agreement not so much.
Many of us are well acquainted with the “anonymous rant” some social media conversations take – someone, sometimes with an obviously assumed name, makes some oft-heard unsupported (and oft times unsupportable) statement about one presidential candidate or the other, a few people gang up with the first and for most observers it becomes a shouting match. When the shouting starts, the listening stops.
At the tender age of about 10, I got my first lesson on the subject of cleaning up after oneself. We’d gone to visit Gramma and Grampa in Watertown, Mass., a little way out of Boston. I always liked visiting their home, a really old-fashioned place with a parlor – a small room off the living room, home to a couple of rocking chairs no one actually sat in. In fact, the big set of double French doors to the parlor was rarely not closed.
Seasonal weather finally is upon us, maybe. Temperatures should be in the 40 F range, and they’re often in the 60s, but last year this time they were in the 80s, so I suppose it is a bit more seasonal. The juncos, looking like flying preachers in their white shirts and dark gray capes, have returned. Nearly all the other “snowbirds” – what northerners who move south for the winter are called – have departed for what they hope are warmer climes.
TThree Black Vultures showed up in the backyard Tuesday and headed for our stream. They were not looking for food; they craved water. They hover over us every day; that was the first time any of them landed so near our house.
Drinking water is in short supply in many wild places. We are in a time of year when water levels often are low, but Marsh Creek, in places where it normally only is low, is nearly dry. I was shooting pictures of a pair of Great Blue Herons looking for enough water to support a fresh frog for lunch when a Mallard drake swam by, about three feet over the surface of what used to be the creek. There was more water in the humid air than in the stream bed.
On a nearby fence rail, a dozen starlings sat with mouths open, panting. Other critters presumably have found shadier places to await sundown.
When I was a lad, we were one of two families living year-round on the lake. Some summer folks from town had their weekend-only cottages in clusters; between the clusters were large trees that passing storms had pushed into the water, and lily pad farms where the broad leaves and deep grasses hid lunker Chain Pickerel.
Marsh Creek, a short distance from my home, is bloated like a certain writer who has partaken overmuch of turkey and ice cream at a family dinner. Rain pours down on the tableau, filling the myriad tributaries that flow into the creek like an array of gravy and soup bowls, each adding ingredients they have collected from minor hills and valleys in the larger creek’s watershed.
Just over a week ago, a snowstorm laid a biodegradable covering across the scene. Now the rain melds it into the water that is its main ingredient, expanding the creek to a degree the spring and summer feeder streams will not.
A few days ago, I told my 12-year-old granddaughter she had no immediate worry about rising sea levels. We live about 500 feet above sea level, and the level at the eastern seashore is predicted to rise only a few inches by the end of the century.
It’s nearly the end of December. It is technically winter but in eastern Canada, lots of ducks and geese are saving their energy for making more ducks and geese by not flying south until the lakes ice over, which so far they have not.
We humans, on the other hand, can bend our environment to our wishes. We think we can simply manufacture more food and housing and we will be OK. So far, we have been able to pull it off. By some accounts, the next three decades are going to make water very expensive in some parts of the nation.
The flock of mallards launched from the creek, reminding me that a bright orange vest might be a good safety idea during deer season, but not so great if one is trying to slip up on the ducks. Indeed, most birds have excellent eyesight. They require it. Unlike ground-locked critters that can lie low and wait to spot something moving, birds are the movers, and sometimes quite fast. If they are going to eat – or at least not be eaten – they must spot their targets a long way off and make quick friend-or-food decisions.
The ad for a big-screen television shows a picture of a still, blue lake. A canoe is pulled up on its shore. In the background, a stand of pine trees of indeterminate species frames one side, a fall-colored mountain range the other. You can almost hear the loons calling each other across the water, as they have done for thousands of years, maybe longer.