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Hoping for a Hit

Monday, January 9, 2006

Two days of pretty decent weather, with some lemony winter sun, and we've had a couple of nice hikes on the land. Phoebe and Liam had neighbor McKenzie over for a Sunday hike. My kids are so used to my obsessive picture-taking that they never bat an eye, but I've had to train McKenzie not to whip around and grin every time she hears my camera click. I suspect that most kids get their pictures taken only at a discount store or at school, and only at set times of the year, and it's a novelty to be photographed as if one were a fashion model. We usually stop at certain points for snacks. I usually bring fruits and nuts, which fell out of favor once the kids discovered that McKenzie had a backpack full of candy. The odd look on Phoebe's face here can be ascribed to the fact that one of her very loose molars was stuck in a Twix bar, and came out at that moment! We were delighted. For once, the Tooth Fairy was ready with a present, too. We have an extremely disorganized Tooth Fairy in Whipple. She can't spell, has a lousy sense of direction, and sometimes forgets her appointments altogether. Today was bewitching. It was so hard to stay on task. I washed five loads of laundry, things that needed to be hung out in the sun and snappy southwest wind: bedspreads, table cloths, sheets, and towels. I decided to walk in the morning, since we rarely have a sunny morning that isn't followed by thick clouds. The light was hazy and changeable, with spotlights of sun. Chet amused himself on our morning walk by sniffing cow patties in the pasture where he got butted by the heifer. When he strayed too far, I'd whistle, and he'd come barreling back. I wish he'd have used that attentiveness just a little farther down the trail, when he happened on a flock of turkeys and chased them right down toward the shanty where six or more dogs dwell. They gave chase, and the next thing I knew, Chet came streaking by in front of me, followed by a large yellow shepherd cross. Fortunately, the dog slammed on the brakes and exited stage left when it nearly ran into me. These are the kind of dogs that breed freely among themselves, wear no collars, stay outside all the time, and travel as a pack. I don't know what they'd do if they ever got Chet cornered. I don't want to find out. When I finally got Chet in hand, we cut straight onto our land, headed for home. We amused ourselves by exploring the miniature hills and valleys formed by decades, maybe more than a century, of overgrazing and the resulting slump caused by erosion. Clothed in good-sized trees, the landforms are lovely, but the abuse our land has suffered is never far from my mind--to the knowing eye, it's written all over it.
You can see it in the shapes, you can see it in the forest understory. The wildflowers that carpet the floor of many forests in springs are missing in ours. Perhaps, given time, they'll recover, but having cattle stomping the soil cover into mud decade upon decade means that they'll have to seed in from outside. Wildflowers survive in pockets, giving a hint of what could be, given time.
For now, given our nasty dog encounter, I've decided to peregrinate more on our 80 acres, cutting overland instead of sticking to the trail that brings us within sight of the Dog Shanty. I figure this will give us much more to discover. My great dream? To buy the 85-acre piece that adjoins ours, and save it from clearcutting, overgrazing, and those who throw trash out the back door. Since I'm not a gambling person, I figure the only way to do that is to write a book that a lot of people want to buy. I've got one in press now. Whether a lot of people will want to buy it remains to be seen. But I've got to safeguard this land before somebody clearcuts it. The Kentucky warblers are depending on me!


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