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For the Road and Sky

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

No kidding.

In the 1980's, unprecedented rains created great lakes all across North Dakota, where none had been before. Roads were inundated, groves flooded. These lakes remain to this day, though 2008 has been quite dry, forcing many pothole ducks to keep flying north in search of water on which to breed.

I liked this vista, a road to nowhere, resuming as if nothing had happened. I remember seeing a road like this on the TransAmazon Highway, that dipped into water. There was a bridge, half constructed, just standing there. It had been that way for years. There was a huge anaconda (sucurucu, if I remember the name) living there, and nobody would go near the site, because it had eaten one or more of the highway workers. I'll have to check, but I don't think a man-eating anaconda is the problem here in Kidder County North Dakota.
The leaden sky gave a limited and very lovely palette. Drowned trees stand, testament to those rains two decades ago. Nothing rots fast in such low humidity and cool temperatures.
And though I know shooting through a windshield isn't recommended, there are times when the road reaches up to kiss the sky and I must shoot, or fall into rapture. I go to North Dakota for the skies as much as anything else.

In other news, one of my commentaries aired on All Things Considered last night. Remember the baby wrens in the copper bucket? This is the story of my hi-tech rescue of the last little one, using my iPod with its Birdjam software. Go ahead and give it a listen here.

Here are a couple of sweet letters from NPR listeners that brought a smile to my face today.

It's nice to know iPods can have such a primal use! Also, thank you for providing free air conditioning -- the plight of the baby wren was so heartwarming it gave me goose bumps on my drive home from work in 90 degree weather and 90 percent humidity ... gas is too high to use my car's air conditioner!


I have to tell you this little story brought me a lot of joy yesterday! I listened intently as Julie told her story, and I absolutely teared up as she told of the last wrens "rescue." This was a true driveway moment! Thank you, NPR for the story, and thank you, Julie for your act of kindness!


When I left my office on Monday I felt as if I had lost my faith in all mankind. During the course of the day I dealt with various individuals who lied, whose strongest personality traits were greed and avarice and other even less-savory folks. Hence, I was preparing to resign from the human race when I had the good fortune to listen to Julie Zickefoose's story on wrens. My faith in the human race was restored and a smile returned to my face as I listened to that lovely human being recount how she saved a baby wren. Thank God for people like Julie who make us ALL better human beings and thanks to NPR for recognizing and broadcasting such a wonderful and rejuvenating story.
Mighty nice to read, especially when housecleaning and feeling a bit rolled under by jetlag. The story is at #6 on the Most Emailed list at Thank you, nice NPR listeners.


That was a wonderful story to read but there's something in closing one's eyes and listening that brings the wren story up to different level. Very nice Julie.

I'll be scanning the check-out tabloids at the grocery store tomorrow looking for "Man-eating Anaconda Loose in NoDak"!

This was indeed a marvelous post. I savored every picture and comment. (OK, except for the loose anaconda.)

I'm soooo glad you posted this, since I missed it yesterday. I'm with Lynne; nothin' beats the theater of the mind.

I heard the wren story on NPR the other day, and wondered why you hadn't apprised readers that it was forthcoming, but I guess you don't always know just when a specific piece will be run???
Another heart-warming story making it's way around the Web, is here, for anyone who hasn't already seen it:

(about the fellow in Spokane who "rescues" some baby ducks)

Julie, all of your posts and NPR commentaries are like Manna from Heaven. You would smile every day if you knew how you bring us UP and make our hearts swell when we need it... Seriously, you are the bomb.

Thanks, everybody!! Cyberthrush, I checked out the Duck Rescuer story--it and the pictures had me quacking loudly in approval. The cutest part is that the ducklings probably would have been just fine jumping 10 feet down to concrete, and walking behind their mother for two blocks, but people do love to help, and this story is just so sweet.

I know that lake

All Hail Rick, King of the Prairie.

Jule of the Prairie

And Cyberthrush, if I'm out and about in the afternoon I miss my editor's e-mailed heads-up (which sometimes comes only minutes before it airs) and am apt to hear myself coming out of the radio by surprise!

Followup: ironically, I just discovered that NPR's All Things Considered actually ran the Spokane duck story 2 days before they ran Julie's piece:

I love prairie. It's almost as as vast and open and good as the ocean.

Hearing the wren story made me go back and reread the wren blog. Your voice gives such warmth and urgency to the story, but I also love the little bloggy bits that come on the side when you post a story here.

The best of both worlds.

Another pearl.
I do enjoy your NPR stories.

What fun to hear the wren story just after I returned to my house after lifting a young phoebe from the middle of a field where it had been fluttering a bit feebly. I was worried as it was getting dark. Looking into the woods at the edge of the field and seeing it sibs and a parent I placed it on a branch where it clung mightily near the family. Wishing it good luck I had to leave it. Sweet young phoebe. Marygrace

Lovely pictures, lovely post!!! We have a family of wrens nesting in our backyard, and every time the parents zoom into the nestbox to feed them and they go crazy with the cheeping, I smile. :)

I can't wait to listen to the NPR story!

Thank you, thank you! As usual I felt my outlook on the day shift after a cup of coffee and a peek into your life. That's a really gorgeous shot of the slate colored North Dakota sky above the green grass. It made me stop grumbling about the days of gray and rain we've been having in NH. Rainy skies make for much more dramatic photos. Now if I can just bring myself to buy a digital camera...

The road to nowhere is sublime. Reminded me of roads I recently saw in Arizona heading the Grand Canyon. Just miles and miles of nothing and the swelling and flow of the land.

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