I Saw The Light

Like the Beatles said, “It’s been a long cold lonely winter”

Actually I haven’t been lonely at all, thanks to my wonder dog, and most loyal friend Uschi. She takes me on walks, and she gets full credit for this picture.
We went for a walk after one of the many, “Ice Episodes”. That’s what the news and weather people on television call them. I don’t remember which one. I’ll have to ask Uschi when I get done writing. She’s smarter than me, and her memory is better too.

I don’t want to hear any comments on that.

I do remember trying to capture a good shot of the ice on the twigs and branches. It’s the same picture nearly all of us who live north of Tampa, have been trying to get for months.

I wasn’t satisfied with any pictures that day, especially with the ice, and snow on everything, and the sun so bright and the sky so blue. One stood out.

Where did this light come from? Were Aliens taking off from deep inside the earth, like a discarded chapter from a Jules Verne novel? Is this something like Paul saw on the road to Damascus that brought on his conversion? In the summer we have firecrackers. Do we have snow crackers in the winter, that I don’t know about? Did someone long ago see this same light, and it became the inspiration for a Gospel song?

If no one comes up with an explanation, then I’m going to take credit for some never before discovered photographic light trick. This could revolutionize Photography.

O.K., I’m getting delusional. I’ll leave the technical lighting effects to you shutterbugs who know what you’re talking about.

One thing I can say though is,…..

“I SAW THE LIGHT”.

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FROM SHADOWS TO DREAMS

FROM SHADOWS TO DREAMS

I went back into my hole, just like I promised you in my last post. Mom told me to do that, if I saw my shadow. I remember it well, because it got real cold when Mom climbed up to check on things. All winter she laid on top of me, blocking the cold air and warming me with her body. She was a good Mom.

I would whine and complain when the cold hit. She would look down at me and say, “Phill, you will have to do this yourself someday, so grow up and watch what I do”. She sounded like Grandpa when she talked like that. He was around a lot until one day he was just gone. Mom never told me me why, and I miss him.

Dad didn’t stay around long. When I asked about him Mom would just say he was holed up somewhere.

So, I burrowed my way back into the hole I called home, and set the alarm on my smart phone for six weeks. I don’t know why it had to be six weeks, but that’s the way our family had done it forever.

I kicked a little dirt and leaves in behind me to block the cold. It wasn’t as good as Mom, but a lot better than nothing. Snooze..Snooze…Snooze; that was my plan.

I had never dreamed before. I don’t even know what a dream is, but that night I saw the past. The day before I had gone to sleep for the winter, the beauty of the leaves had peaked. Mom And Grandpa had taught me about that. When that happens it’s time to go underground for some heavy rest.

In my dreams I saw that day, and it seemed so real. So real; that I woke up thinking it was that day. Did you ever do that?

It turns out my smart phone was set for six hours instead of six weeks. I poked my head out and crawled back in, wishing that I had my Grandpa’s instincts instead of this new technology. It’s great for texting that cute girl I noticed in the next yard last fall. But these computer models are created by people who never stick their head out of the hole.

Worst of all; I got no bars in this cold hole.

PATIENT PREDATOR

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I be watching you!

This is a Cooper’s Hawk, and that’s exactly what he’s thinking.

A Cooper’s Hawk is about eleven or twelve inches tall and less common than some of the larger Hawks around these parts. I like to capitalize Hawk, because I really like them. Hawks and Eagles are like warrior birds. That’s probably why there are so many stories and songs and mythology about them.

This one hung around our place for a couple seasons, but I could never get a good shot of him. I think he must have eyes like a hawk.

Finally one day several years ago I got lucky, and took these pics through my office window.

Is it really thinking he’s up to, when he’s so locked on to just finding something to eat? It’s all about staying alive. Sure; he’s processing, but just how that takes place regarding brain synapses, and the way we perceive thinking, I’m not so sure.

Where does a Buddhist Monk go, when he stops his breathing and heart beat for hours or even days?

We feed the birds and have a Koi pond and lots of cover for his prey to hide, and also for him.

He’s in a Mulberry tree with English Ivy around him.

Oh! Oh!: He’s spotted something. Did you see his head turn?

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Do I have to show you everything?

He’s about ready to spring into action. The result is going to get your attention.

You have to wait until another post to see what happens. It’s kind of like a soap opera.

I learned that from years of show business. Never give em what they want.[ That’s how we talk in southern Indiana]. Always leave them wanting more.

I be watching you. I’m a patient predator.

A Country Boy can survive

A Country Boy can survive

Did anyone notice it’s been FREEZING COLD?!!!!

I swore, I’d never heat with wood or coal again. It’s so much work and the house gets dirty and etc, and etc.
That was a long time ago , and my wife and I were were first married and lived in the middle of Pike county Indiana, and our nearest neighbor was a half mile away. We had no money, and lived in an old house bordering the State Forrest. We could see it from three different directions. Except for hunting season we pretty much owned thousands of acres of land. I loved it, since I was an avid hunter and outdoors man. It was a dream come true for a young man who lived week to week, and thought the first day of squirrel and deer season were Religious Holidays.
When I first met my wife I could remember her birthday because it was five days before squirrel season began. That’s the truth. She was also the first girl I had ever dated, who went hunting with me and would even shoot a shotgun. Do you see why I fell in love with her?
It had nothing to do with her beautiful green eyes and long blonde hair and hourglass figure. No really it didn’t.
Now I’m lying and changing the subject. For men; the subject always seems to migrate in a certain direction. It takes so much concentration and self discipline for a man to be civilized. I really don’t know how you women accomplished it.
I’m trying to be civilized, but I keep having flashbacks to sixty thousand years ago.
Now it’s years later, and we don’t live week to week. We have a very comfortable life and I am semi retired. You would think at one hundred and sixty four years old total retirement would be the case, especially since the economy is thriving and the recession is over. RIGHT!!
The truth is I don’t work much anymore. Just enough to keep a couple businesses alive
and to pay the heating bill.
It all started a few years ago when we had a horrific January cold wave caused by Global warming. You know. Kind of like this year now that I think about it.
We lost our power for seven days, and everyone on our street fled except my tough country girl wife and her one hundred sixty four year old husband.
By fall we had a wood stove installed in the beautiful fireplace we swore we would never use when we bought the house.
I did the work myself with the help of one of my best camping and fishing buddies.
The wood in the picture comes from a saw mill in Pike County. It’s white oak and burns great. We couldn’t get it without the truck.
Like another of my oldest and best buddies said; ” A Country boy without a truck is like a Cowboy without a horse.

Stay warm

The Robins Return

The Robins Return

There is a phenomenon, that the women in my wife’s family noticed over twenty years ago. It all has to do with my wife’s mother’s birthday and the return of the Robins.

They way we remember it, is one year on her birthday they noticed hundreds of Robins had descended upon everything. There were Robins in trees and bushes and in the driveway and on the roof and even on vehicles.

What was going on?

They watched from the windows, which is where you watch things in the winter, when you are trying to stay warm in the house.

Being highly trained bird watchers one and all, they noticed the Robins were feeding on the plentiful berries on the Holly trees.

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These berries are poisonous to humans. I learned this from a friend long ago who thought it would be a good idea to make wine from them.

The Robins shook branches and cleared the ground and generally did a Biblical Locust thing for no more than two hours, and then they were gone and so were the Holly berries.

The next year the same thing happened within a day or two of the same date, which was easy to remember because of the birthday. This we have witnessed each year for over twenty years.

How do they know? Who decides? I’m pretty sure they don’t have Facebook or electronic social media. They do seem to have a flashmob culture kind of thing going on there.

Well, today was Return of the Robin day. Maybe it should be a holiday.

I declare it thus. All you have to do is pour a cup of coffee, lay your newspaper out before you pretending you are about to comprehend more than a fraction you are about to read, and watch Nature do her magic just for you.

The Beech Tree Caper

The Beech Tree Caper

Uncle Buddy probably ran across this tree while squirrel hunting, since he lived a short distance from the Patoka River In Winslow Indiana, and the tree was several hundred yards north of the river. He and we, often walked those banks during squirrel season, since the hunting there was good.

This is not the tree you will be told about,since that tree fell victim to certain circumstances. I was fourteen years old when these circumstances occurred, and that was very long ago. Try to imagine fifty years ago. I know most of you can’t. Now try to imagine remembering every detail from that long ago. I will do the best I can.

The tree was behind a ball field that was just north of the river.

Do know why they call them ball fields? It’s because long ago not every baseball diamond had a fence to knock the ball over. They were lucky if they had a backstop. If a player could hit the ball between the outfielders then they had a good chance for an inside the park home run. I’m not sure if you could call that inside the park, since there wasn’t anything inside. It was just a field. Well, anyway that’s where ball fields got their name.
I dwell on the ball field so long, because it is the place of my very first memory.

I was two and a half years old, and sitting on the hood of a nineteen forties something Dodge. My dad came to bat, and hit the ball between the outfielders, and being quite fleet of foot hit a home run. I remember my parents questioning me about this later in childhood, when I brought up the story of dad’s home run. They very much doubted that I could remember something at such a tender age, but when they grilled me on the details they were convinced that I most certainly did remember the event.

Uncle Buddy discovered a bee hive in a big hole in the tree. As I recall the hole was shaped almost exactly like the picture. It was in a most precarious position, in that it was too high to reach from the ground, and we were unable to reach it with the feeble ladder we had available especially with the threat of bee stings, if we were so foolish as to reach in to steal the sweet nectar the Bees were willing to die for.

Beech trees have very thin bark and are easily scarred. That’s why young lovers use them so often to carve art work to express their eternal love.

The problem is the scars make the trees prone to disease and such. This one looked like it may have lost a limb during a storm. A bad thing for the tree but an opportunity for the Honey bees.
Now, just how do we harvest this plentiful bounty?
Well, Uncle Buddy; half uncle and half brother because of age proximity always had a plan. These plans usually led to conundrums of one kind or another. The posse, as we called ourselves, were as usual oblivious to these conundrums. The posse was made up of boys ,thirteen and fourteen and fifteen, and Uncle Buddy who was closing in on thirty, so what could go wrong?

The plan was to cut down the seventy five or so foot tree. It would land perfectly with the honey bee hole pointing straight up toward the sky, and we would then work our woodsman’s skills.

Our tools as I remember were two axes. We started in the early afternoon.We took turns each until they were exhausted, and were just about to call it a day when we heard the crack of wood.

It was just about dusk and visibility was a problem. Uncle Buddy explained to us which way the tree would fall and where we were to stand, and a signal was given for when to take off running, since all Lumberjacks took off running when a tree was about to fall.

Somehow, a chop or two before things were supposed to happen a scary loud crack rang out, and we ran in four different directions. That big old tree came down fast and loud, and taking smaller vegetation in the way like it wasn’t even there.

I was certain I was going to die. When the quiet sat in, and I was still alive, I knew for sure, someone else had been crushed.

From the quiet came Uncle Buddies voice.” Everybody O.K.? Where are you?”

One by one we answered giving our position and announcing that we were alright. My cousin Steve was the slowest runner of us all, but announced he was about a hundred and fifty yards away. Turned out he was. Go figure.

Now we approached the tree, only to find that it had landed with the bee hive hole in exactly the wrong spot. It was flat against the ground.
Exhausted and dark coming upon us we decided to come back tomorrow with a new plan.

We didn’t get there as early as we had planned, since Uncle Buddy drank quite a lot of beer, and stayed up to the wee hours doing it. Uncle Buddy Liked his beer.

When we arrived a little after noon we had all the tools needed to complete our task. We had both axes from the day before and two splitting wedges and I think a maul.

The plan was to chop our way down from the top into the hive. It was Uncle Buddy’s idea, and since no one else had a better one, then that was the plan.

As we chopped and split and slowly made our way through the hive Uncle Buddy gave us a tutorial on honey bees and, how we would get the honeycombs out without being stung to death.

It seems that his expertise in beedom had taught him ,that there were different types of bees we would encounter. Most he said were worker bees and were harmless. There was a Queen bee that ruled the hive and was much bigger than all the others. The only ones we had to worry about were the fighter bees. I had never heard of fighter bees and was a little apprehensive about this news.Uncle Buddy of course had a plan to handle them.

Once we had chopped our way far enough to confirm we were approaching the hive, we would start a fire under the tree right where the hole met the ground. This would rile up the fighter bees, and draw them out of the hive in their effort to protect it.

Once we thought we were close enough, we lit the fire and carefully continued chopping and hacking, and all that other real careful stuff we had been doing to get us to this point.

Soon we reached the hive well enough to consider removing some of it. At the same time the smoke was so thick that we could hardly see, and were coughing and hacking. The bees didn’t seem to like it much either as scores of them began to leave the tree in all directions, causing some commotion and waving of hands and questions for Uncle Buddy. I don’t know if these were fighter bees or not, but they really weren’t much of a problem. I think they just wanted to get out of there. I sort of did too.

Then Uncle Buddy did a most amazing thing. He stuck his whole arm into the hole we had created, and grabbed a big chunk of honeycomb. He did this bare handed, and was immediately covered all they way up to his elbows with bees. ” See”, he said. “These are worker bees. They won’t hurt you”.

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My cousin Steve was the first one of us brave enough to imitate Uncle Buddy. The result was the same. He was covered all the way to his elbow, and if either one of them was being stung they were not letting on at all.

So now, because of the age pecking order it was my turn to show bravery, of which I was totally lacking. I still remember the eerie feeling of hundreds of bees covering my hands and arms. It was the same for me, in that I felt no stings at all. After a while we got more cavalier about the whole thing and only an occasional ouch would be heard. I remember I was stung three times. Each time it was because I swatted at a bee on my ear or mouth or some sensitive spot. If you left them alone they wouldn’t bother you. Near the end we could even brush them off slowly and gently and they fell off like so much sawdust or some such thing.

We placed our bounty in a couple small buckets, and started across the ball field towards Uncle Buddy’s house.

When Aunt Nina saw how little we had after two days she laughed until she hurt. When she placed it all on the stove to work her magic and turn it into honey, only two four quart pans were needed.

It really didn’t taste as good as I had hoped.

But we did it , by God.

That’s the story of the Beech tree caper.