Archive for February, 2006

Ridgetop Ring

Saturday, February 18th, 2006

fire ring.JPG

This is the main camp at Fallen Timbers. What you see emerging from the leaf litter is the original fire ring we built when we first started coming here. There is a nice log-cabin fire laid within the ring, just waiting for a friendly match to get things going. The logs have been waiting there for years, though, and if I did light them, they would probably evaporate in the flames quickly since they are so dry and rotted.

We have had campfires here, and we’ve cooked foil dinners and ‘smores here. The family has gathered round this fire several times, and once I had a pack of Boy Scouts camp and cook around this ring.

As far as I can tell, this was the main operating area for the logging crew that had worked this part of the forest some years before we purchased the land. I surmise this from all of the trash they had left behind. The old ridge road runs from left to right directly behind where I stood when I took this picture. A worn cattle trail is just down the hill from this ring. Through the decades, I suppose this had been a relatively busy section of the Ozark woods. Now, though, a better road has been cut to the south and all of the property has changed hands enuf times to steer the old timers to other places for this or that.

Unfortunately, this has proven to be a less-than-ideal location for a fire ring. As I said, it is on the ridgetop, and wind courses over this area much of the year. Fires must be carefully tended here, and without a body of water nearby, we must bring along whatever we will use to quench the embers.

One of my neighbors, perhaps the man to the south who has built a small cabin, seems to visit this ring on occasion. We’ve found a few beer bottles here when we visit. I’m not sure why he would come to our ring when he has a nice one of his own just down the road. And if it isn’t this neighbor, I can’t imagine who would trudge this far into the forest just to sit at a ridgetop fire ring. I don’t really mind. It just makes me wonder.

Post Script: Coincidentally, Hal over at Ranch Ramblins has a post about a recent wildfire he encountered in his Ozark hill country. His ranch is in some placed called “Arkansas” and from what I can tell, that is not in the great state of Missouri.

Minor Matters

Friday, February 17th, 2006

water flowers.JPG

On Thursday afternoon, Roundrock Journal passed a milestone. I had my 10,000th visit. It happened at 2:27:59 p.m., presumably Central time, and it was made by none other than my great good friend, the Florida Cracker!!!!! I suppose there should be an award for this, but what can you give a man who so clearly has everything in the world?

Thanx to all of you who come to visit my humble blog. I was especially touched by all of the traffic in the blogosphere when my server was down for a couple of days and many of you were writing to each other trying to find out what had happened. The day I was back online I had my highest visit count ever. You guys are the best!

What had happened, it turned out, was that my webmaster was doing some coding on his personal blog, which shares the account Roundrock Journal has with the server, and he used some type of code or whatever that the server didn’t support. (Though it had claimed it would.) So the account was shut down until the coding problem was resolved.

The upshot is that we may be moving to a different server that is better equipped for the coding frontiers my webmaster wants to explore. And the only problem I see with that is that my site meter will be reset to zero. Thus I am making this post today to note in a public forum that I have reached the 10,000 milestone. In the future, I’ll probably have to doctor my numbers to add the 10,000 that may be lost.

In other news, I just want to define a word for y’all. “Whittling” or sometimes “whittlin” is not the same as carving. Carving is what talented people do with knives and wood. Whittlin is what others do with knives and wood when they want to keep their hands busy as they swap lies and tell tall tales around a campfire, a wood stove, or a cooler. Generally, the end product of whittlin is a pile of wood chips that may go on the fire, in the garden path, or just back into the forest. At least one of you has expressed an interest in seeing what I whittle. It will be a sharp stick suitable for poking out an eye and not much else.

Finally, one of the unfortunate casualties of the downtime my blog experienced a few weeks ago was the coincidental occurrence of my post for the watershed meme that Wayne at Niches challenged us all to make. I had been eager to make my response to the meme before a certain other blogger (who seems to be an overachiever in general), and I had. But the site was down when it was to post. Then when I was back up a couple of days later, I’m not sure how many readers realized they could go back those couple of days to see all of my fountains of wisdom that they had missed. So, again in a public forum, let me say that I did manage to respond to the watershed meme.

So that about takes care of my housekeeping post. Back to our regular agenda tomorrow.


Thursday, February 16th, 2006

wet rock.JPG

Setting: the semi-wet bed of Lake Marguerite.

Time: some early summer afternoon.

Season: One other than now.

This is one of five boulders my dozer man has set in the lakebed along the northern shore of Lake Marguerite. Some day, these will be hot spots for casting a line in the water to draw out tasty fish. This boulder is the smallest of the five: it stands about three and a half feet tall.

When he first unearthed this boulder and pushed it here, it was not as nicely featured as it now appears. At least, I don’t remember it having so much character when I first saw it. My supposition is that it was encased in mud, which hid its irregularities and the winding groove of the seam. (It almost looks like the face of a whale if you try hard enuf.)

When swimming once I smacked my shin against one of these boulders, but swimming at Roundrock is so delightful that it hardly seemed like a problem when it happened. It may have been this boulder. The USDA man called these “floaters” when he visited. This does not mean that they are lighter than water, though if they had been, I would have seen it and not knocked my shin agin it. Rather, a floater is not a part of the bedrock but is floating free in the dirt or gravel above the bedrock. The smooth and rounded edges of this boulder suggest it has been loose for a while. I guess a stone snapped from the actual bedrock would have more angular edges. The point being, as I’m sure you know, a boulder wrested from the bedrock could create a crack that would allow the water to drain, whereas a floater would not. Still, the bedrock doesn’t need any man-made fissures in it to leak.

Scented Candles

Wednesday, February 15th, 2006

scented candle.JPG

Imagine coming upon a scented candle in the middle of the woods.

We were hiking the perimeter of Fallen Timbers some weeks back when we saw this odd silver object hanging in a tree near the property line. Had it not been below the portable tree stand I’ve found there before, I might never have figured out what I was seeing.

At first I thought it might be some kind of insect trap. Missouri is beginning to see the arrival of the gypsy moth, which can devour forests, and traps are set out by the Conservation Department to determine how widespread these pests have become in the state. But those traps look nothing like this one.

After a fair amount of pondering, we decided to take the contraption down and examine it more closely. That was when we found the partially burned candle within and my mind began one of its twisting and turing journeys into speculation.

The candle within had been lighted, but the flame had gone out before much of the wax had been consumed. I put my nose closer to catch the scent. It was strong, but I couldn’t identify what it was, though I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to add that fragrance to my home. My mind was beginning to fill in some gaps though.

We were two months past regular deer hunting season, but there was that tree stand nearby. Somewhere in the back of my mind was a memory that was fighting for my attention. It seemed to me that I had once heard of hunters using scent to attract deer. I didn’t know that candles were used for the job, but it did seem like an efficient delivery mechanism.

So I put the few pieces together. The hunting stand. The recent season. The oddly scented candle in a weather-worthy lantern. The hunter had intended the scented candle to draw in his prey, which he could then fire upon from up in his nearby perch.

Except I don’t think the candle cooperated. Little of it had been consumed, and I think the winds of November might have snuffed it soon after it was lighted. I imagine that the hunter lit the candle and set the holder in the tree branch then scurried up the nearby tree and set himself in his tree stand. If the wind snuffed the candle before he was settled, how would he know? And if he realized this once he was thirty feet up a tree, would he bother to go back down to relight the candle?

The fact that this candle and holder were left at the site suggests that the hunter either overlooked it when he packed out or that he was so disgusted with its performance that he deliberately left it behind. A third possibility is that he left it there because that would be where he would need it next season, and perhaps he didn’t want to bring a candle with a nasty scent into his home for most of a year.

I checked for these candles in the alternate universe we call the internet. My surmise was correct. Such candles are available for attracting game, though my imagination was not up to the job. I hadn’t known the variety of scents one could purchase. At the top of the list were two especially appealing scents: Buck-N-Rut and Doe-N-Heat. Wow. Also available were cedar scents, rotten apples, and others.

Not being a hunter, I don’t know the ethics of these things. I know it is illegal, at least in Missouri, to bait a hunting site with corn on the day of the hunt. (Though it may be legal to bait a site in the weeks leading up to the hunt to get the deer accustomed to visiting the place each morning, but I’m not sure about that.) I don’t know what the legality is of these scented candles. Aside from that, though, I wonder what a purist hunter would think of such a use of technology. Is it no longer a fair fight? (Was it ever, though?)

The candle sits on my neighbor’s property, and it can sit there for the rest of the year for all I care. I’ll be curious to see if anything is done with it. The branch it is hung on is tiny, and I think a good wind could blow it to the ground. I’ll make it a point to steer my steps that way next time I’m at Fallen Timbers to have a look.

Past Repast

Tuesday, February 14th, 2006


I always have a headache on Tuesdays.

This would seem odd if I didn’t know exactly what caused it and why the cause was so punctual in my week. In fact, for the diagnosticians among you (Tjilpi?), the cause is in the photo above.

In a past post I posed the possibility of presenting a piece for perusal pertaining to our typical lunches at Roundrock. Our lunches have been wide ranging over the years. Often we would bring sandwiches and chips and lots of water. (How much is a “lot” by the way?) Sometimes the sandwiches were made at home on the early morning of our trip. Other times the sandwiches were bought at the deli section of the grocery story the night before. Often, a sensible meal is supplemented with Oreos or Girl Scout cookies. We might have cheese and crackers as well. Fresh fruit is common. Occasionally, the peanuts we bring for the wild critters will be plundered for part of our repast as well. Once, and perhaps twice, we packed a wide-mouthed thermos with home-made chili, which was a real treat after a winter morning of hiking. We’ve been known to lunch on hummus and pitas.

We’ve eaten our meals sitting inside the truck in the rain. Or sitting on a log. Or sitting in the comfy chairs under the shelter tarp. We’ve eaten our meals off the tailgate of the truck with our chairs pulled up as though it were a proper table. And in recent years, we have brought a proper table: the folding aluminum contraption in the photo above. (And there have been times when we didn’t pack a lunch because we knew we were going to stop at a Pizza Hut in the nearby town on our way home.)

On one trip — I think it was to Fallen Timbers — we had military rations. (A man I worked with at the time was in the National Guard and brought these vacuum-packed, complete meals to the office as a lark.) They are remarkable in their way. You pour a bit of water into a side pouch of the packet and through some magic of chemistry, the whole pouch grows hot, thus heating the spaghetti and meat sauce or beef stroganoff or lasagna or chicken and dumplings within. The food was tasty, I recall, but I’ve priced the civilian version at the local outfitters store, and they are a bit more than I want to spend for a novelty meal.

Our most common lunch, though, is the one pictured above: Caeser salad. Such an unlikely meal in the forest is really no trouble at all. We get a package of the pre-chopped greens at the store the night before (or the morning of sometimes) and simply have to remember to bring plates (which we nearly always do). The package also contains coutons, cheese, and dressing, and we sometimes supplement with tuna. A bit of fruit or a loaf of unsliced dark bread to the side and the meal is quite satisfactory.

I say we pack lots of water, and we do. But other beverages have been served. Occasional beers have been enjoyed, though with a two-hour, high-speed drive to get home, we generally postpone the alcohol. If we have pop drinkers along, we will bring whatever is favored by them. Libby generally has managed to keep a thermos of coffee hot and ready for her lunch. Or she might have one of those bottled coffee concoctions. Max sticks with water. And I, well I always have iced tea.

Much could be said about iced tea. In civilized lands it is not sweetened, and though Roundrock is my personal wilderness, it is a civilized land. (Instant teas need not be mentioned.) I brew a generous pot of iced tea on the morning of our trips to the woods. Some of the pot goes into the jug you see in the photo above, to be held in reserve for lunch when it will be much appreciated. The remainder of the pot is consumed through the morning preparations and on the drive to the Ozarks (which often leads to a particular kind of distress). I brew a special blend of loose tea leaves that includes bits of flower petals to add flavor. I’ve not found another tea that can match the taste, though Libby scorns all teas, saying they taste like an old penny. I’ve never tasted an old penny, but if it really tastes like tea, then I’m surprised I haven’t devoured hundreds of dollars worth of them. But I digress.

I constrain myself to drinking my beloved iced tea to the weekends only. Coincidentally, most of our trips to Roundrock or Fallen Timbers are on the weekend, and if a trip does occasionally fall within the work week, I will break my weekend rule and bring along the blessed draught. Regardless, over the weekend, I drink gallons of the stuff. (Well, maybe not gallons, but a breakfast restaurant we sometimes visit knows to bring an entire pitcher of iced tea to our table when we arrive, and when we leave, the pitcher is empty.)

There is a cost to this indulgence though. Tea, as you may know, is full of anti-oxidents, so it is helping me preserve my body so that I will reach 100 years old — an unbidden revelation I had one day. But so much caffeine in such a short time has a consequence. (Who knows where this is leading? Raise your hand if you do!)

My poor, abused body becomes accustomed to the level of caffeine it receives over the weekend and expresses its great disappointment in not continuing to receive it on Tuesday by giving me massive, staggering caffeine withdrawal headaches. Regular as clockwork and utterly crippling if I don’t medicate with aspirin at the first shimmer of pain in the morning. (I used to take Extra Strength Excedrin to knock down the headaches, and it worked well, but only because it was, itself, full of caffeine. So I was feeding the addiction and simply postponing the headache until the next day. More Excedrin. More postponement. I reached the point where I couldn’t function in the afternoons and had to leave work to find a dark, quiet place to sit motionless. Fortunately, this was the time I made the caffeine/headache connection and so I went cold turkey on the tea for an entire month. The headaches went away, and now I limit myself to weekends only.) I’m lucky that the aspirin does the job.

I’ve discussed my peculiar form of personal destruction with my doctor and he says that the headaches are not a cause for worry as long as my blood pressure isn’t affected. Fortunately, my blood pressure has always been lower than the norm, and it isn’t showing any change from the tea indulgences.

After I win the lottery, I plan to make a visit to each of you. It sure would be nice if you had a tall glass of iced tea waiting for me when I arrived.

In which I . . .

Monday, February 13th, 2006


Picking up a likely Pignut hickory stick to whittle, folding out the knife blade in the SOG ParaTool that Libby gave me as a gift many, many years ago, which needs to be sharpened as a matter of fact – the blade, not the tool, nor the years, nor Libby for that matter since she’s very sharp, though not in a literal sense but more in a metaphorical sense – and I’ve been meaning to sharpen the blade for months, for which I have a nice whet stone and strop at home given to me by my good friend Duff, who is an excellent woodcarver by the way – you should see the ducks he carves! – and was my sons’ Scoutmaster for several years, the sons now all grown up with one in Africa, as you know if you’ve been reading this blog very long though maybe you haven’t, and two finishing college this year, ready (or not) to brave the real world (whatever that mental construct might be), though who knows how many parents actually think their children are ready for the sometimes brutish real world no matter how old and accomplished they are, which is a question I often ask of myself to tell the truth – a habit I try to practice all of the time, telling the truth that is, except when I’m not – though I am sure my parents seriously doubted my own ability to meet the real world on its terms and looked on my stumbling steps into feigned adulthood with as much trepidation as I look upon my own children at this point in their lives and in mine, which is wholly reasonable and natural I suppose, and which I have found I must mostly keep to myself since, I am truly astonished to find, they seem to care about my opinion and give far too much credence to what I think or utter, so any negative comment, even one given with the best parental intent or presented in the most oblique way, may set them back or altogether stifle their ambition (unless I have a false, inflated notion of myself, which may have merit but that is an altogether different discussion), which is the kind of thing no parent wants to do, though that is not the same kind of thing as sensible exercise, which I also don’t want to do, unless it is hiking around Roundrock, which I do want to do, and Roundrock lends itself to hiking as you’ll recall from many of the past posts on this humble blog, though I can only guess how long many of you have been reading Roundrock Journal, which isn’t all that old compared to many of the blogs out there, some of which are true old timers, and with all of the fierce competition for readers any more, I can’t say that anyone even knows what I’m talking about – a tough fact of life many blog writers (and all kinds of writers really) face daily, but then, that is part of braving the brutish real world that we supposed adults (and those of us feigning adulthood) must gird ourselves to do even if it doesn’t seem fun or productive, not that I’m claiming that having fun or being productive is the hallmark of being an adult (real or pretend), though being miserable and destructive may indicate a degree of immaturity, but that’s a whole different matter, as I’m sure you’ll agree, unless you don’t, which is your right (at least it was the last time I looked though it’s been a while actually) and which could lend itself to a productive and even fun discussion over several glasses of wine or Missouri beer on the front courtyard of the Earth-sheltered house that does not yet exist at Roundrock (which does exist in the real world – Roundrock, I mean), and which, when it is finally built with my lottery winnings, will be the site of a massive party for all of my blogging friends – even the ones who haven’t been reading this very long, though as I said, I can only guess at who they might be, and I’m no good at guessing since I haven’t guessed the right combination of numbers to win the lottery yet, or at least I’m not admitting it if I did, which really isn’t the same as not telling the truth, which I try to do, and is more like judiciously withholding information (so maybe I should be a politician, though not like that one from Texas) – and those who don’t care for wine or even Missouri beer (and you may want to judiciously withhold this information) can bring along whatever beverages they happen to enjoy, or not, beverages being matters of personal taste (or lack thereof?) in an actual literal sense and not a metaphorical one this time, and we’ll have cheese and crackers and perhaps sliced vegetables and fruit, but only if it is fresh and in season, and you know how I respect the various seasons set aside for hunting the various game animals that populate Missouri, though you may not if you haven’t been reading this blog very long, and as I noted above, I can only guess at that, and as I also noted above, I’m no good at guessing, but that’s a different matter altogether and I wouldn’t want to digress, which is something like doing an off-topic post, and many of you know how much I don’t like that (much like exercise) unless you don’t, which is also possible – and we can all pick up likely Pignut hickory sticks – or likely oaks sticks if you prefer since we have plenty of oak trees at Roundrock, and cedars now that I think about it, and I’m always willing to clear some cedars (though, again, not like that guy in Texas) – and whittle them as a group, making up haikus, and telling tall tales of action and adventure, and being bemused, and never come to a point.


Sunday, February 12th, 2006

bent tree.JPG

Even I won’t make the claim. You know what I mean.

By the way, I’ve come to call these “sign trees” since the gentle ridicule of an eminent blogger. But I won’t call this a sign tree either. (Or should I? Maybe I should get one of those core drillers and settle the age matter of a few of these beauties once and for all!)

There was a similar much-too-small-and-young bent tree standing over the three-season seep spring at Fallen Timbers. For a while I allowed myself the fantasy that this tree marked a water source for the local Fox and Osage who once coursed over these Ozark hills.

If you take a close look at the photo above, though, you can see something that argues against even this fantasy. Granted, the Ozarks are not as verdant and congested as the wilds of the Sunshine State, but you may be able to see all of the branches of the scrubby growth in the forest around this tree. Now imagine those in full leaf during the spring, summer, and fall. They would obscure any smallish sign tree, and what good would that be? So — big admission — Pablo grants that some bent trees in the forest are produced naturally, without the aid of leather thongs or undergarments of any kind.

Still . . .

Heavy Metal

Saturday, February 11th, 2006


You may be asking, what in the world is this? So did I.

When Libby and I had hiked the perimeter at Roundrock last month, we walked along the road for part of the way since it skirts the fence (and because it is easier to walk on a smooth gravel road than in the tall grass.)

The mighty white oak tree in this photo is at the bend in our road where it turns to the east and defines much of our northern property line. We’ve driven or hiked past this tree scores of times. It’s a beauty too. The trunk is at least two feet thick at the base, and the branches begin at about shoulder height and spread luxuriously overhead. It would make an excellent site for a tree fort. (Another reason for Pablo to want grandchildren someday.) When my boys were little they were always on the lookout for good “hideout” trees, and this one certainly would have served.

But this tree was set back a bit from the road, blocked by low-hanging branches and some fallen snags, and I had never really walked up close to it to examine it. So it wasn’t until last month that I found this odd bit of metal hammered into the trunk of the tree. It’s about a foot off the ground, and it looks like it has been there for a long time. Certainly longer than I have been around Roundrock.

At first I thought it might be a gate pin of some kind, and I stepped back to examine the area to see why it might have ever been gated. The lay of the land clearly is not suited for any kind of gate here. A small fold in the ground begins here, and it eventually leads to the nearby pond. Nor was there a corresponding “pin” higher up the tree, which would have been needed for any gate. I dismissed that idea quickly.

Then I touched the metal tab. You can’t tell from this photo, but the top surface of the horizontal part of the tab is textured like a tool handle. Or a tread. And that’s what I think this is. A sort of ladder rung to allow someone to climb into the generous branches just overhead.

Now why would someone want to do that? Well, as I noted, the pond is nearby. And, coincidentally, the tree stand in my neighbor’s farm field is also nearby. Hideout tree, indeed! It seems likely to Pablo’s tiny brain that this was a hunter’s access into the upper reaches of the tree where he could perch and wait for some unsuspecting deer to approach the nearby pond for an innocent drink and perhaps conversation with other deer.

Well, I’ve stated several times before that I am not opposed to hunting. And I’m pretty sure this little step predates my tenure at Roundrock, so I don’t think it’s evidence of recent interlopers. In fact, it may be that the tree stand in my neighbor’s field is an indication of how successful this corner of the Ozarks is for attracting game. If the hunter was accustomed to using this tree, but then the property changed hands, he (or she) might have built the tree stand nearby in order to stay in the area. (Do these regular flights of speculation I indulge in annoy anyone?)

All of this leads me to considering again something I have considered before. I’ve long thought that I should bring a metal detector with me on my hikes about Roundrock. I’ve found a few things before. Once I found a horseshoe. And then there was this mystery for a short while. And when my contractor was building the dam, he lost a bit of the blade on his dozer. Somewhere in the lakebed lurks a piece of steel about three feet by one foot by two inches. I’d like to return it to him some day.

I’m always interested in discovery at Roundrock, and it seems to me that sweeping the ground with a metal detector just might lead me to all sorts of interesting discoveries and mysteries. Winter is the time to do it too since the going is much more easy. Of course if I have to dig up a tantalizing ping in the frozen ground I may change my mind.

And there is another potential use for a metal detector. I could sweep the possible burial mounds at Fallen Timbers. As I’ve noted before, if they truly are burial mounds, then federal and state law protect them from being disturbed. And, really, basic respect does too. Yet if I could detect a bit of metal within the mounds, then at least I would know that they are not natural formations but something human-made.


Friday, February 10th, 2006

muskrat 1.JPG

I found this little nature lesson amidst the gravel in a dry part of Lake Marguerite on a recent visit. It was down among the gravel — rather than resting upon it — and you can still see some of the mud that had held it.

This is, I’m pretty certain, the skull of a muskrat (ondatra zibethicus), which is a common aquatic mammal in Missouri. So what was it doing in Lake Marguerite, which everyone knows is not a very aquatic place right now? Here’s another chance for Pablo to speculate and free associate and somehow spin a plausible (?) explanation for the find.

As you know, we have both a (mostly empty) lake and a pond at Roundrock. The pond (which has no name) is upstream of the lake. The pond was contructed in the days of the cattle ranch, and though it inevitably shows a dip in its level during periods of drought (such as right now), its dam and bed are water tight. (Perhaps the loathsome goo has something to do with that.) The pond is about a fifth of an acre, and much of it is ringed with cattails, which provide some of the food muskrats love.

When we’ve hiked across the pond dam in past years, we have sometimes seen a slide in the grass and cattails. The plants are matted down and pushed in the direction of the water. The slide is only about six inches across, but it runs from the top of the dam to wherever the water level is, so it can be a few feet long. This is a quick route for any land-foraging muskrat to get back to the safety of the water in a hurry.

Such slides, and the presence of muskrats, are a troubling sign for pond owners. Muskrats will build their undergrown dens in the soil of dams, which can sometimes compromise their dammishness, leading to leaks and even erosion, which in turn can lead to a breach and the draining of the entire pond. Fortunately for Pablo, it has been years since we’ve seen a slide on the pond dam, so perhaps the little muskrats have moved on.

Except that I found this skull well downstream of the pond. It is possible that we still have a resident pack of these rodents in our pond. Maybe on one of those stormy days when the dry creek flowed with water, this skull (and other sundry parts of an otherwise departed muskrat) flowed down the hills from the pond and into the lakebed. Or perhaps some predator had carried its muskrat munchie to the lake to devour.

I first noticed the skull amidst the gravel because of the contrasting color of the teeth.

muskrat 2.JPG

I’d hate to be bitten by those choppers (though as I think about it, I’d hate to be bitten by any choppers really).

When we found the skull, we were on the outbound leg of a hike. Given how fragile it seemed to be, I didn’t think I could slip it into my pocket and expect to have it whole at the end of our hike, so I set it on a burnt long (which you can see in the background of the second photo — and where do these burned logs come from???) on the side of Isla de Peligro (where I may still find in on a future hike).

In case you’re wondering, the word “musquash” is a regional variation on the word muskrat. Which came first? “Musquash” is likely a Massachusetts (Indian) word, so it seems like it would predate English on the continent. Yet such a similar word — muskrat — is aptly given since this critter does look something like a rat and it does have musk glands. (The scent, I’m told, is mild, and the glands are used in perfume manufacturing.) Well, any philologists out there who want to enlighten me about this are encouraged to leave erudite and generous comments. I came upon the word “musquash” whilst reading The Maine Woods by that old stalwart, Henry David Thoreau. There were “musquash” everywhere he looked on the extended float trip he accounts in that book. (He can be a tedious read sometimes.)

In case you are wondering, I am now reading The Big Year by Mark Obmascik, which is about the frantic and madcap adventures of birders (not to be confused with birdwatchers, who are mere dilettantes to serious birders). This book was a birthday gift from my lovely daughter, Rachel. It is written by a newspaper journalist, so it is packed with strong images and phrasing, but it is also episodic, which betrays the author’s newspaper background. But I digress.

(Also, in case you were wondering, yes, I did find a good sale on parentheses at the punctuation store.)

Butts ‘n’ beer

Thursday, February 9th, 2006

can and butts.JPG

I came upon this little tableau during my perimeter hike around Roundrock last month. This was at the point where the fence on our southern boundary takes a turn to the south. I took this photo from the same place. Obviously, someone spent a lot of time here. (It may have been more than one person, which made me think of that current cowboy movie for some reason. And the butts weren’t collected so nicely. I gathered them for the photo.)

The litter was on our side of the fence, but only just. It could be that the partaker enjoyed his beer and cigarettes on the other side of the fence and merely tossed them onto our property. Burning butts, though? Into the sere grass and leaf litter? There was no sign of fire, so maybe the smoker ground out the butts under the toe of his boot. In which case, he would have to have been on the wrong side of the fence. Hmmmm.

It’s hardly a major incursion. It’s not as though someone cut down all the trees in the Mighty Pole Forest, set up a hunting camp or a drug lab, or sewed wacky tobacky seeds (but I’ll revisit this spot later in the spring just to make sure). Nonetheless, it bugs me that someone chose to throw his trash onto our land. I guess I could acknowledge that few people consider cigarette butts to be litter. And I suppose a beer can could be a minor hassle for someone to haul out of this distant corner (though it was hauled in). Still, why throw it onto private property? I don’t know. I suppose I’ll live.