Monday, May 11, 2015

Suffering from a Shortness of Spring

 A villainous blacksnake, after a nest of baby birds.  By the look on his face, you can tell he knows he should have stayed on the ground and ate mice.

            The good times seem so short don’t they?  Mushrooms are there and gone overnight, and the turkey season whiffs by like a cool breeze in the middle of a hot summer.  And then by golly, it isn’t spring any more.  You fill the cooler with a mess of slab crappie, spawning in shallow water, and you turn around and they are gone.  The white bass jump all over a topwater lure just below the shoal, and then while you watch the white petals fall off the dogwood, they just get the heck out of there and all you can see is gar and carp, flopping around in the shallows, muddying up the water.

            Can you remember what those beautiful redbud blossoms looked like?  Seems like a long time ago when they erupted overnight.  I always wonder why they can’t last longer, like the blooms of the thistle do when the summer is hot… like ticks that stay with us fromValentines day to Thanksgiving.  There are times when I wonder what God was thinking when he made April and May so short and July and August so long.  Then I tally the days in all four months and wonder if I haven’t miscounted.

            I remember the wonderful times I’ve had though, in July and August. They aren’t really so bad.  There are memories from August in Canada that will remain with me until I am an old, old man.  It’s just that the summer would be so much better with morel mushrooms and spawning crappie, and redbuds and dogwoods.  I guess I will have to be content with garden tomatoes and blackberries and a big catfish on a trotline, when summer gets here, but darn, it is so hard to see spring flit by so quickly.

            I killed a 38-inch copperhead on May 5, and it made me more careful as I walked through the woods hunting turkeys.  He was not so aggressive on that cool morning, but come August, he would have been a different creature.  The only non-poisonous snake I ever dispatch of is the black snake, here on Lightnin’ Ridge where I have all these nesting birds and squirrels and baby rabbits.
            My daughter Christy, a naturalist and biology teacher, praises them for killing mice around her storage shed.   But I have told her often that they make really economical mousetraps for that purpose and the mousetraps never catch little doves or rabbits in their nests!
            Black snakes climb as easily as any creature that ever confronted a tree-trunk.  And nothing is safe from them that have eggs or young in a nest anywhere.  On the lake, I have watched them swim out into a cove of flooded timber, climb up into the hollow tops of those old dead trees and eat young swallows and red-headed woodpecker fledglings.  I like hog-nosed snakes and blue racers and garter snakes and green bush snakes.  I particularly like the king snakes that eat copperheads on occasion.  But black snakes and copperheads need to stay clear of me.

            On a different subject, we need good stories and writers who want to contribute to our magazines.  Most of you know all about them, but if you do not, send me a couple of dollars worth of postage and I will send you samples of each.  We need good stories

about the outdoors, and about the Ozarks history and people.  Starting with our summer issue, we will pay writers for the material we use, except for poetry.  The pay isn’t enough to brag about, but it ranges from 25 to 50 dollars depending on the article and whether or not there’s a photo or two to go with it.  The magazines are growing and doing well, and I want to be sure we keep quality material between the covers. 

            Over the years I have been involved with the investigation of situations where innocent hunters or fishermen have been victimized by conservation agents.  Truthfully, I still think there are some top-notch conscientious enforcement agents in the Missouri Conservation Department.  But the percentage is way too small.  I heard some television commentator say recently that 99 percent of all law enforcement people were good people intent on serving and protecting us all…  BULL-SNOT!!!  The percentage of good people in law enforcement with compassion and a sense of service to mankind is high; but it sure as heck is not 99 percent of them.  Truthfully it isn’t even 80 percent of them in my opinion.

            Those good, honest men who wear a uniform and pack a gun deserve accolades for what they do, but not those who are power-hungry, or inefficient or downright corrupt. All over our nation, you can see the results of corrupt sheriff departments and local police departments.

            That’s not surprising.  Take any profession and you will see a percentage of worthless people involved.  It is that way especially with lawyers and judges and enforcement people. Their power is great, and such great power corrupts.  What we need to do is find those people in the law enforcement profession who are bad eggs and get rid of them.
            And that’s the problem.  We have evolved to a situation in our country where police power is so great they can’t be touched, and you cannot get rid of them no matter what they do.  I witnessed a policeman in the town not far from me breaking the law, and I found out that going to the authorities and reporting it was a waste of time.  That policeman could not be held accountable.
            Too many police chiefs and sheriffs departments talk about how the answer is good training.  It isn’t.  The answer is finding good people, people who have compassion, and think first of the rights of others, and do not look at everyone as a powerless victim. And the answer is a sheriff or a police chief who will say to his people, “If you break the law or violate the constitutional rights of a citizen intentionally, I will fire you in a heartbeat.”
            Due to economic problems in small towns, too many city officials look at the local policemen as collectors instead of protectors. They let them get by with anything. And too often innocent people are victims. So I might say that 99 percent of all the people in a community are good law-abiding people.  That’s baloney of course, just like that assertion that 99 percent of the law enforcement people are good conscientious lawmen.
            Lets applaud the good ones, the real heroes who serve honestly and deserve our respect and our help.  But lets get rid of the riff-raff, the bullies, the power hungry…the ones who should never have been given a badge and a gun.  It seems to me that it is next to impossible to do that.


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