Monday, August 17, 2015

Not Much Tolerance


A pileated woodpecker searching a tree behind my porch in the dead of winter.
He isn't at all tolerant of other woodpeckers.


Chances are the dove population throughout Missouri will remain stable, but…they would do better and hunters would do better, if the hunting season was delayed two or three weeks.


       I sat on my grandfathers screened in porch when I was a boy, looking down on the creek as he relaxed in his rocking chair, one that he had made himself.  It had a hand-sewn cushion full of wild duck feathers.  Everything grandpa had he made himself. He built his little three-room cabin and the porch, which was enclosed by screens taken off old screen doors.  I couldn’t be near as happy without my own screened porch, and I sit out there each morning with a cup of coffee, watching the birds and other wild creatures in the woods below.
         Yesterday a young squirrel scurried up a hickory tree just to the south end of the porch.  I have never believed fox squirrels and gray squirrels will interbreed, but this one puzzles me. His face and body are just as any other fox squirrel, but his tail is that of a gray squirrel.  He is a strange looking squirrel.  He sneaks out to the end of several low branches looking for a hickory nut and there are none there, so he climbs higher to a point well up in the hickory tree where he cannot be seen, above the roofline. 

         In short order I hear hickory nut cuttings pattering down on the leaves below, like a slow gentle rain.  It takes me back to my boyhood when I sat in wooded creek bottoms in late summer with my single-shot shotgun, listening to the sound of squirrels gnawing on hickory nuts.  It would be nice to do that again but it is too hot right now and I am less tolerant of ticks today and those hard rocks are harder to sit on.  I want to wait until it gets cooler.

         Last year we had a ton of hickory nuts in my area, this year the crop is skimpy.  I notice the big walnuts here on Lightnin’ Ridge do not hold many walnuts either.  But the white oaks are loaded.  A three-hundred-year-old oak, which grows up over my house at the north end of the porch, is filled with an abundance of big green acorns.  In October they will drop on the roof for days on end.   Nights too, making it a little harder to sleep when they are really falling.

         Sitting on my porch I note that wild creatures do not tolerate each other much.  The diversity men preach today is found in my back yard, but tolerance is not.  A red-bellied woodpecker chases a downy woodpecker away from a post oak trunk, and hummingbirds fight with each other at the feeders I have out.  Blue jays hate the cardinals, mockingbirds fight with the brown thrashers and if those hawks were smaller the crows would kill them all.

         I worry about the whippoorwills and chuck-wills-widows.   Once so plentiful here on Lightnin’ Ridge, they seem too be declining rapidly.  I blame the egg-eating armadillos, skunks and raccoons, all three at the highest point in populations I have ever seen.  Anyone who sees an armadillo should kill it.  They are not native to this region and they are becoming a plague.

         Doves nest here in abundance and there are pairs of them around my screened porch, feeding on the ground.  Dove season will open in less that two weeks, and I wish to gosh they would delay that opening date for at least two or three weeks.  I am not sure that biologists know it but there will be a few nests where young are not yet independent, and hunters will kill the parents, allowing the pair of young birds left in the nest to die.  Doves nest from February thru September, bringing off several broods, always two young at a time.  It is a given that the hunting season will result in the death of young birds not yet ready to fly.  Not many, but a few.

         Another reason I hate the September 1 opener is because the heat and humidity is so high.  It is really hard on a dog, and hard on hunters.  But since it is now considered a tradition that date will never change.  I have similar problems with the opening of the archery deer season in mid-September.  It is just too early, still summer in our area. If it isn’t cool enough to hang up a deer at least overnight, it is a poor time to be hunting.

         I went to an ‘Outdoor Expo’ in the Ozarks last weekend and there was a lady there with a bunch of snakes.  She of course, was telling people how gentle snakes are, and why you should never kill one.   She had a boa constrictor wrapped around her neck, and other exotic reptiles that give me the creeps.
         I go along with the advice not to kill most non-poisonous species…I don’t. I dispose of black snakes here on Lightnin’ Ridge because they are so hard on birds in nests and young rabbits.  If I had a dairy farm I am sure I would like them in my barn to kill mice.

         But I don’t tolerate copperheads up here on my wooded ridge-top.  That screwball law that you cannot legally kill a poisonous snake should be repealed, unless you want to make it illegal for anyone to kill red wasps, moles or mice as well.  I asked the lady, who was all wrapped up in snakes, where she had grown up, where she was from. I’d bet she had never lived on a farm, or in a country setting.  I was right, she said she came from Los Angeles!
         I asked her if she knew that two people had died in Missouri over the past year from snakebites, one from a copperhead and one from a cottonmouth.   She didn’t believe me! She proceeded to tell me how I could use a hook to move poisonous snakes from a lawn to a safe area.
         Boy would I like to take her down on the river with her hook, and let her try to move a big old 30-inch cottonmouth with it when he is good and mad, which he would be when she started messing with him.  She’ll do better back in Los Angeles with her constrictors, teaching those folks.  I heard that people from Southern California are easy to fool.  I heard somewhere that those pet boa constrictors and pythons have killed a few people in the U.S. too.  But only a few!

         I was in Iowa last month and visited a friend of mine, taxidermist Brad Coulson of Ankeny Iowa. He has been a taxidermist since he was a youngster and that was thirty years ago.  He has one of the nicest studios I have ever seen and he is as good at that type of work as anyone I have ever seen.  Brad told me he needs to hire a taxidermist to help him, because he can’t keep up with the work.  If you are a competent taxidermist able to move to Iowa, you should contact him.

         If you are a writer, you should contact me.  We are looking for good stories about the outdoors: nature, hunting, fishing etc. for our magazine, The Lightnin Ridge Outdoor Journal.  Actually some of our best reading comes from outdoorsmen who have only one story, people you might call amateur writers.  If you think you might have a good article for our October-November issue, or a special Christmas issue, I would like to see it.  We are now paying for the articles we use.  My address is Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613, my email address is

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