Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What It Takes To Be Crazy

        I saw a couple of unusual things in the woods this week as cool weather came and fall flowers seemed to be blooming everywhere.  For one thing, the migration of butterflies is beginning and it seems you can find some different-looking ones every year.
I opened the door to an old shed last week and a beautiful creature had a home inside. His name really hurts him. Folks know him as a woodrat, but he is nothing like a Norway rat or house-rat which is not even native to the Ozarks. The woodrat deserves a different name because he isn’t dirty and doesn’t carry fleas, which caused the plague in Europe centuries ago. Again, it is the house-rat which did that.      

The woodrat, native to this country, 
 is nothing similar to the non-native house rat.                       
                                                                                    house rat
        The woodrat I found jumped up to a beam along the wall of the shed and sat there looking at me.  It’s face, with big black eyes and large, round ears, reminded me of some little Australian marsupial I have seen photos of.  But its fur was a brown and golden color, with a white underneath.  The tail is not bare, but with a short silky coat of fur, which tells you he is just as close to other native rodents as the squirrel and chipmunk as he is a rat or mouse.
If I had named him I think I would have spared him the name of rat.   

        The muskrat ought to be called something else too, because his name mistakenly identifies him as something he is not.   Muskrats are fairly good to eat.  In the old days in the Midwest, lots of families along rivers and wetlands ate muskrats.  There’s nothing dirty about them, and there is nothing dirty about a woodrat.  The one I watched for so long had a beautiful coat, and if you knew his diet, you’d agree with me that he is nothing similar to those house-rats or house-mice we all despise.  Those two creatures, like starlings and carp, are not native to our country.
         Then I sat down against a big tree and had to remove a flat rock to make my spot a little more level.  Beneath it was a small dark-brown scorpion, a little less than three inches in length.  Not many folks have ever been stung by scorpions, but I have, and its sting is about twice as painful as anything else I have ever stung by.

         Thirty some years ago I had taken my family over to Bull Shoals in the summer to swim and I had on a pair of tennis shoes that got good and wet.  I left them in the boat that night, with a couple of really pretty pieces of driftwood I had picked up for Gloria Jean’s flower garden.  The next day I went out and retrieved the old tennis shoes because I intended to go fish Crooked Creek that afternoon.
         Without any socks, I slipped the shoes on and my right foot began to burn on top, just like someone had placed a hot, burning charcoal chip on top of it.  It took me little time to get that shoe off and there was a fairly large, nearly white, scorpion inside it.  It burned like that for most of the day, and I didn’t go fishing… I sat around hurting and moaning.  Nothing I could apply to that sting alleviated the pain!

         When I was a young park naturalist, a camper from the city came to me, absolutely scared to death.   His little boy had a scorpion crawling up his leg.  That fellow was a great father because he thought scorpions in Missouri were poison, and yet he grabbed it and was stung, trying to protect the little boy.  He came to me to ask how long I thought he might live if he couldn’t get to a hospital in time.

         I told him that our scorpions weren’t poison, that only the ones down in southern Mexico and Central America were poison.  But he wouldn’t believe me until I dug out a guide-book which told him in print that he wasn’t in danger.  I have never seen a man so relieved.  His wife and kids were scared to death and crying, until I convinced them, and then it was like I had pulled them all from a burning tent. I was a hero, for a short time!

         I am not admired greatly by a lady who read my column a couple of weeks ago, which stated in jest that I thought people who bow-hunt for deer in September were crazy. She took it seriously and got very mad, leaving me a message saying that I was “full of crap” and didn’t know what I was talking about. 
         Sure I do, m’am.  I have been there and done that.  But you shouldn’t be so upset.  Just go out there in the weeds and mosquitoes and heat and hunt all you want while I relax down on the river and catch fish in the shade and cool water.  And don’t be so sensitive about being called ‘crazy’.  I’ve been called crazy for years for a lot of what I have written.

         When I head off out into the duck marsh when it is 20 degrees and I have to break ice to set out decoys, people say, “Man you’re crazy!”  When I spend the night sleeping on a gravel bar in a tent you can’t stand up in, people tell me I am crazy.  When I get up at three o’clock in the morning just to get to a place a hundred miles away where I can hear turkeys gobble at daylight just like they are doing the same morning down behind my house, folks think I am crazy. 
         I get called crazy all the time for a lot of things… eating some mushroom I never tried before or trying to fish Ontario’s Lake of the Woods in a thirty mile and hour wind, or paying fifty dollars for a young setter that is scared to death of the sight of a shotgun.  It never has bothered me.  But one thing I won’t do.   I won’t gut a deer when it is 85 degrees and the flies have to be shooed away while I am doing it.
         I’ll hunt deer in December when it’s too cold to be fishing.  At such a time, when the snow is blowing and the temperature dropping and ice pellets sting your face, it makes perfect sense to be huddled high in a tree stand, shivering and waiting.  And lady, if you go fishing in that kind of weather, you’re crazy.

         There are about three-dozen newspapers in three states using this column.  From time to time I write something an editor doesn’t approve of and it is omitted.  Occasionally papers have a space problem and they have to cut some of it.  Some papers never have room for photos.  In order to see this column and the pictures with it in it’s entirety, you can see it each week on my website, .   That is if you are a computer-savvy person, which I am not.
         If you think computers are something you can trust and depend on you should try to find the Wikipedia thing which tells about me in a very humorous but insulting way.  I think it was put in there by someone in the state conservation department!  It states that I married Tonya Harding.   Don’t I wish…I always thought she was gorgeous and I always wanted to learn how to skate.  Please don’t tell Gloria Jean.

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