Friday, August 4, 2017

Miracle on a Cedar Limb


         Sometimes you have to just figure that the Great Creator fixed something especially for you to see and experience.  I know most of my readers feel that way. Chances are you have felt His attention at some time or another in your life, maybe lots of times. The more time you spend outdoors alone, in a natural world, the more you tend to feel that way.

       Time was when I was young, I just lived to catch or kill something. A big fish, an unusual waterfowl species, a rooster pheasant or wild gobbler, I just couldn’t wait to get something wild and beautiful in my hands. When I did, I just couldn’t stop looking at it and marveling at the beauty of wild things.

       A lot of that longing to hunt and fish and explore was my heritage, my ancestors didn’t raise much stock to eat, wild meat was important. I never thought anything would replace a rod and reel or a shotgun and rifle in my hands.

       But that new Nikon camera I bought a few weeks back is something I intend to shoot a great deal more than my old model 12 Winchester. I got it out of the package, remembering my first camera when I went to work for the Arkansas Democrat newspaper just out of college as their ‘outdoor editor’. It was a big heavy black box which took only black and white pictures.

       The first month I was there, I won a little award of some kind for a photo I took. I nearly wore that thing out, and I still have some of the square negatives in my files that it created.

       When I went to work as a naturalist for the state of Arkansas a year later, I bought a 35 mm Pentax camera that indeed took color photos in the form of slide transparencies.  The state couldn’t afford a camera for me but they did pay for film and developing. I kept duplicates and I now have a few thousand old slides and prints that camera gave me. I have added to that hundreds and hundreds of color prints and when I want to find a certain photo, it my take hours to run it down.

       I sold hundreds of photos to magazines when I finally became a full time outdoor writer, and I think I sold more than 40 cover photos for various magazines. I learned that understanding the technology of a camera wasn’t as important as just knowing what would make a photo, and being out there where you could see things not normally seen. There was indeed money to be made from selling photos, but not only that, if you sent an article to Outdoor Life or Field and Stream, you had a much better chance of selling it if really good photos came with it.

       I have never been more than an amateur
photographer but my cameras have been professional, and this new one is something spectacular. I am going to have to find someone to help me with the instruction book to ever find out how to completely understand it.

       So three or four days ago, I just took a little walk down one of my trails to practice with it. Now remember that I have written recently about yellow-billed cuckoos, which are known as rain crows to us country folks. I have been here on Lightning’ Ridge for 25 years and never had a clear view of one, although each summer they nest up here, staying high in the foliage of big trees, as if they are trying to hide. You see one for a second and then they are gone.

       Walking down that trail with the camera and two lenses, a rain crow flew down and lit on a cedar limb I had trimmed along the trail. I brought up the camera and tried to see him through the lens. Nothing. The lens cover was still on! I took it off, and just chose a setting on the camera I thought would work, and clicked a couple of quick photos. 

       Too far—then I remembered the telephoto lens in my pack and my shaky fingers worked to find the way to push the right buttons to change them. I knew it was not going to work. He could see me so well, just 15 or 20 yards away. But somehow I got the telephoto lens on, found him in the viewfinder and began to click the shutter. That rain crow sat there for at least five minutes, turning his head to give me different shots, acting as if he was modeling for me. When he flew away, I headed for my office; so happy my feet scarcely touched the trail. I stuck the little card in the computer and there were the very first photos my new camera gave me…  spectacular shots of a rain crow, something I thought I would never ever get.

       I really am inspired by those photos, and such a rare opportunity, and sometime in the future I am going to find my best 100 photos, taken over 45 years as a naturalist and outdoor writer, and publish them, with a page of information about what each one is and where it was taken. I think it will make a good book, because if there is a photo of a bird or animal or whatever, I don’t intend to just tell the facts about that creature that you can find in a dozen books, but I want to tell the story of my own experiences and observations and what I have learned that hasn’t been printed on some internet account!

       I am not sure that better photos than I ever taken aren’t ahead, with this camera I have. I am certainly going to be spending a lot of time on the river and in the woods with it. That is the secret to getting good photos, being where they are found as much as possible.
       It was only a short time ago that we obtained the ability to sell my magazines and books over the phone via credit card.  I can’t do it, being computer illiterate, but my secretary can.  Folks have been calling wanting information about my ten books, and that is one thing I can do.  We have made little sheets of info about each one and I can mail you all of those if you would like.  Just call and ask for those, 417 777 5227.  You can email me at or write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613

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