Monday, November 1, 2010


A loud scream awakened me.  I pulled the covers over my head and lay still as if I heard nothing.  My mother came into the two bed sleeping room I was sharing with my Aunt Josephine's brother.  He was called Dubbie by friends and family.  I was but a kid of five years old, maybe six.  At my mothers prompt I sat up and prepared to leave the room.  I glanced over at Dubbie's bed and saw him; a man of medium height, slightly chubby, brown hair interspersed with gray, wrapped around the sides of his head with the top bald.  He was sitting on the edge of the bed in his shorts, feet on the floor, slumped over with his head in his hands.  His breath came hard and he coughed every fifteen seconds; a nasty, wet cough.  Mom ushered me from the room and into hers where I would sleep between her and dad.  The next day, Dubbie apologized to me and just said, "that happens sometimes."  I was uneasy around him, and then later that same day he asked me to walk around the farm pond with him.  He was going to leave next day.  We stopped by an old piece of rusty farm machinery and he spoke of the good old days.  I was fast becoming bored with the conversation because there was nothing I could add to it.  I didn't have any old days to talk about.   I told him so.  He looked at me and said, "We all live our lives in two places.  As you grow older, you will remember me telling you this, I hope.  When I was young, life was great.  Mom, dad, my sisters Josephine and Martha, did everything together.  Dad, before he died, taught us all at home around the kitchen table.  School was alright but, I really enjoyed learning around the family.  Then the damn war broke out and, well, that's sort of what I'm talking about." 
He was losing me.
He said, "from that point on, my life changed.  Three members of my family passed on without my presence and I was left after the war with an affliction that follows me to this day.  When you hear some old person say "them were the good ol days;" he's referring to his previous experiences up o a point in life when, to him, the current times aren't as good.  I know you don't know what I'm talking about because you don't have any good ol days to look back on yet and compare to the present.  But, someday you will. 
Funny thing about it though, and I could never figure it out.  If everyone is talking about the good ol days; what has to change in the future to make a guy look forward instead of back.  I guess there's no hope because everyone I have ever talked to tells me "it ain't like the good ol days."

As I see it; the future leaders of the country haven't lived in the "really good ol days" when we skinny dipped at the reservoir, ate ice cream on round stools at the drug store  and enjoyed an evening with mom and dad and one of my best friends at the bowling ally down town.  Nope;  Nintendo, TV, texting, computers lots of beer are the backbone of the current ilk who would be the leaders of the nation..  Oh well...

Thats the way the conversation went as I remember it.  Dubbie died three years later in an institution for the mentally ill.  I was told by a close family member that Dubbie suffered severe shell shock after enduring over 30 continuous days of artillery bombardment by the Germans in France.  Some of the shells contained poison gas and he got a whiff of it too.  He was coherent when he died and talked of the war at the end.  I never forgot him.  You see;  he is part of my good ol days.  He's a hero a five year old boy was bored listening to one day , but I remember the story now and I'll never forget him.
I've had a full past four days.  Friday found me in the canoe paddling up Citico Creek.  Saturday and Sunday I took Shade and Douglas on a camp out on Calderwood Lake.  Today I got the toy motorcycle out and rode over to the Hiwassee Crane Reserve.  Oh, I knew the cranes wouldn't be there but, I haven't visited the place for a few years.  A young lady who is a bird watcher introduced me to refuge and I never forgot it.  To see all those beautiful cranes together in mass held me spell bound.  I never forgot the sight of them.  I watched the flocks soar overhead in preparation to land with their kind who were already at the waters edge foraging for food.  Their sharp voices and the sounds of their beating wings were soul lifting.  How glorious they appeared!  How glorious they truly are!  The newly proposed sandhill crane hunt has bothered me more over the past weeks than any topic I can readily remember fussing over in years.  I'm still trying to find out what the justification for the hunt is.  It seems, and I hope it isn't the case, that there is simply a large number of cranes available to hunt;  so why not?

I drove the back roads to Hiwassee.  At one point I followed the Hiwassee River and noticed a clear cut area following under the power lines along the road.  I turned the little bike off the asphalt and onto the clear cut area.  I traveled on for about three miles driving on this clear cut area.
The river looked like it would be a super place to fly fish for trout.  That is, if the white water people could keep their hands off the water valve for awhile.  Actually these waters have a reputation for being great trout water and there are guide services available to show pilgrims how to do it and where.  There must be good trout fishing to support that business.

The river is very shallow with riffles and natural diversions that force the water to flow many directions across a single section of water.  It would be a challenging piece of water to fly fish.

The water was possibly five feet deep up against the bank and out to as far as thirty feet.  Beyond that I believe the stream could be waded with hip boots clear to the opposite side.

The little bike is doing a very good job for me today.  It is running flawlessly and I'm happy with the performance it delivers;  all 45 horsepower.  Most of all I am enjoying the ability to go where I want which includes off road.  The motorcycle has very good off road capabilities and it is light weight.
An hour later I turned onto route 60 North which goes straight to Hiwassee.  The roads are not marked well and I almost missed the turn to the crane reserve.  A short drive down a gravel road brought me to the familiar viewing pavilion where I observed the sandhills on my last visit.
The view is beautiful.  Corn fields can be seen ahead of and behind the water.  The last time I visited here;  there were thousands of sandhill cranes standing in the water and walking the fields.  They were breathtaking!
A short walk up a wooden ramp to the viewing deck allows one a complete view of the entire wet land area.
There are interesting pictures and printed data posted at the pavilion. There is even a poem.  Yes;  the sandhill and Whooping Cranes are much adored by all.

 Main gathering area for the sandhills:

As I said previously;  I was aware there wouldn't be any cranes here today.  I just wanted to stand where I did years ago and bring back the memory of them.   I find it unconscionable that anyone would want to shoot them.  The thought is appalling.  Maybe the effort to hunt them will be thwarted.  I hope so.  For if this fabulous bird is under consideration for the hunting list;  then, is there any creature held sacred in the natural world?  There shouldn't be any struggle to defeat this proposal to hunt cranes.  It's ludicrous in it's inception and surely must be a mistake.  The instigator's must be made to see the error in their ways.
And,  a final shot of the crane gathering area.  They flock here by the thousands when they stop on their migratory route:

And, of course the last day off couldn't be spent without one last outing with the dogs.  And so it was this evening.  We went to the hiking trail at Tellico.   The soft light allowed some pretty fair photos.
It's a beautiful walk along this lake in the fall.
It's great to capture on a photograph what will not exist tomorrow.  It's as though I have the spirit of the thing preserved.
I sat on a log and made some notes in my journal while the dogs enjoyed the freedom to be dogs.  The sun is almost done and we have to return.  It's been a busy four days and a most enjoyable time in the wilds of Tennessee.