Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A MORNING ON THE MEADOW WITH DOGS

click photos to enlarge
It is frigid out.  I mean cold.  Is this really Tennessee?  I loaded the guys up and drove down to my favorite meadow at the old state park.  We walked through the meadows.  See the movie immediately below to watch goofy Shade rolling in the snow.  What a goofball!  A beautiful goofball and a free wild spirit..
video
The weather is supposed to warm up starting tomorrow afternoon and by Thursday we should see 50 to 55 degrees here in East Tennessee.  That's when I'll pull the canoe out.  If the rain isn't too bad I'll take Shade and Douglas to Calderwood for a camp out.  In the worse scenario, I'll get the canoe on Indian Boundary Lake if it rains.  Today, however, we're just going to enjoy the forest and the meadows.
My feet make crunching noises as I plod along on the frozen surface.  The dogs glide by effortlessly ignoring the frozen ground, cutting left and right at breakneck speed and reversing course without sliding an inch.  How do they do it?
 I brought Happy along today as we won't be out too long.  I'll have them back in a couple hours;  maybe three.  Happy has short hair and will commence to shiver if she sits and rests for long.  I got her a little knit coat to wear for these cold outings.
Happy is far from being a hunting dog but, I notice she is inquisitive about holes in trees, burrows in the ground and the like.  She will raise her head when in the forest, nose to the sky, and test for the scent of things.  She never used to do that but caught on from being with Douglas.  Dogs may not have human thought processes but, they sure know how to mimic other dogs and even humans.

A coldness came over me when we reached the gate to the old mansion ruins.  Maybe it was the icy white snow on the cold stones that once held a gate.
The place reminded me of a living entity that had met a tragic end and the carcass left for the natural world to reclaim the skeleton.  The marvelous mansion that sat upon a strong, three brick deep foundation has gone into history leaving a mere outline of it's once formidable self.  Even the rows of remaining hand made brick, now in disarray, add to the coldness of the Winter view.  I never felt those feelings about this place before.
I have seen a very ancient photograph of the mansion in black and white that was void of any photographical excellence what so ever.  I have it posted somewhere on this blog.  A search would turn it up.  Each time I come here I can visualize that old mansion sitting where the foundation bricks lay today.  A porch wrapped around the entire first story of the place.  Four sets of seven granite steps located one set at each side of the house, permitted access to the porch on all four sides.   It must have been a marvelous home.  If I sit in the front yard and lean back against one of the huge trees;  in my minds eye I can see people standing and sitting on that porch.  Two children sitting on the porch railing arguing and an old lady in a rocker staring out across the yard into the forest are a few of my favorite visions.. I sometimes can see a tall, thin man of about 60 years of age walking, bent slightly at the waste, up the hill in the yard toward the porch.  He has a very wide brimmed, brown hat on with a flat crown.  In his left hand he carries a scythe. His right hand holds a neckerchief that he is wiping his forehead with.  The off white shirt is soaked with sweat.   His steps are slow but deliberate.  A lady steps out of the house onto the porch and notices the man approaching the porch steps.  She is wiping her hands on a light brown apron she wears around her waste.  Her light weight, black cotton dress reaches to the floor and is accented with dirty white colored cuffs at the end of the sleeves and the same color for the shoulder trim and lapel at her neck.  She turns and re enters the house.  It is obviously dinner time.  I could go on and on.....
Oh well;  see how my mind works?  Better move on out into the meadow
"Douglas;  come!  Shade;  Happy:  come!"
 The soil is softening out here.  I can't believe it is thawing out this quickly.   Tractors keep the meadows maintained and it is their tracks we are walking on under the snow.  I guess that has a lot to do with the "almost mud" consistency of the soil.  Movie time:
video
The birds of the day seem to be crows, blue jays and cardinals.  The crows have been very vocal.  Douglas and Shade scared up a covey of quail just now.  They just stumbled upon them.  the birds were in tall, brown grass that was bent over and covered with snow.  They had a great little house in there.  The snow gave shelter from the wind and prevented heat dissipation as they gathered tightly together.  I'm sorry we disturbed them.  Habitat isn't hard to find here at this old park.  TWRA has kept this property primarily with thought toward the birds that seek refuge here.  Those quail will be under cover instantly.  There appeared to be about twenty birds in that little flock.  Maybe that's a big flock.  I don't know.  Quail aren't a prevalent bird in Pennsylvania where I come from.  In those Northern hills we have ruffed grouse.
Now there's a bird.  The thought of that bird brings to mind the proposal to shoot sandhill cranes in Tennessee in 2011.  Notice I stated, "shoot sandhill cranes" and not hunt sandhill cranes.  There isn't anything about hunting involved with killing a sandhill crane.  Just point the shotgun in the general direction, close your eyes and snap off the shot and a crane will fall.  Might as well tie their legs together and have at em.  Ridiculous proposal to hunt them!  Now, a ruffed grouse is a mighty fast bird.  Their speed is unequaled by any other game bird.  When grouse are flushed from hiding;  they immediately burst from cover at top speed.   They are almost impossible to follow with the eye.  Some fly low and some high straight away from cover.  Some fly low and high to the right and others to the left.  A grouse will always put a tree between itself and the hunter.  If trees are not available, and they always are;  the bird will literally fly directly into or inches above green brier bushes.  More times than not a hunter is shaken by the explosion of birds and the multi-direction they simultaneously fly in and stands there with shotgun raised and in a confused state.  A shot is never fired.
Yes;  there is a dog in the picture below:
There was a time when I lived to hunt but, no more.  I'm not driven to that end in the slightest.  I guess what I'm saying is that if we're going to use the term hunt for purpose of killing animals then,  select animals that have a chance to survive the effort to kill them.  Cranes have no chance at all.  To hunt means to seek out.  To shoot cranes simply means to shoot and kill cranes.  There's no hunting involved.  How glorious that activity must be to a hunter who pursues cranes!  Too often our hunting practices in this day and age incorporate bushwhack techniques that I find repulsive and unsportsmanlike.  How about this;  gather up rotten meat and scraps, guts and whatever else that stinks and pile it up in a spot in the woods.  Then sit in a tree with a high powered rifle and bushwhack the black bear that ambles in to eat.  That's real hunting!  Lay the rifle across the bears back and smile for the Kodak moment.   Hogwash!  This practice and more are reasons why I gave up the "hunting" process and embraced the camera.  I won't get into any philosophical discussions here today.  Promise.  I quit....
Shade;  you're beautiful!
Douglas has long hair that grows on his feet called feathers and those hairs collect snow and freeze.  I should have cut those hairs off at the beginning of Winter but didn't think of it.  He constantly sits and tries to bite off the ice that forms on the hair. It obviously bothers him.  I'll trim it tonight.  For now;  he's delighting in plowing through snowy, tall grass.
They are having a wonderful time thrashing about in the tall, snow covered grass.  These dogs have it made.  My feet are getting cold and we'll be changing course for the truck.  Speaking of feet;  below is Happy's snow print:
The world is beautiful from my vantage point here at the old state park.  It is quiet and a winter wonderland.  I'm with my best friends and we're all safe and sound, if not just a bit cold.  The scenery is wonderful but, I'm having thoughts of gliding along in my canoe.
This peninsula that projects out into Tellico Lake offers a variety of landscapes for the pups to run and play in.  We have forest, meadow's and lakeside.  They even have a beautiful lake to swim in.
They are very lucky dogs.  Without my hand in their lives; places like this would be an environment they could not survive in.  They would each face a miserable short existence and a horrible demise through cold and starvation.  So, think before you ever give consideration to turning your dog out into the forest to fend for himself.  He can't survive.  At best he will be lucky and a bobcat or coyote will find him and prevent his slow torturous death.
But, you see, my dogs do have me to look out for them.  All they need do is have fun every day of their lives.  I would place myself in peril for any one of them and prove myself a formidable opponent to any danger that would threaten them.  With those cheerful words spoken;  I believe it's time to get in the truck and leave.  Lets see;  work tomorrow and off Thur, Fri and Sat.  Wonder what the next blog entry will be about?  Take a guess.   See you later.  I hope you all had a great Christmas.  Be careful on New Years Eve.  They have endless energy and power.  This place is a beautiful playground for them.
video
A final word about advertising on this blog.  Some of it seems appropriate and a lot is not.  I'm going to see if I can pick and choose what I like.  There are some products I would personally endorse and I haven't seen them appear.  For instance;   Muck boots.  Those are the finest boots available for canoeing.  They come in all heights and even therm o lined.  Gerber knives are great for canoeing and certain models will handle any camp chore.  Gerber and Kershaw straight knives are excellent tools.  Hatchets have become a topic of interest with me.  Camping doesn't require an ultra quality hatchet but, a hatchet has become a necessity with me.  Imagine losing both canoe paddles.  Hard to believe but possible.  A hatchet would make it possible to create a paddle from a tree limb.  Really;  it's not that hard.  A saw would be cumbersome at that task and could take too long.  I could whittle out a canoe paddle of sorts before the storm hit.  I'll see what I can do about the advertising.  And then again;  I am just about ready to toss it all out.  It's not really my style.