Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Lot To Be Thankful For

Day One of the rock ledge quarry.

The sooner this project begins, the sooner it will be over. It is not my property, not my mining business, and not my karma.

The first cut started less than a quarter mile away from my house but directly across the road from my neighbors. It is a shame to tear up this beautiful pasture but as far as I know it is not untouched prairie. My neighbor said the original prairie had been plowed up during the war. I certainly hope their old house sustains no damage.

There are worse things that could be happening in the neighborhood. I am exceedingly grateful that it is not an oil field, a cell tower, a coal mine or a nuclear waste dump. It is not a whorehouse or a beer joint. It is not a feed lot, a pig farm or a sewage plant. It is not a major meth lab or a landfill. What I am absolutely the most deeply thankful for: none of my former horrible Topeka neighbors are moving in!

I will live through the noise, the heavy trucks, the dust, and the ugliness. Eventually the peace and quiet will return. You understand that there might still be a day or two when I will feel compelled to cuss and complain before this is all over. Just sayin'.

Monday, July 6, 2015

When You Leave the Camera at Home!

Friday morning I had to take Jake the Bad Dog to the vet for his annual shots and wellness exam. When I left the house I considered taking the camera but decided against it. How likely would it be to see anything astounding or amazing or unbelievable in the 36 mile round trip? (As if aliens would choose that Friday morning to land in Kansas!) That is why I was unable to record a Bald Eagle with a rabbit in its talons, landing in a field just east of Paxico.

Eagles were extirpated from Kansas long before I was born. I did not see a wild eagle until sometime in the late 1980's. According to the web site Friends of the Kaw, "Not a single Bald Eagle nest was found in the entire state of Kansas from the time of first settlement until 1989." If an eagle had dared to darken the skies over Kansas, it would have been shot right out of the sky before it could possibly kill a single chicken. If the all-out genocide had not killed them all, then the tons of DDT sprayed over every square inch of Kansas soil would have ensured that even had a pair managed to nest their eggs would never hatch.

In the last forty years, thanks to federal protection, the realization that DDT was going to kill ALL of the birds, and the tireless work of an army of unnamed people, eagles are once again in the Kansas skies. I see an eagle every few years within a few miles of my home. It remains a thrill to see one.

An eagle is such an unexpected sight that it took a second for me to realize what I was seeing Friday morning. The eagle, carrying a dead rabbit, glided to a graceful landing just past the railroad berm. It held the rabbit, taking a few pecks while maintaining a vigilant eye. It appeared to be resting.

Almost immediately, a crow appeared, landing a very safe distance away - maybe 25 feet. The crow took a minute to assess the situation, then impudently flew in a tight and low circle over the eagle and settled back in its original landing spot. How did that crow know so quickly there was a ready-made meal it could possibly steal?

The eagle seemed to consider the situation before deciding it could not tolerate such a blatant lack of respect. Leaving the rabbit, it launched effortlessly into a low glide directly at the crow. The crow wisely took flight but the eagle gave chase. As I watched, the crow disappeared to the south. The eagle made a lazy sunward circle to return to the rabbit.

By then a couple of cars had come along. I was in danger of blocking traffic and I did not want to draw any more attention to the eagle. He had enough trouble just trying to grab a bite, so I drove on.

If I had only brought my camera. If only I were not so stubborn and long ago succumbed to the pressure to buy a smart phone, we would all be looking at photos of this encounter right now!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Eighteen Miles of Kansas

The Kansas River is "UP" as we say in Kansas.  A bit of an understatement.
Upstream, to the west.
It is impossible to capture distance!
After the wheat harvest, in the gloaming.  It is a beautiful sight.
Green in every known shade thanks to the rain.
Every year, the earth faithfully produces the grain and grass and the beauty.
A sight too long absent from the skies.
A sea of grass produces driftwood, too.
Almost home...
Another tree felled by the power of a rushing prairie creek.  Hard to believe looking at this benign little trickle now.

Driving eighteen miles home from Wamego Thursday evening, I took all of these photos. It is amazing when I look at all of them together what a variety of light and color and texture is available in that short amount of distance and time. I wish with all of my might for better photography skills! Everything is so much more beautiful than a mere photograph can convey.