The other morning in town I stopped at the bakery next to Harts. Walking up to the counter I passed a tall gentleman wearing a blue ball cap that said, “NCIS Eureka.” While ordering one of those ham and cheese deals that tastes so good, I started wondering about the hat. While ordering stuffed muffins to hand out to the kids, I decided I would ask the tall man where he had acquired the cap and wondered if I might mention to him that my father had worked for the precursor organization to NCIS for several years. The man had been standing next to the tables where locals frequently gather for morning coffee and conversation, but he was gone when I turned around. Exiting the air conditioning into the humid warmth, I scanned the sidewalk and parking lot knowing that the overwhelming odds were that he was just a fan of the popular television franchise and not a retired special agent or whatever, but I wished I could have made sure.
I was in a hurry this morning, but I glanced at the barn as I always do and noticed something out of the ordinary. Driving away I clicked a quick photo.
Enlarging the photograph, you can see the youngster in the window. It’s always amazing to see how fat, white and fluffy a Black Vulture baby is. I hope I see it again so I can attempt a better picture.
I went out on the porch awhile ago and was having a conversation with the dogs when a doe walked through the edge of the garden. His hackles on end, Shrek jumped down the steps putting on a display of proud ferocity. The doe stopped walking and stood looking at him with disinterest. Shrek halted short of the defiant deer, confidence waning. After a half minute of indecision, he looked back at me standing on the porch watching and started the heartbroken moaning that only he can do, the shame and embarrassment too much for him to endure. He stumbled back to the porch and climbed the steps his head hanging low. I fetched him a treat and gave him encouragement. I vigorously told him that he was a good boy but he was unconvinced.
Late last night, we had heard an animal sound up in the field. Ian said it sounded like a goat. I took that to mean a doe was talking to a newborn. And as is the case when they have a small fawn, the mothers stop playing the game of politely running a short distance when Shrek tries to impress me. The politics are interesting. A few years ago we had a doe who would actually chase the little dogs if they came too near. She was a hard core good mother.
For nearly twenty years bats flew up the hollow every evening (except when hibernating) around dusk. A couple years ago I realized that I was no longer seeing them and this left me concerned about the spreading bat disease I had been reading about. Late Saturday night, however, I was driving up and out of the hollow when I was happy to see a few bats dipping down into my yellow headlights and grabbing insects before flitting to the darkness above. My hope for them has returned.
Just like a year ago, a black vulture nested in our barn and raised a young one. Last summer, she had two babies. I was just watching the chick, who has finally lost all of his fuzzy white feathers and looks like an authentic buzzard instead of a weird muppet creature. It was sitting in the barn window looking around and then would suddenly swoop down inside the barn with wings spread. It would fly a circle and then land back in the open window and strut back and forth and make a gravelly sound of pride. It was cute. I have yet to see it fly outside of the barn.
It has been pointed out to me that I had a factual error in my January 7, 2015 column that appeared in the Eureka Springs Independent newspaper. The following is the corrected version.
My wife Diane grew up where the Pig Trail Kart n Golf (formerly The Fun Spot) is located on Highway 62 East in Eureka Springs. If you go back to the early 1980s, it was still a beautiful family home place, with an abundance of flowers, bushes and large old trees around a house with a big yard. There was some pasture and Duane O’Connor sometimes ran a few cows. Diane and her brother Doug would play in the front yard and periodically a car would pull up and tourists would ask for directions to the Passion Play. After being given directions, the tourists would sometimes ask how many blocks away it was. Diane didn’t know how to answer that.
Thirty years ago, we kept my Cousin Jim Sisco’s mare Lulabell at our place and I spent many a happy hour riding across the countryside. I wanted to go to my grandparents’ farm, but didn’t want to ride down through the curves on the shoulderless highway. (I’d done that before and didn’t want to repeat it.) My Grandpa Jack McCall knew all kinds of shortcuts, so I asked him for directions. He suggested I take the old road over the mountain and through the woods. Turns out his definition of a road and mine were different (mine undoubtedly influenced by living in East Coast suburbia.)
I still remember his directions. I was to turn left at the red oak snag. I found it. I was to stay straight at the giant dead elm. I found it. I was to watch for the dogs at the house where the hippies grew dope. Those dogs found me before I found them. Lulabell and I made it through that section pretty quick. Looking back, I realize that she and I did a lot of trespassing without a second thought.
Speaking of Grandpa and hippies, he told me once that he’d heard that there were hippies in Eureka that didn’t get out of bed until nine in the morning. He was incredulous. I’m glad he didn’t know what time I got up.