The Good Soldier

For a couple of decades I had dogs of significant stature. Shrek isn’t exactly small, but he’s a hundred pounds less than Frost and half the size of Chandler and the beautiful Bronte. Shrek guards us the best he can, and takes his watchdog duties seriously. I have no doubt Chandler was capable of bringing down a man, afterall that’s what bullmastiffs were bred for. Bronte weighed 110 pounds and had amazing speed. It’s a long story but I watched her catch a full grown doe by the throat and slam her head into the ground. Frost could be stressful to have on staff because he was perfectly willing to maul any misbehaving visitors to the hollow. And yet, Shrek’s as loyal a dog as I’ve ever had. Here he’s clambered inside the Mountaineer and intently awaits orders.

Constrained Chaos

Moments ago, I sat here in my chair with the front door propped open, reading to the soothing sounds of the fat yellow dog asleep on the porch. The birds at the feeder and hopping around his body were talking and chirping and yelling as they do. Suddenly, they scatter and I heard constrained chaos above the snoring. It’s a sound I recognize and it means that they’re about out of seed. I step out and see panic inside the feeder, the wings slapping the interior. The littlest of birds go inside for the food they see through the window, then can’t get out.

The terror of the situation must tire him out as he finally slows and I see that he’s blue. It takes more coaxing than you’d expect, but he finally streaks off.

The Shrekford Files II

Yesterday, the yellow dog and I were piddling around the workshop when we heard strange sounds emanating from the strip of trees at the end of the garden. It must have been of animal origin, but sounded alien and joyous. Suddenly, Shrek exploded off in a sprint, his hackles raised. Exploded may be too strong a word here. He is by far not the fastest dog I’ve known (that would be the beautiful Bronte), but neither is he the very slowest (that would be the basset Waldo). Halfway down the garden barking, Shrek slowed at the intimidating sound of large wings gaining altitude. Immediately, I realized I knew those weird sounds of a minute before, it was the vocalizations of happy vultures over carrion. As I walked the garden and wondered what the dead animal would be, two buzzards awkwardly landed in a tree above me.

I could no longer see yellow Shrek, but I noticed one buzzard was looking downward. With it just being the pair, I assumed it was the black vulture couple that lives here every spring and not bigger turkey vultures. (Though smaller than turkey vultures and eagles, black vultures still have a nearly six foot wingspan.)

This was not good news for the Shrek below as black vultures can be quite aggressive. If he was sniffing around their meal, they might run him off. I wasn’t concerned, though. Shrek may be of pure heart as my dog consultant says, but he is not known for his courage. No dog has such a talent for quick retreat as my yellow one.

I reached the trees to find Shrek in full investigative mode. We searched but there was no dead animal, no rotting husk of a deer or raccoon or ground hog. Shrek kept returning to one spot, indicating to me where the big smelly birds probably had been.

All I can figure is that they were drinking from this little spring creek branch that rarely runs above ground. Or perhaps they were playing in the water from the happy sounds they were making. It wouldn’t surprise me as they have big and bold personalities.

Up to the County Road

The yellow dog and I just had occasion to run up to the county road that snakes along the ridge top. I noticed as always this time of year that spring is in perpetual transition. Walking down to the vehicle, the lilacs are close to full bloom today.

I glance to the barn and see that all the peach blossoms are gone. I look across the garden and see that the wild plum tree is starting to fade. We had several wild plum trees along there until the ice storm of ’09. The redbud trees behind still have color.

I’m momentarily occupied inserting a fuse so that various things on the vehicle will work.

Up the drive we go, gaining elevation. Looking into the woods, I slow to a stop when I see specks of white to ascertain from a distance what the flowers belong to. I’m a bit alarmed at the number of the little thorny lime trees I see growing. I call them “lime trees” while the books call them “trifoliate orange.” It’s a citrus species from Korea and China gone wild in our sheltered hollow. I’ve written about them before. They produce a nice looking fruit similar to a lime that doesn’t seem good for much of anything besides maybe squeezing into a glass of summer lemonade or iced tea.

I like having a few around because they’re exotic and have been here much longer than I, but they shouldn’t get out of hand. For one thing, their thorns are not friendly. I know from experience that they can go quite deep into flesh. The photograph does not do them justice.

I do see some white flowers here and there that I did not notice yesterday. This is an example, under these two massive oaks that I think of as formidable sentries to the hollow.

The yellow one and I disembark for a closer look. It is as I expected, the dogwood blossom, the official harbinger of tourists to the Ozarks. Except this year, this year is different. The world is advertised as being in disarray yet these trees go about their business and take no notice.

Bone Collector

Like any good Arkansawyer who lives in the woods, I run across bones periodically and save a few. Over the years they accumulate, but not being too methodical about it, they get stuck here and there, in stuff and under stuff. The other day I was moving things around in an outbuilding and uncovered bones that had been missing for years. I said, “Well, there they are.” Shrek glanced over but did not comment. (As a reminder, Shrek is a fat yellow dog.)

San Andres Mountains

The neighborhood Master Naturalist was recently posted to the desert southwest fighting invasive plants. She took this photograph in the San Andres Mountains of southern New Mexico showing the yellow poppies in bloom.