Category Archives: Wildlife

Boundary issues

I stepped out of the RV to pee around 4:00 am and since it was too dark to read while I stood there pondering life to pass the time.  Tried to anticipate whether, late as it was, I’d be able to get back to sleep, or should I come indoors and do some work on the computer I’d been putting off doing.

So when I finished I’d decided to go up to the cabin and get some coffee, maybe do the comp thing.  But I noticed the wind had blown over a chair where I’d left a pinch bar and it was on the ground.  Picked it up and headed for the cabin porch.

Suddenly I was proud to have the pinchbar because one of the bigger coons I’ve ever encountered met me at the head of the steps, teeth bared.  I leaned backward to begin a step and the coon leaned forward suggesting he/she’d be following while I reared the pinchbar back to strike if needed.

Coon came down the top step with its front legs looking me straight in the eye when I spang hit it with the pinchbar and knocked it backward onto the porch.  This was beginning to tick me off.

I came up the first step while the coon turned around to face me again baring teeth and sort of whine/growling, not much of a pause before it came fast and I whacked hell out of it again upside the head.

Stunned it enough to give me time to think a moment and decide I wasn’t crazy about how this was all going, so as the coon struggled up and turned to face me I hit it again, this time with all the force I could muster.  Took it down again, but not dead, not unconscious.

So I stepped into the cabin and dragged out a .22 pistol inside the door, turned back around just in time to have the coon turning on me again.

Lousy way to start a day.

Fire ants and fawns

concrete illusions

A few years ago while Jeanne was visiting me here a fawn was born under the cabin porch.  She made a fun video of it and posted it somewhere, here, or on Facebook.

During the years since the deer have usually dropped a fawn or two somewhere within sight of the cabin.  This year, though, there have been three within 30-40 yards.  Maybe they feel safe because I’m not at war with them over chicken feed the way I was previous years.  We’ve settled down to mostly ignoring one another with them going after apple cores I throw out, or one will occasionally come onto the porch to make a try for the cat food.

But the last doe to drop a fawn left it out in the meadow for a while and I noticed it lying out there.  I wasn’t much concerned because a doe will do that, fawn stays until she returns, nobody any worse for the wear.  But after a couple or three hours it was still there, so I walked out for a look.

Fawn was covered with fire ants.  I stood a while deciding whether to try to brush them off but it’s a tough call.  The fawn might run away where the doe couldn’t find it, or the smell of a human might keep the doe from recognizing the fawn when she returned.

But I’ve seen fire ants kill a fawn in similar situations, completely disappear it in 24 hours, not even leaving any hair, teeth or eyeballs.

I finally just decided to let it be and hope the doe would come back to lick off the ants.

Anyone thinks Mama Nature ain’t a cruel lady hasn’t been around her much.

 

So How About Them Radioactive Tuna?

Me:  Soooo.  How you cat-folks feeling about some canned cat food this morning?  Can I hear some ‘Amens’ on that?

Invader cat:  Amen!  Amen!  Amen!

Naiad:  Hold that thought a minute.  Any idea what they put in those big bags of Purina food?  Where they get it?  That sort of thing?

Me:  No idea at all.  I just thought you guys would want a dose of something out of a can.

Invader cat:  Amen!  Amen!  Amen!

Naiad:    I’m not so sure.  Got any liver and bacon flavor?

Me:  Probably some of that in here somewhere.  But the cans on top are salmon, tuna and chicken and tuna.  Below, is seafood supper.  I’d rather not dig down in the package if it’s okay.

Naiad:  I’m not all that hungry  Might go out and catch a mouse and just settle for that.  I heard you grumbling and muttering about that radioactive bunch of tuna they caught out of San Diego the other day. 

Me:  Yeah, they did.  But it was just ceisum 134 and 137.  Not dangerous levels yet.

Naiad:  So you figure they just threw them away?  Or ground them up into fish meal to feed to pigs?  Maybe put them into cans of food of one sort or another?

Me:  I don’t know.  I don’t think there’s any routine testing anyway.  The article said, “The real test of how radioactivity affects tuna populations comes this summer when researchers planned to repeat the study with a larger number of samples. Bluefin tuna that journeyed last year were exposed to radiation for about a month. The upcoming travelers have been swimming in radioactive waters for a longer period. How this will affect concentrations of contamination remains to be seen.

“Now that scientists know that bluefin tuna can transport radiation, they also want to track the movements of other migratory species including sea turtles, sharks and seabirds.”

I reckons they’ll be checking it out, directly.

Naiad:  You go ahead and feed the rest of these guys whatever you want to.  I’m going hunting.

Invader cat:  Amen!  Amen!  Amen!

Old Jules

The Skins We Change

Note from Jeanne:
I’d like to thank those of you who commented on yesterday’s art work. I appreciate it. It has been a while since I’ve worked on large drawings (spending more time recently on jewelry) and just getting the feedback from you has been an encouragement to follow through on some other ideas I’ve had.  I’ll post a drawing here every once in a while and I’ll try to fix the categories so you’ll be able to find them all easily.
 Old Jules has been spending a good deal of his time cutting cedar and working on a huge erosion control project for Gale and Kay and hasn’t been online much. I’m sure he’ll update you at some point, but I have some posts  scheduled ahead since I don’t know exactly when that will be.  Thanks again for visiting, reading,  and commenting here, we both appreciate it very much. ~Jeanne

Previously posted June 7, 2005  (Placitas, New Mexico)

Out in the currently vacant chicken house I found a rattlesnake skin the other day.  It was in one of the layer boxes, so I don’t know how long it was there before I noticed it.  But it caused me to do some thinking about old brother rattler and what manner of nuisance he’s likely to make of himself if he’s still around.

I’m a man who holds rattlers in fairly high regard, but with a lot of respect for their clumsy bad manners when it comes to getting underfoot.  I usually try to keep enough of an eye on the places they like to show up unexpectedly to avoid offending them, and when I can corner them I’ll carry them off into some likely spot well away from humans.  Mostly they’re just minding their own business, trying to make a living the same as everyone else and don’t have the good sense to keep themselves out of harm’s way when humans are around.

This one looked a lot bigger last year (I’m assuming it’s the same one) when I lifted up a piece of plywood in a pile of debris in the corner of the lot and let out an involuntary yelp as I jumped backward in time to avoid his strike.  That skin shows him to be about two feet long, but I’d have called him an easy four from my brief look at him.

Rattlers are few at this altitude, and the one who slithered off into the cane leaving me to to decide whether to just breathe a while and let my pulse slow down, or take another tug at that plywood is almost certainly the previous owner of that skin in the chicken house.

Rattlers are lucky where it comes to changing their skins.  Happens year after year, but generally they don’t change much.  People aren’t so lucky in that regard.  We change our skins a lot of times in this life, and in a sense we leave the old ones lying around to be examined by everyone with an interest in who we are, making assumptions based on the old skin.

The other night I was down at the Range Cafe in Bernalillo …. met a bunch of old guys my age down there… retirees from the Los Alamos labs…. nuclear physicists who’ve shed their old skins and discovered they’ve let their lives slither off into the bush without doing a lot of things they wish they’d done.  Now they’re all off living other places, but decided to rendezvous down here for a hurrah into the mountains, looking for a lost gold mine.

I have a notion I’d have barely been able to tolerate those men in their younger days.  There’s a nuance about value judgements involving working on nuclear weapon development that would have influenced my thinking about them.

But these guys had left all that behind, shed that skin and now just wanting to slither off into the canyons, spend some time chewing the fat over a fire and stomp around looking for a lost mine and taking joy in being around one another again.

Strange place we’ve chosen to spend a reality, thinks I.

Old Jules

This is Zuni Salt Lake


It’s about forty miles south of the Zuni Rez, almost in AZ.

There’s a ghost town you can barely see in the pic…. used to be a considerable community down in there when it was private land, from the mid-1800s until the 1950s, evaporating salt from the huge concrete beds.  Most of the buildings are still intact, though they’re going away rapidly.

Today it belongs to the Zuni tribe, one section of land, but it’s not in the national trust as part of the Rez.  Tribes have been acquiring a lot of land from casino monies and other ways during the past decades, making the lands acquired ‘tribal’, but not Rez, which puts them into an interestingly ambiguous position insofar as road maintenance and county taxes.

Salt Lake was acquired as a piece of a lawsuit against the US government involving an airplane with a hydrogen bomb aboard that crashed on the Rez, with first responders being Zunis, but which the feds didn’t bother telling them about the bomb, leaving emergency workers exposed to hazardous materials without knowing it.  The tribe got a few million out of that, which they used to purchase 60k acres of land to the south of the Rez, but Salt Lake was thrown in as a bonus.

Salt Lake’s a sacred place for the Zunis, home of Salt Mother.  If you are willing to risk hopping the fence and wandering around down there ….. it’s a volcano crater with a hollow secondary plug you can climb, then a spiral trail leading back down inside … that’s where most of the rituals for Salt Mother are held… but all over that section you’ll pass over various religious items from recent times you’d be well advised to leave untouched.

Salt Lake used to be the place all the warring tribes got their salt throughout history.  A place where a constant truce between enemy tribes existed.

It’s also part of what the power companies would love to strip mine.   The great percentage of the desert surrounding it, from north of Springerville, and Saint Johns, Arizona is government land with shallow coal deposits comparatively inexpensive to ‘recover’.  They’ve already converted the desert on the Arizona side to a wasteland.  Still desert, but more in the moonscape vein than the usual, regular arid country mode.

The people in El Paso and Phoenix need electricity so they can fire up their hair dryers every morning, and keep their homes refrigerated.   Those places have climates uncomfortable to the human skin most of the time and they’d rather savage a few million acres of country they’ve never visited and never will than suffer a few degrees of discomfort and use a towel to dry their hair.

Which the Zuni believe would thoroughly piss off Salt Mother, with considerable resulting pain for the Zunis, and all the rest of us.

They might be right.

The Zuni and a few commie-pinko-obstructionist greenie environmentalists are the only people who give a damn, and the other desert-dwellers in the area would welcome the jobs helping ravage the country around them would bring to the area.  The last time I looked the Zuni tribe was burning up a lot of tribal money trying to stop the mine expansion into New Mexico.  The prospects didn’t appear promising because the New Mexico government, the feds, and the mining interests were stacked up singing songs of human progress and greater good.

Heck, it’s been a few years now.  Maybe they’re already mining it.  Probably easier to ask someone in Phoenix or El Paso whether the hair dryer worked this morning and if it did, assume that desert has gone to the moon.

Old Jules

 

The Great Tick Migration – Occupy Texas

I wrote this when I lived in Socorro, New Mexico, but I’d guess it’s as timely and germane today as it was then.

It’s sad, but they have to migrate: there’s no good water in the Rio Grande anymore.  It’s all sewage passed downstream from Albuquerque and other towns. 
 
This was almost home to them. Their ancestors arrived with the first cattle drives from Texas in the 1880s. But finally they’ve had enough. Lemming-like they’ve decided as one to return home, Lone Star Ticks to the Lone Star State, same as those invading Confederate Texas humans had to finally stagger and stumble home when things took a turn for the worst..
 
This far south they’ve just begun to gather; just started to come out from under the grassleaves, the treebark, stragglers still coming out of the brush. The main migration gathering is further north in the Isleta lands, Lost Lunas, and up by Belen. 
 
There they’ve mostly already grouped. They’ve dropped off the rats, cows, deer, dogs and coyotes. The earliest ones are drifting south ahead of the others. They’re the lucky ones. Those got far enough south yesterday to find a stray muskrats along the river and get a little something to eat. The stragglers will find it hard going.
 
It’s sad, but hopeful: tiny seed ticks huddling close to their mamas at night, the great herd constricting in the cold dark, mama and daddy ticks worrying about the great crossing of the Jornada del Muerto, about the dearth of animals on the Jornada. But also knowing in their tiny network of neurons passing for a brain, that once further south, things will still not be easy……the migration there, the gathering will have already emptied the countryside of hosts, bloodmeals will be a rarity.
 
When those Isleta and Lost Lunas ticks get as far south as Socorro, the southern ticks will have eaten away everything available. Fishermen will know something’s up by then; they’ll be staying away from the river bottom country sensing some new thing, some change in the atmosphere near the river, hectored by the early gathering; the dogs, the feral cats, the rodents, all driven away from the river bottom by the strange new presence of so many tiny pests. 
 
The animals left will be sucked dry. Probably when the latecomers reach Socorro they’ll have to take their chances in town. Maybe they’ll find pets or townspeople for a last meal before they try to cross the dreaded Jornada del Muerto.
 
Some of them will drift up onto the freeway to find broken-down motorists with flat tires or dead batteries. Truck drivers stopped to urinate by the road or unsuspecting drunks sleeping with the window opened a crack to release the foul tobacco smoke from inside the car will save a few. Maybe an unlucky hitchhiker sleeping under a bridge or one of the frequent escapees from the prison or jail; some hapless hobo along the railroad, waiting for the next train.
 
If the motorist doesn’t get bitten by too many at once there’ll be a chance for a jump south by vehicle across the Jornada and avoiding the hard crossing….a quick ride to Cruces, or Truth or Consequences, or El Paso for a small group if they don’t get greedy and just take it easy on the driver. But so many of these younger ticks want everything now. 
 
It might be hard going for them when they get down toward Cruces. That’s where they’ll first meet the newly arrived fire ants. Also, those deep southern ticks will resent their presence, nudging their little fat grey bodies aside as they scramble in a fold of flesh for a foothold and a meal. And ahead, Texas.

The ancestral homeland.
Renewal.
 
Yes, it’s sad, of the hundreds of millions of ticks starting home; tens of millions won’t make it. There’ll be stained smudges on the freeway where they try to cross, but many run over by recklessly speeding cars.

Thousands clogging the river with their tiny carcasses where the water rose unexpectedly during a crossing, catching many unaware, the long march, the trail of tears, the trek home; so many dead, so many lost, the seed ticks, the mama ticks, the large swollen soft ticks shriveled and wrinkled with hardship….so many friends left back there along the trail, so many loved ones, lost, so many seed ticks lying there in the massive killing fields along the route. 
 
But they’ll do as they can, do as they are able, do as they must, heading south on that lonely migration that long dusty trek, always knowing they won’t be welcomed by their distant kinsmen.

The plethora of ticks in Texas, those hungry, selfish younger generation ticks will push and shove on the hosts, fighting for the best positions in and behind the ears, high on the necks where teeth can’t reach, tiny skirmishes and struggles for position everywhere; on cows, on dogs, on rodents, in the thick hair of women and unreconstructed hippy men in cowboy hats..
 
As always, those selfish Texas ticks will not agree to share their bounty. They’ll fight despite the sad happiness of the return of their distant relations. 

 Old Jules
 

Halloween in the Middle of Nowhere

I heard a helicopter out there somewhere and was slipping into my orange jump suit while I headed out the door.  The helicopter faded, but I encountered a gathering of cats and chickens as I hopped off the porch.

Hydrox:  “Is that how you’re going to dress for Halloween?”

Me:  “I haven’t given any thought to Halloween.  What are you guys going to do?  Is Halloween something you’re thinking about?  You used to hate it when we were in Placitas.”

Hydrox:  “I don’t knowCoons driving us off the porch every night, you shooting them through the window screen.  Hauling their carcasses out to the meadow on a grain-shovel.  Something BIG carrying them off.  Life’s sort of scary around here.”

Great Speckled Bird:  “That ain’t the half of it.  Coons and skunks trying to dig into the chicken-house every night gives me and the hens a case of the willies.”

Guinea #1:  “You think that’s bad?  What about the possums climbing around up in the trees looking for US?  It’s gotten so we’re flying around blind all night long finding branches in other trees.”

Shiva:  “It’s whatever it is carrying those coon carcasses off that worries me.  If we run out of coons it’s liable to come up here looking for the only thing outside worth eating.  Cats.”

Guinea #2:  “I resent that.”

Me:  “Whoooooah!  What is it you guys want?  I’m doing everything I can think of to keep you safe.”

Long pause.

The Great Speckled Bird:  “How about we have a celebration of Life?  Of surviving this long?  That might be fun.”

Niaid:  “Yeahhh.  That sounds good.  We could pretend we’re coyotes and you could open some of those special treats for us.”

Guinea #1:  “No need for anything special.  You could just open a can of what you give THEM,” gesturing with her beak toward the cats, “We’d love to get some of that.”

Tabby, muttering:  “You guys STEAL enough of that already.  Running us cats off it when he’s not looking!”

Great Speckled Bird:  “Nevermind!  Nevermind.  No point fighting among ourselves.  Let’s keep on track here.  How about you give the cats the special treats, and open some canned cat food for the rest of us?”

Americauna Hen:  “Yeah! Cool.  And we’ll have a big celebration of LIFE before you lock us into the fortress tonight!  Then if a coon or skunk gets in we’ll die happy.”

Guinea #2:  “Or if a possum grabs one of us before we know it’s up there.”

Hydrox:  “Or if whatever-the-hell’s carrying off those coon carcasses comes up here and catches one of us cats.”

The Great Speckled Bird:  “We’ll come knocking before sunset.”

I started pulling off the orange jump suit and opened the door to go inside.  Behind me I heard Niaid, “If he doesn’t do it we’ll dress up as a SWAT team and go after him.”

Tabby:  “What would we get him for?”

Hydrox:  “For being HIM!”

Old Jules