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With these spring-like temperatures, the snow is quickly disappearing. There are holdouts, however, places the midday sun has less power, as in crevices and small ravines, and on the north-facing slope of the blackberry field.
There are four springs that I know of in our portion of the hollow, and many more nearby. This particular spring flows out of a small bluff into the pond that has previously been just a mud puddle due to our "moderate" drought. We call this spring the Pond Spring for obvious reasons. It is once again flowing above ground, though not too heavily. All the moisture keeps the moss nice and healthy looking.
The amazing eroding power of this small spring has shaped much of this area of the hollow.
The flowing water of the spring slowly and methodically wears away the hillside. It gets in between rocks, washing away dirt and loosening them.
Here you see that the water has found other prey. The spring is digging out the dirt from under this bank. Eventually it will collapse.
Finally, the melted snow that powers the increased flow of the spring goes under an old livestock fence into the small pond.
I'm glad to see the pond once again filling with water. It seems to be a central meeting spot for wildlife of all sorts. As you can see, the willow trees that broke during the 2009 Ice Storm still clutter the pond, providing perches for songbirds.
I recently discovered the existence of the U.S. Drought Monitor out of Lincoln, Nebraska, and they've officially confirmed what I already suspected: the hollow is suffering a drought. Our small pond shrank into a mere mud hole this past autumn. So all of this melting snow is a welcome relief. The springs are flowing like they haven't for a long time. The snow is disappearing at a rapid clip due to the dramatic increase in temperatures. Right now it is 64 degrees Fahrenheit in the hollow. That is a staggering 80 degree warm-up from the 10th of February. Of course, there are casualties. This snowman is almost gone.
As detailed above on the map, Winona Township covers 23.9 square miles of forest, river and farms. The hollow from whence these notes originate is situated in said Winona Township, and so it is only natural that I should eagerly await the release of census data accumulated last year by the US Census Bureau army.
Today I was finally able to manipulate the Census Bureau website in such a way that it presented the official, 2010 population of the Winona Township. The number we’ve all been awaiting is 453. 453 humans inhabit Winona Township.
So what can we make of this? Certainly, the current trend of people streaming into the township continues. In the last 20 years, the population of Winona Township has increased by 173 people.
2010 Census = 453
2000 Census = 359
1990 Census = 280
But the current trend reverses the population loss that took place during the Great Depression era.
1940 Census = 284
1930 Census = 238
1920 Census = 345
Winona Township covers 15,296 acres of land. At the present population, that comes out to 34 acres per person. Tend it wisely.
This photograph by Barbara Mourglia shows what has been going on around here. Snow and cold and cold and snow. Three times. I do not know how much snow we received in total, a respectable amount, I think. More than a foot. What I am sure about is that we've had some cold nights. Sixteen below zero (Fahrenheit) one morning (that is twenty-seven below zero Celsius for the more progressive types.) Tomorrow, February the 13th, will be the 106th anniversary of the lowest temperature ever recorded in the state of Arkansas, which is -29 (Fahrenheit.) (Disclaimer: Conversion of Fahrenheit to Celsius accomplished with help of the National Weather Service. I am unable to confidently vouch for this conversion. All I remember is that 212 is actually 100 and 0 is actually 32.)
This hollow is a small part of the old Milton Masters' farm and this is the classic Ozarks-style barn he built as it appeared just a little bit ago.
Old farm equimpment is sometimes used to decorate one's yard in the Ozarks.
We've not seen anything as white so far this winter. Still waiting. (Photograph courtesy of Barbara Mourglia)
My mystery novel called Murder in the Ozarks is now available. It can be ordered online at www.murderintheozarks.com or on www.amazon.com. It can be purchased in Berryville, Arkansas at It's A Mystery Bookstore on the historic square. In Eureka Springs, Arkansas, it is available at Medical Park Pharmacy, Myrtie Mae's Restaurant and Bunch's Quik-Chek.
The purpose of my expedition into the McIlroy-Madison County Wildlife Management Area was to investigate Keg Hollow.
This is a good time of the year to explore some of the unimproved roads of the WMA because they are locked away behind gates 8 months out of the year. The WMA designated Road 6a takes one into Keg Hollow and it follows streams and the natural contours of the hillside as it drops down about 400 feet in elevation to the bottom of the hollow, where its cumulative waters drain into Rockhouse Creek.
This is a fairly remote part of the Arkansas Ozarks, but I expected to see hunters out as muzzleloader deer season is open. I drove a total of 13 miles through the McIlroy-Madison County Wildlife Management Area on this day and didn’t meet a single vehicle on the roads. (Disclaimer: After leaving Keg Hollow, I did see two men garbed in traditional camouflage with bright orange vests sitting in lawn chairs next to the road by two pickup trucks.)
Despite not seeing another human being in Keg Hollow, I did see signs of recent activity. Besides the tire tracks in the muddy road, I ran across a smoldering fire and a glove hanging from sapling limbs.
The creek beds were mostly dry when first dropping down into Keg Hollow, but after a ways there is a sizeable spring next to the road. After that, the creek beds appeared to hold water year around, at least it seemed to me that is what all the minnows indicated. When I tromped over to where the spring flowed out of the hillside, I scared some creature in the water. At first I thought it was a pale salamander, but it may have been a grayish crawdad the way it darted. Then, gazing down into the small pool of water, waiting for movement, I saw what obviously was the tail of a salamander sticking out. Well, maybe it was the tail of a snake. I was sure it was one or the other. I watched a long time waiting for the tail to twitch but the creature stayed completely still. Finally, I got a long twig to scare the little thing so I could identify it. I felt foolish to discover it was a plant root, not a tail.
Though Road 6a is marked as unimproved on the map, any car could easily use most of it, the road is that good. In fact, most of it is a better, smoother road than the little road into our hollow. But there are some sections of the Keg Hollow road that would be a challenge for 2-wheel drive vehicles.
As with much of the forested land around here, Keg Hollow still showed plenty of damage from the 2009 ice storm. I’ve heard it said more than once that it’ll take trees at least 20 years to recover from the destruction of that winter.
After crossing Rockhouse Creek, the road actually leaves Keg Hollow and climbs the steep facing hillside. I looked back for a last glimpse down through the trees to where the creeks merged.
As the crow flies, it is exactly 5.5 miles from the hollow to the northern border of the McIlroy-Madison County Wildlife Management Area. This nearly 23 square miles of forested hills and hollows is managed by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and is home to an abundance of Ozark interior highland species - everything from rare salamanders to the always popular big game animals. I’ve heard that even elk are seen on occasion.
Arkansas started buying land here in 1957 under the leadership of Governor Faubus, and much of it was apparently owned by the wealthy McIlroy family. I have a 1972 USGS map that shows the name of this preserve to be the McIlroy State Game Management Area. Sometime later the name was changed to the Madison County Wildlife Management Area, and then in 2008 it again was renamed McIlroy. Interesting.
When I was a kid we’d count the number of stripes on our sneakers and that would indicate how fast those shoes were – the more stripes the faster you’d run. Following that logic, this is a fast snake.
I nearly ran over this lovely creature on our little road yesterday. The 3500 pound all-wheel drive vehicle didn’t cause it to move, but when I stepped out to engage in some portrait photography, this snake was as quick as its stripes indicated.
The book says that female Western Ribbon Snakes are bigger than males, but the males have longer tails. If you can look at this snake and tell whether it is male or female by the length of the tail, let me know. These snakes hunt around water, and particularly like larval salamanders.
This thing is called an Osage-orange in the tree guide put out by the Arkansas Forestry Commission. I've also heard it called a hedge apple, a mock orange and a bois d'arc. We have these trees around here in the Ozarks but I don't know of any I could point you to. This Osage-orange I picked up in Kansas, where it isn't native, but saw them by the thousands. Impressive.
For 116 years the Concord School House stood where it was built near the banks of Keels Creek on land originally donated by the Masters family. Both of my grandmothers, Lola Wolfinbarger-Weems and Betty Southerland-McCall, attended school in what was officially known as the “West Concord School No. 48.”
The Concord School House was a center of community life in the Keels Creek valley. Circuit preachers of various denominations came through and held church services, citizens attended political rallies there and then came back on another day and voted in the same building, concerts were held, meetings on new agriculture techniques, and various fund raisers, like pie suppers, were common.
In 1948, the Concord School House was forced to close by legislation out of distant Little Rock and the building sold to the highest bidder. I’ve been told that it then stood empty (except for the hay stored there) for the next 54 years.
In early 2002, Eureka Springs Fire Chief David Stoppel announced that Dan and Monica Ryan, who had come to own the old Concord School House, were going to donate the land there for the construction of a much needed rural fire association substation. The Ryans did hope, however, that the historic building could be saved by relocation and encouraged those interested to contact them.
Shortly thereafter I did have a long, enjoyable conversation about Concord with Dan Ryan, emails to and from David Stoppel, and met with some house movers. Luckily, there were others interested in saving the school house - I certainly didn’t have the resources to do it. Ultimately, the Masters family moved the Concord School House to its current location and did a wonderful job renovating it.
Now the Concord School House stands on a high spot on a ridge overlooking the beautiful “Hull Valley” just outside of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, on County Road 309 (or Rocky Top Road.) If you haven’t seen it, it’s certainly worth the drive.
Tree frogs have discovered that under our yellow porch light there is a virtual buffet available. In the past 11 years, we'd occasionally see a tree frog on the porch, but we are now seeing up to eight at a time. I guess word is getting around.
Another valuable predator found in large quantities in the hollow is the fascinating creature we call the dragonfly. We appear to have a variety of species here, all congregating up and down the creek. At dusk, especially, they are out hunting. This particular specimen must have heard some frogs talking. I'd never seen one under the porch light before.
Charlie Garner opened Garner's Drive In of Berryville, Arkansas in 1972. Mr. Garner, a good friend of my Grandpa Jack McCall, recently passed away, but Garner's Drive In is still going strong. Great cheeseburgers.
Visited the Weems Cemetery in the Missouri community of Wanda in Newton County. The cemetery was full of distant cousins of mine.
Lewie weathered the rainstorm safe and snug in the Land Cruiser. (Photo by B. Mourglia)
First thing I noticed that grabbed my attention was how loaded down this catalpa tree is with pods.
Next, I paused in the stream bed of the spring that fills the pond and admired this particularly large grape vine. I wonder just how old it is. I wonder how long they can live. I wonder how much bigger a wild grapevine can get. Wondering, I wander off.
I walked up into the blackberry field, staying on the path I try to maintain periodically.
Before heading back home, I check on some passion fruit vines growing wild in the field. They are everywhere. On this flower I notice a Japanese Beetle enjoying a light snack.
What is the largest predator I've seen in the hollow? There was a black bear crossing the county road one night as I was driving out. It wasn't that big as far as bears go, about the size of my old dog Frost - so approximately 150 pounds. I was amazed at how quickly it moved when my headlights hit it and then it leapt the little ditch along the road and disappeared. I don't know if it got over the woven wire fence topped with barbed-wire along the road, or if it just exited my vision by staying in the darkness beside or behind the car. I mean, I stopped the car and backed up looking for it in the headlights.
Recently a neighbor reported seeing a large black cat moving through the woods down into the hollow, something similar in size to a mountain lion. The neighbor is an experienced hunter and woodsman and I consider him a reliable witness. Early settlers reported seeing black panthers here, but modern scientists discount the stories.
Rumors of (tawny-colored) mountain lions being around here are so constant that I no longer take much notice. The big cats are seen, or tracks are found, or livestock is killed, or their piercing screams are heard. I know the State of Arkansas has the official position that there is no evidence of a resident population of breeding cougars, but there is also the rumor that the Arkansas Fish and Game Commission's own employees privately dispute that position. I just wish I could get to see one.
We often hear coyotes yelping and barking, so we know they are here. See one occasionally, too. I've had a hard time sneaking up on them in the woods, though the dogs and I scared off several that were sheltered under an overhanging bluff down the hollow once. It is easier to see coyotes if you have big fields allowing you to scan long distances (I once saw a coyote sitting on top of a big round bale of hay in my Grandpa’s pasture.)
Bobcats are around - have seen a few of them. Or maybe the same one over and over. They are so sneaky, they could be around all the time and you wouldn't necessarily see one. And I've seen both red and gray foxes in the hollow.
Of course, since the bear I saw was on the small side, the largest predator that hunts in the hollow is undoubtedly the common, everyday human. We don't always see them when they hunt, but they leave signs, such as gum wrappers or cigarettes. And when the trigger is pulled, it is hard to cover up the sound of a firearm.
I have a few signs posted around to discourage trespassers, but they are occasionally ignored, or maybe just not seen. I've blazed our complete border with purple paint several times as prescribed by the Game and Fish people, but the paint fades so quickly that I've about given up on it.
Modern rifles used by hunters are dangerous because of their long range. Once I was down by our barn and a bullet whizzed overhead. I know from low crawling under tracer rounds in army basic training that bullets can seem closer than they actually are… I just hope someone wasn’t hunting me.
What is she doing? And why did she leap onto my back in the first place?
Took the 1971 Land Cruiser to the doctor's office for a checkup and a 1991 Land Cruiser was already there.
We have a hillside field we call the blackberry field. Not near as many blackberries to pick as there used to be. Hope we don't have to change the name of the field.
And so, A Week Of Mourglia Snakes draws to an end. While the little fellow in the following photographs (by Barbara Mourglia) may not technically qualify as a snake, he is cute, and as we all know, that is what matters in the end.
If anyone knows what he is, please let me know.
All photographs used in this week of Mourglia snakes provided courtesy of Mrs. Barbara Mourglia.
This is a black rat snake that had been poking around in the Mourglia chicken house. About 7 feet long, this is about as big a snake as you'll ever see in the Ozarks.
This black rat snake probably has some years on it - it even looks old and wizened.
This little Prairie Ringneck Snake on Jared Mourglia’s finger can’t be long out of the egg. I’ve read that even though the ringneck is secretive (or tries to be), it is the most commonly encountered snake in the Ozarks Hills. As snakes go, the ringneck is quite sociable. A scientist up in Kansas once found 279 ringnecks living in close quarters at a 9-acre abandoned rock quarry.
I accidentally ran over a ringneck with a lawnmower when I was a kid. It was the first snake that I’m aware of ever killing. It was an adult, but still rather small - the giants of the race aren’t much more than a foot long.
Jared Mourglia has a knack for running into snakes. These are instances when Barbara Mourglia had a camera handy.
Only by chance did I spot this dour fellow today at the top of the little road leading out of the hollow.
After parking the low-slung 1995 Buick Century on the side of the county road, I had to do a little searching to again find this low-slung and nearly camoflaged Common Snapping Turtle.
Those google eyes don't quite look real. As the Common Snapping Turtle ages, its shell becomes less ridged. This one seemed to have as smooth a looking shell as I recall seeing, so maybe it has some age on it. The book says that they've been kept in captivity for as long as 39 years.
The Common Snapping Turtle doesn't get near as big as the Alligator Snapping Turtle. This one had about a 10 inch shell - which is about half the size as the biggest Common Snapper. As you can see, the tail adds considerably to its length.
Opportunity had me at Roaring River State Park in Missouri today and having time and inclination, I decided to take the long way home. I particularly like Roaring River State Park except when the crowds are in residence as they are today on this holiday weekend.
Driving out of the state park and into the Mark Twain National Forest, my thoughts were forward on Butler Hollow – though my mind did go sideways a time or two and I recalled once driving through the Mark Twain National Forest on unpaved roads when I was supposed to be working and coming to a complete stop so as not to hit a doe and fawn. I’ve had many opportunities to hit both does and fawns before and since, but that particular incident imprinted on my brain for some reason. Funny how that happens.
Driving, my mind jumped to that common thought I have, “I wish I had a map with me.” I passed the turnoff to Sugar Camp and had the vague remembrance that there was a farm road that connected Sugar Camp to Butler Hollow. I didn’t turn around and go back because experience dictates that my vague remembrances are generally unreliable. In this case, however, my vague memory was correct. Consulting the Missouri Atlas and Gazetteer upon arriving home, I see that Farm Road 2280 does appear to connect to Butler Hollow. Not one to dwell on past mistakes…well, that isn’t true at all, so never mind.
Edging Seligman best I could, I dropped off the highway down into lower ground and began following creeks and streams toward White River - where all water goes in this country. I think of all this water draining directly southeast from Seligman to the town of Beaver – but I’m wrong, the water and the hollow through which it flows actually goes east and then loops north around a mountain before beginning the southeastern progression.
Thinking as I drive down Butler Hollow that it must be an old road, I stop looking for points of interest that I associate with the drive. I wanted to find where I broke down one night in my Chevy pickup so many years ago and was attacked by a whip-poor-will. Those birds are tougher than they look. I wanted to see the stone house Mary Pat Boian lived in for many years. I wanted to see where the road crossed the invisible state line from Missouri into the Western District of Carroll County. The scenery slid by and deep in thought I drove faster than I normally do, dust billowing behind the car, some coming in the open window into my face after meeting a big pickup with an Arkansas Razorback front license plate pulling a long horse trailer. The radio was on but I stopped noticing what was playing though my ears perked up at the two U2 songs that have the lyrics about Sunday Bloody Sunday and Vertigo in them. Not that I’m a U2 fan, except in the general sense that I extend goodwill to the Irish. But this led to the unsolvable riddle: why in the world was Billy Gibbons left off the Rolling Stone Magazine list of best guitarists of all time?
But chiefly I think of Butler Hollow, ignoring it as I drive. And so intense random thoughts came unbidden and bounced through my skull, one being that fear is an unpredictable emotion. I didn’t feel any today, but I did think about the fear of others. I’ve talked to somebody from whom I sensed fear of Butler Hollow. I know people that fear Seligman… And I know people who fear Eureka Springs because of the dark spirits they sense on Spring Street. I’m not saying I agree or disagree or believe it or not – I’m just an observer of such things. Depending on my moods, I have opinions on many subjects, but the normal me prefers to hold few opinions and just observe.
Perhaps it is having intense, sometimes self-contradictory thoughts that actually leads to the selfish reasons why I write. I make no decisions about the thoughts so they stay until dealt with. The easiest thing for me to do is to remove them from my brain by writing them down.
Once certain I was in Carroll County again, I had the wish that I could drive all the way home on unpaved back roads. This is difficult to do anymore as Carroll County has been on a strange multi-year paving spree that would make a Long Islander proud. I can’t help but consider something that Mr. Emkey once said: “Pavement is the root of all evil.” Such general statements, though, are generally wrong. This leads to some thoughts about a theory of Jack McCall’s that society began to disintegrate with the introduction of the automobile. Riding a horse down a narrow country lane, you would politely greet and speak to those you met on the road or who were sitting on their front porches. Driving at warp speed enclosed in metal boxes, drivers are free to curse others, blare music to irritate others, or just shut out the world, civility dead on the road. And this leads to the theory of another older fellow I know that Eureka Springs died (in his opinion) long ago. The three nails in the coffin were Beaver Lake, the Great Passion Play, and Holiday Island. Life has not been the same since.
And so I continue to drive, shooting through Beaver Town, triggering a few associations… A great-great uncle that ran the ferry back and forth across White River… The travel buses that had to stop at one end of the suspension bridge and unload the passengers and have them walk across the bridge for safety reasons… My father camping out on White River as a boy and the river coming up during the night… How close Blue Spring and Busch are, which triggers even more associations, the Huffman and Groblebe families, McKinley Weems, and then Mary Pat again, wider and wider circles growing on the surface of the water, bumping each other, fish coming to the top to feed, that bluegill my brother caught at that pond in Northern Virginia that we kept in the freezer for many years… Eventually I make it home and sit here typing to get it all out of my head so I can move forward…
This little beauty is a Pit Viper. According to my big book on Arkansas reptiles, Pit Vipers are characterized by having a “venom injection apparatus” or, in layman’s terms, poison dripping fangs. The Ozarks have three main groups of Pit Vipers: copperheads, rattlesnakes, and water moccasins/cottonmouths. All are poisonous. People die from the bites of all three, though very rarely.
The Pit Viper in the photograph is the one I’m most likely to encounter here in the hollow and, statistically, the one most likely to bite me. But, gladly, it’s also the one least likely to kill me – though I’m told a bite can really hurt. I’ve run across dozens of these snakes in the hollow and have never been bit. Once I went to pick some squash and stuck my hand amongst the leaves and saw a coiled snake like this flicking its little tongue six inches away. I’m not scared of any snake from a distance, but from six inches, I jump (high). At that moment, I was much more likely to have died from a heart-attack than a bite from the Pit Viper.
Above I said “little beauty” and that isn’t accurate. The beauty part is correct. This is as pretty a copperhead as I’ve ever seen. Look at those colors and bands. But it isn’t little. Most of these don’t get over about three and a half feet long, but as they age their body gets thicker and thicker. This one must have some age on it. I bet if you saw it coil, it would have a heavy, muscular look. I read here in the big book that they live only about 18 years.
And, so, allow me to introduce to you a beautiful example of the local neighborhood Copperhead snake. Notice the asphalt under this guy (or girl)? Indicates it wasn’t photographed down here in the hollow, though.
Lori Davis took this photo and said I could use it. I have pictures of copperheads somewhere, but they weren’t as pretty a Pit Viper as this little beauty.
Drove over this earthen dam and noticed that the creek wasn't much more than a trickle. Just an hour later, I took this photo of the same creek. It was raining.
Noodles might be an old, slightly fat Dachshund, but she can be a serious customer, too.
FUNDRAISER FOR SARAH WEEMS
2010 STUDENT AMBASSADOR TO EUROPE
Friday, May 14th
6:00 until 8:00 P.M.
Spaghetti, Coleslaw, Toasted French Bread
Tea, Coffee, and Lemonade
DON’T HAVE TIME TO STAY AND EAT? TAKE OUT IS AVAILABLE!
CAN’T MAKE IT TO THE SUPPER? WE’LL DELIVER TO YOU!
CALL 981-9660 or 253-9770
Fellowship Hall at First Baptist-Penn Memorial Church
100 Spring Street in Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Street-level entrance at corner of Spring Street and Owen Street
Next to Parker Law Firm across from Post Office
Donations may also be sent to:
Sarah Weems, P.O. Box 43, Eureka Springs, AR 72632
The People to People program was founded by President Eisenhower in 1956 to initiate and maintain peace between different cultures and peoples through education and exchange.
Glenn Swedlun named his business: “Glenn C. Swedlun, Oil Paintings of the Ozarks.” He lived in Eureka Springs and he and his father painted landscapes and taught art. When my wife was a little girl, Mr. Swedlun bought his gas at the Texaco and would always give her a quarter. Later, when she won an elementary school art contest, he heard about it and gave my wife copies of his notes on various aspects of painting and drawing.
Several branches of my family have long had connections to the Keels Creek area and I particularly like this Glenn Swedlun painting, partly for that reason. During the month of May, the Eureka Springs Historical Museum is displaying the work of the Swedluns in a special exhibit.
This painting is for sale on the website eBay.
A reader left this comment on a previous entry:
“Now that the NC has it, what will they do with it? Do they allow hunters, hikers, etc? Or do they just cordon it off from the public?”
The Kings River is designated an “Extraordinary Resource Waterbody” and the Nature Conservancy purchased the property mainly because of the seven miles of riverfront. I can’t imagine that there would ever be another piece of private property with so much Kings River running through it.
Tim Snell, the water resources director for The Nature Conservancy in Arkansas said, “At the preserve, we’ll work to reduce sediment entering the stream, which can fill in gravel beds and choke out organisms at the bottom of the food chain and affect those at the top, like smallmouth bass. We hope to help the Kings River continue to be a treasured recreational resource and a prime spot for smallmouth bass fishing.”
Another reason to maintain the water purity of the Kings River is that it flows into Table Rock Lake in Missouri which is the source of drinking water for a large area.
The Nature Conservancy plans to encourage continued recreational use of the river for such things as paddling, swimming, and fishing. The Nature Conservancy website says: “The Nature Conservancy encourages visitors to explore during the day the Kings River Preserve via the river and its corridor, which has many gravel beds that are ideal for picnicking. (Visitors are asked to kindly pack out any trash.) Because the Kings River is surrounded by private property and because of its tall bluffs, there are no hiking trails along this section of the Kings. As is true with most of the private landowners along the Kings River, camping without written permission is prohibited at the preserve.”
Does not sound like hunting will be allowed on the 4500+ acres, but I read somewhere that the Liedtke family will retain hunting rights on the preserve. Unlike most environmental groups, some Nature Conservancy properties do allow hunting.
While hiking or floating on the Kings River, I’ve seen quite a bit of the usual wildlife, but also cranes and herons, mink, kingfishers, water snakes, those turtles that stack up on logs to bask in the sun, and great big crawdads. I’ve heard of people seeing many dozens of bald eagles at a time in trees along the Kings River.
But this I did not know - there are “18 fish, crayfish, mussels, turtles and aquatic insects found only in the Ozarks, including a stonefly that lives in the Kings River watershed and nowhere else on Earth.”
I suppose one of the so-called “crayfish” found only in the Ozarks is the Longpincered (Orconectes longidigitus) which can grow over 10 inches long. They do pinch.
(Note: To me “crawdad” is what others call a “crayfish” or “crawfish.” I pulled out my trusty Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary fairly confidant that crawdad would prove the more accurate term. Well, crawdad isn’t even listed! Conspiracy, I say!)
This map of the Nature Conservancy's Kings River Preserve (shown in purple) was constructed from land owner’s maps.
The 4500 acre Kings River Preserve is located south of Eureka Springs, Arkansas and has seven miles of Kings River shoreline. Though the preserve is contained entirely within Carroll County, the preserve borders Madison County and nearly joins the 14,227 acre McIlroy Madison County Wildlife Management Area administered by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
The Nature Conservancy purchased the land from the family of the late J. Hugh Liedtke of Pennzoil Oil. While he was alive, J. Hugh Liedtke was the largest land owner in Carroll County.
I couldn’t help but notice that on the north edge of the Kings River Preserve, there is 629 acres for sale. That would make a nice little addition to the new preserve.
Almost time for box turtles (or terrapins) to start their yearly searches – they can seemingly be everywhere when they get on the move. I’ve not seen any yet but I have stumbled across a couple of snapping turtles, which are, undoubtedly,
the King of Arkansas Turtles.
An Alligator Snapping Turtle was crossing the highway in town one morning while traffic was fairly heavy. It was resting on the double yellow lines when I drove by, hoping to get across. Usually around here you see Common Snapping Turtles, not the bigger and fiercer looking Alligator Snapping Turtle. The ridged shell of the individual I saw was maybe a little more than a foot in length – nothing like the monsters one occasionally hears about. The largest fresh-water turtle in North America, an Alligator Snapping Turtle can weigh over 200 pounds and have a shell almost three feet in length. In 1937, a 400 pound snapper was reported but it is considered “unverified.” I could write about these amazing reptiles all day long. Except for nesting, these reptiles do not leave the water. They’ll sit at the bottom of a river or lake waiting for something tasty to come near, then grabbing it with their wicked-looking beak. An Alligator snapper will eat about anything, dead or alive, fish, birds, even mammals. And they are patient, too. Individuals have been known to sit in one spot for a month waiting for something to eat. These majestic animals have lived over 70 years in captivity.
The other turtle I saw was on a more rural stretch of highway and I’m pretty sure it was a Common Snapping Turtle. What made it difficult to identify was that it had been run over and crushed. Snapping turtles are hated by many and are often killed on sight. I’ve known of guys in big four-wheel drive pickups driving over a big snapper again and again until the crushed giant is certainly dead.
As indicated by the name, Common Snapping Turtles are relatively widespread compared to the Alligator Snapping Turtle. Not as big as its cousin (often about 35 pounds) and not as ferocious looking, the common snapper is actually much more aggressive on land and more difficult to handle. Supposedly, one can pickup an Alligator Snapping Turtle by the shell and it won’t be able to get at you with its powerful mouth. On the other hand, the common snapper has a long snake-like neck. Pickup it up by the shell and you’re in for a painful surprise.
Spring is here with a vengeance. All the signs: whip-poor-wills patiently calling, little bats jitterbugging in the dusk, ambitious vegetation slowly conquering the hollow… And, of course, snakes. Saw two yesterday. In a hurry, I stepped by a coiled black snake but did no more than glance at my ally, just noticing it wasn’t the big one. Later, driving up out of the hollow I encountered this long, thin snake blocking the road. It refused to budge when threatened by an automobile, perhaps stopped by caution, trying to yield to the large, noisy, smoke-belching beast. Or maybe it just doesn’t fear old, ugly Buicks. Though once again in a hurry, I climbed out to inspect this neighbor of the hollow. The cell phone pictures don’t do this beautiful reptile justice. About four feet long, it was slate gray with a yellowish belly. Not wanting to scare it off, I tried to use the zoom feature on the cell phone camera – thus the poor photographs.
Suddenly, down the hollow road, here came the dogs barking and carrying on, running as fast as they could. Why they were doing so has me puzzled. Surely it was much too far to know there was a snake. Anyway, the dogs were nearing so I leaned in close to the snake to take some close-ups. With amazing quickness, and I do not exaggerate, the snake’s head swung around toward me and it kind of feinted a strike and then as I suddenly found myself jumping back, it slithered at a speed I don’t think I’ve ever seen a snake obtain - across the road and up and over the bank and into the woods. Had I better nerves maybe I would have taken a pretty exciting picture of it raising up at me, but there really was no time.
Though the snake looked familiar, I had to search it out in the big The Amphibians and Reptiles of Arkansas. This long, sleek fellow was built for speed and had the name to go with it: Eastern Racer. The book mentions things like “fast-moving” and “highly agile” and “irascible disposition.” Irascible means “marked by hot temper and easily provoked anger.” That is according to my Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (I had to look it up.)
If you live in Arkansas I recommend you purchase a copy of The Amphibians and Reptiles of Arkansas and the Eastern Racer is a perfect reason why – there are four subspecies just in Arkansas and they all look a bit different. A smaller book just couldn’t hold all of the photographs and descriptions necessary for exact identification. If this year is like the last ten, I’ll see snakes fairly regularly in the hollow.
Mountain Dew made with real sugar instead of corn syrup does taste better. And using old Willy the Hillbilly is a throwback, too. He was the front man until 1973.
Grandpa Jones used to sing an old song called “Good Old Mountain Dew,” written by Bascom Lamar Lunsford, an attorney known as the "Minstrel of the Appalachians.” This verse gives away part of the secret recipe:
You take a little trash and you mix it up with ash,
And you throw in the soul of a shoe,
Then you stir it awhile with an old rusty file,
And they call it that good old mountain dew.
Interesting that you throw in the shoe’s soul, instead of sole – I’m not sure I know what that means.
The Nature Conservancy has announced it purchased 4,557 acres on the Kings River south of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. This would be the land owned by the family of the late J. Hugh Liedtke of Pennzoil Oil. While he was alive, J. Hugh Liedtke was the largest land owner in Carroll County.
I’d heard a rumor that the land was going to be developed and feared the worst. Instead, seven miles of the Kings River will be protected. That stretch of the river includes the Mason Bend where the John Southerland farm was located and my Granny was raised.
The Yahoo! Satellite map below shows the general area of the Kings River Preserve and the Mason Bend.
This all started with a discussion of what I always thought of as “Little Lake Eureka,” the small spring-fed lake at the end of Douglas and Steele Streets. I’ve always thought it was one of Eureka Springs’ prettiest spots. I’ve read that it was the city’s first water supply and that it was fixed up nice as Eureka’s main swimming hole at one time.
Here is a Yahoo! aerial photograph showing that area of the city. I circled the lake, but it is so small it is hard to make out.
Using Google Maps' Street View, this is what you'll encounter if you drive to the end of Steele Street:
This is what you'll see if you drive to the end of Douglas (Street or Road, I've seen it both ways):
And here is a view looking up the lake from the dam:
If you look toward your right, you'll see this picnic table under a little bluff with some nice rockwork:
As an aside, I noticed this item in the November 17, 2007 police report in the weekly Lovely County Citizen: 9:53 a.m. -- A caller informed police that one of the raccoons which frequent Little Lake Eureka was apparently a little under the weather.
So what does all of this have to do with the aforementioned Water Street?
I did a little reading up on Little Lake Eureka and in one spot it mentioned that Water Street ran up this same hollow and was the original main entrance into the city. I couldn’t recall a Water Street and had a difficult time imagining that hollow as the main entrance into the city.
I perused a modern street map of Eureka Springs and couldn’t find Water Street. But then I read an article referring to the hollow from Little Lake Eureka to the Flint Street Chapel as the Water Street Park. That seemed to be a clue.
Then I recalled that the website www.eurekaspringshistory.com had scans of some old maps from the Carnegie Library. On a 1923 Sanborn map the website displays, there is indeed a Water Street between Douglas on one side and Flint and Steele on the other side. These streets run off the edge of the page shown and the map doesn’t include the lake, so I’m still having a tough time picturing Water Street. If it weren’t snowing so hard right now, besides being dark out, I might run down there and take a look.
I hadn't paid any attention to the weather forecast, so I was surprised to receive the following alert:
Hi Steve Weems,
Alert Message has been issued by the Eureka Springs Police Department.
Saturday March 20, 2010 13:07 PM CDT
EXPECT HEAVY SNOW LATE THIS EVENING**SNOW ACCUMULATIONS COULD REACH 10-14 INCHES BY SUNDAY 7PM...
I photographed these deer 20 minutes ago in the field above the house.
In keeping with the Irish spirit of St Patrick's Day, here is O'Connor's Texaco of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The O'Connor name is obviously Irish in origin, and this family came to the United States from Ireland. The O'Connor family opened this gas station in 1950 and it stayed in operation until 1983.
This 1954 photograph shows Duane O'Connor on the left and his father George O'Connor on the right.
The old O'Connor's service station now houses a popular restaurant.
If you look back through these Notes from the Hollow, you'll see that once upon a time a giant oak stood sentry at the entrance to the hollow. In the early morning hours of September 14, 2008, the remnants of Hurricane Ike swept through and toppled the big old oak. I regretted that I didn't have a good photograph of the tree. Sure, I had photos that had part of the trunk, or maybe the branches overhead, but the tree was of the size it was hard to fit into a single picture.
Leave it to the boys (and girls) out at Google, wherever that might be, to send someone down our county road to prepare a "street view" for Google Maps. Imagine that. Not sure when they did it, but it must have been before September 14, 2008. This screen capture turned out pretty good - good enough for me, anyway.
Once upon a time, March meant the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and analyzing the minutiae of the various team’s abilities to fill in the brackets. Since it appears the Razorbacks will not participate this year, I’ve moved onto something new and exciting that will certainly take my mind off basketball.
Jen’s Book Thoughts is hosting the World’s Favorite Detective Tournament. What a great idea. The Week 1 Showdown has begun and I’m about to fill mine in…
All the great ones are here, as well as my personal favorites: Sherlock Holmes, Philip Marlowe, Rebus, Morse, Dave Robicheaux, and the list goes on and on. Even if you aren’t obsessed with detective fiction, you’ll see names you know.
I must be honest; I’m not familiar with all of these detectives so I end up choosing the one I know. And a few times I knew neither – but that is okay since you can leave pairings blank. Having to choose between two favorite detectives are the toughest ones.
For example: John Ceepak vs. David “Kubu” Bengu is pretty tough. I’ll have to go with Kubu.
Adam Dalgliesh vs. John Rebus. Just like in the NCAA brackets, sometimes you start out with two teams deserving to make it to the final rounds. What can you do? Dalgliesh is a great, original character, but I’ve got to go with the Scotsman.
You get the idea.
But there are easy ones, too. Like choosing if Duke played the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys. Obviously Duke would win, whether I liked it or not.
I’ve got my ballot completed and look forward to Round 2 next week. Go fill out your bracket choices. I hear there are even prizes.
Cleaning out the workshop, I found this item I forgot I even had. This bumper sticker was stuck to a barrel when we bought the place several years ago.
Back in 1974, Bill Clinton ran for the House of Representatives in my very own district against the popular incumbent John Paul Hammerschmidt and lost by only a few thousand votes (52% to 48%). Not bad for a 28 year-old lifetime student and novice law professor. John Paul Hammerschmidt went on to serve a total of 13 terms in congress.
I saw Bill Clinton several times before he left Arkansas for greener pastures, but only two instances come to mind at the moment. In 1984, I skipped school and attended the famous “Super Cow Clinic” in Green Forest, Arkansas with Grandpa (or the legally named Jack McCall). The place was overrun with politicians and candidates, including Bill running for reelection as governor. His opponent, Woody Freeman, was the clear favorite among the old cattleman and farmers in attendance. Actually, I had to look up Woody Freeman’s name and once I saw it I still had no recollection having ever seen it before. Even so, he was a hit.
One of contests at the cattle show was the always popular buffalo chip throwing contest. The announcer on the loud speaker asked the governor to come up and give it a try. When Bill politely demurred, the announcer started ribbing the governor pretty good. So Bill went forward and chose a buffalo chip and let her fly. It didn’t hardly go anywhere at all. Some in the watching crowd let their displeasure be heard. The opponent in the governor’s race (apparently named Woody Freeman) eagerly came forward and threw the buffalo chip like he’d been a professional. The crowd cheered.
A big attraction at the “Super Cow” was the free barbecue lunch. There was a long line waiting to get their plates filled and Bill Clinton started at the end and worked his way up the line shaking hands and talking to people. The governor just wasn’t in his element that day. When he got near to us, I saw that he was pale, sweating hard and clearly nervous. He did look Grandpa in the eye, though, as he shook his hand and at least attempted that earnest look of his. Then Bill Clinton came to me. I don’t guess I was one of those Friends of Bill’s, but I had nothing against the guy and was a little excited to meet the Governor of Arkansas. I stuck out my hand. Well, Bill didn’t look me in the eye. He quickly studied my face, apparently noting that I was not yet of voting age and withdrew his hand before it touched mine and moved on down the line shaking hands, sweating, and looking like he wished he could get out of Green Forest, Arkansas.
The last time I saw old Bill, I was driving east on highway 62 going towards Berryville, Arkansas. I knew Bill was in Eureka Springs for something or another, so when I came up behind one of those Lee Iacocca K-car specials with an Arkansas government license plate, I wasn’t too surprised to see the governor in the car. I was a bit surprised though that he was alone. I followed him into Berryville and then he turned to take highways 21/221 north. I wonder where he was going?
Some of the signs are here that the hollow is springing, like the robins hanging around and the tree frogs tuning up their chorus and half-drunk wasps flitting around. Saw several big bats this evening up in the woods, too. I think it’s too early yet for the little bats that live down the hollow that come out every evening during the warm months.
I got in a bit of spring cleaning in the workshop, too. I’ve not seen or heard any wood rats for a few weeks, but they sure left a mess behind. Tearing up rat nests, I was amazed at the junk I found. Why did they need so many nails? I understand a few for small home repair projects, but not the mass quantities they stole from me. Found a rock, and many, many pieces of turtle shells I’d found in the woods and displayed on a shelf. Wish they hadn’t broke them up. And, of course, dog food, shredded paper, and short sections of wire.
Thursday evening, happenstance allowed me to browse a few, short minutes in the Dickson Street Bookshop in Fayetteville, Arkansas. What a wonderful used bookstore. Though my intention is to write a bit about Virginia Tyler, I can’t allow this opportunity to get by without enthusiastically endorsing the Dickson Street Bookshop, which I’ll do with someone else’s words, since mine would be feeble in comparison. This is from www.abebooks.com:
David and Susan Siegel, in The Used Book Lover's Guide to the Central States puts it this way, "The Dickson Street Bookshop...is truly a fabulous establishment with books in scholarly and technical areas as well as popular culture categorized in sub categories of sub categories. This is one of those establishments where you could spend hours if only your partner weren't reminding you about other obligations."
Wheeler Printing published two anthologies of the columns Virginia Tyler wrote for the Eureka Springs Times-Echo newspaper and I’d been keeping an eye out. I found Around Town, Book II, which I greedily clutched until it was safely locked in the car. Dickson Street Bookshop has what has to be the finest section of books on Arkansas and the Ozarks anywhere on earth (bold words, I know).
I’m told Virginia Tyler died several years ago, though I’ve yet to figure out which year. I was aware of her name since childhood since it was in the weekly Eureka newspaper the mail delivered and I heard her occasionally mentioned in stories my whole life. Everyone seemed to know her, though I have no recollection of ever meeting her or even seeing her.
People remember her wit and kindness, but they especially remember her love and knowledge of all things Eureka Springs. As I got older, I also heard some unexpected stories about Virginia Tyler, though usually the stories were just hinted at (sometimes in a whispered voice and sometimes with a smile).
One day I asked a native old-timer who knew her, “Are the stories about Virginia Tyler true?”
He said, “All of them.”
That didn’t clarify matters much, but I decided it really wasn’t my business anyway. I just wanted to find and read her books. Then I stumbled upon a concise summation of the alleged stories in lurid detail. I wish I’d not seen it, I know it wasn’t meant kindly.
Now the rumors seem beside the point. A deceased lady known for her kindness, writing, and love of Eureka Springs and the Ozarks - I can’t help but feel like I should be on her team.
I’m only partway through the book, but am really enjoying it. The tone of the writing is both eager and earnest, like she couldn’t wait to get it written down. She’ll mention things like the funny incident where she was walking to the New Orleans Hotel to meet the Alpine Hiking Club or the Ukulele Club in the lobby when she met so-and-so from a little town in Minnesota on Center Street and they said this and that and they drove an old Ford with bald tires and she’d tell them the story about the old lady that rode her Jersey Cow down Spring Street because she had a smart, little dog named Nipper that had been brought to town by old Doc Miller and when old Doc Miller died he bequeathed Nipper to the old lady because she always laughed when little Nipper chased his tail or recited Latin or something And, of course, the funny part of the story was that old Doc Miller had retired from a small town near where the tourist couple lived in Minnesota, and they’d actually heard of the old doctor because he had once treated their gardener’s sister for the gout. And Virginia Tyler regretted that she’d only had a few minutes to talk to the couple because she was running late for the club meeting and it was her turn to put out the snacks. I’m exaggerating, of course, but her columns are amazing.
Hope I can find the other volume on my next trip to Fayetteville and I hope that the silly rumors that still circulate don’t discourage people from seeking out Miss Tyler’s old columns to read. And I hope that when the columns are read and enjoyed that the readers can’t help but have the same fondness I feel for Virginia Tyler.
Up on the hill yesterday evening visiting neighbors and the dogs treed this little possum. Took the photo with my cell phone.
The cellar under our house remains a cool and damp 50 degrees if the door is kept shut. Today I found this salamander there while straightening up a pile of old flowerpots. Being winter I wondered if it might be hibernating, or maybe just sleeping if it is nocturnal. Either way, though it never moved, it didn’t appear to be dead. Careful not to disturb it (except for some quick photographs), I put the flower pots back.
I hope someone corrects me if I’m mistaken, but after consulting what reference material I could find, it appears to be a Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma macultum). I have a great book called The Amphibians and Reptiles of Arkansas, but the one photograph it has of an adult Spotted Salamander looks quite unlike what I saw. I consulted with brother Erik (who has both a good store of knowledge on the topic and a copy of the Audubon handbook) and from the photograph I zipped over to Richmond he also thought it to be a Spotted Salamander. A side note that I think does indicate Erik’s interest in the subject, the band he founded is known as “The Amphibians.”
Everyday I anxiously await the nice lady that delivers our mail, dreading, but also hoping for the recall notice from Toyota. See, I take safety seriously.
The first I heard of the various Toyota recalls had to do with brakes. I would like to get the brakes fixed on the Land Cruiser. During the “Great Ice Storm of 2009” I drove over fallen trees and branches that blocked our little road and apparently snagged something that tore loose the brake line to the rear, passenger-side brakes. Ever since, we’ve been driving without rear brakes, but the front brakes still grab good so I’ve not worried about it too much. Rarely have occasion to get out of first gear in low-range and with a top speed of five miles-per-hour stopping doesn’t take too long.
Next I heard that something might be wrong with the power steering. I went out and drove the Land Cruiser and it steered okay. I raised the hood to take a gander at the power steering components and realized it didn’t even have power steering.
Reading the news out of the UK, there was talk of electronic throttles. I doubted the throttle was electronic on the Weems Toyota, so I dismissed that with a smirk.
Tuned into the morning news on the Berryville radio station and there was some serious sounding people worrying about Toyotas having malfunctioning floor mats. I immediately dropped the spoon into the bowl of corn flakes and then frowned when the milk splashed on my white t-shirt. I raced outside and pulled open the door on the 1971 Toyota Land Cruiser. With relief I remembered it didn’t have floor mats.
I wish Toyota would do a recall I could use, like fixing the manual choke. And seat belts would be nice.
99% of the snow is long gone from the south-facing hillsides but it lingers on the north-facing slopes.
Though this snow was only a few inches, it covered up my many hours of work on the road. And despite the obvious melting shown in the photograph, the road remained slick for several more days. In many spots under the slush the ice remained up to three inches thick and very hard - I broke my hoe on it. As soon as circumstance allowed, new equipment was acquired, including a pick axe that tore up the ice with a viciousness the broken long-handled hoe lacked.
As the residents of the hollow became more impatient with the limited transportation options available, I turned to heavy salting. I had used small amounts of livestock salt on the road with some success, but had avoided buying the treated commercial road salt, mostly because of environmental and financial concerns. Desperate times and all that, I purchased 150 pounds of road salt and applied strategically. After allowing it to percolate for a reasonable amount of time, I pushed aside the slush and broke the snapping and popping ice beneath. (I hadn't known that the salt would cause Rice Krispy-like sounds.)
Despite the salt speeding up the whole road clearing process, the work remained difficult and time consuming. The encroaching gloom of night didn't help matters as I cleared and pushed the resulting debris downhill, increasingly alarmed at the amount of rapidly accumulating material. Later, standing nearly knee deep in slush and broken ice as water streamed under my boots, I peered through the darkness at the mess I'd caused, but also pleased with the cleared road uphill.
After shoveling the winter pile into the ditches, I carefully scraped away what ice remained on the road with the new hoe until I realized I couldn't stand up straight. The most difficult stretch and turn in the road was cleared and I decided enough was enough. I hobbled to the Land Cruiser and loaded my tools in the back by flashlight, gingerly climbed up into the driver's seat, and turned the key. Engine now cold, the Land Cruiser refused to start, so I raised the hood and made the necessary adjustments to the choke. When the engine rumbled to life, I pulled the gear shift into first, low range, and with no headlights the Land Cruiser slowly crawled down the hill through the darkness, toward the house.
Almost exactly a year since President Obama declared the Ozarks a federal disaster area, we had another dose of winter weather. Though not quite as dramatic as the “Great Ice Storm of ‘09”, the ice and snow did hamper transportation here in the hollow. It really didn’t seem too bad at first, just a layer of snow on top of some ice. I’m not sure how much snow fell, I was lazy and never did make an official measurement, but I’ve heard it varied around here from 5 to 10 inches.
I don’t know if the snow was too deep or if the car was too low, but the belly of our 1995 Buick (it isn’t quite as sporty as it sounds) drug and the car only seemed capable of going sideways – usually into the nearest ditch. Luckily I’d followed my wife’s advice (don’t tell her I said that) and we parked the van up on the county road and I ferried passengers to and from the rest of the world in the old Land Cruiser.
The county road runs along a ridge on the eastern rim of the hollow, while our road drops steeply down to a switchback, then snakes down past the house, by the barn and follows the path of an old wagon road deep into the thick forest. This last section of road is still mostly impassable from last year’s ice storm.
The house is 4/10 of a mile down the hillside from our mailbox on the county road. It is a pretty drive coming down from the high ridge through the woods clinging to the steep hillsides. This tree coverage, though, keeps most of the hollow road to the house shaded from the sun. So, often while most of the county’s citizens are kiting down their dry roads without thought of packed winter precipitation, were still struggling to get our licensed vehicles up the steep snow, slush, ice, and mud layered road.
Since I am the hollow’s road department, a road department with a limited budget, I gather my implements of destruction and get to work. First I drive the Land Cruiser (the road department’s only vehicle) up and down to the mailbox and back, packing down the snow in places with the thought that perhaps the front-wheel drive Buick will pull out of there if the snow doesn’t drag its belly. This has worked in the past, but normally it is an overly optimistic strategy.
Next, the work becomes more labor intensive. My current weapon of choice is a common long-handled hoe. The storm from late January left slushy snow on top of ice and the hoe is handy for scraping slush and snow out of the Land Cruiser’s tracks and then chopping the ice beneath. Even after a week of above freezing temperatures, the hard layer of ice remained, though in places where the sun does occasionally warm, it melted and left a mess of soupy slush and deep mud.
Under the thick layer of mud, hidden from view, I discovered quite by accident rock-hard ice. This use of camouflage clued me in just how diabolical and ruthless ice can be. You think the enemy has been vanquished, when all along it waits, insulated from warmth by the mud, for an opportunity to once again cause havoc and despair.
And how did the ice get under the mud, or perhaps the question is, how did the mud get upon the ice? I have theories, but I don’t know for sure. This is a learning process. And as every successful military commander realizes, knowing the adversary is a weapon. So I study the ice first hand, hoe and shovel in hand, a bucket of salt at my feet, my senses sharp.
I finally noticed an obvious clue while resting a minute, breathing hard and sweating - chopping ice is hard work for someone as normally sedentary as me. When my breathing slowed and I stood motionless in the quiet, no dogs nearby making noise, I realized I could hear a surprising volume of water trickling and running. I’m only a novice woodsman and explorer, but I do know where the springs and creeks are located, and there was none nearby. With admiration for my enemy, I realized the water was moving under my feet, under the snow and layer of ice, going down the hill to refreeze in new locations, in locations I’d already cleared and thought safe. My enemy, ice, as every school kid knows, is just another form of water. Like some fantastic space-born thing from a science fiction film, ice is a shape changer. Clever.
Some horrible news from Mary Pat Boian today. As I may have mentioned in Notes from the Hollow before, Mary Pat adopted a small smart dog with distinctive looks and named him Max after Max McCaver, a main character in my novel (Murder in the Ozarks.) The horrible news part is that Max died last Saturday. He yelped and fell dead while going down the porch steps while in guardian mode, protecting Mary Pat from a strange dog. Sad news.
Last week before the snow and ice fell, I visited the Carnegie Library in town (I recommend it highly) and was returning home via Hillside, made the sharp corner onto Main Street at the Depot (stopping at the stop sign first) and headed south towards Magnetic Road. I came to a complete stop because of the coyote standing in the street. It was good sized and very healthy looking, with a definite reddish-sheen to its thick coat. Many of the coyotes I see are skinny and scraggly looking, but this one was obviously well fed.
He/she trotted out of the road and stopped to watch me. I stayed stopped to watch the coyote. We watched each other awhile and then he loped off to hide under a little bluff.
The coyote's large size and reddish coat made me think of Red Wolves, of course. But I won't get into that at the moment...
Today I was reminded by a good friend that I've not updated the Notes from the Hollow for awhile. No reason that I've slacked off, just don't seem to get around to it. I still have ideas every 2 or 3 days. I need to get back into it - there has been a lot going on around here.
There may not be any photographs for a few days. I'm having trouble with the rechargeable batteries to my camera. I don't know if the problem is the batteries or the charger.
After so much warm weather it seemed odd having a white Christmas in the hollow. The temperature dropped 30+ degrees yesterday while it was raining leading to ice and then a little bit of snow on top. Merry Christmas!
You don't have to wear a t-shirt with the word "PAGAN" across your chest to acknowledge the Winter Solstice. But as warm as it has been in the hollow, you could wear one and still be comfortable. It is past ten at night and still about 55 out. I stepped out on the front porch and my t-shirt (black, no words across the chest) was plenty - no need of a jacket.
I'll read a bit more about the snow falling across northern Europe tonight and how Selagoncy, Russia has a forecasted low of -72 for Sunday (I advise staying indoors, if possible), then I'll turn in and enjoy the rest of this long winter's night asleep. Won't even build a fire in the woodstove.
Checked the outside temperature this morning and saw with surprise that it was seven degrees in the hollow. To keep warm, I thought about how seven degrees is mild compared to the state's record low temperature (-29).
To be honest, I was able to rebuild the fire in the stove with relative ease this morning (I followed the simple recipe of mixing the remaining hot coals with some pine kindling and stacked a few sticks of thoroughly dry oak on top.) Our little house heated up nicely. Agatha the calico cat waits for the stove to be relit and then snuggles up close, quite content with her day.
It is now eight outside, which I notice is the same temperature as in Nome, Alaska. Imagine that.
For perspective, I checked in with the weather station at Selagoncy, Russia. The last reported temperature was three hours ago when it was a robust 58 below zero. If you want to visit, the Selagoncy weather station is located between the Markha River to the west and the town of Shologontsy to the east. I would recommend mittens when you visit this part of Siberia.
A few days ago I saw my first bald eagle of the season. It was up by the county road. As my automobile approached it hopped into the road for a moment and then lifted off and circled, landing on a branch in a big tree by the road.
I would guess it was a male as it was mature but not as large as some. But I don't really know.
We only occasionally see bald eagles in/over the hollow. They tend to stay closer to Kings River and Beaver Lake where they can fish.
The other day, Arlie Weems fixed our little, washed-out road with his big yellow Case grader. He always buys Case equipment.
My manuscript (formerly known as The Pleasure of Displacement), will soon be published as Murder in the Ozarks by Boian Books. The new title is better because it tells the reader exactly what the book is about (a murder in the Ozarks.) A new book website is being constructed and can be viewed at:
I will post more news as it becomes available.
As no doubt you have heard, the Belvedere Hotel in West Wemyss, Scotland has closed. This is sad for several reasons. But no worries, there is one other hotel in the old Parish of Wemyss for you to stay at when you visit. The Earl David Hotel is one mile away in the Coaltown of Wemyss. It was built in 1911 and is named for a local earl named David. Not a large hotel, the Earl David Hotel has six rooms located above a pub. I've read 43 reviews of the hotel and they were all positive (at least, I think they were. Some were in foreign languages.) Family run, this hotel is known for the huge breakfast it serves. If you go, send me some photographs for me to put on Notes from the Hollow.
I walk by this wasp nest as quietly as possible. If you make too much noise or get too close, they all start rattling their wings.
Chandler is home now. We received a call from some people who have a chicken farm about 25 miles away. He was at their house and they'd heard on the radio that he was lost. No idea how he got there. He sure was glad to see us (and we were glad to see him.) Thanks to everyone for your prayers and well wishes.
Chandler, our beautiful tiger-striped brindle bullmastiff mix, is missing. He disappeared four days ago. A big, calm, happy dog, we are really missing him.
Winona Township is blessed with several treasures, one of which is the historic Winona Church. Located in the long, narrow Winona Hollow, it has been a place of learning, worship, voting, meetings, homecomings, weddings, pie suppers,and dinner on the grounds.
Crossing the creek is like taking a step back in time.
I've voted here several times - it was the place to vote in Winona Township for many, many years. If you were handicapped and couldn't cross the bridge, someone would bring a ballot out to you. Maybe that was against the rules, as we now vote in town.
Winona Church is a beautiful location for a wedding. My great-grandparents Walt & Luella (Pinkley) Weems were married here in 1901. Todd of Valley View Farms in Inola, Oklahoma married here in 1990.
Often, voting on a cool November morning, a roaring fire in the General-Wesco Jumbo woodstove would warm up the church.
This is what happens when you steal chickens from the Mourglia Family: Uncle Jared gets you one way or another. This possum was lucky that he was only trapped and released in an undisclosed location. Photograph by Barbara Mourglia.
Anyone who knows me well, knows that I appreciate how cute some possums are. This one, however, is the ugliest I've ever seen. Look at that face!
We happened across this black snake having a meal of woodrat. I've been up to black snakes many times, but this was the first one that vibrated its tail at me. The snake was obviously feeling vulnerable. The vibration of the tail made a distinctive sound.
I recently learned of the death of a buddy from my army days. Russ Dwyer was from Arizona and helped teach me how to be a 72G at the Schwaebisch Gmuend Telecommunications Center for the 589th Signal Detachment.
Livetrapped this woodrat and released it into the wild at an undisclosed location.
Eastern Woodrats are the native woodrat of the Ozarks. They are vegetarians. Their healthy diet makes them a "clean" meat to eat, or so I've read - simiar to rabbit or groundhog. I've not tried one and doubt I will. Woodrats sometimes build large, complex homes and are supposed to be good parents. I've seen many nests built of briars off of blackberry bushes, which I bet keeps everything out except snakes and weasels.
Reminds me, for some reason, of the time I entered a muffler shop near here and heard one man telling another, "I eat groundhog, but I've never tried possum." That is a line more likely to be heard in the Ozarks than, say, Manhatten.
The old Shady Grove Church near Kings River in Carroll County, Arkansas is coming down and the stone looks like it will be hauled off.
My grandparents, Jack and Betty (Southerland) McCall met there for the first time.
Today a tombstone was set at the grave of William Alexander Weems in the Eureka Springs Cemetery. Alex Weems, as he was known, was a Civil War Veteran and the first Weems in Carroll County, Arkansas. Gordon Hale, President of the Carroll County Historical Society, set the marker, as he has done for many, many Civil War veterans all over the area.
Beaver Lake filled in hundreds of hollows in Northwest Arkansas.
Just like last year, one of the dogs brought in a mystery egg. I have been told both that it is a turkey egg and that it is a buzzard egg. I don't know.
With plans to change the oil, I opened the hood of the Land Cruiser today and three rats scattered. They hid in various spots: behind the carburetor, between the radiator and grill, and inside the windshield washer fluid container. The rats appear to be Eastern Woodrats, a common enough animal around here. If I had to choose the type of rat I had in the hollow, it would be the native woodrat and not the European rats that immigrated to America with the first white people.
I am mighty, I am king
See my power, hear me sing
My purr entrances
My mew calls forth
Feed me peasant
Show me your worth
For I am Tolkien, I am cat
Give me food and make me fat
My will controls you
My voice commands
And after I eat
I'll have new demands
For I am your master, I am your god
You are my servant, you are my dog
Steven Raye Weems
Copyright ©2009 Steven Raye Weems
This is a poem I wrote long ago when I could still write. I found it today on poetry.com where I had apparently posted it. It is about the first cat we had, Tolkien.
I've noticed that when a house is built near the rim of the hollow, rain runoff is affected. The water drains in new places and at different volumes. A small draw that used to rarely have water run down it will now flow after a short hard rain.
On the south side of the hollow, some land is for sale and a few acres of woods were bulldozed by the landowner. Now the small narrow hollow that runs from there handles a lot more water than it used to. The cleared land no longer absorbs at the same rate it once did. We've had lots of rain this past couple weeks but most of it has been slow and steady. But with the way water drainage has been changed from the clearing of the forest, this new ditch (shown in the photograph) washed out in a short time.
My late grandfather, Jack McCall, who lived on the Kings River in Carroll County, Arkansas, knew quite a lot about red wolves from first hand experience. (According to the Arkansas Fish and Game Commission, one of the last holdouts of the red wolf in Arkansas was here in Carroll County.) Sadly, much of his knowledge came from hunting the wolf - there was a bounty here on wolves up into at least the late 1960's. But he also learned from observation and listening to them howl. He could tell the difference between the wolves' howls and that of the encroaching coyotes, of course, but also, later he could look at a coyote and tell you if it had much wolf in it. At the end of his life he lamented to me once what had been lost by the disappearance of the wolf here.
Yesterday, some red wolf pups were flown from a zoo in Chicago to North Carolina to be placed in the dens of proven red wolf mothers. Apparently, when the pups are so young, about a week in this case, they can be given to foster wolves to be raised. The wolves were introduced to eastern North Carolina because there are fewer coyotes for the wolves to compete and genetically combine.
The only red wolves I've ever seen were at the National Zoo in Washington DC.
Last night I was in one of our out buildings and heard the sound of a rat scurrying in the attic of the building. I would trap them, but I’m afraid of catching a squirrel or snake. Which brings me to the pair of big black snakes that live in the attic also – I’ve seen them many times. One is long and skinny, maybe five foot long. The other is probably six foot with a thick, heavy body. Not pythons, but long snakes for in the hollow. To leave the attic, they come out under the eaves and stretch to a tree and climb down to the ground. Anyway, last night the rat was scurrying along when something grabbed it and the rat commenced to make loud terrified squeaking sounds. After quite a long time, the squeaking got quieter and quieter. Then there was a terrible thumping that also got quieter and quieter. Finally all was silent except for the occasional almost soundless movement of something up above. By the way, if you are looking for a black snake in a guide to reptiles, you may have to look it up under its other name: rat snake.
Agatha (Christie) pushed open the screen on a window and jumped to the ground below. Luckily, I was home to hear the dogs chasing her and found her at the top of this tree. With help locking the dogs up and a ladder, she was retrieved and returned inside the house. She's fortunate she wasn't a dog's lunch.
Photograph by Mary J. Weems
After the hike along the mountainside under a forest of broken trees there is a large bluff with two caves under it. Here is one of them.
This bluff and the two caves under it have many associated tales: a campsite for Native Americans, a hideout for a bank robber, a cool place to sleep in the summer for a nightshift worker...
On April 5th, I heralded the annual return of the whip-poor-will to the hollow. I've not heard it since. Did it move on? Is it just being quiet? Was it someone's lunch?
On the Northwest corner of the hollow property, high up on the side of the mountain, is a sizeable bluff with two caves beneath it. The caves aren't too big, but they are all we have and we are quite fond of them. The trail to the caves has been in good shape for the past ten years. Raymond and Sylvia Teague built the trail before then, clearing it of obstacles and lining the trail with rocks. A stone bench was even built for stopping to look at the view and rest. The ice storm caused havoc along the trail, however. Now it is a difficult walk, climbing over fallen trees, and avoiding limbs scattered on the ground.
This pine fell, breaking and bending smaller trees as it went. In the background, one can see the blackberry field with the small shed. Once upon a time this was a strawberry field and the shed was used for sorting berries (so I've been told). Now the shed is full of wood rat nests built out of prickly blackberry branches.
When I saw this tree it reminded me of a giant that had fallen on its back, and I guess that is what it actually is.
One thing I've noticed taking these photographs for Notes from the Hollow is that it is hard to capture the sheer size of big trees in these little pictures. This mighty sycamore was a very large tree, but it doesn't translate well here. This tree fell crushing another smaller oak and in turn, like dominoes, caused several other trees to fall.
Sycamores are one of the largest trees that grow in the Ozarks. They reach great heighths and can be massive in girth. They grow most often in moist soil, so are often found in hollows, like this one near a spring just across the property line. As you can see above, when the ice pulled this tree down, the roots just came out of the ground. Makes me wonder if a tree gets spoiled with good soil and plenty of water and doesn't grow its roots as deep as it would otherwise.
This tree is on the beginning of a walk I took that led to a big bluff with a couple of caves under it. I'm still assessing the damage left by the Great Ice Storm of 2009 (as I've heard it referred to as). I hope to include more photographs of the terrible toll the ice took on the trees in the hollow.
Almost exactly a year ago, I ran this photograph of an egg. One of the dogs had brought it in (you can see a tooth mark) to the house. I supposed it to be a turkey egg.
The other day a comment was posted to the original entry by Robert Brunner. He corrected my supposition. The egg is that of a buzzard.
Don't seem to be many Morel Mushrooms (yet) this year. Did I miss out? A little butter in the frying pan, some garlic salt... yummm.
Seems to me that there are more eggs in the spring creek this year than normal.
A whip-poor-will has returned to the hollow. As is everything this spring, it is earlier than last year. Sarvis bloomed earlier, Redbuds bloomed earlier, Morel Mushrooms out earlier, May Apples out earlier, to name a few I noticed.
My photography software has yet to be healed following my computer's bout with a malware attack. Well, that's not true. It was working (I submit as evidence the blog photograph of March 27th), but is not now. I have many photographs to post once it is all worked out.
After more than two weeks without my computer (due to malware damage), I'm back in the saddle again. A favorite redbud tree has stood next to the road into the hollow as long as we've lived here. Alas, it was a victim of the ice storm. The photograph shows the remaining stump. By counting the rings, this tree was a mere 17 years old.
According to last year's Notes From the Hollow, the sarvis in the hollow didn't bloom until the end of the month. Here is a photo of the same sarvis tree today.
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George Washington Pinkley was my grandfather's grandfather and is buried in the Rockhouse Cemetery in Madison County, Arkansas.
Witnessed geese flying high in the sky yesterday evening. One group was in the classic V-shaped formation, while the other was making a poor attempt at the V formation. The odd thing was that they were not flying north, but southwest.
This photograph shows more of the damage wrought by the ice storm. The difference in this one is that it shows the old wagon road that runs down the hollow. I know, hard to make out where the road is with all of the down trees, limbs, and clutter. I don't want to guess how long it'll be before we can drive down it again.
Despite the recent ice storm, the last few days of warmer weather have already brought out the singing and chirping tree frogs. Isn't it kind of early?
Power has been restored, but we still need a four-wheel drive with chains to get out of the hollow on the ice layered road.
Notes from the Hollow archives in the right column
Return to website: www.steveweems.com
When I heard about global warming, this isn't what I expected. As brother Erik Weems passed along to me, "I've got 12 inches of global warming in my driveway and no snow shovel."
Here is a photo by Sarah of the placid side of what President Obama has declared a natural disaster:
Thankfully, the ice is melting but we're on day four of no electricity. With a woodstove and plenty of wood and food, we are doing fine. Heard today that it might be another two weeks before we have power restored. Been so busy the last several days clearing the road of trees and branches, there's no time to fret.
Noticed tonight how bright the stars are. No competition from lights on the ground, I guess.
A variety of forecasts out there, but I heard on a Springfield radio station that the coming ice storm will be the worst along the Arkansas/Missouri line and that emergency personnel are expecting widespread power outages. Except for two nights of 6 degree temperatures, we've had very little winter weather this year. Time to move some firewood and buy some extra gasoline.
Once upon a time, there were rumors that lemon trees grew in this hollow. The obvious source of this rumor is the citrus fruit that grow here on thorny little trees. Called a Trifoliate Orange, this plant is native to Korea and China and was imported as an ornamental many years ago and have spread wild through the hollow. I'm told that during the depression, people tried to use these as a food source but were mostly unsuccesful. I've have read, though, that some juice squirted into a glass of lemonade adds zest. As you can see below, the fruit is quite seedy. Several of these plants of ours have died in the last few years.
To return to the main webpage: www.steveweems.com
To celebrate the anniversary of her book blog, Jen Fobus is giving away three highly-rated books. Go here to learn all about it:
The photograph shows Violet the Cat. She likes to hide behind books on the bookshelf.
Why not start the new year out right and read a good book? If you go to http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/504343, you'll see that I'm reading a classic Dashiell Hammett novel. Next on my list is the L.A. crime writer Robert Crais and the highly-recommended Michael Koryta.
Where do I go for recommendations and ideas? Besides Goodreads, I keep up with Jen Forbus' www.jensbookthoughts.blogspot.com and just browsing at our small, but excellent, local library.
My grandfather's grandfather, William Alexander Weems, brought his family to this area in 1892. He traded for an eighty acre farm on Keels Creek sight unseen after spending six years in northwestern Kansas. Before that the Weems family had been in the hills of eastern Tennessee for more than a hundred years.
Alex Weems had eleven children and was a Civil War veteran.
Many members of my family are buried at the Shady Grove Cemetary east of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Since the Earl of Wemyss is theoretically a distant relative, I want to remind his family that if a burial place is needed, Shady Grove has plots available.
For those who want to make a financial contribution to the upkeep of the historic Shady Grove Cemetary:
The 12th Earl of Wemyss (pronounced Weems), one of Scotland's most distinguished conservationists, has died, aged 96. From all I have read about him, he was a unique, eccentric individual.
There is a chance of an ice storm in the next couple days, so we’ve been preparing. Likely, it won’t amount to much but you never know. Our little road is steep and almost a half mile long, all downhill (or uphill if you’re going out). More than once we’ve spent two weeks with our road ice covered, when the county roads have all been cleared. Before the Land Cruiser was running, that meant leaving a car on the county road and then hiking down into the hollow on foot. And that meant carrying groceries and, at one time, small children in and out. Now we keep a car at the top of the hill and drive the Land Cruiser up and down. It isn’t so bad, in fact it can be a bit of an adventure. As a good friend from the New York/Canada line once told me, she liked Ozark weather because it could be a challenge without being deadly (usually).
We had some excitement down in the hollow late last night. The dogs barked and carried on for over an hour – as usual, I assumed coyotes were yipping and howling. Finally, I decided to investigate in earnest. What I found was the skin, head and leg of a white-tailed deer that had been dragged into the yard. The smaller dogs were still barking as if possessed, but Chandler, the bullmastiff, was way down the hollow, up a bit on the hillside, acting as if he was in a serious disagreement with someone.
Having seen the doe, my imagination showed Chandler standing over a pile of guts and organs where the deer had been field dressed, fending off some hungry coyotes. I went down the hollow with a flashlight past the barn, by the big rocks, and down the old wagon road. The smaller dogs stayed near me, occasionally running off into the brush or woods. Chandler had become quiet and I couldn’t locate him. At one point, all of us sensing something in the trees, two of the small dogs raced off into the woods only to come racing back as if chased by something to stand behind me afraid. Coyote(s)? I couldn’t catch whatever it was in the beam of the flashlight.
After a cell phone call from a worried spouse, I headed back home to find Chandler with the deer skin and parts. Usually not defensive, he wouldn’t let the other dogs near the skin, chasing them off with a ferocity unlike him. He certainly was jazzed up.
Couldn’t determine how the deer was killed, whether by gunshot or arrow, but I believe it is still deer season for archery. Either way, it appeared from the location of Chandler’s barking that the doe may have been poached. The smaller dogs continued to bark for half the night.
These are two different types of trees. The smaller one on the left is an elm tree. The larger one on the right is a sycamore. They've grown together and appear to partially be using the same root system. Above ground, they encircle each other, growing into each other in a couple of spots. Curious.
Franklin Delano Wolfinbarger died November 6, 2008 at the age of 75.
Brother Erik (www.eeweems.com) looked at this odd formation from inside the big oak tree, and recognized a face.
In September, the remnants of Hurricane Ike knocked over the giant oak that stood sentry at the entrance to the hollow. Inside the destroyed tree was this odd formation.
The first frost occurred this morning in the hollow. Later than some years, but earlier than some, too.
The other day we happened upon a tarantula being pecked at by a crow in the county road at the entrance to the hollow. Our vehicle scared off the crow and the tarantula remained in the middle of the road. You know it is autumn when tarantulas start moving around.
The old grey donkey, Eeyore stood by himself in a thistly corner of the Forest, his front feet well apart, his head on one side, and thought about things. Sometimes he thought sadly to himself, "Why?" and sometimes he thought, "Wherefore?" and sometimes he thought, "Inasmuch as which?" and sometimes he didn't quite know what he was thinking about.
A. A. Milne
From book Winnie the Pooh
The remnants of Hurricane Ike breezed through the Ozarks the early morning hours of Sunday, September 14, 2008. One of the casualties was a giant oak that stood sentry at the entrance to the hollow. The photograph does not do justice to the size of this tree – needs a person by it to give some perspective. A man I know who is 76 years old remembers in about 1938 having to wait on someone and he said he sat under this tree for a long time. He said it was a big tree in 1938.
Continuing our explorations of the aforementioned hollow, we ran across several other interesting places besides just the tunnel. First, we found a large spring coming out from under a bluff. Second, after following an old road through pretty, mature woods we came to the small lake pictured.
Sometimes I go and visit other local hollows. This particular hollow I visited was interesting for several reasons, one of which is that it has a tunnel. The size of the tunnel in this photograph is deceptive - the tunnel was once wide enough to drive a car through. Though some of it has collapsed, it is still a sight to behold - and a surprise to run across.
Don’t eat these! It could prove fatal. An interesting note is that the Declaration of Independence was written in an ink made out of poke berry juice.
This is a photograph of Frost either relaxing or being silly. He died two years ago today around 9 PM. Frost was eleven when he died which is nearly ancient for such a big dog. Giant breeds often die young. Frost weighed about 160 pounds and stood pretty tall.
I wasn't with him when he died - I'd gone in the house for a little while. After being inside for a short time, my four-year old son turned to me and said, "I think Frost is dead now." I went outside and he was. As noted previously, a fairy ring popped up right outside our door after he died.
In a story of mine there is a dog named Chief who is obviously based on Frost. Read the story and you'll get a flavor for the intense personality of our good friend Frost.
This fairy arc popped up in the last couple of days near our house in the hollow. While not a full fairy circle, it has significance to some. Fairy circles and arcs have various meanings depending on location, but generally indicate a door into a mystical world or a place where fairies or witches have danced.
We had a full fairy circle once a couple years ago right after my best friend Frost (the Anatolian Shepherd) died. Not that I am superstitious, but that fairy circle held a lot of meaning for me. Well, perhaps I am superstitious.
I’m almost at a standstill on my first novel, The Pleasure of Displacement (working title). It is an 80,000 word mystery set in my beloved Ozarks. I know it needs work, but I’m to the point I need someone to point out the problems to me. I’m working my way through it again, tweaking this and that, changing the occasional paragraph. But, like I said, I need help (and not just in grammar).
Right now the manuscript is being read by my former English teacher, Kathy Remenar, and I’m nervous about what she might have to say. She helped develop my love of writing twenty odd years ago and is a talented writer herself. I feel like I wrote better back then but after my recent health problems, I found myself with time to actually write. It was like starting over. I always thought that if I wrote a novel the writing would be easy and the story would be the hard part. Turned out the opposite – since I had to relearn writing, the story was the much easier part.
The reader that has made me the most nervous was Mary Pat Boian. Many know her as the publisher of Boian Books (www.boianbooks.com) and a better writer than I will ever be. Outside of my family, she and Lori Davis have turned out to be the biggest supporters of my writing. I’ve known Lori since high school and she also cuts hair (www.eurekaspringssalon.com). Wife Diane has helped all around and Erik Weems, my brother and the graphic artist (www.eeweems.com), has helped with the manuscript and designed a working cover for my book that can be seen on my website. And, of course, my nephew Brandon educated me on 9mm handguns.
Today I learned that Jen Forbus will read my manuscript. As you may know, she is a book reviewer extraordinaire on goodreads.com (http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/582249) and has a great book blog (http://www.jensbookthoughts.blogspot.com/). She is an increasingly influential person in the book world of many and I’m honored and very nervous at the thought of her reading my stuff.
My second book, a sequel, is 20,000 words so far and is going well. If anything, this story is faster paced and tighter written than the first and is a lot of fun to work on.
Opha Price died August 12, 2008 at the age of 86. One of eight children born to Arlie and Mary Lula Cordell Wolfinbarger, she attended school at Concord School and had two sons, David and Russell. Aunt Opha was buried today at the Shady Grove Cemetary. She was one of my wife's favorite Sunday School teacher's years ago. She was my grandmother's older sister and a wonderful, sweet lady. I once gave her a kitten.
Photographs of the Weems family Land Cruiser here:
It gets us around on these steep hillsides and crossing the creek - put chains on it in the winter and it feels like it will go anywhere.
Jen Forbus' Book Thoughts here:
She influences what I read - she introduced me to Robert Crais' books, among others. And I won Lisa Unger's book Sliver of Truth in a contest she had. Jen’s book reviews are some of the best I have read.
For some reason, there are passion flower vines climbing all over the place this year. The vines have tendrils for gripping and can grow 25 feet long. The fruit (sometimes called wild apricot) will soon be ripe. I have heard that the juice is good squeezed in lemonade. Some people eat the fruit and make jelly from it.
One of the simple pleasures of living in the hollow is that one can go out the door and be in the woods almost immediately. Recently, a group of us hiked in the woods at dusk – listening and watching for wildlife. Some of the most intriguing inhabitants of the hollow made their presence known. We were deep in the woods when a single coyote howled a distance away. A girl with us howled and yipped and barked in response. Suddenly, two different groups of coyotes broke out with their high-pitched, eerie chorus – apparently responding to the girl's attempt at humor. While the coyotes were the most dramatic wildlife we heard, we also saw interesting wildlife. Mushrooms are almost always present during the warm months in the hollow. From morels to fairy circles, we see many shapes and varieties of mushrooms. One could dedicate a lifetime to studying them.
Many of the Mimosa trees in the hollow have died in the last two years. There are just a few mature ones left along our road (young ones still sprout everywhere like weeds - which is what some people call these trees). Mimosas (or Silk trees) are native to China, Iran, and other parts of Asia.
The 1971 Landcruiser we use in the hollow had four Dunlop tires on it when it was purchased used 30 years ago. Over the years they have worn out one by one. Last night the final Dunlop tire went flat and is not fixable. The next tire will probably not last 30 years.
This is a small snake that was in our yard under some twigs and wet leaves. It was about 18 inches long and I never did determine what it was. We see snakes fairly often in the hollow - mostly copperheads (have seen dozens), but also ringnecks, speckled kingsnakes, and black snakes.
There is a pair of black snakes that live in the attic of our little shop building. Sometimes they can be seen stretching their long bodies from an opening in the roof of the shop, reaching for a tree to use to climb down to the ground. One of the black snakes is about six feet long and the other about four feet long.
This photograph by Mary Weems was taken in the hollow. Not sure what kind of owl it is, but there is evidence of at least four types of owls in the hollow. We have heard the distinctive calls of three types of owls - the great horned owl (or hoot owl), the screech owl, and the barred owl. I also once saw a white-faced barn owl, in of all places, the barn. We have seen large owls flying that are either great horned owls or barred owls - the two largest species of owls found in this area. There are other owls around but I'm not able to recognize their calls with any confidence.
Yesterday, I was at our neighbor’s and a deer came down the road and crossed into the yard. The deer stopped when it saw our smaller dog, Lewie, and the two stared at each other for a long moment. Then sensing the deer’s presence, Noodles, the dachshund went on the attack with Lewie close behind. The two canines ran at the deer barking, but the deer didn’t run - it lowered its head and ran at the dogs. Bewildered by this odd turn of events, the two dogs stopped until Chandler the bullmastiff came running from another direction and chased away the deer.
Attached is a photograph of the deer chaser himself, Chandler.
It's the time of the year for terrapins (or three-toed box turtles) to be active. This one was found crawling along our driveway. Interesting to note that three-toed box turtles often have four toes. A scientific study of box turtles in Missouri utilized Laborador retrievers to locate turtles buried in the leaves. Over 3,000 box turtles were collected this way.
The bottom shell (or plastron) of this box turtle had evidently been severly cracked, but grew back together. Box turtles are pretty tough - they have been known to live 70 years.
This morning at two a.m., the dogs started barking to beat the band (as my grandpa used to say.) This is not an unusual occurrence – except they carried on a long time. I finally got up and found a flashlight that worked and went outside. Our two dogs and the neighbor’s dog were all climbing on top of the woodpile, trying to dig out the sticks of firewood. I investigated and could hear growling deep down in the woodpile. At first I thought it might be a cat, but with further investigation was able to spot the creature through spaces in the wood. All I could see at first was that it had a white face and black eyes. When I saw its pointy face I knew right off it was an opossum. I finally returned to bed, knowing if I dug it out the dogs would kill it. Soon after, the dogs gave up on it and went back to bed themselves.
A good website to keep track of what you are reading is www.goodreads.com. I use it to track down good books to read. If you are ever curious what I am reading, go to:
Choose the "my books" tab up above and it will give you a list of what I have read in the past year.
This egg was brought in by one of the dogs yesterday. It must be a wild turkey egg - not sure what else it could be.
The smallest spring in this end of the hollow comes out of a triangular cave opening only about six inches high. While the three other springs roared after the recent heavy rainfalls, this quiet little spring only flowed a little bit heavier. It produces enough water to keep the moss around it green and the sapling above it growing.
And, of course, the redbuds are now in bloom. The flowers are not actually red - as can be seen in this photograph, but a purplish. These trees can reach a height of 50 feet, but rarely do. Also called a Judas Tree in some places. There are several dozen in the hollow.
Here is a colony of may-apples (also called mandrakes) near the creek. I have been told that they are a good indicator that the soil is ideal for morel mushrooms. I have yet to find the two growing together, though.
These are some Morel Mushrooms found in the hollow about an hour ago.
Tonight a single whip-poor-will was heard in the hollow. Several of these birds return annually from their winter homes along the Gulf Coast and southward to the hollow for the warmer months.
I was once attacked by a whip-poor-will along a lonely country road late at night after my pickup broke down. It beat me on the head and face with its wings and body again and again, until I ran away. Then it returned to its loud, rhythmic calls. What was that about, I wonder?
This is the view from one of the highest spots on the rim of the hollow, looking east (away from the hollow).
We lost a tree I was fond of today – it fell, its roots snapping and the tree body unable to keep its balance in the wet, muddy ground. An elegant mimosa tree, its many large limbs twisted and turned around each other making beautiful patterns. It produced quite a bit of shade and was once planned as the future home of a tree house. Amazing how small it looks in the photographs, when really it was a large, full tree. For the last few years I had noticed slugs on it at night – I wonder if they had something to do with its death.
Our springs flow was even heavier today than earlier in the month.
Every year the first tree to bloom in the hollow is a sarvis growing on the eastern rim hillside. Here it is on March 26th. The redbuds can't be far behind.
There are four springs in this end of the hollow. The largest marks the beginning of the creek that drains the surrounding hillsides. After a heavy rainfall, this normally placid spring becomes white and roaring. This photograph shows the spring coming down the hillside after such a rain. This March has been a very wet month causing flooding, mayhem, and death in the Ozarks.
This evening at dusk I noticed a single bat flitting around the hollow's sky. Hopefully, as in years past, more and more bats will appear as Spring progresses.
Here in the hollow our annual outbreak of ladybugs started at the end of February. Here is a picture of just a few of them on a window. Sometimes they swarm in the hundreds, covering the ceiling or light fixtures in a mass of moving red. I have been told that these are not our native ladybugs, but imported insects brought in to eat something or another.
This morning, with snow on the ground, the poor, shivering tree frogs were still singing their joyous chorus.
When we first lived in the hollow there would be at night on the southern hillside a loud shrieking sound. It could also be described as a high-pitched scream. We talked to various people trying to determine what could be making this unworldly sound. There were different opinions on the subject. Some said it might be a bobcat, or a fox, or even a mountain lion. We also thought it might be a strange shrieking bird or even a deranged human, walking through our woods at night. Our dogs at the time would bark at it, but not investigate. This indicated to me that they didn’t consider it much of a threat. Whether this was because of the distance or because of what it was, I do not know. Or could it have been something they feared? If so, it would have been the first thing our big Anatolian Shepherd feared in his life. He was a guarding machine. So, all these years later we still have not determined what it was.
Today is a beautiful, sunny winter’s day. While taking a short hike, I spied the shiny shell of an armadillo in the upper part of the blackberry field. I walked up that way to observe it, when unluckily for the armadillo our little spaniel-looking dog, Lewie (for CS Lewis), saw it also. As soon as the armadillo heard the bark, it ran zig-zag towards the woods. The bark also alerted our bullmastiff, Chandler (for Raymond Chandler), who ran at an impressive rate of speed up the field and grabbed it by the tail. It dangled for a long moment, its claws reaching for purchase. Either Chandler got scratched or he was trying for a better grip, I couldn’t tell which, when the armadillo fell to the ground on the edge of the woods. Immediately, it went down a hole in the ground. It must have been trying for home when it was caught.
In the past nine years, we had never seen a robin in the hollow. Hard to believe, I know, considering everything else we have viewed. Now in the middle of winter, we have had several move in and it seems they have always been here.
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Our small hollow is located in Winona Township in the Ozark hills of north Arkansas.