North Erath County, Texas, Lat 32.43 N, Long -98.36 W, elev. 1,086 ft. Turkey Creek Quad.
[I incorrectly identified the shell (see photograph above) as a mussel shell and had written in the notes section of this post that I would change the title and identification if someone knew their shells better than me. It is a scallop shell, well-bleached. My good friend, Caralee Woods of Kanab, Utah, sent a comment about my incorrect typing and I have made the necessary changes for accuracy in the post.]
Jack, I hate to be the one to tell you, and I’m not a biologist, but I did have an extensive shell collection as a child (I still have it somewhere)! I learned a lot about shells in those days, and I can tell you this ain’t a mussel! It appears to be one half of a very bleached-out scallop shell. I know you’ve eaten mussels, so you know that the mussel shell is tear-shaped and smooth inside and out. The scallop is ridged as you see this one is, and rounder in shape.
Caralee Woods of Kanab, Utah
A high pressure sits above Texas. Temperatures predicted here in north Erath County are in the range between 100 and 105 deg. F.
10:00 a.m. I drive in the F-150 towards the grove.
Barn swallows are flying two to five feet above the pasture grasses, eating mosquitoes. In my shredding of broomweed over the past week, I focus on shredding it alone — broomweed — leaving native grasses and coastal bermuda for insects, loafing areas for the jack rabbits and cottontails and browsing for the horses.
At the pond, a Red-tailed hawk flies from its perch in the willow tree or live oak tree that borders the north side of the pond. The hawk flies low to the ground, ten feet or so, in the direction of Blue’s pond over the fence line. I shall be careful next time and try to photograph the Red-tail.
In the grove, above the creek bed, the temperature falls slightly. Birds are silent. One bird, a finch encircles me and then flies into the brush. Cicadas chatter, sawing a melody, then silent.
Along the creek bed next to the native grass pasture (Pecan Tree Pasture), pools of clear water stand under oak, pecan, elm, ash and hickory. Willow and a few cottonwoods grow close to the water. The temperature falls significantly under the canopy of trees. The trees are vibrant. Mustang grapevines erupt leaves, some vines for the first time in years. This riparian swatch regrows.
Star and Lilly have been turned out around the barn and have browsed their way to the front of the house pasture. Star, however, sees me in the grove and he gallops away from Lilly and neighs to me in the creek bed. (When I return, he will kick and gallop back to Lilly at the front of the pasture.)
I walk in the creek bed towards the Hall place and east water gap.
I photograph tadpoles and small frogs. Standing on the edge of a pool of water, the tadpoles turn as a group towards me, peering through the water’s filmy surface. I am reminded that when I used to swim in the Colorado River and Rough Creek near San Saba, Texas, the tadpoles would come and nibble my flesh. I wonder if these tadpoles would do the same?
I amble down the creek. Deer trails appear unused and leaves and debris cover the trail where four-years ago, ten to fifteen deer browsed and migrated about the ranch. Allen Gaddis, my previous farrier for the remuda, saw fifteen deer in the pasture and grove during a cool and foggy morn when he trimmed horses. He stopped trimming, looked at the herd and motioned for me to see them. From east to west, the deer glided in the fog. Most deer are gone now and Allen Gaddis has relocated to Benjamin, Texas, near the 6666 Ranch and his daughter. He used to work in Wyoming and once rode a King Ranch stallion that was the fastest and smartest cow horse he had ever ridden. Though Gaddis is gone, I have his story about that ride he took as a teenager. I find no deer track.
Turning around, I retrace my steps to the F-150. Star sees me driving and he gallops back to the front of the pasture and his mother. I going to my place and he must get back to his.
I had photographed a scallop shell and when I enlarge the photo back at the house I see many things I did not see when I took the shot. Stones small and colorful. A poprock. Seed hulls. Twig. Bone. Leaves. The outline of the white shell reminds me of Neanderthal decorations I once saw in a textbook. Earthly things held together in a creek bed matrix. I notice that the white scallop shell has sand on it. Should I have brushed it off to improve the photogenic quality of the shell? I briefly think, yes, but then, no. I take nature as I have discovered her — earthy, water-coursed, bursting with color and containing the past in bone and hull. A receptacle.
Let the scallop be.
My presumption is that the shell is a mussel shell. I’ll be mightily embarrassed if I am wrong, but I will correct my post and title if a biologist sets me straight. I have Peterson guides for a lot of categories, but nothing on shells.
All photographs are taken with a Nikon D300 with AF-5 Nikkor 18-200 mm lens. Each shot is taken with full digital exposure. You can always reduce the detail, but you can never add to it.
Updated, August 3, 2010. Please see the comment quoted at the first of this post about shell identification. My apologies to both the mussel and scallop worlds.