In north Erath County, Texas, the south wind blew fiercely yesterday, its force bending high-grass seed tops to the ground in the arena pasture. The sound of wind roughly soughing through live oak trees never let up during the day. The temperature eased back to 93 degrees and I worked in the afternoon cutting down a split tree that threatened to topple onto a stable. I chopped a large notch into the tree, lassoed the upper body of the tree with a lariat, tied a knot on the trailer hitch of the Case DX-55, pulled and brought the split tree down. My step-father used the same axe as I did, chopping cedar and brush in Mills County, eighty-miles away and fifty-years ago.
A barn cat that I have not befriended — yet — watched from the stable while I worked out the physics of felling the tree. Star fled from his feeding bin only when the tree fell, returning quickly to finish his block of coastal bermuda once the noise subsided. Sweat stung my eyes and I opened up my shirt to cool as I sat in the shade of the barn alleyway, the high wind funneling through the alleyway more rapidly than in the corral. The barn cat had eased his way into the hay and tools area, away from the wind.
I will clean up the tree debris in the corral today.
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Deer and possibly quail returned to the far field, the Pecan Tree Pasture. One reason is that mechanized noise has lessened in their habitat. It is quieter.
My neighbors to the southeast, the Halls, are selling their home, stables and workshop. Since they are dividing their time between here and Squaw Mountain near Throckmorton, much farther north of here, their off-road motor vehicles are silenced and they mow less frequently. They do not fire pistols in training their horses to become accustomed to the noise. To the west of me, on the Dooley place, the nephew has not target practiced in the adjacent pasture for several months. And, finally, on my southern boundary the Old Bryant place, the deer stands and blinds have mostly been removed, only one remains. I see deer browsing between my southern pastures and the pond, and on to a second healthy pond on the Blue place, to my east. Blue takes care of his ailing mother and my rural route mail carrier sits with Blue’s mother so that he might go on errands or to church. His place, his mother’s place, is quiet next to mine.
I labor under no illusion. The noise might start again and the deer will flee. I have no control over my neighbor’s behavior until my nose is bloodied or bone breaks. I shall tend to my pastures and fields and allow all that is natural grow and browse. The deer have not re-surged to levels six-years ago, but the deer are back. The fawn prances again in the Grove. The noise of mechanized activity, of gun powder and metal clanging has abated. For now.
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Several years ago, I almost purchased a place in northern New Mexico, up above Llano that bordered the Kit Carson National Forest. The fifteen acres or so nestled up against an acequia that brought water to narrow fields below. I envisioned building a small home, barn and corrals for horses. A trail ascended into the national forest and I could ride Star for hours, even days into groves of aspen and high country meadows. I did not buy the land. I have no regrets for there are places like that near Taos and Rodarte still for sale. If the need be, I will find them and resettle away from the clang of metal.
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So much is relative; maybe all things are. I am content that deer return, but in Australia the deer in places have populated so densely that the land is overgrazed and crops cannot be planted. Yesterday, despite my focus on machine noise, I used a Case DX-55 tractor to pull down the split tree and a Stihl chainsaw to cut the trunk and limbs. If I had continued to use my step-father’s axe, I would have had to soak the handle for the blade was loose.
Then, if I had moved to the high country of northern New Mexico, I would have the beauty of the land and resonance of diverse cultures, but jobs are few and the winters are bitter cold. Yet, I could counter the cold with propane and wood, axe and chainsaw, sharpening files and good caulking about the quarters.
Ill fares the land? No, not yet.