Tag Archives: Deer

Fur, crane and juniper berries: field log

The Scientist does not study nature because it is useful to do so.  He studies it because it takes pleasure in it; and he takes pleasure in it because it is beautiful.  — Jules Henri Poincare

* * *

[These are primary field notes taken today.  Time entered in UTC or Zulu time, i.e. 1759.  Post-field note commentary bracketed and italicized.]


Flying Hat Ranch, North Erath County, Texas, Lat 32.43 N, Long -98.36 W, elev. 1,086 ft. Turkey Creek Quadrangle map.

1759.  51 deg. F.  [Cold enough to start into the field with line jacket, but by the time I got to grove, I shed the jacket, putting it on the fence post.]

1805.  Three or more ducks on pond.  No identification.  Woodpile near pond has been reduced by rain and natural deterioration.  Tree limbs and logs have settled in earth.  [Erath County has taken the burn ban off.  I’ll not burn the pile because it houses several critters.  The ducks are three and they make little noise.  They paddle to the far side of the pond as I stride by.]

1817.  Barbed wire between grove and arena pasture broken, 5 T-posts from the gate, towards the west.  Apparent deer tracks on the ground, no sign of struggle, crawling under, deer popped the strand.  Fur on ground.  Photos taken.  [I have seen juvenile deer scoot under the fence; hence, I think they broke it.  I looked carefully for signs of an entanglement in the wire, but found none and also went over to the creek embankment to make sure no deer had fallen.  I’ll repair the fence later this winter.  I wonder if it is deer “fur” or “hair?”  According to Scientific American, mammalogist, Nancy Simmons, there is no difference between fur and hair.]

1828.  Juniper berries on tree to the east of brick pile.  Tree is 20 feet high, 20 feet across  at lower crown.  Five juniper trees in immediate vicinity.  One large juniper 30 feet to east-southeast of the little grove.  This juniper is 30 feet tall, trunk is 2-3 feet in diameter.  [I had never stopped to count the number of junipers in the small grove, nor estimated the height of the tallest tree.  My recent post on junipers has prompted my focus.  I thought about picking the berries and consuming them, reenacting my Zuni experience.]

1843.  Red oak leaf falls.  I think it a floating butterfly.  Then I see the red oak.  No butterfly.  [What tricks our mind plays.  I thought for a moment that a Monarch might have roosted and emerged in the sun.  The leaf floated like a butterfly, not a swaying back-and-forth manner like a leaf.]

1849.  Two burrows near east water gap, one looks inhabited.  [Skunk, armadillo?  Other?]

1853.  Remnants of deer-stand ladder.  [I have dismantled all deer stands in the trees that I can find.  This ladder will be dismantled soon.  I hate it when nails are driven into trees.]

1855.  Bull bellows on Dooley Place.  [The Red Angus bull bellows.  ‘Twould be interesting to take field notes at a certain point for just sound, not images, just sound.]

1858.  Harris hawk ascends into tree at about 10 foot level, watches me approach, then flies low out of tree towards north.  [I have typed the Harris before.  There are two of them that soar and predate in the grove and surrounds.  They’ve been here on Flying Hat for two years.]

1908.  Scare 4-7 turkey vultures from dead mesquite tree at southwest part of grove.  [I hope Ethan Connell has checked the turkey vulture on his Life List in his Peterson’s.]

1917.  Flock of Sandhill Cranes overhead, flying north to south, catching wind currents.  [When I first heard the Sandhills,  I looked too high, gave up and then found them at a lower altitude.]

1930. Turn around at northwest corner of far field and return to house. Star whinnies at me.

1938.  White-crowned sparrows fly low in brush about arena at southeast end.

1942.  Scare up the resident jack rabbit while searching for stone tool in situ.  [I cannot find the stone tool.  I do have it located, however, on the GPS and I can locate it later.  I had placed a yellow surveyor’s flag at its place, but the elements have blown it down — or possibly, Star.]

1946.  At pasture-house gate.  [Log entries conclude.]


Filed under Cedar, Deer, Ducks, Field Log, Sandhill Crane

Poaching or just curious? Deer on Flying Hat Ranchito

Southeast gate of Pecan Tree Pasture, deer season opening day, November 5, 2011, 7:35 a.m.

(The following datum comes from Field Notebook No. 1, October 29, 2011 –.  These are the original notes I took this morning on the first day of the regular deer season in north Erath County, Texas, November 5, 2011.)

7:50 a.m. In the far field at Pecan Tree Pasture.  One rifle shot to the south, a loud report.  41 deg. F.  One photo taken at southeast far gate.  No deer yet sighted.  Traffic light on State Highway 108.  Owl call, hooting, in the grove.  [I am parked between the grove and pecan tree, having entered from the far southeast gate to contain deer? within the field.]

No deer stands sighted on Old Bryant place, the Dooley place, that I can see.  This is different from past three years.  Two years ago, I sighted nine deer stands from my place.

Crows cawing — very few.

7:59 a.m., flock of crows flying east to west.

8:00 a.m.  Solitary deer sighted between me and water trough on my pasture road.  I am at the grove-pasture gate.

8:01 a.m.  Rifle report to the far south.

Deer may have come out of the grove gate by the water trough.  Deer leisurely walking up the pasture road.

(Bring binoculars next time.)

(Clear brush around fence in places so the F-250 is not scratched.)

A gray, short-bed pickup cruises by my open southeast gate, turns off road by gate, pauses, then goes north on SH 108.  No identification of the gray pickup.  Not a neighbor.

8:10 a.m.  Chickadees or wrens fussing in the mesquite brush, grove.  Will the solitary deer I saw cross SH 108?

8:14 a.m.  Rifle report to the east at some distance, estimated three miles distant.

8:21 a.m.  Rifle report to my southwest, very loud, very loud either on Dooley or Woods place.  I can almost smell the gunpowder.  [I carefully listen for bullet coming through air, but hear no sound.]

Far away to the south, another rifle shot.

A white-flatbed pickup passes on SH 108, slows down by field, turns around and comes back by deer at water trough, slows down, goes up road, turns around and then heads south on SH 108.  He probably saw the deer on my place.  Not a neighbor.

Big bluestem grass abounds in this field.

8:50 a.m.  Leave field.


Notes, corrections, additions:

This year the rifle sounds are greatly reduced in number for the opening day of the general season.  The pickups that turn around and gaze into the far field where I have deer may be curious or may be looking for an opportunity to poach.  I can’t monitor and don’t want to monitor my field constantly.  I am glad that the deer stands have been significantly reduced in number from several years ago.  I have Tony Navarro to thank for that.  Game Warden Tony Navarro’s great-grandfather signed the Texas Declaration of Independence.  I rode with him in his outfitted pickup a couple of years ago when we scanned Flying Hat Ranchito for game. 

Game Warden Tony Navarro's card


Filed under Deer, Field Log

The quail, the deer and setting the lesson

Scaled quail on cholla bush (photograph by Marcus G. Martin, Photo Gallery).

Quail are sociable, staying together from birth to death as a covey, and when one lone quail, separated from the group, calls out plaintively, the covey circles back and joins the solitary being, bedding down all together in the evening so that they appear to be one animal, not fifteen or twenty, when observed closely.  (I have reared quail and know their habits.)  The quail also make for a fine gumbo, or with a brown sauce on top of white rice, a delicious entree.  They are beautiful and interesting to watch, but they are also food.

Deer, buck or doe, appear majestic in the field as they scan for predators and graceful when they arc over fallen timber or fence.   Fawns scamper and play about their mothers like children at the playground.  The backstrap or tenderloin of the deer is one of the finest cuts of meat on earth.  The liver of venison when soaked in milk overnight becomes delicate to the taste when fried and offers potency to the sick.  Deer are beautiful and interesting to watch, but they are also food.

Two years ago, in 2009, I chose the name of my blog, “Sage to Meadow,” based upon a post by Coffeeonthemesa, a blog published out of Taos, New Mexico. Coffeeonthemesa uses a phrase in her post that describes a covey of scaled quail moving from “sage across the meadow” near her home.  I like that.  It describes plant and terrain, sage and meadow: expansive geographic images and symbols of the American West.

Here is the post of Coffeeonthemesa — the italics are mine — that gave my blog its name and a setting of a lesson about food.

The covey of scaled quail (Callipepla squamata) that pass through our yard on their mesa rounds is smaller this year. It seems there are only a dozen or so, but they are quite plump. They move north to south from the sage across the meadow, stop to graze under the sunflower seed feeder, move through the little shed (have they ever found anything to eat in there?) and out again, in a little row. They search around the wood pile and cross the barren summer garden, before heading down the road towards the mesa edge. Last week I found the feathers and scant remains of one on the north side of the house where our woodstove ash pit lies.

They’re short-tailed, chunky birds with a cotton top crest, and the lookout quail sits atop a sagebrush or low fence post and barks out warnings to the others. Generally they run when something nears, zigzagging through the underbrush. Although the covey can explosively flush when startled.

I cannot help, when watching them under the feeder, but imagine how their plump little breasts would make a fine gumbo.

Coffeeonthemesa blog, Taos, New Mexico, November 13, 2009.

The eloquence of Coffeeonthemesa’s prose brings the eternal cycle into her final sentence:  “I cannot help, when watching them under the feeder, but imagine how their plump little breasts would make a fine gumbo.”

I have never been a consistent hunter in the food chain.  I shop the food chain.  I go to the supermarket for food, but I know it is not the supermarket that gives me food.

I have hunted in the food chain.  In the 1970s, I went deer hunting with two friends, shot my deer and dressed it in the field.  Oh, I had known the one-life-for-another axiom for a long time, but the buck I shot set the lesson inside me, inside my body so that all the literature and thinking I had ever done about one-life-for-another seemed faraway, alien even, to the beautiful, majestic animal I knelt before.

Beneath me, still breathing, eyes open, the grey coat shimmering, lay the deer, my first deer, its antlers hard and white.  No longer would he browse the field, sniff the wind, eat acorns beneath live oaks.  His animation was near end.  As I put my pistol to his heart, I promised myself that I would prepare all of him for me and my wife and my friends to eat.  I would honor this being, this deer, this day under the sun near Van Horn, Texas.

As I dressed the deer, I retched and threw up.

Must all lessons be assimilated like this?  Or, expelled like this?  Can’t very well drop the class can I?  Can we?  How do I get out of this university (universe)?

The regret and sadness I had that day recedes when I ponder the lesson the deer set in me.   In my anthropology classes, the lesson is taught every semester, every class, to every student.  I don’t grade them on it except for the economics of reciprocity in a society.  I set them on a path to learn the lesson — they will have to go into the field to have the lesson truly set, but here are the words:

We all take life to sustain ourselves.  To obscure that fact is profane.  To recognize that we take a life to sustain ourselves is sacred.  The sharing of food with another, next to laying down our life, is the greatest gift we can give others.  Who feeds you?  And, what do you do for them in return?

Jack Matthews, author of Sage to Meadow, Introductory Lecture in Physical and Cultural Anthropology.


Notes, corrections and additions:

The New Mexico State University Scaled Quail Management Operation.

Marcus G. Martin Bird Photo Gallery.   The quail on cholla bush is from Martin’s gallery — permission pending.  Click his link for other photographs and website.

This post started out only as a post describing how my blog got its name.  From quail gumbo, however, the post grew into what it is now.

Along with the more somber lesson herein written, there are other lessons  from an anthropological perspective that relate to to food:  (1) by giving food, parties, spreading your resources, you enlarge your social network and friends; (2) gifts make slaves; (3) by giving of gifts, including food, you create obligations.  I think that we could go deeper into the psychology of harvesting animals, but for the moment, this is it.  One aspect that bears mentioning is that if you take life with respect, you probably won’t harvest unnecessarily, and you will get beaucoup angry with those that do.  You may even go to war with agencies that take the fat of the land and hold it in reserve, extracting a price for its distribution.  Read most any history on the opening of the American West, the partial closing of the American West. 


Filed under Deer, Life in Balance

Noise and relativity

Felled tree in Corral No. 1 (May 2011).

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.


Filed under Life in Balance, Taos

Quail and deer lease my field

Deer skull with prairie grass (2011).

Temperatures reached 102 degrees yesterday.  Work slows or stops at 11:00 a.m.  Winds blew fierce, reaching 40 m.p.h. in gusts.  Yet, the pastures are green, the grass not browning for the moment.

* * *

Two days ago I shredded several narrow paths about the pastures.  I do not shred fields or pastures.  As I shredded a narrow path around the edges of Pecan Tree Pasture, I flushed a bobwhite quail.  Just one quail, but it is significant for quail habitually cluster in coveys.  Quail have disappeared in large portions of the area from hunting, shredding pastures, cropping and the spread of fire ants that kill young chicks.  I have reseeded the Pecan Tree Pasture with native grass and allowed the field to remain fallow for several years.  If I see more quail — the late sighting proving to not be an isolated occurrence — I will conclude I have done well in partial restoration of a native habitat.

* * *

Yesterday I sighted three mature deer and a fawn between the grove and the stock pond.  It is odd that their color is so pale brown, almost yellow, against the greenery of Spring.  Deer return, quail flush.  The fawn pranced.

* * *

As I sat on the back porch yesterday afternoon, a cattleman from Gordon knocked on the door.  He wanted to lease the pasture that I had flushed the quail and seen the deer — a monthly lease depending upon the number of cattle he would place.  I refused.  I told him that I would probably run a few head myself.  He stated that he had seen no cattle on the pasture and that’s why he had inquired.  I took his card and he said he was looking for pasture within ten miles of Gordon, so that if I heard of any land available for rent, please let him know.  I politely said I would.

Other inquires will follow this Spring.  They always do from cattlemen or harvesters of grass.  And, I always refuse and politely explain that I have the pasture for horses or a few head of cattle.  I have not run any cattle for four years.  I may put a few on the land this Spring, but not many and they will not disturb either deer or quail.  In the field, the Big Bluestem grass will be higher than the withers of horse and rump of cattle.

* * *

I had to kill a copperhead in the barn two days ago.  I knelt down to air up a tire and moved a salt block receptacle to position myself and a copperhead lay under the receptacle.  I will be cleaning out the barn early next week.  I had planned to do so — in fact I had moved six boxes of books to my office in Abilene a week ago –, but the danger of snake bite spurs me sooner to glean the barn.  My air conditioner repairman and contractor lost part of a finger last year from a copperhead bite.  For some reason, we have more copperheads in this portion of north Erath County, Texas, than most areas.

* * *

The photograph at the beginning of the post was taken over at Pecan Tree Pasture about where the solitary bobwhite was sighted.  I was observing the growth of native grasses a month ago and happened across the deer skull with horns.  I consider myself keenly observant of objects in my field of sight, but the grass has grown so high, secrets are undisclosed unless one tramps the land.  The skull remains in situ.  I like the simplicity, the complexity intertwined: deer, native grasses, treeline.

The field wholly remains in situ, lightly touched, deeply felt.


Filed under Birds, Deer, Field Log, Life in Balance

Field Log 9/21/2010 (Quail)

North Erath County, Texas, Lat 32.43 N, Long -98.36 W, elev. 1,086 ft. Turkey Creek Quad.

One week ago, 9:00 a.m., I flushed a large covey of quail to the west of the ranch house.  They were feeding under the live oak tree.  A single quail sighted a week before the flushed covey.  Relinquishing pastures to native grass may have induced quail browsing.

Two mornings ago at 5:00 a.m. while walking the Yeller and Lottie, I heard a deer snort over the fence on the Dooley place.

Solitary white cow bird sighted two days ago.  Cow birds feed with horses in early spring.

The four inches of rain two weeks ago has caused greening of all pastures.  Pasture grasses, especially buffalo grass, are re-erupting.

Yesterday morning at 5:00 a.m., some type of birds quietly chattering in mesquite trees.  Quiet chatter.  Never heard such a thing before.

Harris hawks continue to prey in the pastures.  Their flight patterns are low to the ground.

Some slight turning of tree leaves in grove to yellow and brown.

Overturned soil in arena to soften ground for Lilly and Star.

Dove hunters are not so plentiful this year about the county.  Few shots heard.

Bull nettle growth about stock tank needs cutting.

Photograph featured is a cottonwood tree above Casa Sena in Santa Fe.


Filed under Birds, Deer, Dogs, Field Log

Let the Scallop Be (Field Log 8/1/2010)

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.

The Riparian Swatch, Salt Creek, Flying Hat Ranch, Texas

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.

Scallop Shell in Salt Creek Bed, Flying Hat Ranch, Texas



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.


Filed under Field Log

Beginning: Red Ants

There is first a setting out, a beginning of all things.  Among the Huron in America, a woman fell from from the sky, hurling toward water.  Two loons that were flying over the water saw her and placed themselves beneath her to cushion her fall, holding her above the water, and calling for other animals to help hold her up.  The cry of the loon can be heard a long distance.  Animals came, including the turtle, and helped her, building earth from the bottom of the sea.  Here in the Southwest, among the Navaho, human beings emerged from the earth as red ants and red ants are the ancestors of those that walk the earth today on solid ground.

I remember my Uncle Floyd on his ranch in Cherokee, Texas, taking poison to the large red ant hills in the corrals and alleyways of the cattle pens.  Some ants died, but most of them survived the attack and continued to bring small stones to their portal.  The red ants never stung him, nor me.  Uncle Floyd eventually gave up the task and let them be.  The Navaho and other tribes collect the stones at the ant pile and place them in gourds to make rattles.  Uncle Floyd, Aunt Lennie, and I would attend the Methodist Church in Cherokee, Texas, and hear the minister read Genesis on how God created the earth and gave dominion of its creatures to man in the beginning.

I never assisted in putting the poison on the ant hills.  The red ants always looked so harmless and when I held one in my hand, there was no stinging, just a waving of the antenna and a deliberate attempt to find a way off of my boyish hand.  Today here on Flying Hat, I let the red ants live and bring their little stones to their entry holes.  I wonder how they place themselves down in the ground and what chambers they retire to.  Their pathways are so well-traveled on the surface that they may be two inches wide, devoid of vegetation, and a hundred-yards in length.  In Pecan Tree pasture, the ants have a lot of food from the side-oats gramma Cody Scott and I planted five-years ago.  In the area cleared around the ant hills, I can see the tracks of deer.  The word, deer, is traced back to an Indo-European hypothetical word meaning,  to breathe.

On our place here in Texas, the ants emerge from the earth and a deer signifying breath stands above them on solid ground brought up by turtles in ancient times to save the woman that fell from the sky in the beginning.


For method, N. Scott Momaday, The Way to Rainy Mountain.  For Huron, Elsa A. Nystrom, Primary Source Reader for World History, volume I: to 1500.  For Navaho, divers sources including Washington Matthews, his Smithsonian series on Navaho singing chants.  See also Frank Waters, Masked Gods.


Filed under Colony Road, Recollections 1942-1966