Winds sustained at 22 m.p.h. Highway travel to Abilene slowed.
Yeller, our Aussie-Lab mix dog, sat in the hallway in front of the glass door leading to the outside porch. He growls deeply, the deepest and most sustained growl I have ever heard from him. I go to the front door, thinking Yeller has alerted us to a strange dog or our resident lizard that comes across the front porch. Yeller growls deeper. On the porch, I see a four-foot rattlesnake slithering next to the closed glass door, six inches from his nose.
The glass door separates Yeller and us from the rattlesnake. Brenda gets Yeller and Lottie, our Schnauzer, away from the door and takes them into another room, away from what must happen. I grab the Remington 12 gauge and run around to the front door and dispatch the snake quickly, angling the shot to prevent blowback. We are unnerved since no rattlesnakes — other snakes have been left alone — have been seen around our house since we moved here in 2003.
I must make sure the grass is cut about the house and piles of brush are placed at a distance away from the yard. We have become complacent and need to sharpen our senses.
Later this afternoon, I see a lone monarch butterfly sitting on our wild verbena in the front field, a hundred-feet away from the front porch event a hour before, feasting on nectar, gently folding and unfolding the wings.
I am not sure what to make of monarchs, diamondbacks, dogs and all of this that comes across my field. I am saddened and must do what needs to be done to be safe and live. This day, March 22, 2011, has been filled with many things I do not understand.
* * *
[From Backpacker, June 2000.] Sure, carrying a hiking stick makes me look like a rugged mountain man, but it also helps me in more pedestrian ways. By easing the load on my knees and shoulders, it helps me chew up big miles, plus I can tiptoe across loose rocks, slippery logs, and rushing streams without a wobble. Here’s how to create your own personalized staff.
1. Search your local forest for a downed branch that’s stout, straight, and preferably, blemish-free (no obvious cracks or big knotholes). The stick should reach your armpit and measure 1 to 2 inches in diameter.
2. Remove twigs with a pocketknife and strip the bark if you want. Round off sharp points or level knobs with a plane or file. Hold the stick as though you’re hiking (your elbow should form a right angle) to figure out where your grip will be– 2 to 3 inches below the top. Customize the grip by cutting shallow grooves for your fingers like those on a steering wheel. Just above the grip area, drill a 1/4-inch hole for a wrist loop. Smooth the surface of the stick first with coarse, then fine, sandpaper.To remove residual sawdust, wipe the stick with a rag dipped in paint thinner.
3. Decorate the stick with carvings, wood burnings, paintings, emblems or bear bells. If the wood is still green, place it in a warm, dry location to cure for at least 2 weeks, and rotate it often to prevent bowing.
4. Apply two coats of wood stain, allowing each coat to dry overnight, to give the stick a darker, richer hue. Then apply three coats of clear urethane varnish to seal the wood and prevent rot. Allow each coat of varnish to dry overnight. Sand the stick lightly with very fine sandpaper or steel wool after each coat.
5. Thread a 2-foot piece of rawhide lace or heavy cord through the hole. Adjust the length of the loop to fit your wrist, tie the ends in a big knot to secure the loop, then trim the ends as necessary.
Wood is a fickle creature, so remember that hiking sticks are born as much as they are made. –Jonathan Dorn