Tag Archives: Recreation

Well, I declare!

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Well, I declare!

I open the valve on the far-field water trough and I nonchalantly look around the ground, thinking, There are no new wildflowers about.

I am wrong.  I see three new wild flowers.

Well, I declare, my Aunt Lennie used to say.

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Notes, corrections and additions:

Mandala56 posted this comment: ‘What’s that blue one called? When I was a kid we called it “elephant’s ears”.’  I replied that I did not know — yet.  I was in the field when I published the post.

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Filed under Flowers of Flying Hat, Wild Flowers of Texas

Critters and tomato juice

Two burrows along Salt Creek bank.

Along the banks of Salt Creek that divides my pastures into two sections, I find burrows of armadillo, skunk and other critters.  Back at the barn, below the ranch house during the night, various critters slide under the wall railings and scour for grain that falls through feed bins.  When I walk the dogs in the early morning — about 5:00 a.m. — I scan the trail for tail of skunk so as to avert a stinky collision of critter and dog.  When my dogs are sprayed by the effective skunk, I wash them in tomato juice.  That has not happened in thirty years as I have successfully intercepted the fight — at least thus far.

Successful remedy for partially washing skunk from dog.

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Filed under Adventure

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.

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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

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Filed under Deer, Field Log

Pasqual’s calendar

At my office at Cisco College in Abilene, Texas, I lean back and put my feet and Ariat boots up on the desk.

My view is nearly always the same when I catch my breath and lean back in the chair.  I have a calendar from Cafe Pasqual’s in Santa Fe — dated back to 2009 — that is of a pajarera (birdhouse).  I like those calendars from Pasqual’s.  I have a calendar underneath this calendar that is from 2008, entitled “Mi Moscata,” showing a boy with a pet squirrel.  Yes, I know, that’s three-years ago and I still have it on the wall.  Further, I have Sage to Meadow blog up on the computer, Dr. Pepper on the desk and behind the Dr. Pepper is a small green box of mild Tabasco sauce — bottle in the box, of course.  I have the red Tabasco there, too, but you can’t see it.  I eat lunch in my office, hence, the condiments.

It is not all boots on the desk, however, for I presented Madison’s influence at the Constitutional Convention to a U.S. History class, and in World Civilization I took the class through the Greek philosophers with a particular aside to the cynic, Diogenes of Sinope: “Alexander, stand out of the way, you are blocking the sun!”  Diogenes could get away with that.

Back when I was growing up, my parents would get a feed store calendar that would have the times of the sun rising and setting and the phases of the moon on each day.  They would use a clothes pin to attach receipts to the calendar until the end of the month when the receipts would be taken down and filed away.  I think some of those calendars had pockets in which you could store receipts.  Maybe not.

At Cafe Pasqual’s in Santa Fe I really like the smoked trout breakfast dish.  What is it called?

SMOKED TROUT HASH
A Golden Gruyère Potato Cake with Two Poached Eggs, a Scatter of Smoked Trout and Tomatillo Salsa 16

Ah, that’s it.

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Filed under Life in Balance

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.

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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. 

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Filed under Deer, Life in Balance

Nuzzles and Campus

Horses on Bianditz mountain, in Navarre, Spain...

Horses on Bianditz mountain, in Navarre, Spain. Behind them Aiako mountains can be seen.

My summer has ended.  Although the season does not astronomically change until September 21st, my summer is over.  I will feed the horses in an hour or so, then drive the interstate highway to campus, officially beginning the Fall semester.

Our summer has been dark and bright, jagged and smooth.  Broomweed has been shredded, horses husbanded and a vacation to the high country taken.  Brenda painted our doors Taos blue and green, symbolizing a color that repels the ills of the cosmos.  But they also look beautiful.

Here is one of my favorite pictures that I will carry with me as I return to campus.

Shiners Fannin Peppy "Fanny" Nuzzling Jack

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Filed under Flying Hat Ranch, Horses, Shiners Fannin Peppy (Fanny)