Saturday, May 21, 2016

An Ozarks storyteller

At my day job, I work with a young (compared to me) fellow named Ronald Wilson. He is from Richland, and he is quite the storyteller. The other day in the breakroom while a bunch of us were in there visiting, he told us the wildest story.
"My dad was in Springfield yesterday, and he was behind an ambulance combing home. They were going along at a pretty good clip, and the back doors of that ambulance blew open, and a box flew out and landed on the side of the street," he said.
"Well, that ambulance went on. It didn't stop, so dad pulled over and got out and picked up the box and took it back to the car," Ron said. "There was no writing on the outside of the box to tell where to take it, so he opened it up to see if there was any information.
"What there was in there was a toe!" he said. "A human toe! On ice!
"Well, dad didn't know what to do. He thought about calling the police, but there wasn't a crime. He thought about calling the fire department, but there wasn't a fire.
"So he did the next best thing," Ron declared. "He called a toe truck."
We all sat there a second, then we laughed uproariouslhy, and I can't help it, I laugh every time he retells that story. Heck, I laughed again while I typed it for you to read.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

"Give the turtles a brake"

We were driving down a rural road last summer when suddenly my wife hit the brakes. As there was no traffic, I was alarmed.

"What's the matter?" I asked. "Is something wrong with the truck?"

"No," she said, a hint of exasperation in her voice. "There's a turtle in the road."

And she hopped out and walked over to where the critter was, picked him up and carried him to the roadside where she placed him on the ground.

"Now I feel better," she said.

"He'll just walk back out in the road," I said.

"I hope not," she said. "I faced him away from it."

"Oh, good grief," I said.

Turns out she did the right thing, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.

"The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) encourages motorists to give turtles crossing roads a brake," according to a news release we received here at the office yesterday. "Turtles are struck by cars throughout warmer months, but are at special risk this time of year because they are on the move. Young males make up most of the travelers as they search for territories of their own and for female turtles. Comfort is also a factor. Like other reptiles, turtles are cold-blooded so basking on warm asphalt feels good on cool spring days."

According to the conservationists, my wife did exactly the right thing.

"MDC encourages motorists to slow down when they see a turtle in the road and check to be sure they can safely steer around it. If helping a turtle cross a road, keep human safety as the number-one concern. Check for traffic and move the turtle across the road in the direction it is traveling," the news release said.

Continuing, the notice said: "The three-toed box turtle is a species often seen crossing roads in Missouri. Primarily a woodland species, it is found everywhere but the extreme northern part of the state. The ornate box turtle is also a common traveler and is found in all but the southeastern corner of the state. It is more adapted to grasslands and is most common in western Missouri. For more information on Missouri turtles, visit our online Filed Guide at [ ]."

So, once again, I was wrong, she was right. The story of my life.

Watch out for turtles.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Wildflowers have multiple benefits

My wife was feeling a bit blue a couple of weeks ago or so. There were pictures showing up on her Facebook page of the bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes in bloom back in her home state of Texas. Beautiful pictures they were, too, of vast fields of blue or orange or a mix.

I've never been down there with her at this time of year. Maybe next spring we can manage schedules to get down in time to see the wildflowers all along the roadsides and up the hillsides and across the flatlands.

We don't have anything like that in Missouri. We could have, but we don't have the will or the desire. People here demand that the roadsides be clear, so the county highway departments and the state transportation department start mowing early.  We could have just as beautiful a spring as Texas does, for we have lots of native flowers. If we were willing to let them grow, we could have beautiful flowers all summer.

Missourians prefer a clean look to the rights-of-way. A few years ago, my wife and I drove back home from Springfield on the old Mother Road, Historic Route 66. As we drove through one county, the roadsides looked burned. That county's highway department had sprayed herbicide all along the highway, some of it reaching up into the lower branches of trees. It gave the county a clean, devastated look.

I thought of all that this past weekend when we went to the Downtown Farmers Market where the Master Naturalists, Master Gardeners and the Audubon Society were having a native plant sale, offering milkweed for Monarch caterpillars and wildflowers for the nectar-eating adults. There has been a big push by those groups and others to build up the habitat for the Monarch butterflies. A Master Naturalist even spoke to the city council last week about the need to plant the milkweed and wildflowers in our yards. She said a minimum of nine milkweed plants of at least two varities is necessary. Plus we need more wildflowers.

We bought some plants and brought them home. I got to thinking about the loss of habitat. Part of that loss is because of all the mowing and herbicide applying that goes on each year. I don't know if the Texas highway department is putting out milkweed annually, but there are plenty of wildflowers there for the adult butterflies.

It would make a lot of sense to let some of these roadsides go without mowing. For the money we would save on mowing, the counties and state could affort to spread out some wildflower seed.

Texas has been doing that for so many years that their wildflowers have become tourist attractions. I read on a state website that they figure the wildflowers boost the economy by several millions of dollars.

That would be one benefit. Another would be the pollination done by the Monarchs. The Master Naturalist told the city council that every third bite of food we eat is the result of pollination. We need to promote habitat for bees and butterflies.

Maybe the counties and cities could help by laying off the mowing for awhile.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Dinner time in Southern Missouri

It's dinner time here in South Central Missouri.
Yes, it's 11 a.m., and I said dinner time. I grew up calling the noon meal dinner and the evening meal supper. Everybody else in school did the same thing, for we were all hillbillies.
It wasn't until I got to the university that I discerned calling the noon meal lunch and the evening meal dinner wasn't just something they did in novels. All those city folks I was around called dinner lunch and laughed at me for calling it what it was, which was dinner.
Eventually, I succumbed, and began calling dinner lunch and supper dinner.
Every now and again, though, I fall into my old ways.
Like today.
It's a beautiful day in the South of Missouri, just like every day, no matter the weather.
I hope you're enjoying the day.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Easy, inexpensive way to label your garden rows

The couple at the local home improvement store were talking about labeling their garden rows, and I couldn't help but overhear them.
"I wish they had something better than these little pieces of plastic," the woman said. I glanced into the cart as I walked by and saw that she was talking about a little package of plastic strips to mark her vegetable garden.
I stopped.
"I couldn't help overhearing," I said. "I have a suggestion. Instead of these little pieces of plastic, why not do what my wife does? Buy a package of shims and a permanent marker."
They were an older couple, even older than I (and that's old).
"These are hard to write on," she said, as if she did not hear me. "There isn't much room, and they're plastic, so the writing rubs off easily."
I tried again.
Those little wooden shims make good row markers.
"You won't find that with a packet of shims and a permanent marker," I said. "My wife writes in big bold letters and there's plenty of room. And the marker ink soaks into the wood fiber of the shim, so it won't wash off, not even in a heavy Ozarks rain."
She ignored me again, saying, "These things are so expensive, $3.95 for this package."
I said, "Shims are much less expensive, about $1.87 a bundle, I think. And they weather, but you can reuse them. I've got a bucket with last year's shim markers, so I won't have to buy another bundle this year."
Her husband, who had been quiet the whole time, said, "Let's get some shims."
His wife said, "Oh, I guess I'll go ahead and get these things."
She wasn't listening to me or to her husband, so I left.
"OK, have a good day," I said.
A few minutes later, when I passed by that aisle again, I saw the husband walking toward their cart with a little package of shims in his hand.