On Dec. 25, I will reach the ripe old age of 80.

Having lived this long is in many respects a blessing, but it also comes with penalties. One is the recurring sadness I experience resulting from the deaths of family members, the latest my younger sister Luanne Cutchins, and of close friends and associates, among which include Winston Smith T, Bill Triplett, Dr. George Folkerts, William Cosby, J.R. Wilson, Gail Lamar and Merrell Jones.

Another penalty is witnessing the decline of so many native animals.

Numerous species of lizards and harmless snakes have declined precipitously within the past few decades, and breeding populations of several birds are no longer present in these parts. Loggerhead shrikes, kestrels, night hawks, and eastern meadowlarks were all common, but now have either disappeared altogether or, if any are seen, they are overwintering migrants.