Nature Walk

Special to the Opelika Observer

By Bob Sanders

Anybody need a good hydro-electric engineer? I’ve had some experience in the field, the latest only recently, during the last trip over to the old home place in frontier country.
There’s this place we call the “lower” pasture, see, as opposed to the “upper” pasture or the “two-acre bottom or any of the other patches and pastures around. Anyway, the last time brother Jack called, he mentioned the fact that the ditch that goes through the “lower” pasture was something of a mess, and that the situation ought to be seen about the next time one of us got back home.
So on the kind of morning May is all about, I started out to see about it. Oh, let’s be truthful. I started out simply to take a stroll. But there were pleasant diversions early on. I’d not even gotten halfway to the barn before as pretty a sight as a body could ever hope to see came into view. I noticed Pat the pony was standing down at the fence at the far side of the barn gazing at something. Then I looked on down into the old orchard and there, silhouetted in a classic pose, looking back at Pat, was a rather large doe. She held the pose for what seemed like minutes, while I turned around and started shouting and whistling, trying to get the attention of the folks in the house so they could share the moment. But my screams were in vain (typically, after the event was over, Mama stuck her head out the back door and asked was I trying to call somebody), and, in a moment, the doe decided the crazy “yeller” meant no harm and leisurely trotted on across the old orchard, followed now by two fawns who had, up to then, remained safely out of sight among the wild muscadine vines at the edge of the field. I noticed, incidentally, that Pat didn’t seem to think the sight of a deer just below the barn was anything unusual. I got the impression, in fact, that they had fellowship with one another quite often.
I walked on through the orchard, flushing a couple of quail in the process — it almost never fails — and making an easy double on them with my pointing and trigger fingers (I’m deadly that way), and started down the little farm road toward the bottom. Along the hillside, a lot of pines were cut not too long ago and the untidiness of that operation was still overly evident.
But by the time I got to where the road levels off at the foot of the hill I was among almost all hardwoods, almost worthless, maybe, but beautiful, on a sunny, dewy, incredibly green spring morning, with every bird in the woods in a singing contest it seemed, with the brook in the gully to my right babbling merrily, just as brooks are supposed to babble, and with wildflowers all over the place..
It was at that moment that I resolved to get me a wildflower book and find out what some of those beauties were — pink ones, lavender ones, bright yellow ones, bright red ones, elusively beautiful, dream-like, like if you closed your eyes, they might not be there when you opened them again. But they were, and just as pretty.
About then, all that babbling reminded me of the obstruction farther down, so I started back to the house to get a shovel, and met the youngun’ who had been trying to catch up with me, and, using my earned rank, made him go back and get it, while I contemplated very carefully the way a sweetgum limb had rubbed this deep groove across the trunk of a slender maple, and how the limb slid back and forth in its custom-built track with the slightest wind movement. And small as it was, the maple was hollow in one place, and there was a hole into the hollow that showed wear around the edges, as if a tiny bird had often been through it. I pondered on these things till the boy got back with the broken-handled shovel.
As we walked along, I did a rare thing and talked fatherly. Pay attention, I said sternly. Take note. There is no prettier place in Callaway Gardens, or in the Smokies, anywhere, than this little stretch right in here, this morning in May. No matter what ever happens, remember that. He was concentrating on removing a thorn from his toe by then, so I don’t know if my wise words made any impression or not. Presently, although we weren’t equipped for any heavy duty dredging, we set to work, kind of digging out the original channel, and using the diggings to dam up the new and deviational channel caused by some recent frog-strangling rains in the area, and pretty soon, at least most of the water was running back down the ditch  the way it was supposed to, instead of out into the pasture where a miniature Everglades was beginning to evolve.
It was a very temporary, stop-gap job, admittedly. Jack, who is adept with such things, will have to get the tractor down there and do some serious ditching and rearranging to get things running smoothly, so to speak; but, such as it was, ours was good satisfying work, too.
What was sad was to look at all that lush, belly-high grass going to waste, with not one of the gentle  cows that used to run up to meet Daddy’s pick-up grazing on it. Pity. But that’s the way the old brook babbles, as they say. And at least it’s babbling mostly in the right direction again.
Bob Sanders is a retired local radio personality, as well as a columnist, author and raconteur of note. He can be reached at


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