Friday, November 12, 2010

Peg's Personal Story

My sister sent me this email yesterday, Veteran's Day, which I am publishing with her permission.

Hi! Happy Veteran’s Day!

My cousin Linda sent the following email to me, which brought tears to my eyes because it hit so close to home.

In 1970 when the military started drafting husbands and fathers for the first time since WW II, Craig was drafted and sent to Viet Nam as a foot soldier (aka grunt) leaving behind Laura and me. There was no way to explain to a two-year old that Daddy was off fighting a war, so she kept searching for him. At the sight of any old geezer on the street, her eyes would light up and she would inquire in a tremulous voice, “Daddy?” When Craig was discharged, he missed his connecting flight out of Chicago, so John who had a fast car drove Laura and me to O’Hare to pick up Craig. We all entered the terminal at the same time and Laura ran to Craig laughing as tears streamed down her face saying, “I knew I had a Daddy!”

At that time there was a vicious hateful mood in the country towards the military, there were no returning heroes welcomes like after WW II and soldiers were more likely to be spat upon in airports. So Craig never volunteered that he was a Viet Nam vet. Then in 1983 when Laura was a flagger marching in the Three Rivers Parade with Northrop’s Big Orange Pride, a small rag-tag group of men in camo marched by holding homemade signs saying “Viet Nam Vets” and the crowd gave them a standing ovation! It still makes me cry, so you can see why the following email touched my heart.

Love, Peggy

P.S. Craig also saw Bob Hope and Ann Margaret in Da nang Christmas ‘71 – He was sitting in a sea of men so far away from the stage that he could barely see them!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Our Fourth

Two days. Two couples. Too much fun.

Saturday morning we needed jackets as we took our camping gear to The Highlands with the top down and doors off the Jeep. On the way, a grey fox stepped out of the cornfield, stared at us and then loped back into the woods. After meeting our friends for breakfast and decorating ourselves with "Growing Wild for Conservation" tattoos, we loaded up two kayaks, one Rob Roy (Steve built it) and two solo canoes and headed north to paddle Pigeon River.

We put in at the bridge by Highway 327. The water was cold and the current was strong. Tammy, Stephanie and I used our paddles only to guide us, but we suspect Steve and Brian used their paddles to paddle backwards as we outdistanced them.

We pulled over at the first bridge to wait for them as there is a little rapids over an old dam. After "wheeeing" over the dam, we exited our boats and body surfed in the water. You can see Stephanie at the far left of the first picture, which I took when she first jumped in the fast water.

These photos show the brushy area where we tied off. Brian grabbed a dark branch to steady himself and it moved quickly into the water. The snake headed straight for Stephanie and tried to get in the Rob Roy. Just a little shriek was heard above the roar of the water.

The next section took us deeper into the woods. The shade was welcome and the dappled river bottom mesmerized me. In the sunny patches, swamp milkweed and pink roses were in bloom. We had a picnic lunch creekside and then tackled the last stretch. Again, the girls outdistanced the guys. So we stood on the bridge, drying off, and played with our shadows, until the guys rounded the bend.

Back at The Highlands, my brother had already started a fire, so we set up camp, cooked dinner, and played with Sampson.

As night fell, we sat around the campfire star gazing followed by a midnight walk through the woods down to the river. The night was clear and the stars were bright. We saw Draco the dragon stretching over the barn, the binary star in the Big Dipper, satellites, and shooting stars.

It was a lazy Sunday due to the heat. Our children came to visit and left. Then Steve, Brian, John, Anna and I took the river boat to watch the Leo-Cedarville fireworks from the water. I caught the setting sun but have no fireworks pictures. I put my camera away to participate rather than just observe. It was a long dark trip back to the property as we kept close watch for logjams, floating logs, and the river channel.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Six: Edna A. Spurgeon Nature Preserve

After a morning at Gene Stratton-Porter SHS, my husband and I headed due west to visit our first Noble Country ACRES preserve and ACRES very first preserve. Since I work outdoors in a garden in the middle of the woods and then spend my evenings working in my woods, I knew the spring flowers would be giving us a show.

At the entrance we saw wild leeks or ramps and spring beauties, but that was just foreshadowing.

Next were the toadshade (Trillium sessile) and trout lilies.

Other trillium were just starting to bloom, the large white trillium and the nodding trillium. In full bloom, the bloom of the nodding trillium is hidden under the leaves, just like a mayapple.

The real show, though, was the dicentra. Squirrel corn is Dicentra canadensis and Dutchmen's breeches is Dicentra cucullaria. The foliage is very similar, but squirrel corn is more finely cut. The billowy softness of the forest floor is the dicentra.

As I was staring at the ground, my husband was staring up at the trees. These were monster trees. Steve is standing next to a branch that fell from the tree in the second picture. Let me change the verb tense, the branch had fallen. Thankfully, we didn't experience any falling trees.

We are so thankful to the ACRES founders and Edna Spurgeon for preserving this glacial kame with its magnificent old trees. Crotch veneer, cut through the center where a large limb forks from a trunk, is highly prized for its very decorative flame or V-patterns. We saw a good example in the following tree and limb, which would have been worth many thousands of dollars if timbered. But the untouched forest is worth much more.

The trail was rather steep as it wound up and down the kame. It was hard to capture it, but if my hubby needed a rest (waiting for me to catch up), then you know it was steep.

Near the end of the trail, a hillside was just starting to bloom with woodland poppies. This is a rather rare sight. The whole preserve was a rare sight.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Five: Vandolah Nature Preserve

Saturday afternoon, after getting my orange hair cut off (another story), I headed to Vandolah Nature Preserve, which is perhaps 2 miles from my home. My friend Tammy and my friend and husband Steve met me there. After we had a picnic on the entry bench, we headed into the preserve.

There are a lot of very old apple trees at the entry, remnants of a farmstead. Ellsworth Smith told me that the woman who donated the land recalls her grandmother telling how Johnny Appleseed would eat dinner at their farm but would then leave to sleep outdoors. Are these descendants of trees planted by Johnny?

After leaving the orchard area, we hiked along a trail that borders I-69. At this point, you wonder if you really are in a nature preserve, with the numerous trees downed by the utility company, the cars and trucks whizzing by and the bush honeysuckle thicket.

Then you head into the ravines. We had quite a discussion whether this wetland was a fen, swamp or marsh.

The cut-leaved toothwort is ready to bloom.

And the hepatica is in full bloom. Once we spotted this bloom, we discovered the whole south-facing hill was abloom in hepatica.

Looking down the hill, we spotted this hollow stump, with the perfect peephole over the wetlands.

And a perfect place to get out of the wind.

Oh, no! Someone has lost the trail.

If only that person can make it to the solid log off that rotten log.

Will we have to undertake a rescue?

A picture of perfect grace.

And a successful landing.

After prancing down the ravine, we slowly climb up, taking rests as needed.

Perhaps we will see you at the next preserve we hike.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Four: Tom and Jane Dustin Nature Preserve

I visited my fourth ACRES Nature Preserve yesterday. Before hiking a few trails, I attended a talk by Don Gorney about the 18 warblers that nest in NE Indiana. Don moved to Indy and is devoted to Lights Out Indy, a movement to turn out the lights on tall buildings which confuse many birds, including migrating warblers. These birds crash into the buildings and die. He estimates that more oven birds were killed by running into buildings in Indianapolis than were hatched.

As a very amateur birdwatcher, I decided to focus on finding a Yellow-throated Warbler because it nests in riparian woods with open canopy, primarily sycamore trees. We spend a lot of time in this habitat on the river. It should reach this area in mid-April. I'm also keeping an eye and ear out for the prothonotary warbler because it is such a beautiful bird.

After the talk, the naturalist from work joined me for walk on the short trails around the ACRES' office, the former home of Tom and Jane Dustin. The Dustins started ACRES Land Trust 50 years ago and were active environmentalists for years. They were inaugural members in the Indiana DNR's Conservationist Hall of Fame, along with Gene Stratton-Porter. The preserve borders Cedar Creek with the canyons formed by a glacial tunnel valley. It is also one of four designated Natural and Scenic rivers of Indiana. (I live on the other side of the creek.)

Despite the recent warm weather, it is still early spring and trees are identified by bark and other characteristics. The beech tree is easy to spot because of its smooth grey bark and the fact it holds its leaves all winter.

We saw a nice example of shelf fungus.

And numerous purple cress in full bud and

the first wildflower in bloom, Harbinger of Spring.