Monday, May 10, 2004

It is interesting what you find if you hike around these Tennessee hills on a Sunday afternoon. I am sure that over the next few days, one of the things I will find is that a few blood sucking insects have tried to move in to the high rent districts on my body. I've caught several on the prowl already. It is one of the fees we pay to crawl around in the woods this time of year. I have been told that the name "tick" is from the sound fingernails make when disposing of the vile little beasts. Could be but who knows? I've found that other things I was earnestly told turned out to be false. It is good to learn this lesson in life as early as possible.

I met two couples camping together out beside the creek in one of our more remote campsites. They seemed very nice and kept a neat camp. They had two viscious watch dogs with them that I am sure would have ripped my ankles apart if they could have reached that high on my leg...looked like coyote food to me. It happens around here. I wonder why folks take a dog into the woods that will not provide but will require protection. Since these folks appeared to have spent a long time on this planet, I figure they are old enough to make their own mistakes. I was kind of proud to see somebody's grand or great grand parents out in the middle of nowhere having a good time. They were smiling and talking with one another in calm, quiet, reassured voices. There was a natural respect for others and the place where they were that I could sense.

When younger folk come out here, they usually bring guns, illegal substances, and what passes for music these days. It is not the music I dislike, actually, it is the 1100 watt noise system they seem to need to play it. That is how powerful one young man claimed his system was when I asked him to turn it off, recently. The base thumped inside my head even when I was still nearly 200 yards away. I used to play loud music too. I have only moderate hearing loss. What are these kids going to be like in 30 years having been exposed to a car sound system that is twice as powerful as my entire rock band was? At any rate the burning question is why does one leave the incessant roar of a noisy town and go to a pristine natural area in order to destroy the hearing of anyone within a quarter mile radius? If you are quiet and listen, there is music already here. I am sort of a blunt instrument where nature is concerned. I need to see a bird and have it sit there while I look it up in my field guide before I can determine what it is. My friend Pat was here Saturday and, as we walked around, Pat would name off the birds as they called invisibly from the leaf canopy. With the toads and tree frogs adding to the symphony, it was music enough for me.

I came upon another group of campers several miles away from the grandparents. Two men and a women were quietly sitting by the creek. I introduced myself and it turned out that one of the men and I knew of each other. We had actually been wanting to meet and this was the perfect situation. He was born and raised in Whites Creek gorge and his family owns most of the other side of the creek. The water is still up a bit so he was camped on my side which is fine with me. His thirteen year old son came up with a couple of fish he'd caught and we joked about how he was going to have to do better than that if we were going to have fish for supper. The kid grinned and said this was plenty enough for him, but it looked like the rest of us would have to open a can. Everybody laughed and relaxed. I noticed that the woman, who had been sitting in one man's lap when I walked up, now changed laps. All three of the adults took that moment to look at me and smile. I smiled too, told them to have a nice evening and I continued on my hike.

I was hiking while my youngest son was turkey hunting. Time was up so I called him on the radio. I had taken a looping path that would leave my new friends undisturbed and figured I'd better tell him which way I would be coming from. He was ready to go and hiked down the hill to meet me at a gravel road. He was nearly at the road when he said to me, "Dad, someone has a garden in here." "Really?" I said, "Anything growing?" "Lot's of little rows of plants," was the reply. I went to where he was and gave him a lesson in life. "Son, when you come up on something like this in a hidden spot, you tell the woods, "Oops...Sorry...Excuse me!" ...And you leave immediately. I did have to admire the effort that had been put into the "garden" by someone who was obviously not merely into personal consumption. Now I admire a hard worker and am a big proponent of free enterprise. Of the things wrong with the world, I don't think Ganja is a major item, and I actually surmise that more permanent harm will come from that 1100 watt sound system than occasional pot use. The problem here is that, unlike the campers, whoever had planted this garden on my land...was not being a good guest. I wish him no particular harm but he will have official visitors soon.

We chatted with a local officer on our drive home about the garden. He took down exact directions, asked a few other obvious questions and then looked at me with a big questioning look. There was somthing about this that he really wanted to know. In a serious tone of voice he asked, "Is the turkey hunting any good up there?" I suspect that in these last two days of turkey season those woods are going to get inspected fairly well.

I don't know what else to say except, "Oh wow, man, Peace!"


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