Friday, June 27, 2014

A Peregrine Predicament

  I had completed nine days in a row at work. I was home relaxing with no plans of going anywhere for anything. I actually went out the evening before, and bought a nice piece of sockeye salmon, asparagus,  and red potatoes for my mini celebration of the joy of days off.

   I stood up, looked at Zeusy and said " You ready to make dinner? " He was ready. Of course the phone started ringing. (This really happened, you can ask Zeusy.) The caller ID said " Restricted. "  No way I was answering. Then the second call came in with a number I vaguely recognized,  then the voicemail. I will listen to that.

  It was a buddy who works at the Clayton (Mo.) Police Dept. He said he was on the Forest Park Parkway with a Falcon that wouldn't fly. I asked him to catch it, and I would come and get it. As I explained the "How to" he sounded reluctant . I knew for sure he would do it, no police officer I know would be afraid. I said call me back when you have him. We hung up and a few moments later he had him and was taking him to the station. After shutting down the Parkway to grab it. Awesome !!

  I called Catherine to see if she was available. She was the Catherine who started the lil' fox rescue.   She was right down the road and in no time we were on our way.

  At the station he was inside a cell inside a tupperware bin. My buddy did not want to leave the lid on until I arrived, and figured a cell will keep the bird contained.

  We arrived and performed an initial exam. The Falcon was only about 60 days old and probably recently fledged. Other wise we could not identify anything wrong, except a check of the keel area showed it probably had not eaten in a few days. We suspected that the Falcon just fledged and hadn't figured out life on it's own yet.

   Off to the World Bird Sanctuary Wildlife Hospital. Once there I took the bird out of the copier paper box provided by the Clayton PD.

  Catherine prepared a mew and a few mice in an attempt to get it to eat. It actually grabbed one and began eating while I was holding it. Never had either one of us seen that.

  It was left over night and the Veterinarian Dr. Stacy performed her exam. She found no injury and suspects the newly fledged Falcon was trying to figure out it's world.

  After a few days of eating good it will be released in it's territory.

  Took so long I gave up on cooking the salmon and we ate Mexican and I arrived home late . Oh well......

Sunday, June 22, 2014

4 Paw Drive Hiker !

  It doesn't matter where he is at, desert, mountains, rivers, or forests, he is happy. It starts when I am packing my backpack. The excitement really revs up when I bring out his. He knows we are going " To the Woods" I better not say it aloud. His happiness explodes !

  He came into my life 8 + years ago. When we first met he was 10 months old and weighed 83 pounds. But he was wrecked. He was emaciated, dehydrated, suffering from whipworm, and all his pads had been cut by a paranoid schizophrenic who claimed he and the overgrown puppy had been fighting the devil. He claims they won.

  He came home with me, quickly loved by my kids, and given a lot of time to heal. In about a month he was putting on weight, the whipworms were gone, and he could walk on concrete without expressing his pain with very sad whinning.

  This is the time he became the most obnoxious, undisciplined, rowdy, food stealing, do as I please problem. He was out of control !

  He had no obedience training and did not know how to go down steps. He was very good at grabbing crystal christmas tree balls and tossing them down the steps just to see them smash. I cringed everytime my five year old daughter would yell out, " Dad he did it again ! "  He was  lucky it was her because she adored him.  In no time he reduced the ornaments to the top 1/4 of the tree.

   Daily training ! Commands in German, after all he was a German Shepherd. Trips to the park for more training, and throwing the tennis ball that he could chase forever. In no time he was shaping up to be more of a disciplined dog. He was fast, athletic, and powerful.

   While all this was happening my marriage was in its death throws. Sad and depressed I would immerse myself into making this dog something. After hours in the park we would watch the sunset as I day dreamed of being in someplace wild,  strapped into a backpack walking with my dog. I soon found out that he would repay me ten times over for every belly rub he suckered me into.

  In no time we moved out. The marriage was over. Now it was time to change my life. But every obstacle that got in the way did. It is unbelievable when times get bad they get really bad.

  He knew it, he protected me and made me smile. One evening as I laid in bed and called for him to go to bed, which was always next to mine. He stayed in the adjoining room looking up and letting out a half bark, half howl. I found that strange. What was he looking up at ? I walked into the room as he looked me dead in the eyes then back up again. I had left a candle burning. I blew it out, and he walked directly to bed.  I slept peacefully that night.

  The walks and hikes was something we both craved. Sometimes I wished we would start walking and never stop. The hikes would take us to rivers where he became a water dog. He loved it ! We swam together and a stick would replace the ball as the best thing in the world to be thrown in the river and retrieved after a leaping splash and swim. We would climb the tall bluffs of the Mississippi river. Picking a line that would give him enough room to put all four paws on a ledge until he can be pushed , pulled or he would jump up to the next. He never hesitated. He never gets scared.

  Backpacking, camping and hiking in the Mark Twain National Forest would bring us both joy. Sleeping together on the ground, or in a tent would give us enough rest to continue our foray in the woods. He is a four season dog. Some trips in below freezing temperatures, some in 100ยบ or higher.

  He became a fantastic trail dog. Always leading the way, but only getting a certain distance before stopping and looking back until the distance was closed, and he knew we were in sight of each other. He will also run back and forth if  his people are not in eye sight of each other. The herder in him wants a close orderly group.

  He carries  his own food in the saddle bag packs I would strap him into. It never bothered him, or slowed him down. Recently he carried his own food for a six day trip into the Bell Mountain Wilderness. He leapt over downed trees and hopped onto rock formations just like a pup. The reality is he is 9 1/2 years old now.

  He will guard at night. Always keeping one eye and one ear open. When the coyotes howl back and forth between ridges his ears pop to attention, head swinging to whichever one was vocalizing. Owls he could care less. A bear once visited our camp at 2am in Arizona. It came out of a tree line popping and huffing. He circled the tents not letting up on showing his displeasure at finding us in his forest. I was sitting up with one hand on the collar and one on the tent zipper. Not wanting a late night bear fight I whispered for him to stay. His body was tense, his ears erect, waiting for the signal. The bear moved on into the opposite tree line, we both relaxed and fell asleep but not before enjoying the cold mountain air and the beauty of the milkyway.

  Our adventures would lead us into the deserts and mountains of National Forests, National Parks, National Monuments, and going deep into Wilderness areas. It doesnt matter where we are. We both were living the way that thrills us most, strapped to a backpack out in the wild.

Love you Zeusy !

Monday, June 16, 2014

Lil ' Fox

On the drive home from Bell Mountain Wilderness we were headed North on Old State Hwy 21, I was in the back seat with with Zeusy.  Alesi rode shotgun to our dear friend and driver Catherine as she drove us home.

Suddenly Catherine honked the horn swerved slightly then anxiously stated,  " I am going over it, I dont think I will hit it! "

 I looked forward and saw a small fur ball in the middle of our lane.  I then turned around to see the fur ball was in the same spot. Missed by the horseless carriage.

 My heart then sank as I watched cars one, two, and three drive over the little fur ball. Car four swerved into the oncoming lane.

 But there sat fur ball, who then slinked off the road and into the weeds.

 Catherine a devoted animal person who has performed wildlife rehabilitation in Africa, the Caymen Islands and the United States, jerked the vehicle to a stop. In a flash she was out the door and into the weeds. Quickly she came walking back holding by the scruff of the neck the most pathetic, flea and parasite ridden fox kit.

 The lil' fox was in a very weakened state as well and Alesi hurriedly dumped the contents of a bag I handed her onto the floorboard to make room for lil' fox. The silly part is that the bag was an "Endangered Wolf Center" reusable shopping bag.

 Alesi was in charge of the bag and lil' fox until we could drive the two hours to the "Wildlife Rescue Center" in Ballwin, Mo.  Because of the great reputation of the Wildlife Rescue Center we felt confident that this is the place lil' fox needs to be.

 Alesi did what any animal girl would do and started snapping pictures. Later she donated one of the shirts she was wearing pushing to the bottom of the bag keeping her charge comfortable. She would not take her eyes off lil' fox exclaiming " He is so cute I cant stop staring and my eyes will burn out !"

 Once at the resue center lil' fox was checked in and is going through parasite treatments and feeding to get its' strength back.

 A volunteer and friend at the Wildlife Rescue Center Sherrie is keeping us updated on lil' fox's progress. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Celebration !

2014 the Chinese year of Horse is reason to celebrate.  It is the 50th anniversary of Congress enacting the Wilderness Act of 1964.

Drafted by Howard Zahniser of the Wilderness Society, and later signed by President Johnson, an act of brilliance on the part of  the government to  preserve our public lands with little influence by man.

In a nutshell, they wanted to keep it wild !

I have been so fortunate to put one foot in front of the other while strapped to a pack in places such as the Golden Trout Wilderness, the Rockpile Mountain Wilderness,  the San Gabriel Wilderness, Death Valley and so on.

Wilderness areas excite me. They thrill me like no other public land. Stepping into them, sleeping in them, listening to them fills me with true joy.

The great thing is they attract very little people. The family of four rushing through the South Rim of the Grand Canyon grocery store will not be found in a wilderness. Just others who cherish a place just left alone to it's wildness. That is if you see anyone else at all.

In celebration my loves the outdoors experienced daughter and my most trusted four paw drive wilderness hiker decided to pack what was needed to make a six day backpacking trip into the Bell Mountain Wilderness of the Mark Twain National Forest of Missouri. An area called locally, the Ozarks.

The Ozarks were once home of the Osage people. Wildlife was trapped and hunted by French and Spanish alike. And later scenes of nasty guerrilla warfare waged by Americans against Americans.

The Bell Mountain Wilderness is small compared to other Wilderness areas. A scant 14.1 square miles. It ties into the Ozark Trail System running through the Ozarks.

Bell Mountain, named after a family that farmed here is a part of the St. Francois mountain range. No stunning Sierra Nevadas or Rocky Mountains here. Just the quiet beauty which is the Ozarks.

The Wilderness designation did not dissapoint. In fact Missouri fire breathing thunderstorms and torrential downpours ruled the wilderness for the for the first three days. Sky only gave us but a few hours of respite. Keeping us confined in hammocks for a day and a half as Sky pounded the Earth, causing all in the forest to duck for cover as it lashed out its dangerous beauty.

Despite chaotic springtime storms the mountain top glades and deep hardwood forests are a beautiful sight.  Oh the joy at the sounds of the wild ones who make it their home. Yelps of coyotes, calls of foxes, owls, and hawks just really drive the wilderness into in your soul. The serenading of toads will lull you to sleep. Knowing black bear and possibly mountain lions roaming the mountain just make it a place we want to be.

A six day celebration . Happy Birthday Wilderness act ! And many more !