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Monday, 30 May 2011

Matt was looking exceptionally pleased with life today. We’ve had yet more rain to follow yesterday’s three-quarters of an inch – and he was off to his buddy’s place in South Dakota to cut up the wild hog they shot some months ago in Georgia. The head, I hardly need reminding, is in a freezer in the garage down here.  As soon as they get the taxidermist on the case I will have another stuffed companion to look over me when I sit reading. At least, I assume it’ll end up here: last I heard Kitty was saying there was no way it was going to decorate their place.

I can see it’ll soon be pretty crowded in here: the first cricket of the season sneaked in yesterday – I actually saw it nip in under the door – and it’s chirruping away from somewhere in the lounge. And last night I was awoken by the sort of scurrying noises that kept me awake my first few nights here.  Well, there’s enough poison down to see off a small army of rodents, I hope.

It’s been another dismal sort of day, the temperature struggling up to about 59, the air damp, the ground wet, the sky overcast, and the wind blowing at about 25 mph all day. Back in England we would say, typical public holiday weather.  So although I was up at 0530 I didn’t venture out until late morning, and even then it was with a weary sort of ‘I can’t sit here all day’ resignation. My daily drive up to the house to hitch a ride on the Internet signal involved several four-wheel skids and re-arranged the trail comprehensively. It’s odd to see ground that is so sandy when it’s dry produce so much gumbo as soon as a bit of rain lands on it. I’ve got enough of it stuck to Mercy’s wheel arches and body-work to start up a business: hand-crafted adobe bricks. I bet they’d snap them up in Lincoln, or that fancy part of Omaha where the warehouses used to be….

Later I went for a wander around on foot. I can hardly call it a hike: I was out and back in a little over an hour. As is usually the case, I was glad I made the effort – if only to see the shaggy-coated coyote who loped away from me at the top of the hill and melted into a fold between the hills. They seem to have a way of moving fast without really putting much effort in.  There’s a very funny description of a domesticated dog giving chase to one in Mark Twain’s Roughing It, an old favourite of mine. That’s the one in which he ventures west from Hannibal for the first time – mainly to avoid the Civil War, although he neglects to mention that – and ends up in Virginia City, Nevada Territory, after an epic stage-coach journey over the Plains and through the mountains.

My walk took me down into yet another of these draws that lead, eventually, to the river.  Not for the first time I was defeated by a tangle of fallen trees and had to climb a near-vertical slope to extricate myself. I might have continued, but I had on my very expensive, very cosy, very precious down jacket. I never expected to be wearing that at the end of May. The sides of the draw were scarred by run-off, and I found myself inspecting the many bare patches, part of my ongoing search for an arrow-head. I found the usual fossilised bones, several fragments of rock that may nor may not have been worked by hand, but nothing that really leapt out at me. Here they are.








I really don’t know whether they are artifacts or just random pieces of rock. But having said that, I’ve come across many less shapely fragments in museums, all confidently labelled as hide scrapers, axes or arrow-heads.

I feel I’m on firmer ground, as ever, with my plants – and this one caught my eye down in the draw. It’s a threetooth ragwort.



We have a ragwort at home, a noxious weed that is poisonous to horses and cattle – and nowhere near as pretty as this one.

On the way home I naturally studied every cow-pat with interest – just in case it turned out to be a sidewinder, you understand – and came across a number of fungi, one of which was doing a fair impersonation of a newly-laid chip.





I’m about ready to pay another visit to town for the library and post office, but tomorrow is Memorial Day, and they’ll be shut.  Unless the weather improves dramatically I shall be getting into Crazy Horse. It must be seventeen or eighteen years since I read what most people consider Mari Sandoz’ other masterpiece, and I remember very little about it.