I can’t wait for the next scandal.

No, I mean it. I don’t care for scandals that occupy the front pages, so to speak, for more than a couple of days. Max.

The kaleidoscope of scandals needs to speed up. One can, with effort, remember a particular one for a day or so at this pace. No more.

Was it just a week or so ago that the scandal was a sexual allegation against presidential candidate Herman Cain? The Perry Lapse, The Penn State Football Revelation (that one has legs), The Cain Pause, the continuing saga of congressional disregard for solving America’s problems.

The day this is being written, a “news conference” was staged on TV. Got the speaker’s name, spelled out distinctly, camera angle to capture the preferred profile, all the trappings. A 30-year-old tragedy. New information, investigation reopened. But not going to disclose anything, so what follows is an uninterrupted 20 minutes of TV in which the detective says nothing further of substance. Oh, the youth from Idaho Falls. Can we in the Hole claim him, too, since he’s close by? And, breaking news, another coach implicated as a child molester. Imagine: 10,000 coaches and hundreds of thousands of boys and girls, and some aberrant behavior occurs. Astonishing.

Human behavior, human foibles, on display. Check out tomorrow’s newspaper. Or this one.

If you’ve read this far in this column, you should have recognized that I don’t have a good topic for today.

Instead I present you an essay from my book “Valley So Sweet.” Perhaps to encourage you to look into it if you have not already done so. And to offer some tidbits for today.

“First Snow”

Well, here it is: the expected unexpected. The first real snow. Oh, there’ve been flurries, skiffs, dustings, and sure, there’s snow on the peaks and in the canyons, behind rocks, and within forests — but this one fell in the valley. It sits on the grasses and roofs, in the driveways and on the fences. The first snow.

It came announced by the wind.

I like to think of this valley as having relatively little wind, yet in recent years we’ve had more and more windy days, and higher and higher velocity winds. Yesterday was a doozy. Sometime shortly after midnight the wind swooshed into the Hole and blew for 18 hours. It blew at treetop level; it blew at ground level. All day long layered clouds streamed past at different levels and varying speeds.

Then the wind stopped — twice — around 9 o’clock last night, the silence was eerie. And then, of course, came the snow, falling straight down through silent darkness. Large snow flakes quickly covered the grounds, buried leaf litter, clung to evergreen needles, defined the trails, outlined the river banks.

And, on this sunny morning, snow blankets the whole scene.

A nice scene. The Snake River, at its winter-low flow, has bare rock riffles where a dipper vigorously plies its trade. Bordering the river are the bare trunks and freshly wind-pruned branches of cottonwoods and willow, of snowberry and sage, against a darker background of spruce. To my northwest, the Tetons are snow-covered down to 7,000 feet, less than a thousand feet above me. The sky directly above is light blue, but to the south dark-bottomed, threatening clouds suggest another flurry may come. Exposed river cobbles are white with snow. A few glisten wetly as they warm in response to the sun’s first rays.

There will be an adjustment, a selective loss of snow cover this day. Some will vanish from my and the puppy’s tracks, some from metal posts, some from branches, some from south-facing windswept ridges and slopes. Much will remain for the duration of winter — five, perhaps six, months.

I rather welcome this snow. I’m glad it’s not a huge fall because I haven’t finished my outdoor chores, and may yet get a chance.

On the other hand, I’d welcome not having to finish them.

It’s probably a good thing choices in the natural world are made for us. So far anyway.

Field Notes: I don’t often go out on a limb when it comes to weather observations, but it sure looks like winter out there to me. And to elk: They are coming out of them hills and hollows now. I should think most bears have gotten the message, but don’t become bear unaware.

It’s time to get your bird feeders out, if you haven’t yet. Birds have begun to appreciate your offerings once again, should you have been looking for them. I know many of you have wondered where your birds are. Birds are coming back to some already. Be patient. I am still looking, while knowing feeders in the neighborhood here have become active.

Ernie LaBelle enjoyed flocks of waxwings Saturday along with other returning birds.

Bruce Hayse has lots of birds: goldfinches, siskins, Cassin’s finches — and, on Saturday, 10 black rosy finches showed up. Those rosy finches are not expected in the valley in late fall or early winter (it’s way early for gray-crowned rosy finches, too).

Kim McGregor spotted a tundra swan with one cygnet on Nov. 16 in South Park.

Animals and birds on the move. Please be careful of them and yourselves. Winter cautions prevail.

© Bert Raynes 2011


Bert Raynes writes weekly on whatever suits his fancy with a dash of news on nature and its many ways.

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