I’d like to share a bit of my Sept. 21, 1988 column.
“There’s a legend about the Anasazi, the vanished Ancient People known once to have to have occupied much of this continent’s Southwest. About 1,000 years ago they still were thriving, dominating their environment. There were once large settlements being supplied by wood from forests 60 miles distant, pottery from up to 80 miles away, straight broad roadways for transport of food stuffs, raw materials, commerce, for all the necessities and pleasure.
“Large areas controlled and well-organized. Why, they even had check stations and signs proclaiming that pet turkeys were not permitted away from graded roadways. Then, something happened. They disappeared. No one today is quite sure what did happen: Hypotheses range from boredom to enemies to a fad change from settlements to single-family units. Maybe it was disease or people got tired of sand-surfing or maybe it was simply time for a change.
“Most scholars believe what happened was a long drought, a long-term change in climate, and overuse and severe abuse of their environment and resources. The only sure thing, the legend says, is that the last woodcutter up in the mountains, the remaining artisan in the turquoise quarry, were each heard to say, ‘Don’t worry, they’ll be back.’”
Also from that column:
“[Several fire seasons ago] the Erstwhile Birder yet Careful Observer noted that in some areas where the flames had obviously raced through, trees are burned or singed on their lower extremities and yet may survive, but the ground cover was mostly burned-over fireweed stands, tall, erect, seed pod tufts whitish against the dark background.
“Interesting. We had always thought that fireweed got its common name from its ability to flourish in burned-over areas in the first growing season following a fire, which it does, as in London after it was bombed. As it will up in Fireweed National Park. Perhaps, though, this wildflower is fire-resistant and derives its name from that characteristic? Consultation with numerous experts plus a cursory literature search has, at this writing, not solved this mystery. Still looking for the answer should anybody have it. Appreciate it.”
Here’s a section of my 1995 book, “Valley So Sweet,” that I titled “Visigoths.”
“We decided to take a trip before snow to an archaeological site we’d read about for years, now protected as a state site. We enjoyed the petroglyphs and the ambience of their location: a little stream, small cliffs, rolling, open country beyond. Pretty spot. Quiet. One could, almost, imagine a community of prehistoric people encamped here, gathering and hunting and having time for their ... art? Religion? Play? Making images. We were encamped, also. Encumbered with 20th Century artifacts, yet serene. And then the Visigoths arrived.
“Hunters, dressed in paramilitary garb (camouflage, but with military caps, boots, and bandoleers), mounted on gasoline-powered, all-terrain steeds. Knives, lanterns. Racks of razor-tipped arrows, compound bows. They were quiet once they’d settled in, considering the macho atmosphere, the many buggies, and the general feeling that a militia was preparing for Desert Storm, Part II.
“We were settled in, too, reluctant to move on. And then, one grim-faced, full-rigged commando marched off to the toilet carrying, but trailing behind him, a huge roll of pink toilet paper. Pink. Toilet paper. Talk about a ruined image.
“We smiled into our gin drinks. And slept soundly.”
Field Notes: Early in the morning on Aug. 26, Tonya Lagana saw a black bear trying to cross the highway on the west side of Teton Pass. Luckily for the bear, the traffic was stopped, letting it get to the other side of the roadway.
Separate bear sightings were reported on the north end of Bar Y, on Ferrin’s Trail up Cache Creek and in the Jackson Lake Lodge meadows.
There is speculation that the dearth of huckleberries and other berries makes the bears apt to roam more widely.
Signs that summer is ending all too soon include geese flying in big numbers on their training flights and red-winged blackbirds flocking up. Hummingbirds are still here and active at feeders around the valley.
Deb Patla saw black-necked stilts on the east side of Jackson Lake near Arizona Creek on Wednesday. They were huddled in a small group in shallow water. A peregrine falcon unsuccessfully dove at them three times. Deb also encountered a Canada goose trying to pull itself up on the shoreline of a swiftly flowing creek, like an exhausted swimmer trying to get out of a swimming pool. She picked the goose up and carried it to open water, its extended neck pointing the way. It swam leisurely away, honking softly every few seconds, soon joining other geese.
“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” — William Shakespeare
During last week’s Jackson Hole Bird and Nature Club meeting a relatively rare piebald-feathered (black and white mottled) bald eagle was reported seen on the Snake River, south of Wilson. Brian Bedrosian, bird biologist with the Teton Raptor Center, suggested that the low bald eagle population in the 1970s and ’80s caused some inbreeding, resulting in the feather variation. It seems to be specific to the Yellowstone ecosystem eagles and shows up in about 5% of all-age female bald eagles.
Also at the Bird and Nature Club meeting, Deb Patla raised a question about the rust appearing on the willows in Buffalo Valley. She wonders if it will result in reduced nutrition for the moose in the area. Any thoughts?
Jeff Hogan presented a program of wildlife videos to a packed room.
Evening grosbeak males continue to feed their begging hungry young. Local waters are clear and still cool.