Sometimes my impression of the evolution, or at least the history, of man is that of intervals of larger followed by larger weapons. We apparently always want to be the most powerful, and if a new more powerful weapon comes along it dominates for a while, and then the next innovation comes and prevails for a while.

As time passed a kind of thrust-counterthrust ritualized warfare came about. “My bombs are bigger than your bombs.” “My troops are superior to yours.” “Let’s fight, and we’ll win.” By now there are manuals of warfare, predictable techniques so that a nation can plan to “win” its next war.

This “let’s fight if we have to, but we know how to beat you” produces a period of time when one aggression is new and the opposition is old-fashioned. Europe was unprepared for Hitler. We’ve had U.S. soldiers in Korea for half a century. Now comes al-Qaida and the Islamic State. In Korea nations are facing each other. In the latest twist of warfare, rebels unassociated with any government decide to issue a declaration of war, and nations with mighty militaries haven’t figured out how to combat those rebels.

In the U.S. the first thrust was the killing of 3,000 people in two doomed buildings. There were four rebels actively involved.

This week in France three small teams of fanatics killed 129 people and wounded 352 people. Their target, civilization as we presently know it, hasn’t a clue of how to defeat them.

Hasn’t a “clue” isn’t right. In a decade and a half governments have tried many counterattacks. Results of these attempts have been largely to inconvenience many people and to establish an atmosphere of fear in our land.

Oddly enough I find those bleak thoughts a reason to wish you a happy Thanksgiving. We need to remember good things that we could lose, and we have to celebrate the wonderful things we have.

Thanksgiving is here. Oh, it’s a week away, but Thanksgiving is the next big holiday, and its presence is felt. Besides, you’re either going to be too early or too late for the big date, and there’s nothing you can do about it now.

Americans have so much to be thankful for, most of which we never think about. Perhaps we should take more notice of all attempts to chip away at our freedoms and obligations. Perhaps we should spend more time recognizing nonmilitary-career Americans who have fought on diplomatic fronts since our country’s founding. And on Thanksgiving Day give a nod to an average Joe as well.

Also, think of Thanksgiving as being only a month away from the shortest day of the year. One month and nature heads for spring.

Field Notes: Two reports of common redpolls in Jackson Hole around mid-November (Tracy Blue and Hunter Marrow, and Sammy Kravetsky) in different parts of the valley. This seems early for redpolls, but their sightings kind of coincided with an influx of trumpeter and tundra swans. A good viewing of swans is available near the Flat Creek bridge north of Jackson.

I describe redpolls in “Winter Wings, Birds of the Northern Rockies,” with images by Thomas D. Mangelsen:

“The common redpoll, carduelis flammea.

“Common redpolls possess about all the traits a bird needs to have to survive cold weather. In fact, they can take about the coldest temperatures any songbird is known to withstand. Redpolls nest in the Far North, and if seeds and buds upon which they depend are in good supply, they remain there all year. They may avoid the risks of migration that way, but instead they must be able to live through nights which can last 18 to 20 hours. That’s a long time for any bird to survive when temperatures may be minus 40 F to minus 50 or lower, even through shivering or by becoming temporarily torpid.

“What common redpolls (and crossbills, too, actually) have is a little pocket halfway down their esophagus, into which they store seeds they stock up on before retiring and which they, well, ‘snack on’ throughout the night hours.

“Common redpolls sport a red or orange-red ‘poll’ or cap, on their foreheads. Otherwise they are small, streaked, gray-brown birds with small but distinctive black chin marks. Males have rosy breasts and sides. Despite the redpoll and the chin mark, these finches are so similar to the pine siskins and American goldfinches that they can be easily overlooked.

“They deserve recognition; any common redpolls that turn up in the northern Rockies have come quite a long way and it’s the hospitable thing for us to do.”

Susan Marsh enjoys watching and listing to brown creepers and observing red-breasted nuthatches in her Jackson yard. And Mary Lohuis saw a red-breasted nuthatch at her feeder and dripper in Skyline.

Earlier this year Joe Burke enjoyed watching Canada geese barrel roll in Flat Creek. Seven geese, and now they’re back.

The four-legged critters are moving, too, or are getting ready to move. Frances Clark and Bernie McHugh counted 140 pronghorn on Antelope Flats. Elk are beginning to move toward their wintering grounds. Watch out for these moving wildlife as you travel our roads and pathways at dusk and at night.

Bert Raynes © 2015

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

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Please note: Online comments may also run in our print publications.
Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Please turn off your CAPS LOCK.
No personal attacks. Discuss issues & opinions rather than denigrating someone with an opposing view.
No political attacks. Refrain from using negative slang when identifying political parties.
Be truthful. Don’t knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be proactive. Use the “Report” link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with us. We’d love to hear eyewitness accounts or history behind an article.
Use your real name: Anonymous commenting is not allowed.