wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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Endangered Missouri Sturgeon

In the tiny town of Fort Benton, Montana, we like to stay at an RV park that is close to the rodeo grounds beside the Missouri River. Last year, after a long day’s drive, we took a walk to the river. At this point, we are about 200 miles from its headwaters.

The sun was slowly setting, and so was the moon. See the evidence? The cliffs along the riverbank are warmed by the last rays of the sun and if you look hard, you may see the moon sinking  in the sky, amid the branches of the tree.

Geese are honking from the direction of the grassy islands in the river. Later that night we would hear the coyotes howling near the same place.

 

The Missouri is a powerful river in places. It is the longest river in the U. S. flowing for 2,341 miles before joining up with the Mississippi River just north of St. Louis, Missouri.

I had been so focused on the geese flying along the river, I hadn’t given much thought to what might be under the water. What a surprise to read on this poster, that there are sturgeon in the Missouri.

If you would like to read about the two kinds of sturgeon and how to tell them apart, you can click on the photo above and it will be easier to read.

I have to confess, I had known nothing about these sturgeon, not even their names (pallid and shovelnose). The pallid sturgeon is endangered and lives mainly in this river system. It grows to a length of five or six feet and can live to be about 40 years old.

On the picture I thought it looked a bit shark-like, but that mouth on its underside is mainly for feeding on the river bottom.  Whew! Otherwise I wouldn’t be putting my toes in that river.

Who knew that these creatures lurk in the depths of the river!?


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In Another Time

In another time, pioneering farmers lived in these houses and kept them cozy and inviting.

Hard times and the elements have changed the sheltering homesteads to cold windswept shells. In some cases, after the original farmers eventually died, their children, having seen their parents’ hard work, opted for an easier life away from this lonely prairie.

On a previous trip to Montana, the Captain and I saw many old homesteads.

“Let’s skedaddle,” the pheasants cluck. “I think these might be hunters. The locals welcome them, but I find them downright annoying, if not dangerous.”

“Did I hear you say the ‘H’ word?” the white-tailed deer asks. Then he shakes his head and goes back to his browsing. “It’s birds they’re after. I don’t think they’re here for me …  are they? Hmm, maybe I’d better run too.”

“You’d do better to be careful, Whitey,” the Harris sparrow warbles. “And by the way, watch your step.”

“The prickly pear isn’t named for its smooth skin. Those spines can really hurt.”

“Oh, what a fuss,” the robin sings. “I was enjoying the last days of autumn sunshine in this Russian olive tree. Why did they have to talk about hunters? They don’t bother me! Mrs. Hunter just wanders around with her camera. I show her my best side, and she goes home happy.”


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Trees

After showing you so many burnt trees in a recent post, I thought I should show the positive side of things too.

Driving past these trees, a blur of yellow and a smattering of snow in the firs reminded me that autumn was nearly finished. It was just a matter of days before the poplar (?) leaves came down.

In the higher elevations, wind, weather, and possibly some road work crew meant the dormancy or death of some trees.

Trees [5]

Trees [1]

Some of the white-barked trees were clinging to the last leaves. Birch, poplars, aspen? I’m not sure, but these are all trees with whitish bark.

Trees [4]

Back in Montana, this stand of trees reminded me of when I’ve spilled the pack of lettuce seeds and a whole clump of them grew in a bunch, crowding each other so none can do well. It also looks like a football team in a huddle.

Trees [6]

The horses don’t mind it. The thick stand of trees probably acts as a good windbreak.

Trees [7]

In southern BC, along the Hope-Princeton Highway, a tree has taken the shape of a bear – a grizzly by the look of his dished skull and the hump on his back. I believe the park was closed when we drove by (in October), but it would be a wonderful place to hike (if you aren’t afraid of bears … which I am).

Manning Park

 


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Squirrel Worries

You know I’m very partial to my friend Lincoln. Today the Captain called to me. “Lincoln’s right here in the tree by the woodshed. Bring your camera.”

I snapped a few pictures and it wasn’t until I uploaded them and had a closer (zoomed in) look that I saw the injuries to Lincoln’s arm and hip. I feel terrible to think he is suffering.

At first I thought he might have hurt his arm on a sharp branch, but then I saw the cut on his hip. It looks more like a claw or tooth or a beak might have done that.

In my previous post I mentioned the little animals that are hurt/killed in wildfires (unimaginable that human lives are also lost at times). I can’t see a wildfire image on TV without thinking about all the animals that succumb to the fire.

Even this little “owie” that Lincoln has, hurts me to think about. I hope he has a lot of hazelnuts stashed away and that he doesn’t feel cold or hungry while he’s mending.

I wish that I could capture him and take him to a vet,

Then take him home and put him in a tiny little bed.

I’d cover him with cedar boughs, a pillow made of down,

Some water in a walnut shell, a hazelnut so round.

 

I’d watch him and make sure his arm is healing as it should,

I’d have to stop him if he wanted to escape into the wood.

He’d soon be feeling well enough, and beat a quick retreat.

To scamper up and down the firs, and then his friends he’d meet.

 

“My Lincoln, dear,” his mom will say, “you worried me so much,

I’m overjoyed to have you back, to talk to you and touch.”

“I wasn’t being bad this time,” my Lincoln would explain.

“But something scratched and bit my arm, and gave me quite some pain.”

 

“Now don’t you worry, Mamakins, I’ll soon feel right as rain,

I’ll listen to you carefully, I won’t get bit again,

I’ll be more watchful after this, I promise to be good,

And I’ll stay close beside you in this lovely neighbourhood.”

 

 


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Mr. Lonely Pine

On our recent trip to Montana we saw nature at its fiercest; from fog to blizzards, rain and snow, to evidence of raging wildfires.

This region of eastern Washington is normally fairly dry, but a recent fire made it even drier. It may have been last year or longer ago that the fire went through here because the grass has had a chance to grow back.

A lucky few trees were left untouched by the fire. The rest were probably torches until their fuel burnt out.

Here is Mr. Lonely Pine, wondering where his friends have gone. Why, and how, was he spared?

What will happen to these acres of charred logs? It must take many years for them to fulfil the “ashes to ashes” ritual.

And someday the forest will regenerate and once again host insects, rodents, birds, reptiles, and small mammals (and a few big ones like these cattle).

But see how dry and long the grass is. The highway passes close by here. Be aware if you’re a smoker, and don’t toss out your cigarette butt, no matter how sure you are that it’s out.

 

They’ve named me Mr. Lonely Pine

And they are not so wrong,

I pine away and sometimes whine

If wind blows all day long.

 

I’m one of few surviving trees

Untouched by raging fire,

You should have seen it when the breeze

Whipped flames up even higher.

 

I stood in terror, trembling,

Of course I could not run,

So I began dissembling,

And twiddling my thumbs.

 

I squeezed my eyes shut, every branch

Was shivering in fright,

Next thing I knew, upon the ranch

The blaze burnt out that night.

 

And still alive I praised the gods

That spared me yet a while,

I wondered how I’d beat the odds,

I couldn’t help but smile.

 

I whispered like a pine must do

To coax the baby trees,

And soon they sprouted and they grew,

And now they’ve reached my knees.

 

I’m not so lonely anymore

These young ones chat with me,

And contrary to old folklore,

I talk, though I’m a tree.

 

I want to warn you if you drive,

A cigarette can kill,

To throw it out while it’s alive

Can burn the whole dang hill.

 

So let’s all take a bit of care

Bad endings you have seen,

If you are handling fire, beware

To keep our forests green.

 


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Railway Travel Once Upon a Time

Several years ago I went back for a visit to Dawson Creek, where my family arrived in a railcar like this one in 1953. I was shocked to think that the railcar was now a museum piece.

What did that make me?!!

Below is a picture of my older sister and one of my brothers (being goofy) as we cross Canada from Montreal to Dawson Creek, B.C. in 1953 in a railcar like the one above. The man on the right is no one we know.

Notice the very uncomfortable-looking bench seats!

This year on the way home from the snowed out trip to Montana, I saw a railcar that made me re-assess what “old” really looked like.  I don’t know the vintage of the car below, and I presume it carried something other than people – possibly grain, but not livestock, as I don’t see any windows to allow animals to breathe. In the background on the right, are other “old” railcars, some of which might have been passenger cars.

By rail was the way to travel in those days. No driver’s licence needed. You didn’t have to watch where you were going, unless you wanted to. Possibly, even the conductor had a snooze for a few minutes while crossing the many miles of prairie.

Have you traveled by train? What did you think about it?


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The Poor Relation

The West Edmonton Mall is known as the largest shopping mall in North America. I have never seen it, but if I’m ever in Edmonton, Alberta, I will definitely visit it. Knowing that it is famous and amazing, I could not resist taking this picture of its distant poor relation as we passed through the tiny gold mining town of Hedley, BC. Someone had a good sense of humour when they named this run-down building “The West Hedley Mall.”

In fact the  building is so run down that, to the best of my knowledge, it is not there anymore. I took this picture last year after driving for many hours through dust and insects. The windshield tells the story. I thought it fit well with the contents of the photo, so I didn’t try to clean it up. This year I looked in vain for The West Hedley Mall to try for a better photo. It’s gone. Or, I might have blinked and missed it….

You can find wonderful images of the real West Edmonton Mall here.