Only the past is pristine

There is much discussion in conservation circles about, on the one hand, species disappearing from sight, sound and memory and, on the other, species newly rooting in places they have not always been.

As I wandered along a deer trail through a section of otherwise pristine woodland and discovered a rock wall with no apparent historical connection, I remembered an experience when I was a daily news reporter covering the machinations of a county planning board.

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Name that tree

As a youngster, I spent most of my time afield by myself. I had a brother and a sister, and later a second sister, but there was something about wandering in the forest that appealed to me in ways it never did to the others.

I tended, when not involved in the daily chores of mid-1950s pre-teen country living, to wander off alone or jump in the rowboat to go fishing among the shore-bound deadfalls around the perimeter of the 500-acre pond outside our home, or simply peel down save for a pair of swim goggles and paddle around with the beaver and the loons.

With all the time I spent in the woods, I knew the names of only a few trees, much like living in a human neighborhood in which we know the names of a few neighbors, although we are often friendly with several others we label by sight but not by name.

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Racist weeds in a conservationist garden

Most of the men – and they were mostly men – I looked up to back in the day have turned out to be racist. Or misogynistic. Or both.

George Washington, for instance, was the Father of Our Country, though I was suspicious even then of the story about him being unable to lie? I know no young person who could not, when pressed, cultivate an untruth to some degree.

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Happy New Year! The future is just over the horizon

Time is merely a construct to aid cataloging significant events. As a kid, time began when I was about 12-years old. That was the year we built the big house.

As I look back through my anthology of stories from that era, building the house was not significant because it meant heating with oil (no more splitting and stacking wood for the stove) or ending the practice of heating kettles of water for the wash tub (hot water poured from a faucet to fill a real bathtub).

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Christmas by any name

It’s almost time. In a few hours, the Jolly Old Elf will be sliding down chimneys, decorating trees that so far haven’t been, and leaving gifts for girls and boys.

Well, a lot of girls and boys, anyway.

So here’s to the church groups and offices and motorcycle groups and numerous others I couldn’t know or remember if I made this sentence 15 inches long – the groups who collect and deliver Christmas, with toys and necessities, to children who otherwise would not share the joy.

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They don’t make winter like they used to

I have not yet pulled out our snowthrower. I am counting on the natural snow fence at the western side of the county to save me from enriching Exxon.

I learned about snow fences as a kid. Farmers would stretch what looked like rows of slatted window blinds turned sideways across their roadside fields. Wind-driven snow would hit them and rise up, to be dropped on the other side, well before it reached the road.

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Sparkling diamond dust and summer sausage

The moon the past few nights, when we could see it at all, has been amazingly bright, like a humongous spotlight angling through the trees, casting stick shadows across my desk. The grass between my home and the woods is sparkling, as though a troop of elves has danced across the greensward scattering powdered diamonds.

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The Good, The Bad and The Zucky

There are piles of books in the Messeder residence, as the Resident Home Decorator often reminds me, especially when she enters my atelier – which is a French word for “studio,” itself a fancified substitute for “office,” which, to me, sounds too darned, well, officious. I’d much rather sit in my studio with a drink and my books, and maybe … But I digress.

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On being thankful

“Here we go again,” Granddaughter Kass said one Thanksgiving mealtime as I prepared to “say Grace.” She knew I don’t normally subscribe to the pre-formatted version of my childhood:

Bless us Oh Lord and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ Our Lord, amen.

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Dogs who have owned me

One thing I’ve learned about dogs is, “don’t buy one.”

The first dog to occupy my life was my mom’s, an English Setter named Devil, short for JAM’s Devil Dog (a story that is a dog for another bone.)

I was about 12 when Devil came into my life. We romped and swam and on hot summer days, he was a great pillow for a youngster taking a break from sweating chores.

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We are not alone

It was like standing on the edge of a pool, watching the trees change color as a river of fog flowed over the far ridge, filling the valley in front of me, flowing up the slope to gently, silently wrap itself around me.

The fog condensed on the leaves of pines and Scarlet oaks, collecting into drops that fell gently onto my shirtless shoulders. Trees shivered at the impending winter, shaking blizzards of expired summer raiment cascading to the soil. Even as they fade into the soil, the leaves create a kaleidoscope of color, illustrating the diversity of life surrounding me.

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Trust the experts

During the debate last week between Republican incumbent Dan Moul and Democrat challenger Marty Qually, a question was asked about our response to Covid.

Qually pointed out the challenge of getting everyone to believe the science.

“We’ve got to get to a point where we believe the people who are specialists in these areas,” he said. “We believe in the people who make our cars, that they won’t explode on us, but we don’t want to believe the doctors – people who we trust every time we go to get medicine.”

Moul agreed with his opponent about a need for personal responsibility, then added, “When you have elected officials that really don’t know a thing about medicine – they’re not scientists.”

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CWD and deer baiting

It’s fall in Adams County and the South Mountains of South Central Pennsylvania. A variety of native trees, like an artist’s brushes, color the land in oranges, yellows and reds as though they had been spilled on an artist’s palette. As I stood talking with Pa. Forest Ranger Scott Greevy, acorns fell from the surrounding oaks, crashing like gunfire onto his truck.

Deer hunting season was about to open and our main topic was an illness carried by Whitetail deer.

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Caution: contagious colors

When I was many years younger, I cut wood in summer, pulled it from the forest, then chopped and split it into stove-size pieces and stacked it neatly to dry for winter.

Winter was cold in those days, though as a youngster I only felt it when there were chores to do. Snowball fights and sledding were not cold. Bringing in firewood and water from the well were frigid activities.

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Hard cider and wilderness

More than 100 members of the South Mountain Partnership gathered Friday to celebrate “the Power of Partnership” in preserving and marketing the South Mountain Region. The gathering was held Friday at the Hauser Hill Event Center, in Franklin Township.

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Water standards leave questions

When I was a kid, I practically lived summers in a 500-acre lake, a nearby river and a few streams. My favorite activity after hours of hot labor was to peel down and join the loons and beavers watching fish. (The loons would eat some of them, but many years would pass before I got a taste for raw piscatorial cuisine. I still like it better cooked.)

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Where’s the money?

“Operator, will you help me place this call.” The opening line of a Jim Croce song reminds me of the days when my aunt was a Bell telephone operator – one of those women without whose assistance one could not make a telephone call to a town 15 miles away. Telephone operators in those early days had their fingers on the pulse – and the actual wires carrying the conversations – within their domains.

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