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Letter From Missouri | The Ozarks Are Deranged

One of the pleasant things about the Ozarks is that you can't help but get closer to all the nature contained within those rolling and precipitously steep hills. Cold, clear natural springs feeding creeks and rivers? Check. Big trout in those rivers? Check. I could checklist like that awhile longer, but you get the idea. Best thing is, that sort of nature isn't something we've manufactured to sucker in the tourists, either. It's been just lying there for millions of years for the taking 24/7 for anyone who manages to leave the house long enough to notice it.

When you live in a giant concrete metropolis, you don't see much nature beyond whatever bugs manage to wander into the house, city pigeons, feral cats, Norway rats in the alley, and neighborhood dogs that always bark too much and too late into the night. Here in the Ozarks, we have turkeys growing wild. Black bears too, if radio commercials warning about them aren't yanking our chain.

All this nature is pretty neat, but having a lot of it around has led me to make a few observations about it:

1. Nature is deranged.

2. Whatever isn't deranged is just plain brain-damaged.

3. Whatever isn't just plain brain-damaged is just plain stupid.

Robins probably lead the league in deranged, especially during nesting season, which happens to be now. I have several nesters in the trees in my front and side yards, so consequently I spend a good deal of time being dive-bombed by these territorial, protective brood-watchers whenever I walk between the car in the driveway and the house, or head across the street to the mailbox. You'd think after all this time they'd be able to recognize me (or at least my hat) and my lack of interest in them by now.

Bluejays and Canadian geese are just as deranged, but they at least have the good sense to do their birthing business in the woods and waters instead of atop peoples' porch-door light fixtures and gutter downspouts.

Rainbow trout aren't deranged, of course, but there's still something wrong with these creatures. Put corn on a fishhook and they'll go after it. This despite the fact there isn't anything in the whole Ozarks Bug Kingdom that remotely resembles a Green Giant tender niblet that would explain being fooled in the same manner that they're be fooled by an expertly engineered dry fly or wet nymph. On the other hand, a good deal of the rainbows around here were hatchery-raised and fed a diet of man-made pellets, so perhaps they just have no idea what food is when they leave the farm, so now it's more a matter of being really, really confused about food.

A little more than a week ago, I traveled between West Plains and Interstate 44 by way of Mountain Grove, and I was more in awe of the number of armadillos lying dead in and alongside the road than I was of the basic idea that we have armadillos here. But given that Texas is what it is, I'm not exactly surprised they ended up here. I would too, but unlike armadillos, I own a car and don't have to walk all that way to Missouri.

Unlike rabbits or deer or household pets, who become victims of their poorly-timed decisions to cross the road, armadillos apparently live on the road, particularly at night. Even more apparently, they live most of their lives without any particular place to go. And the ones who indeed do have someplace to go don't seem to be in much of a hurry to get there.

It's even worse for our local turtles, whose smashed, tire-flattened carcasses in the roadways were even more stunning in number. Unlike armadillos, our turtles do seem to have places to get to, but nature's joke was programming them to take forever to get there. That's not too bad of a deal if you just stay put - where there's a vast cornucopia of greens lying inches from your face to graze upon when you've worked up an appetite taking forever to get somewhere - but why you'd want to leave all that in the first place is a mystery to me. It's not as if you're a turtle trying to escape the desert for pastures of green on the other side of an asphalt ribbon, like those ocean turtles born at midnight that have to dig their way through a foot or two of sand after hatching and then make a mad dash across a very dark and wide stretch of beach to get to their home in the sea.

If that isn't enough, you have to pray that you don't get eaten on the way to the water by some predator or captured by a tourist who thinks you're just so cute and darling and snatches you up and takes you home, where you'll be dead from malnutrition and neglect days later in some cold, miserable aquarium in their kid's bedroom.

Not only that, but the roadkill here aren't even tortoises. They're turtles. Why you'd want to leave the water, where nature specifically demands you live in the first place, is beyond me as well. The only thing I can attribute that to is it's mating season, but all the other turtles in your pond happen to be fellas. I can see that. On the other hand though, given the astonishingly high odds that you'll end up a speed bump on the way to your hunt for ladies who may or may not be be across the road, exploring an alternative lifestyle might not be that bad of an idea, given the circumstances.

Still, as deranged or dim-bulb as nature around here may be, it's our nature, and our gift. Get out and appreciate it. Be amazed by it. Be amused by it.

Just don't try to feed it. It might end up eating you instead.

-

Longtime Beachwood correspondent and former Illinoisan Scott Buckner is now the managing editor of the Daily Quill in West Plains, Missouri. He welcomes your comments.

-

Previously in Scott Buckner:

* Riding The Dog: A Four-Part Series.

* What I Watched Last Night: The Archives.

* The Clown Prince Of Chicago Kiddie TV: A Three-Part Interview.

* Carp vs. Pols.

* Reality Check: Celebrity Dating Advice.

* 10 Of The Prettiest Damn Songs On The Planet.

* I Am A Roofer.

* Really Commercial TV.

* Bin Dive's Five Favorite Cover Songs.

* Scott Buckner's 2008 Beachwood Gift Guide.

* Song Of The Moment: Rainy Days And Mondays.

* The Found Art Of TV Theme Songs.

* Day In The Life: Downtown Chicago.

* No Hugs On The CTA.



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Posted on May 25, 2016


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PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Public Lands Matter.


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