I wake to the sound of sandhill cranes in flight.
Opening my eyes, head still on my pillow, I look up to the sky. Ribbons of cranes, hundreds of them, ripple across the morning sky. For once I’m the first to wake up. Spike and Bridget haven’t moved a muscle. I guess yesterday tuckered them out.
“C’mon, Spike, wake up. Let’s get going!”
Where Spike and I go, Bridget is sure to follow. I want to get outside to watch the cranes! They’re flying low and their strange noise, not exactly a honk . . . more like a honk mixed with a gargle . . . rattles over the sleepy campground. Like Canadian geese, the cranes fly in a V-formation at the front. Unlike geese, their flight formation is fluid. It’s like they’re diagramming sentences across the sky.
I walk the crew with my head tipped back in amazement.
We meet a guy walking his big, black lab. Soon we find out he knows a lot about the cranes. He asks me, “Did you see them going in the other direction last night?”
“Yes, I did! I was wondering why they were going the wrong way.”
He explains. “Right around nightfall you’ll see some of them flying northward. They go to their favorite place for the night and find there’s no water there anymore, so they come back up to the lake.”
I’m curious how long the cranes fly overhead and he tells me about an hour every day for weeks! I saw several hundred in just a few minutes!
He asks me if I’ve seen any skunks yet.
“No, but I’ve already been warned.”
“Well, let me tell you, ” he continues. “I’ve been coming here for seven years at this time of year to see the cranes. In seven visits my dog has been sprayed nine times.” Oh, no. Not good to hear. I ask him how he coped with that.
It’d take an awful lot of tomato juice to wash his big lab.
“Tomato juice doesn’t work. I take a quart of hydrogen pyroxide, mix it with a quarter cup of baking soda and some Dawn dish soap. The chemical reaction makes sulfur dioxide. It takes care of it.”
My limited knowledge of chemistry is enough to have my mind struggling to figure how you get sulfur dioxide from that mixture. It’s too early in the morning for chemistry. Whatever you say, mister. If it works, great.
“There’s a lot of raccoons around here, too. I caught one trying to get into my trailer . . . trying to operate the door latch.” Gee, the nocturnal wildlife rule this campground once the sun goes down. In the day, it’s cows and horses.
Our walk takes us to the far reaches of the campground and up the dam road.
(That’s the road next to the dam, folks, not a mood change.) We cross an area of soft, black earth crusted over, causing instant dirty paws. Back at our camp, I fill a dishpan with warm water, put it on the picnic table, and give the crew foot baths. Once towel-dried, they go into the pen so I can fill the crockpot with chicken and barbeque sauce. I didn’t make enough last time, and it was so good, I want more!
My neighbor, Joe, the Casita owner physicist guy, comes over.
We talk a long time about his career and my solar dreams and a ton of other stuff. Nancy joins us for a bit. Then they leave to drive over to Percha Dam, another state park a few miles south of here, just to see what it’s like. I’m interested in hearing what they see.
Bridget and Spike have their afternoon walk, and Spike soaks in the river again. Now they’re dozing on the bed beside me as I type. The barbeque chicken is probably done. I’m going to shred the chicken, and ladle it and the sauce over two slices of bread for an open-faced sandwich. I already put a tablecloth on the picnic table in anticipation of my feast. Maybe I should rephrase that . . . in anticipation of OUR feast!
By God, life is good.