2017-10-18 / Opinion

BACKROADS AND BOBTAILS

The Outdoors Has Its Bad “Hoods,” Too
by Bob Kornegay

Years ago, before I learned it is wise to drive straight through Atlanta without stopping, I took a wrong exit off I-85 and wound up lost in an inner-city area that was, shall I say, rather undesirable. It took me about three seconds to realize the part of the city I was in was no place for a naive boy from Early County, Ga. with no street smarts and no defensive weaponry in his possession. It took the better part of a half hour to find my way back to the expressway, where, with relief, I resumed my journey and chalked yet another faux pas up to experience.

I was reminded of that incident just this morning when I walked out into my backyard. A young great blue heron, for reasons known only to him, had decided to set down in the dry upland environs of a pine lot on the back side of my property. Strange behavior with a perfectly good pond less than a half-mile away. Do traveling birds sometimes take wrong exits, too?

At any rate, the great blue’s raucous cackling drew my attention and I stepped into the pine grove to witness his being chased through the trees by a pair of belligerent crows.

Now, those of you familiar with blue herons are aware that these skinny, long-necked, stilt-legged wading birds are not built for aerial pursuit through a pine forest. Though excellent fliers, they are, by nature, rather unskilled at maneuvering in tight places. The crows had no such shortcomings. They were beating the heron senseless with their wings and tearing at him relentlessly with their beaks. To the big shorebird’s credit, he narrowly avoided disaster for a full ten minutes and finally realized he was much better off at the pond, toward which he at last directed himself, leaving the crows behind to caw and screech and generally wake up every living creature within hearing distance.

Naturally, it would have been easy for me to wonder and shake my head over the great blue’s perceived stupidity. But I couldn’t. Instead, I sympathized and understood. Like him, I have had my own experiences with bad neighborhoods, not all of which involve getting lost in big-city slums. As a public service, I offer the following list of specific locales to avoid during your outdoor wanderings.

TREE HOLLOWS - Baby flying squirrels are cute as buttons, but they are decidedly ugly on the end of your index finger with their front teeth sunk through your nail. Likewise, honeybees don’t take kindly to trespassing hands and forearms.

PIT BLINDS - These dug- out holes in the ground may be just the thing for shooting in a Maryland goose field, but do not enter one in predawn darkness in a south Georgia or Alabama cypress swamp. The water moccasins that have spent the night there can be very cranky when rudely awakened at 5 a.m.

BOATS OPERATED BY FISHING GUIDES WHO THINK THEY ARE METEOROLOGISTS - As in, “That old black cloud’s gonna pass to the north of us. Don’t worry about it.”

BOATS OPERATED BY FISHING GUIDES WHO THINK THEY ARE LEWIS AND CLARK - As in, “We’ll just turn up this little slough here. I figure it’ll take us out to the main channel and cut our time back to the landing in half.”

COW PASTURES - Brahma bulls look clumsy and slow. They’re not.

FARMYARDS HARBORING ANY DOG LARGER THAN A CHIHUAHUA - And don’t argue if the farmer will not allow you access through his property. “Sic ‘em!” remains a much-used canine command in most rural areas.

HUNTING LODGES THAT SERVE A CONCOCTION CALLED “OLD STUMPBLOWER” AS A PRE-DINNER COCKTAIL - There’s not enough black coffee in the Western Hemisphere to cure the hangover.

DEER STANDS CONSTRUCTED BY PROPRIETORS OF THE ABOVE HUNTING LODGES - Particularly if they’re more than 15 feet above the ground and are to be occupied “the morning after.”

SMALL BODIES OF WATER CONTAINING EXTREMELY LARGE ALLIGATORS - Hmm, maybe now I understand that blue heron’s initial reluctance.

YOUR OWN HOME - On occasions when one stays too long on the river, in the woods, or at the hunting lodge drinking Old Stumpblower, spouses are much more fearsome than water moccasins in a pit blind. Their attorneys are pretty scary, too.

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