Written: June 2014 ©
Today Was A Very Good Day.
We finally got away for a while last Friday (5/30/14), we spent the whole day just hunting points and taking photos of some of the birds that we don’t often see. It was a great day!
Knowing that recent heavy rains had washed over our favorite freshly plowed fields, we both had a bad case of Artifactus Infectus and were literally driving ourselves crazy with wild speculations of what we might find. It’s been a very long time since we’ve had heavy rains like this, visions of perfect Paleo points danced in our minds as we draw closer to our destination. The last time we made this short trip, the landscape was bone dry and tinted various shades of brown and yellow. But not today, today it is dense, lush and vivid green. I’m constantly amazed by how resilient the Texas terrain is and how quickly it can recover from prolonged periods of severe drought. Although it came too late for most of the crops in our area, it’s truly amazing what a little rain can do and everyone feels blessed to have it.
As we turned on to the dirt road that takes us to the ranch, I rolled down the windows of the truck to let all the sights, and smells, and sounds of the countryside pour in. Our hearts began to beat a little faster and an odd but familiar silence falls between us as we drive the last few miles to the gate. For us, the extreme excitement and anticipation of those last few miles to the gate, always evokes a deep introspection and calm confidence that can come only from this experience. We continue without speaking in this somber “dreamlike” state, secure in the knowledge that today, unlike most days, today; we will find artifacts.
Days like this are too few, and too far between.
As we approach the first field, I can see that the rains have literally scoured the entire area. My wife already has her hand on the door handle ready to exit and rush to the gate as soon as I stop. She knows the gate opening routine well and acts as if she’s done it all her life. She giggles with excitement as she fumbles with the lock, she just can’t enter the combo fast enough and stomps her little feet in frustration. I love watching her act like a kid on Christmas Day! The familiar clang of the chain against the gate as it swings open signals the beginning of what would soon become a stellar day.
We were met at the gate by this lil’ fella’. He dipped and dived all around and really put on a grand show in protest of our entry into his field. Scissortails are one of my favorite birds; he gave me some nice long poses which also gave this rookie a chance to try out the new Nikon
Driving in I can see that the heavy rains have really altered the surface; this field was deep plowed about 2 months ago and left to rest. Our hopes began to build and a sense that “something special” was about to happen settled in as we slowly rolled across the soft, sandy loam that has been farmed for well over 100 years.
My Great-Grandfather cleared these fields with an ax and a team of draught horses, then spent many decades afterwards removing 100’s of tons of rocks which he stacked about 3’ high along the fence rows. Recently, I discovered that the entire edge of all the fields bordering the creek were actually built by hauling in and filling the eroded creek banks with field rock, then covering the newly formed area with about 3’ or 4’ of fill dirt. This effectively added approximately 5 acres to each field, thus increasing his annual crop yield substantially. All of this work was done with draught horses, wagons and plows, and he continued plowing with horses well into the 1950’s. He was a shrewd and frugal man who worked very, very hard to carve his modest little place out of what was then, a true wilderness. I can only imagine the struggles they faced daily.
Many long years after the construction of those rock embankments beside the creek, my Great-Grandfather would drown in that same flood swollen creek.
A pair of Bob-White Quail scurried alongside the fence-line as we passed. The recent rains seem to have re-started their breeding activity and there should be enough ground water available to allow them to nest successfully, hopefully they will raise at least one brood. They sang all day for us from all around the outlying area, I counted at least 10 separate males calling. It’s really so good to see them trying to make a recovery. Again, the resilience of Texas flora and fauna simply amazes me.
Bob-White Quail (Colinus Virginianus)
After coming to a complete stop and piling out of the truck like an idiot to hurriedly chase down some random piece of flint seen reflecting in the sun, several times, we finally arrived at our shady little parking place beside the creek. I turned the engine off, took a deep breath through my nose so as to breathe in all those wonderful smells, and just sat there for a short while gazing out across the field and enjoying the scenery. Despite our eagerness to finally hit the field, we were in no hurry. We dearly cherish our time in the outdoors and we try to soak in every second of every experience. It does us both much good and being able to combine our passion for artifacts, with our love for bird watching and the great outdoors, plus being able to do it together, well; it just doesn’t get much better than that. When we are here, in this place, with ancient artifacts at our feet, being deeply immersed in so much natural beauty and pure freedom; the world seems far away and we can relax in a way that is otherwise, impossible.
Despite all the troubles, tragedies, and concerns that befall us in this life, these are the rare kind of days that make it all worthwhile. We are thankful for each experience that comes our way, both the good, and the bad.
From our little parking area, we slowly work our way east to the far end of the field where the main camp is concentrated. I was a little surprised to find that all of the deeply plowed rows that were there before the rain, had been dissolved into a flat, level surface that has basically filled in more than it has exposed. It doesn’t take long to figure out that these filled in areas are not very productive and I know we’ll have to concentrate our efforts on the few heavily eroded spots along the edges of the field. We did find several broken pieces and scrapers along the way but nothing special.
But our luck was about to change once we reached the first good washout.
My lovely wife made the first find as usual; I kiddingly tell her it’s because she has younger eyes and she’s closer to the ground, but in my heart I’m thrilled that she has found the first point of the day. Within minutes I hear her say the words I was waiting to hear, “I found an arrowhead honey!” Man I love to hear her say those words! I holler back; “Atta girl!” There’s a giant smile on her face and from a distance, I can hear her say to herself with a giddy, trembling voice; “Oohh that feeling, there’s nothing else like it in the whole world, it happens every time I find another point! I love that feeling!” Then without missing a beat, she slips her find into the soft pocket of her fanny pack without taking her eyes off of the ground in front of her, and continues her search. She’s becoming a Pro.
She was well ahead of me so I didn’t get an in situ photo. In fact, I failed to get any in situ shots of any of her finds because we were too far apart most of the day and, I was unwilling to tear myself away from the spot I was searching. I really regret not having the presence of mind to get the shots as I really enjoy seeing her find a nice point even more than I do finding one myself. I will blame my photographic failures on a bad case of Artifactus Infectus and promise to do better next time.
The rains had fallen several days before our arrival; we waited for it to dry out a bit before we went. During that waiting time, I began to develop a strong feeling that something exceptional was due to come out of this field.
After finally making my way to the head of the first long slender wash, I took a knee and started slowly picking my way to a spot where several small washes intersect. Past experience has taught me that these little intersections often act as gathering points for artifacts as they tumble and slide down the narrow chutes created by hydraulic erosion. By this time, my wife who had been hunting another section of the wash, was standing only a few feet away. As I stooped to pick up what I already knew was not a point, at the upper edge of my field of vision, I caught sight of a partially covered point that at first didn’t seem to be much. I figured it was just another plow-beaten broke so I picked it up without thinking; I was in for a surprise.
After the initial shock and excitement of recognizing what I actually had in my hand, I gently put it back in its original position (minus the sand that partially covered it) and took a few shots. I’ve waited a very long time for this day.
She aint real pretty, she’s old and re-used to the point of total exhaustion, and she’s survived 10’s of thousands of encounters with the plow. She has a few small dings here and there, and her edges have lost some of the classic grinding due to damage, but she’s all there.
A few minutes later my wife made a pretty rare find of her own. A nice little translucent Chadbourne.
At this point it was getting a little warm, so we decided to take a break at a pretty lil’ spot down by the creek. We found a nice fallen oak tree to sit on as we sipped the drinks my wife had been thoughtful enough to pack in her little fanny pack. The sound of water gently flowing and splashing over the rocks in the creek beside us made our short stay all the more enjoyable. After taking a few shots of a couple of female Painted Buntings frolicking in the creek and relaxing in the shade, we decided to make the short drive to the local BBQ joint for some much needed refueling. Mesquite smoked brisket is pretty hard to beat.
After a good lunch, we returned to the ranch to hunt a different field. I drove slowly with Nikon in hand; it felt good to be able to just slow down and take it all in without feeling rushed to get somewhere. The sound of the tires slowly rolling over the gravel road filled our ears as moving pictures framed by the door window captured brief, seamless glimpses of the landscape and wildlife that surrounds us. How sweet it is to feel so free and unburdened, if only for a little while. Simple pleasures, small victories.
Black-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus Merriamai)
I’m learning that one never knows when photo ops will present themselves. As we drove down the dusty road I noticed a colorful bird hovering like a hummingbird about 80’ above a field, it would hover for fairly long periods then fly forward in a dipping arc, then repeat. It was over 200 yards away and I doubted that it was within range, but I raised the Nikon and squeezed off a couple of offhand shots. These are those 2 shots.
The rest of the afternoon was spent just enjoying the outdoors and trying out the new Nikon. My wife did manage to find another heartbreaker of a Perdiz in the 2nd field, but by then we were a little tired and our attentions turned more to just relaxing while the quail sang beneath the setting sun.
Today…was a very good day.