I took this shot a few weeks ago. I had gone out to Swede Lake, a shallow little lake west of the Twin Cities, to try a little bit of bowfishing. I didn’t see any carp–or any other fish, for that matter. But I did get a photo of the moon over the bow of my canoe.
This ol’ hillbilly grew up (some–not all the way) down in southeast Missouri, just west of the Mississippi, south of the Benton Hills and east of Crowley’s Ridge. (You can look up Salcedo, Missouri, and Rootwad Township, if you’re interested.)
Back before the early 1900s, that area was largely wetlands. They called it “Swampeast Missouri.” But in the early part of the 1900s, land speculators encouraged the development of the Little River Drainage District (“LRDD”). The LRDD drained the Big Swamp, cutting wide, deep drainage ditches every mile. The drained land was logged and turned into farmland. Altogether, it was a greater effort than digging the Panama Canal. You can read a little bit about it here, here, here, and here.
The Little River Drainage District opened up more than a million acres to agriculture. But it was one of the great environmental assaults undertaken on our country. Swampeast Missouri had been home to cypress swamps, bear, deer, panthers. But the loss of the wetlands habitat meant the loss of plant and animal communities. (This document discusses some of these issues in greater detail.) When I was a young man, there were no deer, bear , or wildcats of any kind through most of the area.
The assault continues. When this ol’ hillbilly was still a boy and young man, you could take a boat down most of the ditches any time of the year. I used to catch a lot of fish out of the ditches: largemouth bass, bluegill, perch, crappie, grass pike, bowfin–once even a striped bass. I never fished for catfish, but they were common in the ditches.
But when I visited back a couple of months ago,* I found the ditches almost dry. Folks have been taking water out of the land–not only by draining it, but also by pumping it out to irrigate croplands. And more area farmers are growing rice–a practice that involves flooding rice fields, allowing water to evaporate into the humid air. Water tables are falling. When I was young, our well was a sunk whopping thirteen feet. Now everyone is driving their wells deeper and deeper as the aquifer shrinks.
I took this photo of one of the area ditches when I visited in early September. Back in the late 1970s, this ditch would’ve had plenty of water in it, even in September. But when I saw it, it was almost dry.
A couple weeks ago, I happened to open an app on my phone and applied a filter to the photo. I sort of like the looks of it. It reminds me of old times back home.
Except that there ain’t hardly no water in that damned ditch.
* That is, early September 2017.
The Old Hillbilly took hisself a little walk around Bass Lake Preserve in St. Louis Park today. Yesterday was right chilly, and we got ourselves some snow last night. But it warn’t too awful cold today, and most of the snow has done gone and melted.
They call it Bass Lake, but I reckon they ain’t no bass in these here little shallow ponds that make up the “lake.” Most of ’em have done froze over. Most likely they’ll stay froze over ’til April. With the water bein’ as shallow as it is, they ain’t enough oxygen down there for no fish of any size.
Still, it’s a pretty enough spot. It ain’t but about a mile from the Old Hillbilly’s house, so I can get there in no time at all.
I cain’t figure out how to get these pitchers to pop up full size. Iffen they is one of you knows how to do that, I’d sure appreciate it. ‘Cause the pitchers is a lot better once you can actually see ’em.
I taken ’em all with my new Sony a6000 camera. I had an old Canon rangefinder lens on it for the one with the fungus and the one with the leaves in front of the frozen water. The rangefinder lens is an f/1.2, and I was shooting it wide open.
I used the kit lens for the other photo–the black-and-white one showing a bit more of the preserve. The kit lens is a 16-50mm. It’s pretty slow (f/3.5), but it ain’t a bad lens.
It ain’t but November, but the little old ponds has done started to freezing over here in the Twin Cities. The Old Hillbilly took this photo the other day down at Bredesen Park, in Edina. It’s full of little ol’ shallow ponds. Ain’t no fish in ’em, of course, ’cause they’re too shallow: they freeze over during the winter, and the fish can’t get no oxygen. That’s not real healthy for ’em. It’s generally recognized that most critters need oxygen. Without it, they turn to mulch.
Anyway, the ponds are freezing over. The lakes will follow. Winter will settle on us: dark, quiet, and cold.
Thish hyar ole hillbilly hez bin rat bizzy laitly, hwut with bilin up an boddlin mash, not tuh menshin drankin it two. Corse, hit wooden be rat fer me tuh sell nobawdy no mash thouten me a-knowin hwether hit wuz fit fer drankin. Soze Ah moas jinrully drank a kwart er fore a day.
Ennywaze, Ah bin plannin tuh git owt an dew moar fishin. Ah dun wint an taiken a pitcher of sum of muh lerrs. Hit hepps kaip me in mand of fishin.
Hit wuz a rat long winner hyar in Miniapples. Hit snoad an snoad an snoad. Hit warnt jist two offal cold. Thish hyar ole hillbilly didden haff tuh ware but too pare of long jons unnernaith his bib overhauls. Corse, Ah kaip muhseff purdy well warmd up hinfernally threw drankin muh speshul rokkit fule mash. Hwin its rat cold, Ah jist up muh daily rashin of mash fum fore kwarts tuh fav er ate. Hwin Ah git rat well topt off, Ah melt thuh snow roun me as Ah walk.
Ennywaze, hits got tuh hware Ah kin go a-fishin agin. Ah dun bin owt wunst er twast, but Ah aint cott nuthin yit. Ah wreckin Ah’ll hav tuh git me sum wurms er minners.
Moast aivnins Ah sit owt on muh back poarch. Thuh skeeters is gittin kanly thick, soze Ah bin smoakin muh pap tuh drav em off.
Jist a liddle hint: hwin ewe go tuh lat up yore pap, maik shore yore jug of mash is capt off. I dun bload up thray er fore thet way . . .
This is a link to a fabulous photo of an iris by a very talented photographer! What a joy!
This ole hillbilly aint poastid nuthin fer kwat sum tam. I had me a run in er thray with the revnooers, an hit got me plum tuckered out. Hit was a rat hard choar a-diggin hoals in the froazen groun. Ah taiken tuh stackin ’em up lack farwood. Thay didden wurk suh well, tho. Em air revnooers aint yoozhely got no meat on air boans, mutch less fat fer thuh far. Hit taiks moar kindlin tuh git em lit then hits wurth. Ah dun bin thoo a kupple duzzen of em, an Ah aint figgered out no yooce fer em yet.
But sprang has dun sprung. The fellers iz out in air liddle goff-bawl pickers, a-harvistin goff bawls in thuh aivnins hwin thuh sun’s goin down. Lake Calhoun hez dun fanly thawed. Ah hev taiken the flatbed down tuh the sportin goods stoars fav er tin moar tams, an Ah got me nuff rods an rails an lerrs of awl taps. Ah wreckin Ah cood outfit a battalyin tuh go a-fishin.
Well, muh mash is on the bile. Ah prommis tuh rat moar laider.
Hyars a liddle ole pack the ole hillbilly cot on Lake Calhoun rown bout a munth ago. Hit warnt too big, but hits kanly purdy.
Yestiddy evenin the ole hillbilly wuz sittin on the porch, smoken muh pap an lookin out at the seenry an thankin bout not much a nothin. Thet is pert near the ole hillbillys faivrit thang tuh thank about. Iffen a feller gits tuh thankin bout sumthin in pertickler, thin he may have tuh git up an do sumthin bout it. An the ole hillbilly perfers not to do nothin bout nothin. Hits a sat more ressful lack thet way.
But mebbe Ah aint zackly rat. Thaze a doe comes roun bout hyar ever now an thin. She wuz out eatin sum weeds roun the sad of muh howse, an they may hev bin a thot er two in muh haid bout dear meat. Them air hoity-toity folks cawl it vensen. The ole hillbilly jist cawls it good eatin. An lookin at at air doe maid me thank bout sum good eatin.
Ennywaze as Ah wuz a-sittin thar an dewin muh best not tuh thank about nuthin an suckseedin purdy good at dewin it, seppin hwin Ah wuz thankin bout dear meat, Ah seed thish hyar feller an a gal a-comin up muh sadwalk, with the feller a-kerryin a sack.
Ah wuz purdy meadyet-lack kunserned, speshly sints Ah hed fergot tuh brang muh twel-gaje out on the porch with me. Thet jist aint lack the ole hillbilly tuh go nohwir thouten his twel-gaje.
But turns out Ah didden naid it nowaze. Hit were jist sum naibers. Thay kinely slunk up tuh the porch an sed, Howdy, yawl. Weze yore naibers. We come oaver tuh wekkum yawl tuh the naiberhood.
Well thets rat kine of yawl, Ah sed. Ahm plaized tuh make yore kwaintance.
Thuh feller handid oaver the sack. We brot chew a boddle of wan an sum bred fum up at thish hyar plaice cawlt Rustycan, he sed.
Now aint thet nass, Ah ruplad. Hwud jew say thet is. Wan?
Yessir, he sez. Hits a boddle of Barrel o’ Bricko Roachie.
Ah lookt at the laible on it, but Ah cooden make nuthin out of it. Hit was rit in sum funny langwij. But wantin to be naiber-lack, Ah sed, Lemme russle us up sum glassis an weal halve us a liddle sip.
So thay seddled down thare on the porch on muh kowch, hwich aint ratly a kowch seein as how hits achelly the rear seat outen a sixty-fav Thunderburd, an Ah wint in an huntid up sum jelly jars thet warnt too offal dirty. Thin Ah staggered back out an kummincet tuh attimptin tuh git into the boddle of wan. But sum durn fool had dun shuvved the cork awl the way down in the nek of it.
Fanly the feller sed, Hyar, lemme taik kyeer of thet. An he hwipt owt thish hyar liddle naf thang with a corkskroo on it an had at air boddle of wan oapin in no tam flat.
Ah poard sum wan into the jelly jars, an we awl took a liddle sip. Well thet aint iggzackly rat. The ole hillbilly took a liddle sip, but muh naibers taken themsevves liddle sips lack a budderflah mat taik, iffen the budderflah wuz awreddy dun full up an hed loosind up hits britches ten minits afoar. Thin they let out with big ole smals lack they cood atcherly taist sumthin.
Ah cooden make nuthin of it, but thay peerd to be happy. So we kep on drankin, with me sippin an the naibers pertennin to be budderflahs with annawrecksya, an thin the feller sez, At air skupcher insterlayshun ewe got in yore yard hyar iz rat intristin.
Ah lookt aroun muh yard. Skupcher insterlayshun? Ah axed.
Thish hyar ottomobeel ewe got instawlt hyar, the feller sed. Me an muh waf hev bin admarrin it.
Thets rat, she chammed in. Hits lack a komminterry on arr thowaway suhsatty.
Hit iz? Ah sed.
Ya shore yabetcha, the feller sed. Hooze the artiss? I cain’t say as Ah hev seen enny of his wurk afoar.
Ah skracht muh haid. Well, Ah said. Ah wreckin hit wuz sum feller wurkt fer Ford back in the nantain-fitties, er mebbe even the nantain-forties. Hits a fitty-thray Ford, but hit looks a offal lot lack a fifty-two er even a fitty-wun. Thish hyar has got the flathed vee-ate in it. Hits a fan injun.
Thets awl jiss terrbull intristin, sed the naiber laidy. But we wuz wundrin, hoo disadded to instaul it in yore yard, up on the blocs lack thet? Thets hwut makes it intristin.
Well, Ah wreckin Ah did, Ah ruplad. Ahm the feller stuck the ole car up on blocs.
An hwut staitmint did yawl intind tuh maik? the laidy axed. Is it a komminterry on the varinmental dammij cozzed bah pland hobsullessints?
Ah trahd tuh puzzel attun out, but Ah didden git nohwur. Fanly Ah sed, Ah doant no nuthin bout no hobsulls. Hits moar a staitmint on muh tars. Ya see, lack Hank Wiyyums sed, the air dun startid showin thew em.
Hank Wiyyums? axed the naiber feller.
Yiss, Hank Wiyyums. An doant tawk tuh me bout no Hank Wiyyums Junyer. An Ah doant hold with cawlin Hank Wiyyums Hank Wiyyums Sainyer. Far as thish hyar ole hillbilly is consarnd, aint but one Hank Wiyyums. Tuthers is jist pertenders.
The folks jist set an goggled at me a bit. Hits rat odd the way folks duz thet to the ole hillbilly. Hits awmoas lack thay doant unnerstan me, even tho Ah tawk Ainglish good ez ennywun.
Ennywaze, bout thin we had drunkt up awl the wan thay had brung oaver. So bein naiberly lack, Ah sed, Lemme fetch yawl sumthin thettle reelly wet yore whissulls.
So Ah wint in an dug up a jug of muh fannest rokkit fule mash, an Ah brung it out an topt up thair jelly jars an sed, Hyars mud in yer ahz. An thin Ah drankt up mah glass.
The naiber laidy wint furst. She dipt her faice into the glass, took a liddle budderflah sip, an kinely turnt to stoan. She jist sit thar with this big smal on her face, one ah a-lookin one way and tother ah lookin anuther. Thin the feller took him a purty fare-sazzed swaller. Bout two sekkins laider, his toopay bload offen the top of his haid, spun aroun, an landid back sadwaze. Thin he fetcht up ontah his hooves an startid into dantsin, er sumthin lack dantsin, seppin not so reggler as moas folks duz it. His laigs wuz kikkin out firse one way and thin tuther, an his arms an haid wuz jiss kinely maikin sirkles an eel lipses an oavulls an shaips Ah aint nevver seed afoar.
Thet wint on a hwal. Thin Ah fetcht the wheal barrer fum back of the hows, thoad em in it, an toatid em hoam.
They didden even say nuthin hwin Ah dumpt em out on the porch. Thets gratty tood fer yah.