Years ago I took a wrong exit off I-85 in Atlanta and wound up in an inner-city area that was quite unwelcoming and inhospitable. I quickly realized it was no place for a naive boy from Early County. with no street smarts and no loaded firearm in his possession. It took a full 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 one morning this past week when I walked out into my backyard. A great blue heron, for reasons unknown, had decided to alight in the dry upland environs of a pine lot on the back side of my property. Strange behavior. There’s a perfectly good pond less than a half-mile away. Hmm. Do birds sometimes take wrong exits, too?
At any rate, the great blue’s raucous cackling got my attention and I moved closer to witness his being chased through the trees by a pair of belligerent crows.
Now, those of you familiar with great blue herons are aware that these skinny, long-necked, stilt-legged waders 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 10 minutes and finally realized he was much better off at the pond, toward which he at last directed himself, leaving the crows 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 seeming stupidity. But I couldn’t. Instead, I 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 meanderings.
1. 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, either.
2. PIT BLINDS — These dug-out holes in the ground are just the thing for shooting waterfowl in a Maryland goose field, but do not enter one in predawn darkness in a south Georgia or north Florida cypress swamp. The water moccasin that has spent the night in your pit can be very cranky when rudely awakened at 5 a.m.
3. BOATS OPERATED BY FISHING GUIDES WHO THINK THEY ARE METEOROLOGISTS — As in, “That old black cloud’s gonna pass to the north of us, Hoss. Don’t worry about it.”
4. 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.”
5. COW PASTURES — Brahma bulls look clumsy and slow. They’re not.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.” A trained monkey couldn’t negotiate the climb.
9. SMALL BODIES OF WATER CONTAINING EXTREMELY LARGE ALLIGATORS — Hmm. Maybe now I understand that blue heron’s initial reluctance to wade in that pond.
10. 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 can be much more fearsome than water moccasins in a pit blind. Their divorce attorneys are pretty scary, too. Comparatively speaking, even inner city Atlanta has its plus side.
Questions? Comments? Email Bob Kormegay at firstname.lastname@example.org