better river stones
Tuesday, June 28 2005
This morning as I was coming back home down the Stick Trail with Eleanor, I saw a garter snake stretched out across the trail, relaxing. It was maybe eighteen inches long (in other words, a cubit). I startled when I first saw it, an involuntary reflex reflecting millions of years of imperfect coexistence between my ancestors and the snake's. To get by the snake, I simply walked around it. But then I turned around because I was interested in seeing what Eleanor would do. (The only interaction I've ever seen between the pets and snakes was a garter snake I had to rescue from Edna the cat.)
Eleanor was walking along as she often does, with her nose to the ground, snuffling. She came to the snake, snuffled right over it and kept on going. The snake remained still and she didn't notice it. From this I can conclude that garter snakes do not emit an odor that dogs find interesting.
In the afternoon I went on an errand to the Stewarts in downtown Hurley (three miles and -450 elevational feet away) to buy an armload of summer provisions: softdrinks (rootbeer, ginger ale, and tonic water), two species of cheap Stewarts-brand icecream, and a container of hornet and wasp nest spray. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a proponent of spraying every wasp or hornet nest one sees around a house. But when the nest is being rapidly enlarged by aggressive white-face hornets low near an entranceway, sometimes you have to rely on the sorts of solutions that Republicans find entertaining.
On the way back home I stopped at the bridge where Dug Hill Road crosses Englishman's Creek (for which the seasonal Chamomile River is a tributary). The land on the south side of the road is part of Catskill State Park, so people can and do stop here to hunt or hike (but not so much to shoot holes in trees, something they prefer to do higher up the hill at the bus turnaround). I had the dogs with me, so I turned them loose to do whatever while I collected smallish river stones. I prefer the river stones here to the ones found in the Esopus. The Esopus drains a massive watershed and its stones can come from strata forty miles away (though none of it now can get past the Ashokan reservoir). That's a grueling forty miles for anything, even a stone, and by the time they reach, say, Fording Place, they've lost nearly all of their angles and all of their surface texture. Almost all of them are strongly ovoid, making them useless as tiles or in applications such as walls where they must be stacked. By contrast, the stones and pebbles in Englishman's Creek have origins in rock strata not more than five miles away. They have all the benefits of river stones in that they're generally devoid of fractures and have an appealingly smooth surface, but they still have their rectangular shape. They stack nicely and make excellent tiles and the triangular pieces are ideal for filling the small shapes remaining between large flagstones in my completed walkway project (the way I spent my Spring).
Tonight after dark I sprayed a globular hornet's nest above the place where fuel oil is pumped into the house. For some minutes afterwards the hornets could be heard making a grim growling sound as they collectively died. I felt genuinely sorry for them; they were just trying to go about their business and here I was ruining their most important possession: their future. Under the rules of a just religion their souls, like those Microsoft Word documents you lost to disk failure, would be taking advantage of the gold-paved streets of heaven right now.
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