September 29, 1918. [Wandering up the Legendary Old River Road]. Omaha Sunday World-Herald 53(52): 8-N. Forest Field and Stream.
Forest Field and Stream
Wandering up the legendary river road one afternoon the past week, I spent a few delightful hours in the woods to see what was going on with while among my little friends, the birds. The lofty branches of the coloring oaks and elms waved placidly in the light wind and stirred timidly amidst the underbrush. It was the same old paradisiacal autumn picture - clustering vines entwining themselves over the rocks and every available snag within the scope of vision, diffusing their varied odors with those of the last of the summer's flowers and adding a touch of wildness that nothing else could to the woodland picture.
And no other spot that I know of, in this immediate neighborhood, has nature so profusely spread her entrancements on every hand, commingling the charms of tree, bush, flower, bird, hill, vale, field, marshland and stream with exquisite prodigality.
As I strolled along the purling little rivulet at the foot of the ridge I noticed in many places where the sedges had been disturbed and the tracks of mink, coon, squirrel and muskrat, with those of many birds in the soft ooze of the open spaces between the still flowering water grasses, revealing the fact that it was a popular region of exploration by both the little furred as well as feathered habitants of the silent places, as likewise a watering trough and feeding ground.
There were many little trails leading up among the oaks which the shy wood dwellers had beaten fairly flat with their tiny feet. The watercress beds spread like an emerald coverlet half way across the tinkling stream, while tall ferns, lilies, liputian rushes, moccasins and other amphibious plants did their best to hide them and rendered the footing as perilous as it was attractive.
I sat down on a mossy log and for more than an hour remained as immobile as part of the same, watching eagerly for some touches of the wild life that everywhere seemed so plenteous. A scarlet grosbeak "chipped" petulantly among the tall alders back of me and a fussy chewink, as he, like a miniature barnyard hen, scratched diligently among the few fallen leaves in a nearby briar patch, occasionally sent forth his somewhat musical "towhee!" fleetily showing his black and whites and chestnuts as he ran and fluttered from cranny to nook, and nook to cranny. Hundreds of swallows, too, of the several varieties, curved and curvetted in the golden sunlight all about me, and the crows, at their fishing and snail hunting along the distant river shores, called querulously to each other.
But I saw none of the little four-footers. Of course, no mink would be guilty of nosing about in the broad daylight, nor coon, either, but I did confidently hope to see some amorous muskrat at his foraging among the lily roots or a fox squirrel flirting his golden brush, like the farm wife flirts her dishrag, from fence post, bole of oak or elm, or the rosy escapement across the way, but I did not. Everything was as quite as befitted the place, save the sussurrus of the September breeze adown the hollow and the medley of feeding bird calls and signals which so fill the hearing in such a place during the marshalling period that precedes the fall migration. I did see, however, a brilliant gartersnake crawling noiselessly through the sedges, and jumped a number of little spotted frogs from the damp grasses and I arose, walked out and crossed the fence and strode into the woods. And yet, at that, it was one of the happiest watching hours I have spent since those dead and gone falls I use to spend up on the gurgling Loup with those still beloved, though departed comrades, Sam and Old Jake.
Profitless as was that hour, in the way of new discoveries, many was the whole afternoon that dragged itself away, on similar vigils, filled only with the sweet sounds and spicey smells of the silent woods, when not a ripple, save the made by the schools of silversides would break the dimples of the stream, and the golden sun would bury itself in the bulbous blue cumuli thrusting itself upon the evening horizon, before I could bring myself to leave the quiet place.
Up, I slowly clambered, into the woods, until finally I reached the hallowed spot I so weakly reflected in the opening paragraph of this little biography, where I sank in the mosses, with my back against the bole of a low, scraggly oak, and then I felt amusing. The sweet old summer time was gone, but she had left a glittering trail in her wake, with an abundance of her general warmth and her fragrant, riant beauty. The blue curtain that hung over wood and valley, river and bluff, was full of lingering touches of her soft and gentle hand. All inertia and drowsiness, with which the dogday tide is heavy, had effervesces, and all the landscape was chequered with the skeins and tangles of September's hazy, cerulean veil. Off there, on the other hillside, the oaks and elms and alders had begun to unfurl their gorgeous banners, and as the long shadows began to lengthen a sharp but delicious tingle came into the air; the woodsy breath lay heavy and shadowy in the twilight stillness, and in their full feeding, the bird calls increased, from the fen! fen! fen! tu-yu! tu-yu tu-yu! of the redbird, the courageous attempt of the chewink, the wood sparrow's heavenly carillon, the robin's fragmentary imitation, the chirpings of all the remaining warblers, to the scream of the fishhawk, winding in great spirals over the river, to the "be-zeek! bezeek!" of the bull bat from the fathomless vault above.
My eyes lingered restfully on the wonderful filmy mixture of the colors of the rare eventide; the first rich fires of the autumn's tapestries, the glimmering silvery sinuosities of the distant Missouri, the pale gray of the moldering mass on the opposite hillside, all bringing out a living lesson, full of richest life and noblest interest, the subtle call of nature - of the wild and silent places which only comes at the twilight of an autumn day.
In the gloaming I made my way down to the road, then up to the Big Springs, where Bill, with four teal and a withe of yellowlegs, awaited me in the car.