I had a column all ready for this week...until yesterday.
One of my sons had come home to visit Southeast Missouri with his wife, son, and in-laws. We were next door, visiting another of our sons, when we heard a ruckus across the road. Up in one of the big oak trees, where a limb had broken off, a baby raccoon was squalling for his momma. A hollow had formed where the big limb had been, and she'd crawled in there and given birth. The baby was there, about 25 feet off the ground. Its eyes hadn't even opened and its mouth was still smooth but, when it got hungry, it figured out to crawl toward the light and holler. It would crawl out a little more at times so that I was afraid it would topple out and be killed or injured. I went back to the house and got my camera with my favorite telephoto and took a few pictures to share with my readers, then ushered everyone away, hoping the momma 'coon would then return in time to rescue her baby. The baby quit squalling soon so I hope the story ended happily.
As we walked away, I noticed that the honey locusts are starting to bloom. As beautiful as their blossoms are, it is their sweet, grape gum smell that is especially enticing, so that my wife, in her childhood, started calling them bubble gum trees...and still does.
I love spring in the country in Southeast Missouri, from the time the first spring peepers trill their bug-like call down by the ditches, eager to produce the first tadpoles of the year. Spring peepers don't wait for warm weather, but start calling when the weather is still cooler than you would think cold-blooded animals should like. Of course, mammals like the raccoon are already preparing to give birth in their warm nests and woods by that time. Many insects are still asleep and snug in cracks and crevices and tunnels. Hummingbirds begin to chitter as they buzz around anything blooming, looking for precious nectar, and reminding us to put out our feeders.
As the spring progresses, you start to see babies emerge and trundle into places they shouldn't go, like the baby opossum I rescued a few years back as the sole survivor of its family which had embarked on an ill-fated trip across the highway. If you are open minded, and can get past their rat-like tails, baby opossums are about as cute as they come. Of course, there is nothing as cute as baby raccoons, except maybe little skunks. Just don't forget that they may look like cute little kittens, but are fully capable of reminding you why they have a reputation for defending themselves in the epitome of non-violent but powerfully effective self-defense techniques.
The cry of the whippoorwill makes sleeping with the window open particularly restful in the SEMO spring, and the glimpse you sometimes get of a spotted fawn can make you feel truly blessed.
Of course, not all spring things are without their negatives, as I was reminded when I got to our carport yesterday. A beautiful black widow spider was weaving her web, her shiny red hourglass standing out against her smooth, black body. The gorgeous creature really is harmless if she doesn't feel threatened, but people do get bitten when they don't see the tiny creatures and run afoul of them. With six grandbabies I couldn't let her do her bug catching beside the back door, so I sent the widow to be with her deceased spouse.
We are all so busy nowadays, but I urge you to get out and take a little time to relax and enjoy SEMO's spring, from the roadsides as they are blanketed with yellow, white, orange, and red wildflowers, to watching momma and daddy ducks and geese hustling their broods across the road, there is much to see and enjoy in God's Country - Southeast Missouri.
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