Spring has sprung in Brownspur, bees are a buzzin’

Published 4:29 am Sunday, May 9, 2010

Couple of weeks ago, Betsy had volunteered me to crack the remaining pecans from those we picked up last fall, and since the weather was nice, I set up a cracking station in the back yard on the picnic table, next to the hammock, swing, & the grandsons’ sandpile. The table has one of those metal mesh-type tops, and cracking nuts on that kind, outside, is a lot less messy than in the den by the fireplace, since the broken bits of shell will sift through the top and pile up on your bare feet instead of spraying the room. About once an hour, I’d move the table a few feet to start another shell pile in the greening-up St. Augustine grass.

I’ve always had really good peripheral vision, and I kept getting the sensation that something was moving to my right, so the next time I shifted the table, I sat down facing thataway. It hasn’t been that long ago since the Brownspur skunks and I had a serious long-term war (I’m ahead 8 to 1) so I didn’t want one of them to slip up and spray me. I lowered my head to crack nuts, but peered out toward the fig trees regularly, hoping to catch the culprit.

It was not a skunk, nor an armadillo, our other yard nemesis. It was the fig tree itself. Nor was the wind blowing atall. I swear, it was the fig tree growing, that I was seeing!

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Spring this year just busted out, and overnight the world turned to green. But fig leaves grow big enough to hide behind (see Genesis 3:7), and these Brownspur figs were actually growing at a rate that I could see, although they seemed a little timid about me watching them directly. Yet when I’d appear to drop my eyes to the nutcracker, they’d go to growing again, stopping when I looked up! Sneaky figs.

I began to cast an eye toward the other fruit trees, none of which were growing at the Fig Rate. But I was looking toward the big dead cottonwood tree when another harbinger of spring showed up abruptly: a pair of courting wood ducks came cruising by, headed for their customary nesting place.

But a winter storm had topped that old cottonwood, which had been a big tree on the Mammy Grudge ditchbank by the haybarn when I was a kid. It took me weeks to cut and drag off all the debris, so the snagged-off tree is now only about 20 feet high. Yet the favorite wood duck nesting spot had been a hollow limb about four feet long and a couple of feet around, which had disappeared in that storm, but no one thought to notify the wood duck couple who had lived there.

Remember the old college joke about, “My parents moved away while I was gone, and didn’t leave a forwarding address,”? The daddy drake had that kind of expression on his face, while the mama hen wore the eternal expression of women the world over confronted with this situation: “I told you we should have stopped to ask directions, dummy!” They lit on a nearby hackberry limb, and I could see him telling her, “No, dear, this is the right place! But you know how those Neills tend to pick up houses and move them off someplace else without notifying everyone who needs to know.”

In the corkscrew willow behind me, when I took the full bowl of pecan meats in to Betsy, a native dove (you have to specify now, what with these foreign ringneck doves taking over) flushed from her nest, so when I went back outside, I swung my chair around so I could watch the nest. Sure enough, she came right back to it, followed in just moments by the daddy dove. The mama settled herself on the nest, either to lay or to set eggs, and the daddy kept edging forward on the limb, until he actually climbed onto the side of the nest next to her, and they began nuzzling beaks. Romance in the wild at Brownspur, before Mothers’ Day!

As it warmed up, bumblebees (well, actually carpenter bees) began their lazy buzzing songs around The Store, our nearby guesthouse, which is cypress and bored full of bee holes. I finished my pecan-cracking; the hammock was calling!