February 2, 2019 11:35:55 PM
"We lay down our tracks every day as if in new snow. We make a path that was not there before."
-- Gunilla Norris, "Embracing the Seasons"
There we were standing in the woods, surrounded by half-eaten and mostly-eaten bodock (bois d'arc) balls. Something had a party. Dozens of the lime green fruit were scattered across the ground like bowling balls. The only critters I've seen eating the fruit are squirrels. I've been told horses will eat them, thus they are also called "horse apples," but I've never witnessed it myself. I supposed as the weather got colder and colder the bodock balls looked better and better and they started to vanish, until we came up on the scattered bits and pieces.
It was a brisk afternoon when Sam and I decided to walk the property's 5,174-foot perimeter. It'd be good exercise, get us out of the house, and we'd check the property lines at the same time. Sure enough, here and there tree limbs had fallen, some straddling the fence. Most we could pull off and leave for animal habitat and to replenish the earth. We followed an old road bed while Sam pointed out rubs and scrapes made by deer. Just over the property line is a deer stand that probably hasn't been used in some time. We can always hope. Nearby, the spillway ran from the big lake. That day, like most days, the water was high and running fast.
We laughed at how we used to tear up a beaver dam and the beaver would build it back. Then one day we figured out maybe we should leave his dam, reserving water for summer's drought. So, we built the dam back ourselves and the beaver never returned. I'm guessing he thought it was about the sorriest dam he'd ever seen.
We continued walking across the dam toward the sinking sun. Below, the fields were plowed; trails were rutted up by deer crossing. More than a few deer were crossing the property -- probably while we're inside watching the local news.
On the other side of the lake we walked the sedge field alongside the wood line. In front of us we spotted a fox squirrel busily rooting around in the grass. It was odd the squirrel didn't hightail it off like they usually do. We continued our approach. Finally, when we were steps away, he scurried into the woods and disappeared. Sam thought the squirrel had a limp, maybe even a bodock thorn in its foot. Around us were several squirrel nests, high and swaying in the trees.
When we got close to the roadside, we spotted a few more finds: one amber-colored beer bottle, one crushed Bud Light beer can peppered with holes the size of BBs, and one tiny rodent skull.
Sam thought the holes in the can were those of a critter trying to get what was left inside the can. Maybe even a guest at the bodock party. And the skull ... that's anybody's guess.
(Author's note: I later learned the tiny skull was that of a Prairie vole. Interesting tidbit, Prairie voles are sexually monogamous.)
Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.
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