Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Musings...corn, fogging and bird strike!!!

Story and photos by Bruce Thorson

June 20-21, 2009, DeWitt, Neb:

Corn--Farmers in the DeWitt area took a huge hit from the weather. The fields were pounded with hail, the size of golf balls and baseballs, for several times in one week; one resident commented that after the storm passed it was so white it looked like a winter scene. According to Swanton's mayor, Charlie Runty, the devastated acreage could be as high as 20,000. I saw many farmers on tractors out tearing up, cutting down and tilling over previously planted corn and soybean fields. Many residential dwellings were having the roofs replaced, as well. The grandfathers, the dads and the sons all had the same message, "We've never seen hail damage like this." Many of the farmers were replanting.

Fogging--It has been a very long time since I saw a fogging, that was back in Williston, North Dakota, probably about 1967. Communities do this to cut down on mosquitoes. That first time I saw it, well, I actually heard it first. A Briggs & Stratton engine makes a lot of noise, especially back in 1967 when engine design and technology didn't do much in the way of cutting down sound, and then throw on top of that a sprayer and nozzle that spews out a mist 20 feet into the air. It will catch your attention and that's what happened when I heard a somewhat familiar sound from our trailer perched at DeWitt's baseball field. Peering out the trailer's window, I spotted a clean, shiny-white Dodge truck, a fire hose-like nozzle extending at an angle that made it not quite vertical and a then that mist billowing into the air. I jumped into my Chevy suburban and caught up to the rig. Motioning to the driver I wanted to talk, he pulled over. He mentioned he did this about once a week or so, cutting down those mosquitoes. I already had close to a dozen or so itchy bites on my legs; don't how much good fogging does, if any. I asked the driver what the chemical was spewing into the air. He responded with some long word like phenyl-diclor-oxy-benz-hydro-zine-drine-cohol...I said sounds like cancer to me. "Oh, no," he said. "It's perfectly safe stuff now." Years from now if DeWitt turns out to be town featured in a Stephen King nightmaris-like novel, maybe we'll know why.

Bird strike!--I didn't lose an engine and I didn't have to ditch in the Hudson River. I do feel sorry for animals that end up as roadkill. I try my best to avoid taking them out, ending their life. These critters and feathered friends are all part of the land's environment and the land's health. I was driving back to DeWitt from Wilber; just picked up some groceries. I saw the bird fluttering out over the road, just about grill-high on my vehicle. My grip on the steering wheel tightened, thoughts raced through my head as I hoped it would "get outta the way!" I pulled my foot off the accelerator but I wasn't about to slam on the brakes. I like animals and birds but I'm not about to get in an accident trying to avoid them. I'll try slowing down to let them live another day but that's about it. The bird disappeared from my view as my vehicle's hood blocked my view. I quickly looked in my driver's side mirror. No bird visible. I hoped it had escaped the collision. I did not hear that familiar "thud" one hears when a soft-bodied animal or bird strikes a car. About an hour later, after returning to the trailer and I had forgotten about the possible bird strike!, Patrick Breen, one of the photo students on our project, was standing at the front of the vehicle. "You hit a bird," he said. I walked to the front of the car, already recalling the previous vision of the bird fluttering in the air as it hung out over the highway in front of my 60-mph car. And there it was, lying on top of the bumper with its body pushed up against the grill, eyes closed. I used a paper towel to protect my hand, plucked it off the bumper, dug a hole and dropped it in. As I covered it over with dirt, I noticed I must have disturbed an ant colony, as they were running like crazy all over the dirt. Then, I thought the ants must have been calling out to all their fellow ants, "Buffet!"

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