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John Van Gelder
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Posted: July 13 2018 at 6:48am | IP Logged Quote John Van Gelder

I have always been a woodsman, from the days on the old farm in NY, to the wilds of Alaska, and now in the mountains of Oregon. A long trail, and I can see the end looming up in the distance.

I have always had a special connection to the wild, something that is hard to explain, but here is an attempt.

A day in the forest.

When I find that the pace of daily life is too extreme I leave it all behind for a day in the
forest. There is great solitude among the trees, and I have spent many hours just sitting
on a log listening to the sounds that fill the air. On a summer day there is a sound that
exists at the threshold of hearing, a thrumming of the very air itself it is composed of the
voices of a myriad of insects, unseen and felt more than really heard.

Then there is the industry of the squirrels in their race to accrue a store against the
onslaught of winter's snow, in their frantic scurrying they seldom stop other than for a
hurried meal and then they are back to work, nearly oblivious to the watcher in their
midst, and if they do take notice of you it is almost as if they are wondering why you are
just sitting there, do you not have things to do before the cold returns.

But for all of their frantic comings and goings there is still an air of caution, for there are
hunters in the forest, they travel on nearly soundless wings and glide between the tress
searching for the unwary.

There are the sounds of the small birds, those that seem to exalt in the day, they have no
cares and sing just because they can. And just as you are settling into a reverie that
pervades the very air, all is rendered asunder by the sudden machine gun assault of a
woodpecker on a Tamarack spar, or the raucous screech of a Jay in protest of wrongs real
or imagined perpetrated by the squirrels.

Then off in the distance a hooting sort of sound, with just the hint of gravel, a lone Raven
in search of others of his clan, or perhaps as Raven's are prone to do just making a
comment on the ambiance of the day.

On a warm summer day the very air seems to be held captive by the trees, trapped
between the trunks, pinioned to the ground of by errant beams of light, and all so still that
motes suspended in these beams seem to be removed from the physical world, unbound
by such mundane things a gravity and the ebb and flow of time.

I recall one such day, and as I am loath to do when wandering the forest searching for the
perfect stump upon which to test my archers eye, as I entered, what to most would have
appeared an impenetrable tangle of fallen Lodgepole and Tamarack, to my eye was the
high road of the squirrels, a challenge of sorts to traverse this giant's game of jackstraws
with out touching the ground. Knowing that someplace ahead when precariously perched
on some great teetering bole that perfect stump would reveal itself and as per the rules of
this particular hunt the shot must be made from the most unlikely of positons, the shaft
threaded between an undetermined number of obstacles, with no attempt made to get
closer or to make the shot easier, the rule being "one must play the stump where it lies".

However on this particular day as I was attempting to emulate a some what large and
much more clumsy squirrel, passing along the length of a fallen pine, my eye was

distracted by a sudden flash, a small thing from some undetermined distance a dazzle of
the purest cerulean, like the twinkling of a star fallen to earth. I was immediately
captivated, what could this have been in a realm of browns and greens, something that
scintillated in the purest blue.

All thoughts of stumps, were gone I must know what this was, as with all things caught in
the corner of the eye, upon direct examination they seem to vanish, but no there it was
again, some place just out of this grove on the edge of the new growth in a clearing,
something that appeared to be subject to the vagaries of the wind, what little there was
on such a day.

The tangle was crossed with some effort and the clearing gained at last, spurred on by
occasional gem like flashes, I made my way to their point of origin, still imagining some
man made artifact, a bit of painted metal, or broken glass, I was most surprised when I
approached a Spruce sapling and saw suspended from a needle on a single limb a perfect
drop of dew, of a size that it, prism like had refracted the light, deflecting all the colors
save the blue.

I paused for a moment to reflect upon the chain of circumstance that lead me to this point
to stand and gaze in awe on a drop of water, I imagined that someplace lost in the mists
of time on a day such as this another archer had stopped in his persuits because
something unexplained had caught his eye. I take comfort in that thought ,that no matter
how far we have come or what we have accomplished we can still see the beauty in the
smallest of things.

Here in lies the truth of my wanderings in the forest, about my sojourns in the wilderness, I
go where I do, not for the hunt or the kill, it is because when I leave civilization
behind the scales fall from my eyes and I am able see the wonder that is all around.

Like the rainbow hues seen in a moving turkey feather, ah but that will be for another
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Posted: July 13 2018 at 11:30pm | IP Logged Quote turbo1889

Dang, a poet warrior among us.

What part of, "the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be INFRINGED" don't you understand ?!?!?

To the most serious charge of "ARMING WOMEN" I plead guilty on multiple counts.
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John Van Gelder
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Joined: November 09 2004
Location: NE Oregon
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Posted: July 14 2018 at 4:53am | IP Logged Quote John Van Gelder

I use to write a lot of short stories, back when I had a muse, but she died and the stories just dried up.
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John Van Gelder
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Joined: November 09 2004
Location: NE Oregon
Posts: 2125
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Posted: July 14 2018 at 6:04am | IP Logged Quote John Van Gelder

The Bear in the Tree

It was a very pleasant day the last week in July, I had just returned from LaGrande with a load of hay on a borrowed trailer. I had just gotten the trailer maneuvered into place, near the fence line of my upper pasture, and was starting to stack the hay. As usual I have dog helpers, my smaller dog Scooter, is my look out and long range scout, my German Sheppard, Jason tends to be the body guard and stays closer to me, unless Scooter finds something interesting.

Jason had found a comfortable spot in the shade and was helping me unload the hay by staying out of the way. I had unloaded five or six bales when Scooter started barking at something, he was in a stand of trees about 200 yards away. This immediately pulled my body guard off his post and sent him at the dead run to investigate what his partner was barking at.

I digress for a moment, Jason is my barker, he barks if the neighbors, a ˝ mile away are talking loudly, or if they start up their chainsaw, he barks at coyotes howling at the moon two canyons away or he barks if the cattle that graze up here in the summer get too close to “his property”. Scooter on the other hand is very quiet, he only barks if there is something close, and he shows a particular interest in bears. So, when Scooter barks, I drop whatever I am doing and go to see what it is.

When Jason got to where Scooter was, he started barking as well, an indication that there was something there. I went to investigate and found the dogs both in a high state of agitation in a stand of big tress and bushes, Jason was looking up into one of the trees. I looked up in the tree and could see nothing, this is when things turned to lite comedy. I did not see anything, so I looked at Jason he was looking up in the tree and then he would look at me, then I looked up in the tree, still not seeing the object of all the aggravation. We repeated this scenario a few times and I could almost tell that Jason was getting upset with me, and if he could have spoken, would have said something on the order of “can't you see, he's right there”.   

I finally decided it was my point of perspective and walked around an intervening tree, once I was looking at the same tress as Jason, it was obvious what they were barking at, about 15 feet over my head was a bear, the bear was much more afraid of us then we were of him. I do not like to have bears around where my horses are, but am of the opinion that if the dogs give them a good scare they will not be back.

The dogs and I told the bear that he was on notice, not to come back or “measures' would be taken, we retreated to allow the bear to leave gracefully. I congratulated the lads on another fine piece of work, this was not their first bear. I had the dogs with me until I finished stacking the hay, then we went back to check on the bear, he had taken “our” advice and beaten a hasty retreat.

A happy ending for one and all.

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Posted: July 14 2018 at 2:01pm | IP Logged Quote doghawg


I'm assuming that while you were looking up in the tree there was some hardware on your hip.


Unless you're the lead sled dog the scenery never changes.
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John Van Gelder
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Joined: November 09 2004
Location: NE Oregon
Posts: 2125
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Posted: July 15 2018 at 4:28am | IP Logged Quote John Van Gelder

I have lots of interactions with bears and big cats, I am armed most of the time.
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