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  D e s e r t   E x p o s u r e   November 2009


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Tales of Home

From critters to cartridges, sometimes you don't have to ramble far to see something eye-opening.

Ya know, I get so wrapped up in telling folks about what I see and do out and about that I sometimes forget and take for granted those things that go on right here in the ol' homestead. There usually is something nearly every day to titillate me; hey, I'm easily turned on!

Up there right at the top of my list are my buck deer; they aren't around most of the year, yet when July rolls around, they seem to magically appear. This year I have observed 16 different bucks coming and going, usually from my water troughs below the house. They seem to hang around until October when most vanish once more. I have seen everything from a one-horn tiny spiker up to three mighty 30-inch-wide bucks of 10 and 12 points. Two of these big guys were pushing nearly two feet in height! I call them my "Muy Grandotis."

At one point I saw six little bucks of six to 10 points in a herd one morning, and that afternoon I saw another bunch of eight wherein five of them were 25 inches or wider and all were 10 points or more.

Five does have come and gone, too, and these are new to my property as well. One big old white-racked buck has already corralled four of them and that seems very early in the year for such.

One buck is an old favorite of mine, having showed up four years ago as a tiny one-horned two-point. He would stand there as I talked to him from afar. The next year he was a one-horned three-point; then last year he was a smallish four-point, with a flattened spike now on the right side down nearly over his eye.

This year he showed up as a bigger four-point and now has three eight-inch spikes growing up from his right pedical. Shockingly, I saw him two weeks later and he still sported two of the spikes and the third had grown nearly 20 inches and had a fork! As always, he stood around and let me talk to him at no more than 40 or 50 yards, very unafraid of me. He is always by himself once it becomes September.

As you might guess by now, I give all of the wildlife a free pass around my little valley. I will not harm them, even the lowly ground squirrels that come to the bird feeder and gorge themselves.

The dogs don't feel as kindly towards these ground rodents. Buko, my smaller dog at about 40 pounds, will lie very still on the back porch about 15 feet from the feeder and stare at the feeder in hopes of seeing a squirrel. If one shows, she will erupt into a flying missile as she tries to catch it. Most times, she is too slow, but she has caught two of the robbers. Strangely, she kills them and then does not eat them, but leaves them — the same goes for Misty, my other dog.

Both dogs and my tomcat will give all of the quail and doves a free pass as long as the birds feed within the confines of our backyard. But let the dogs and cat find them outside the fence and all bets are off! Go figger.



Right now I'm dealing with a large skunk, very white and not so much black. Very early in the morning, as is our practice, the dogs and I started off on our mile jaunt around the property; then both dogs got real interested in the culvert under my driveway.

I had just noticed a fresh skunk dig nearby, but thought nothing of it — until I got down on my belly and peered into the culvert. There was that dang big woods pussy in the middle of it! Of course, that cut my hike short for the day and the evening because I couldn't take the chance of it being out and spraying one of us!

I checked all day long and it was still there at the end of daylight. (This morning as I write this, though, it was gone and seen no more as we hiked. I held my breath every time the dogs went into thick brush!)

Two weeks ago I ran into another skunk up on my hill above the house. It didn't see me coming, so I started to talk in a low voice to it as I have done to many others of its kind. This one had a lot of black and very little white and looked young. At my voice it reared up that tail and pointed it in my direction; fortunately, I was upwind and no damage was done, except to maybe frazzle the little fella's nerves!



Wildlife isn't the only thing to titillate me. Three days ago I was walking on a part of my path below the driveway, where I have walked maybe 500 times, and I happened to look down and there lay a very old empty cartridge casing.

I took it to the house to examine it and found it had no markings. Comparing it to my existing cases, I found it to be a 45/70 — the kind used by the military back in the 1880s. I got on the Web and discovered that my find was made sometime between 1874 and 1880. It was flattened at the mouth; according to my Web source, the government had ordered troops to do this so that the Apaches couldn't reload and re-use them against the Army.

That info got me to imagining and pondering about if this case had been fired at an Apache or a deer or even a white man. If only that tinned-brass case could have talked to me!

To further titillate me, about three weeks before that and about 40 feet away from this find, I had found a pistol casing, again very old. It was marked as a .32 Smith & Wesson, a revolver cartridge first made around 1870. Could this have been shot in the same firefight as the other? It seems highly probable.

There are traces of a very old road going below the house and up my valley. It is not on my 1950 map of Silver City, so it was long gone before then. Could the military have used this road long, long ago? Both casings lay near the roadbed.

I hike that section of trail daily and have done so probably over a thousand times, yet the casing went unnoticed all of that time until this past month. Again, go figger!

My pop gave me his metal detector about five years ago, and I have never used it, but you better believe I will be unlimbering it very soon!

I could go on and on about the rusty knife blade, and the homemade hatchet welded from a piece of pipe and a truck spring, but you get my drift. Besides, I'm out of time and space.

As always, keep the sun forever at your back, the wind forever in your face, and may the Forever God bless you too!



Home for Larry Lightner is in Silver City.



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