In Memoriam: A Favorite Slough
Time is a concept I, like most of us I suppose, find difficult to grasp. It seems like only yesterday I was seven-years-old, peering out the school bus window and taking in the countryside. Being one of the first route stops in the morning and last drop-offs in the evening meant long rides, and after enough of them the ponds, wetlands, rivers, groves, draws and grasslands began to feel like old friends.
My favorite slough was just a couple miles up the road from home. At 20 acres, it wasn’t terribly big, but to a child’s eyes it seemed massive, only more so when ducks circled above. In addition to waterfowl, I could always count on spotting a few pheasants or deer hanging out around the edges. In the winter, those ringnecks took refuge in the cattails, their last line of defense against another battering blizzard.
My first solo duck hunts came at the slough, along with a word from the landowner to never bother asking for permission again. Paradise. Come colder weather, I’d trudge around those cattails trying to roust a rooster or two. And the more I was there, the more I wondered. How many thousands of years had the slough been a landmark on the annual migration? How many sharp-tailed grouse had danced nearby? How many creatures, large and small, had sipped water from its banks?
As I grew older, the slough remained a constant, though the cattail ring dwindled to accommodate a few extra rows of corn or beans. Even so, two years ago it was brimming with life, mallards, teal and canvasbacks, shorebirds and even crows from a couple roosters who wouldn’t dare show themselves. Last year brought a time of drought. Discouraged there would be no hunting, I reminded myself this was the natural part of any slough’s cycle.
And then, in the time it takes to do a load of laundry or buy a gallon of milk, a match was lit and a plow hitched…if you didn’t know, like it never even existed. Ten thousand years gone in ten minutes.
Seems like a good time to blame. To throw hands up in the air and do nothing. But it’s as good a time as any to try and make a difference. Before somebody else’s favorite slough runs out of time.
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