It was great to be back in Frog Pond Holler today after spending all day Tuesday in Nashville watching the current Tennessee House Conservation and Environment Committee dismantle the state’s water quality program.
I should say, with much gratitude, that Representative Mike McDonald (with support from Representatives Kernell, Borchert and Gilmore) did everything he could to keep science and common sense in the legislative loop for the selenium bill. But the sad truth is that the people who should be trying hardest to protect the rights of all Tennessee citizens to have clean water appear to have sold us out to the coal (and possibly the coal-power) industry. If this bill passes in its present form, we can officially announce that coal interests now run Tennessee’s water quality program, and neither we, the people, nor scientific integrity have a real place in the process.
For now, the two headwater streams that flow by my house on their way to the Cumberland River are safe. The bill that passed out of committee yesterday still has to go to the floor for a vote. And no mining leases are being offered up by TVA in their Royal Blue coal reserves at the moment.
I thought I might be too tired to go for a walk with my pets today, but Miss Celie (my Walker hound) barked me in to it. I think her main agenda was to roll in the pile of really stinky something-or-other — I think it’s a dead mink — because she took off down the driveway ahead of me instead of poking along with me and the two cats as we warmed up to the walk.
By the time I got down the steep part and into the flat, she was already popping out of the brush right about where the carcass lies. She looked at me, I’d swear with a smile on her face, and then bolted ahead once more before I could see for sure if she had fresh smeared dead-thing on her fur.
Overhead about this time, I saw a vulture being harrassed by a smaller bird…a crow I think. Meanwhile several blue jays were doing their thing, though I don’t know if they were squawking about my cats or about the vulture. This is the second or third day I’ve seen the vulture circling, and I keep hoping it will come down and finish off the stinking carcass so I don’t have to give my dog a bath before she comes back into the house. I was even so bold the other day as to move my arms like the helitack crews do, pointing out a landing spot near the mink to the circling buzzard. But today he or she was being kept pretty busy by the crow.
In the woods that parallel both creek and lane, I hear and then see a pair of pileated woodpeckers. I think they intend to nest up in Frog Pond Holler again this year. They’ve been fairly talkative lately as they move around a 3 to 4 acre area during the day.
As I clear the next rise on the lane and descend into the Terry Creek basin, a vulture shadow crosses ahead of me. I turn and look back uphill to see the aerial argument still in progress. I’m wondering now if the vulture has been trying to get to the carcass but has run into an obstacle with other birds defending their space.
I see my dog still way ahead of me as I proceed toward my Terry Creek bridge turn-around. Both cats are still behind me today. Sometimes one or both of them drop out of the column at the neighbor’s barn and mess around in there until I come back on the return leg of the ritual journey.
Now I’ve caught up with Miss Celie who has waded Terry Creek and is snurfing around the opposite bank. Yep. She rolled in it. I can see the streaks on at least one side of her neck and shoulders. The cats and I cross the bridge then reverse course. As we approach the barn again I can see the buzzard and now a hawk circling the holler.
Fifty yards later, Miss Celie streaks past us and takes a sharp right at the apple tree. By the time I get there she is already rolling on the carcass again, freshening up, I guess. The hawk and buzzard have disappeared, and the jays, too, but the pileated couple is making another pass over the holler and into the woods on Gobbler Knob.
At the foot of the driveway, looking up toward the house, I return to more serious thoughts about the unresolved stink on my dog…and the one made yesterday at the Legislative Plaza in Nashville.