Allan Bell’s Birch Bark Nature Notes revisited
This Fourth of July was a special one for me. Most of my family was together at one time or another and we were able to do many things that we all enjoyed.
A day-long pontoon boat ride up the Wisconsin River was a highlight as was seeing old, seldom-seen friends. We chugged up the Tomahawk River to the Jersey Dam where I spent 35 years pursuing the wily walleye. Bradley Park, Lake Mohawksin and Sara Park gave the young ones a chance to swim and play.
We savored a Lions Chicken dinner, saw a fine parade, watched a great water ski show and viewed the pretty fireworks. We were unable to get the pontoon boat close enough to main street to watch the parade but we did see everything else from it. And, even ate on it.
Over the several days, our timing was right to see a mink crossing the road with something dangling from its mouth, either one of its young or perhaps a 13-lined ground squirrel from a successful hunt. While checking those forget-me-nots I told you about, we found a turtle depositing her eggs in the gravel at the edge of the road. Karen identified it as a wood turtle. At another site, Lance discovered two attractive fox snakes in the 40-to 48-inch range. They did not wait to be measured.
We visited the Prairie Dells too, still an exciting place. Kjerstin found a way down the steep rock face while Grampa stayed on top among the hemlocks and pines.
Not by any means the least, was the meeting of old friends and classmates at our 60th Tomahawk High School reunion. All the ladies were beautiful. The men were few and outnumbered three to one. I guess we’ll go for 75 or 100 now.
Spring has slipped away and taken its enchanting wildflowers along. Summer crowded its way in and is rewarding us with its own special stunners. Two of them are elegant pink orchids and are out now in wet bogs, the grass pinks and rose pogonia. They don’t show off very long. Is this the year that you are going to discover these superb creations of Mother Nature? There are many others to see but why not start with the Rolls Royces?
The fields and roadsides are covered with white ox-eyed daisies. Nine-year-old Siri (my granddaughter, now minus two lower front teeth) was pulling off the white blossoms and saying something softly as generations before have done. Yarrow with its white-topped clusters of small flowers is competing with the daisies. Look closely at its featherly, delicate leaves. Each one is a tiny Christmas tree, if you have an artist’s eye as Nell Kadow does. She used them for some original, handmade cards one year. Now, take another look at this special common plant. Do you agree?
The milkweed is ready to flower. The monarchs are dancing in the skies. It is almost time to look for caterpillars under the leaf.
If you see some tiny pink bells withy rosy stripes, you have come across one of the dogbanes. The yellow flowers nearby may be buttercups, cinquefoil or St. John’s wort.
Wisconsin. What a wonderful place to live! How do I know? Well, why do you think we see all those foreign license plate plates spring, summer, fall and winter? We have water, woods, wildflowers, wind, weather and wildlife.
I got a kick out of that saying that said, “If you lived here, you’d be home by now.” I’m home. Wisconsin is my choice. I like it here.
To this great day – and tomorrow!
Late nature writer Allan Bell wrote this Birch Bark Nature Notes column for the Tomahawk Leader back on July 16, 1986. In revisiting some of his amazing work, the Tomahawk Historical Society reminds the public to check out the nature trail dedicated in his name this summer. The trailhead to the Allan Bell Memorial Trail is located at the High School parking lot and the mile-looping trail includes 10-interpretive signs that explain the woods and wildlife that can be seen along the way.