My friend, Kayla, joined me on this outing, in the Wabash River bottoms. There were a few areas I wanted us to hit before sunset, in order to set up a gifting sight that we could check later, after dark.
We found an area that showed signs of travel and decided it might be a great spot to leave some goodies for hungry critters, especially the tall hairy ones, that enjoy banging sticks on trees and making whooping noises.
We laid out some sliced apples and peanut butter on a concrete ledge (the bottom of a road structure), about chest-high from the ground. After the snack was served we had a look around the area, and checked out some gnaw-marks
we found on some of the trees. Beavers obviously like the place. They had downed several of them and left some impressive chew marks on others.
Some of the marks were high on the trunks. Whatever had been chewing on them either decided they didn't
like the wood, or they were planning to return later to finish the job.
Finished with the snack setup and site-sweep, we left the area to go pick up Leo, another friend who wanted to join us on the outing, but hadn't been able to meet us early enough to set up the gifting site. We had several other areas of interest to check that night, so the gifting area would be left alone for ample time to be checked in private by any animals in the area that took interest in it.
After picking up Leo, we made our way to a site that I have long suspected to be an area of activity. A very old bridge, situated over a waterway, has ample woods and cropland nearby. Traffic in the area is minimal, and after dark, it's rare.
The weather was warm, and we expected to hear the familiar sounds of nocturnal animals scurrying about their business. We were really surprised to find the place eerily quiet. The only sounds we encountered where what we made ourselves, and the muffled hum of traffic along a distant interstate.
We hung out for a bit, hoping to get a response from Kayla's whooping calls, but none came. From here, we moved to another area, a secluded road near the Wabash River. This site gave us at least a little of what we were hoping for.
After engaging in some tree-knocking, we were excited to get responses from two locations. One came from across the Wabash, on the Illinois bank, the other from our side in Indiana, upriver from our location. There was no mimicked response to our whooping calls, though. It seemed that wood-knocking was the preference of the evening.
From there, we moved onto a newly-cleared road, that took us closer to the Wabash. The road ended abruptly, in a wall of piled logs and forest debris. I was driving my old LeSabre, and getting it turned around on the uneven and narrow path turned out to be a chore. Kayla and Leo spotted me until I could get it turned around. I have a habit of getting a vehicle situated into the "leave" position before investigating a site. I don't want to be in need of a fast get-away, and have to take the time to make difficult turn-arounds before I can leave an area.
Once we were parked safely, Kayla and Leo tried to make their way through the timber and underbrush, hoping to get to the river bank, but they didn't make it. The downed trees and underbrush was just too thick. Kayla made it back to the road unhurt, but Leo had sustained some bloody scratches while climbing through the brush.
We stayed for a short while, making some knocks and calls, but didn't get any responses. I'd had an uncomfortable feeling in the area since we arrived, and was happy to get away from it when we left.
Our next stop was in a wooded area bordering a swamp on one side, and a field on the other. We did the usual, and did get a response ... from an owl. :)
Back at the gifting site, we discovered that at least one member of the local wildlife had enjoyed the peanut butter, but didn't like the apples. It (or they) had licked away all of the spread, but left the fruit behind.
I checked both the ledge we'd left the fruit on, as well as the muddied ground below it, but saw no prints, or marks there.
We placed the rest of the fruit on the ledge, hoping some critter might find it, that maybe would like the apples. We weren't interested in hanging on
to anything that had been licked by whatever had eaten the peanut butter.
While heading to the next site, we made an unplanned stop in an area that caught our interest. It's near an abandoned stretch of train tracks in a wooded grove.
I stayed to have a look around the area closest to the vehicle, while Leo and Kayla started down a path, that appeared to have been a road at one time. They were soon out of sight, and I realized they'd forgotten to take their walkie-talkies with them. Mobile phones often can't get a signal in the Wabash River bottoms, so the walkie-talkies provide a more reliable method of communication.
I moved back to the car, listening intently for any noises they might make, and while I was standing there, although the weather was warm, I suddenly felt chilled, and very sleepy. The wind had picked up a bit, and I decided to get back in the car, turn on the heater and radio to warm up and wake up. I sat for a few moments, resting my head against the headrest, and was struggling to focus and stay awake. It was a very weird sensation to go from one extreme to the other so quickly.
It wasn't long before I saw their lights coming toward me, from the top of a ridge, so I put the windows down and turned off the heat. By the time they reached the car, I was completely awake and alert. Leo told us later, that he'd experienced the same problem while walking in the area, and that he too had a sudden onset of intense sleepiness and chills. By the time we were clear of the site, it passed, and he felt fine again.
There was a peculiar strangeness about the place, and none of us felt like it was a good place to be napping.
Next stop was at the Underwear Tree. It's called that because a good long while ago, a pair of men's white briefs appeared, hanging in some of the tree's high branches. They've remained there through storms and high-water flooding. No one seems to know if they were blown there, or if someone put them there, but the locals know what area you're referring to if it's near the Underwear Tree.
Here, a sleu of water along both sides of the road, covers a good distance. I remained near the vehicle while Kayla and Leo ventured a bit further away, to check out a nearby grove amongst the trees. They engaged in a bit of woodknocking, and immediately received a response that sounded like rocks being banged together quickly, very close to their spot. A good description of the noise would be something like, KLACK-KLACK-KLACK-KLACK!!!
Although they were hoping for a response, they weren't prepared for it to be so loud, so repetitive, and so close to their spot. It scared them into spewing a few choice words while they surged into a fast sprint towards the car.
They know I'm not inclined to employ salty language, and they apologized when
they reached me. We got quiet, and stayed by the car listening. We knew something was nearby, in the woods, because we could hear it moving among the trees, but it stayed out of sight.
We also heard intermittant splashing on both sides of the road. Maybe it was fish jumping in the sleus, and maybe not. We didn't hear, or see, anything being thrown our way, only the noise of movement in the trees and the splashing. We stayed in the spot until we ran out of time, and had to get back to relieve Kayla's baby-sitter.
All of us were tired and getting bleary-eyed on the way home, but it had been worth it. It had been a good night for squatching, and we weren't disappointed.
It was 0200 before I was able to lay my head on my pillow, and as tired as I was, my mind to continued to run with thoughts of the night's events. So many questions were remain unanswered, but I do know that "there is nothing new under the sun." Ecclesiastes 1:9
I believe God created all creatures, great and small, and one of them has a big liking for peanut butter.
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