Sunday, November 25, 2007

Goodbye, Southeast Missouri

The Nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired in value. -Theodore Roosevelt

I had great hopes this week that I would be able to write tonight that the USACE's appeal had been accepted by the courts. Instead, I've read letters written by no fewer than 5 different lobby groups calling the St. John's Bayou-New Madrid Floodway Project a pork barrel project that aims to "turn wetlands into corn fields." This is perhaps the only time I will write this, but I hope the current administration decides to support the USACE instead of the environmental lobby groups. Within the next few weeks, Bush is scheduled to fork over 23$ billion to the USACE in support of various and sundry other projects. I don't know yet if the SJ-NMF Project is included.

Meanwhile, back in southeast Missouri, the great horned owl who lives behind the house continues to call every night around sunset. A pack of coyotes has made my house part of their nightly rounds through the county, lurking in the shadows of the mown lawn, leaving behind scents that drive Molly batty. I heard my first flock of snow geese last week but they were headed north where duck hunting enthusiasts have planted fields to make the birds stick around. Recent winds knocked all the brightly colored leaves off the trees in the park, leaving a barren landscape that makes visible all of the neighboring fields. Winter is setting in and Brother continues to shell pecans for his dog, Tip, and for his freezer.

I leave southeast Missouri tomorrow for my tiny bungalow in Columbia. While it's truly possible that I'll fill all of the closet space in the house with nothing but my vast collection of shoes and sundresses, I've felt guilty living among a 35% poverty rate in this big, nice house for two years. While many folks in the county have to ask for assistance from the state to cover their energy bills, I never see mine. Considering the size of the house, I imagine they're high, despite the weatherstripping and my constant scarf and hat use during the winter. My movers arrive tomorrow and will have to pack into the truck several big bags of mixed paper that I can't recycle here (but can leave on the curb in Columbia). With my smaller ecological footprint, I leave behind the comfort of having wildlife in my yard, the freedom to sit on my back balcony in nothing but undergarments, the tranquility of isolation, and the fabulous sunsets over the park. However, much to the dismay of my regional supervisor, I'll still make all of the natural resource decisions for the park (I hear him tonight: "Dang it! I thought I would be able to RoundUp all the poison ivy!").
The new Ozark Highlands banner will go up in a couple of days and I'll try to explain the geologic function that gave rise to such a diverse collection of mountains. Funny thing, the pictures in the banner will represent several divergent habitats, but each one is found in the confines of a mere 6,000 acres, all a short hiking distance from one another.

For now, I'm attaching pictures of me and Brother (as I interrupt his afternoon biscuit-in-milk time), several fun guys who made autumn surveying a blast, and a lovely old growth beech tree from Crowley's Ridge.

While I realize I'm not a great writer, I've had fun ginning up interesting aspects of southeast Missouri's natural and cultural history. I've left behind several topics that I really wanted to cover (vigilante Night Riders of Reelfoot Lake, mussels, deer...can't believe I never wrote about deer), and might (in an uncustomary fit of nostalgia) fit them into the context of the Ozark Highlands. Regardless, I hope, above all else, that as you drive through southeast Missouri on your way to Memphis or Chicago, you'll take time to see the sand prairies, the old growth forests, and the relictual sand forests of Crowley's Ridge. There are a few good places to eat, some nice vistas, some interesting history sites in the area. While I always thought of Missouri as a bland fly-over state like Iowa, I've since realized it's a truly dynamic state, rich with resources and certainly worth exploring.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Big Oaks of Southeast Missouri will stand strong through the heavy months and years ahead. Though absent of your grace, your care, they whisper your name in fond remembrance and await your revisit...