Friday, August 7, 2015

Dog Days Of Summer

As with the rest of the country we are in the dog days of summer.
Only..............the dog days in Idaho (and at 5000 feet) are a little different this year than much of the country.
We have had no rain in weeks, and the lushness and green-ness of the Snake River Plain is finally retreating, leaving only dry and crunchy and beige vegetation in its wake.
 This is now the third August that we have spent in this house.
During our first August here we had only been in Atomic City for a month, and the dry, unbearable, seemingly unending heat was oppressive and depressing............

August last year was so rainy that the raceway we had in town cancelled all of its races (all two of them) that month, including the year-end finale.  
I remember clearly donning rain jacket and wool hat on that particular day, and wandering down the road with Kory to see if any parts of the race could be salvaged.
Campers lined the main road in town, and the raceway grounds were also packed, and as I walked in the coolness and dampness of August 2014 I watched as speedway organizers put their heads together on the track while discussing whether or not they could pump enough water off the track to make the race happen.
And I watched as restless racers and families wandered impatiently up and down the road as they waited on the final word.
Many of these racers were local, but many had also traveled from places like Montana and Wyoming and Utah.
Most of the weekend ended up being cancelled, and a speedway that had been financially struggling for a few years finally called 2014 a losing year, dejectedly went home, and made the decision to not open the raceway in 2015..............

August so far this year has been dry, with a ever-changing combination of temperatures hovering around 100 degrees on some days, and hovering around 65 on other days.
One night temperatures dipped down close to freezing.
With such wild temperature swings we have repeatedly put off going camping at Mud Lake - too hot to be out on the water and too cold to enjoy so-called summer camping, and we are hoping that (just like Goldilocks)  next week will be just right...............

The deer disappeared from town early in the winter last year, and every day Kory and I wandered around our cold and silent town in search of them, only to be disappointed.
Six weeks or so ago I heard stories from residents that deer were returning to town, but it was a couple more weeks before Kory and I finally ran into them.
These two does were grazing on the property across the road from us a few days ago, and I snapped these pictures.................
Deer are now wandering in town and on the outskirts of town either alone or in small herds of twos and threes.
There is at least one set of twins floating around town with their mother, and on a number of occasions we have seen two does traveling with their two babies.
Occasionally we see a lone doe walking and grazing and sitting in the shade of one tree or another around town.
And then there are the bucks.
For weeks residents on the far side of town told us about the three bucks that wander through town.
The first time we saw the bucks was while slowly driving a trail close to town.
As we by-passed a large clump of sage bushes they suddenly stood in alarm and turned to face us.
LC stopped the Suburban on the trail and I snapped these quick pictures, not really sure if they would come out because I was simply pointing and shooting quickly and without taking care, before the bucks decided to bolt.
They were huge.  With large racks.  Healthy and beautiful creatures and it was very wonderful to see them so unexpectedly on our drive.
They stood in one place for a couple of minutes and I continued to quickly snap pictures in what was fading light late in the day, hoping that at least some of them would come out.
Eventually one buck turned and began to trot away, and the other buck quickly followed suit.............
Kory and I saw them again a few days later - this time all three of them (the two adult bucks and one obviously a little younger with a less developed rack) that we came across while walking on the same trail.
Kory was running along the trail ahead of me, and all three bucks suddenly popped up (again out of the same tall sage bushes).  It was obvious that we had inadvertently found where these guys liked to bed down and retreat from town.
After my initial delight at seeing all three big boys, I quickly turned my attention back to Kory.
Just as I caught sight of her, she disappeared into the sage bushes on our side of the fence.
I had no doubt that my dog had just jumped the fence and that the next time I saw her she would be ecstatically chasing the three bucks.
Anxiously calling to her I waited for her appear close to the three deer at any moment, gleefully giving chase.
A mother had chased after Kory not long ago - obviously not intent on catching and hurting Kory, but just chasing her away from her baby.  Kory had run away from the momma like a scared rabbit on that day.
I was not certain that the bucks would be so forgiving if they turned on her, and so I called to her a couple of times in quick succession, knowing full well that if she had jumped the fence and was going to chase the deer, she would not pay attention to my calls.
No way.  No how.  Not when she was in a focused and hard driving charge.
 The deer remained in one place, still unmoving.
That made no sense.  
And then it DID make sense.
Kory had not jumped the fence after all, and happily came trotting in my direction as I called her one last time.
Well THAT was unexpected.
She HAD to have seen them.  Did the doe chasing after her make an impression?  I have no idea............
While wandering on BLM land in the Suburban with LC and Kory the other night, we stopped at this place.
It is only a few miles from the house, but sits in the middle of wide open and mostly flat desert land.
It was very late in the day and the sun was already beginning to descend below the mountains to the north west of us.
The combination of light and shadow across the desert floor was beautiful, and after a very very hot and dry day, the lower temperature of early evening was beautiful as well.
As soon as I opened the door to the truck my dog bolted out, and immediately ran over to the huge tank.
This used to be a place where animals grazed and watered, but it has been silent and empty for at least the two years that we have been here.
With the sun blazing behind the tank I snapped this picture....................
Looking back the way we had come...................
Heading slowly towards the old tank I watched my dog sniff enthusiastically at one side of the tank and then quickly run to the other side of the tank to do the same thing.
I had seen little rabbits at this place only a few days before, while on a short bike ride, and knew that Kory was tracking their movements..................
She is a bunny killing fool.
More times than not she does not catch them, but occasionally she does, and when she does, they die.
Walking beyond the power poles I saw a flurry of movement to my right.
Little bunny ran out from underneath an old water trough, my dog immediately began to chase, and as I watched them I instinctively knew that bunny was not moving quickly enough.
Five seconds later I heard a squeak.
Turning I watched my dog bite the sweet little bunny.
It squeaked again but only once.
LC and I had decided a long time ago that we hoped she would not catch the rabbits that she chased, but that if she did, she could have them.
She doesn't eat them.  In fact, once they stop squeaking she simply mouths her kills a few times almost as if to say "Well c'mon!  Run some more so I can chase you!".
Once they are dead Kory is done with them, and she walks away a little prouder and I walk away a little sadder for the loss of a sweet little creature.
But also knowing that there are enough small predators out in the desert, that at least little bunny will feed something...............
A little boy asked me not long ago if Kory liked to play with balls or liked to play fetch.
We have tried to play with her but after knowing this dog for almost two years now we have learned that what she really loves to do is run, jump and chase.
Those things bring her true joy.
It is hard to get an "action" picture of our dog.  Sometimes she is out of range.  Sometimes she ducks behind sage bushes.  Sometimes she is half a mile away by the time I have dug my camera out of the side pocket of my shorts.
But I was lucky enough to capture this picture the other night.  She hesitated a second longer than expected, and so I cut her back legs and tail out of the picture because of mistiming, and it is slightly out of focus but I like it anyway..................
Heading for home after a long run...................
One more late evening, one more trip out onto BLM land.
This time right at the edge of town...................
Water, water, water.... There is no shortage of water in the desert but exactly the right amount , a perfect ratio of water to rock, water to sand, insuring that wide free open, generous spacing among plants and animals, homes and towns and cities, which makes the arid West so different from any other part of the nation. There is no lack of water here unless you try to establish a city where no city should be................EDWARD ABBEY, Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness

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