Reflections in Nature: Hunting interrupted by flowers

Several times this spring, I have been out turkey hunting with my friend, Charlie Fox. Although we heard and even saw turkeys, the birds never came in close enough to get a shot.

Still, both hunts were successful even though neither of us bagged a turkey.

Part of the hunt was on Mt. Pisgah, in an area known as Hick’s Hollow. Charlie had an old hand-drawn map of the area and wanted to show me a place where, according to the map, an old lean-to once was used to hide slaves on the Underground Railroad.

After looking the area over, we could not find any evidence that he had the correct spot. Charlie now plans to have a friend who has a metal detector check out the area for evidence of the old lean-to.

After looking for the lean-to, we heard a turkey gobble farther up the mountain and off we went in the direction of the gobbling, only to come upon an old house foundation.

According to Charlie’s map, the foundation was the site of a home owned by a Graham family. The old foundation was easy to find because there were daffodil flowers growing in what at one time might have been the front yard.

These daffodils were different than any that I had ever seen. Each part of the daffodil flower was doubled and ruffled. I dug up two bulbs to take home and plant in our flower garden.

While walking around the foundation, my mind wandered back to the family that had lived there. What were their hopes and dreams? Why did they build their home back in the woods, off the beaten path, where civilization seemed to pass by?

My hunting trips often are interrupted, especially if I stumble upon an old house foundation. Digging for old bottles compares to being on a treasure hunt, without a map to follow; however, if you know what to look for, nature offers many clues.

I wonder about the woman who planted the daffodil flowers and if she can look down in the spring to see the results of her labor.

One bush that almost was always planted near a settler’s front door was a lilac bush. There have been many times that a lilac bush has gotten me out of the doghouse.

Many years ago, I spent a day trapping and transferring beaver and, as I was leaving the site, my four-wheel drive vehicle became stuck in the mud, making it necessary to call a tow truck. Between the mud and the mosquitoes that tried to drain all of the blood from my body, I wasn’t in a very good mood by the time I got home.

Without saying a word, my wife, Mary Alice, looked down at my muddy shoes. Then came, “Bill, you have mud on your shoes and all over the floor.” I looked down and saw the big clods of mud that had come off the lug soles of my shoes. At that point, I knew that my rotten day would not be getting any better. All I could say was, “I’m sorry.”

Getting out of the doghouse with Mary Alice is pretty easy. The next day I gave her a bouquet of lilacs that I had cut. After hearing her say how beautiful and fragrant the lilacs were, I knew I was out of the doghouse.

Lilacs are called the mother of memory. The aroma emitted from them supposedly brings memories flooding back from our childhood.

Lilacs are a member of the olive family and belong to the genus Syringa, which is from the Greek word syrinx, meaning “pipe” because the pithy stems can be hollowed out. The pithy stems were used by the Turks to make pipe stems.

The family is divided into two main groups: vulgares, which blooms on the previous year’s wood, and the villosae, which blooms later in the season on new growth.

Lilacs seem to be day-neutral plants, which means that flowering, growth, leaf fall and other events seem more dependent on temperature than on day’s length. Because of this response to temperature, lilacs can have great value as climatic indicators and have been tested for this purpose.

Cornell scientists and their colleagues from the University of Wisconsin are finding that lilacs now are blooming about four days earlier than in 1965.

During the 1960s and 1970s, genetically identical lilacs were planted in 72 locations throughout the northeast, and it was found that the average temperature in the northeast had increased by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since 1900.

The greatest rate of warming has occurred during the winter months, with an average increase of almost three degrees over the past 100 years. The study also included apple trees and grape vines, which are found to be blooming eight days earlier than in 1965.

So, when we hear our grandparents say that winters were more severe back when they were young, we better believe them. And if you are ever in the doghouse with your wife, remember, lilac flowers will help you get out!

Bower retired after 34 years as a wildlife conservation officer for the state Game Commission. He has published several books about his experiences. Questions and comments may be sent to him at 153 Redington Ave., Troy PA 16947.