by Dave Curry
He came from Sandy Mallow’s kennel near Durbin. Just a few months old, all legs and big feet. The runt of the litter. Crate trained at a young age, he found out that he liked the family scene and didn’t care much about going outside.
When visitors came, he announced their presence as only a Plott can do. Usually so loud it would hurt his own ears and he would shake his head. But it didn’t stop him.
Max was already an old dog when we he first came into my life about three years ago. He was part of a package deal along with his owner.
If he got hold of a paper towel, he would slip off and tear it to shreds. He could be ornery and sometimes a little stubborn. When he was in trouble he would run and hide in the crate.
Any tidbit from the table was manna from heaven to him. He looked forward to our evening walks and would remind me when it was time to go by grumbling and mildly complaining.
When I had shift work, he was only too willing to double back and sleep a day shift near me.
He was a good companion and was always there with an enthusiastic welcome.
The walks became less frequent and slower. At nearly a dozen years old, sometimes he just wanted to stand next to a friend and sniff the air. I always said that he could sleep with the best of them. And now he does.
He will be missed.
Around and above
Someone asked about robins last week as none had been seen yet. There are probably several around, staying deep in the woods, protected by laurel and tall timber. They will stick to the south facing slopes where the ground thaws quickly, in search of worms and other invertebrates. These are the natives. But others will pass through from their wintering grounds further south.
Then while driving down Rt. 28, near the Coonts farm, there suddenly appeared a large flock of robins. Most were feeding on the ground, some were in the air leapfrogging a short way before settling down to feed some more. All were meandering generally towards the north and will continue their slow journey until they find habitat to their liking. Good cover, potential food sources, a little more warm weather and then they will be ready to get the nesting season started.
The first pair of killdeers has also made an appearance. These elegant birds are excellent flyers but seem to prefer running on the ground. Like miniature roadrunners, they dart in and out of the open areas and parking lots.
On the evening of the 9th, a raspy squawk coming from the swamp indicated the arrival of the first Red-winged Blackbird. This shallow pond covered with cattails is always a popular place for the RWBs. By May, there will be several nests there.
We peered down over the swamp pond from the Star patio of the Science Center at the NRAO while waiting for the monthly Star Party to begin. Two telescopes were set up for action just waiting on the darkness. One was a difficult little five inch Mead and the other a much more workable 11inch Celestron.
Bob Anderson and Frank Ghigo were there to orient the visitors to the night sky. A group of students from the Providence School in Charlotte, North Carolina, were there and stayed in the bunkhouse for a couple of nights. Two or three couples who were visiting the area also showed up. Later, a small group of campers showed up with their own small reflector ‘scope. That may be pushing the camping season a little as it had been six degrees that morning.
The sky looked iffy early on because of a few thin clouds obscuring things, but as it got darker and colder, the sky began to clear. Jupiter was first to show and brought along all four of the Galilean moons. It was especially bright and provided a nice accent in the bull, Taurus.
Nearby in the southern sky was the great winter hunt scene. Orion was there in all his glory. A favorite of most of the gods, he was considered the great hunter. And if you follow a straight line from the three stars in his belt, you will come to Sirius, the brightest star in the sky and the eye of his biggest hunting dog. The small dog, Canis Minor, is nearby as is Lepus, the rabbit, sitting quietly hoping all will soon pass by. All the while, Orion stares off down the winding river Eradanus. Higher overhead, the Gemini twins look over the whole scene.
Bob and Frank had hopes of seeing the comet, Pan-STARRS, but it got lost in the clutter along the western horizon. Hopefully, they will have better luck with the next comet, ISON, coming in November. It could be spectacularly bright, or not. Comets have a way of disappointing.
The next Star Party should be during the new moon in early April. For more details on times and weather, call 304-456-2150.