Springhouse Ink

Volume 31, Number 5



W
ith the humidity gone the shadows on the lawn are sharp and at night the Milky Way shines like northern lights.

Itís the time of year when evening strolls bring mystery with every whisper of the cornstalks. The crescent moon is growing to a full Harvest Moon.

I was in a waiting game with the dog the other night. It was after midnight and time for bed. Sasha was out on some project and I stepped out to compel her indoors. Inevitably, left outside she barks to be let in 20 minutes after Iíve gone to sleep.

I called from the garage and then saw what I thought was Sasha running up the road. To see her running was not a good sign. Going to bed was not her priority. She was visible only in the dim light and shadows cast of the mercury light and seemed to be running strangely. But then, Sasha appeared right behind the first animal, running at the same pace. Though it was about the same size and same fawn color, the first creature was not my dog. The first creature was being pursued by my dog.

Neighbors have spoken of bobcat sightings in reason months. I went inside, fetched the headlamp and ventured up the road to see what was going on.

Sasha was not barking as she would if a possum was standing its ground. Instead she was running like she intended to befriend a dog. There are no other dogs in the neighborhood. She was apparently trying to get a bobcat to play.

A few yards up the road the headlamp battery died, but it was obvious the pair had left the road. There was no sound of pursuit coming from the dried soybeans. There was a distant barking down by the Saline River. The bobcat could have been up a tree by that point, frustrating my naive pup in her desire to make friends.

I returned indoors to watch some more television, hoping that exhaustion soon would bring the dog back home.

About 20 minutes later I went back out and heard the chilling sound of coyotes across the field. They were yelping and howling in a frenzy. A coyote pack will sometimes send a lone coyote into residential areas as bait. The dog chases after the intruder not knowing it is heading straight into the ambush of the hiding pack mates. A female dog in heat may be bred by a pack member, but usually they are simply treated as an easy meal.

There was nothing I could do but hope Sashaís long legs would allow her to outrun any pursuing coyotes.

In another half hour or so there came a bark from outside. Sasha was in the driveway, barking in the direction she had been running earlier. She responded by my calls to come inside by sitting by the mailbox and staring with raised ears up the road. There was something still up there somewhere. Maybe it had spooked her back to the relative safety of the yard. She would not let me get close enough to grip her collar.

In another 15 minutes Sasha was barking at the door to be let in. She had no visible injuries. She looked at me, hopped inside, plopped herself on the sofa and watched me with tired eyes. ďItís late. What are you waiting for? Itís time to go to bed,Ē that expression conveyed.

Maybe it was a bobcat she was after. Maybe it was a coyote scout. Maybe it was the Jiffy Cat, the supernatural panther rumored to scream and holler its way from tree to tree in rural farms.

Had it been daylight it would have been easy to identify the trespassing creature. Darkness allows only conjecture.

There has been another such mystery on my mind lately. As a young person growing up on a remote farm with two stocked ponds, fishing was a pastime to combat summer vacation doldrums. Fishing magazines sometimes carried articles about the advantages of night fishing. Fish are as hungry at night as they are in the day and arenít as easily spooked at night since they canít see the fisherman.

At our little pond ó it had the lesser number of spots from which to cast, but had the largest bass ó I chose my location and cast my lure. At night the fisherman has to trust his instincts, there being no light for aid in aiming and shining the flashlight could spook the fish. A cast too far would land the lure in the weeds on the bank.

I made my cast and listened for the splash, but there was no splash. My cast must have overshot and the line must have caught on a branch of the willow tree across the pond. Iíd have to give the line a yank hoping the lure would swing over the branch and not snag into it.

But something started pulling the rod away from me. I gripped the handle as the line slowly tightened and then snapped.

There had been no sound of the lure landing either in the water or on the land. There was no sound of anything rustling in the weeds. Had I hooked a bedded deer ó unlikely since the noise of my approach would have wakened and spooked any deer in the area ó it would have made a noisy run and probably snort.

I still have no idea what I hooked that night. It was as though Iíd cast into a black hole that simply swallowed up my lure and would have swallowed me, too, if Iíd held onto the rod and the line had held.

In daylight, there would probably have been no mystery. Also, there would have been no story.

This issue we shine some small light on a Hardin County man said to have been afraid of being buried alive. Henry Blakley had a pipe installed at his grave at Mount Zion Cemetery so he could breathe if mistakenly interred. The reason for this fear is stranger than we ever would have guessed. Read the story of Blakley in The Hypnotist of Lamb Town.

Weíve toured both ancient and more recent history at Millstone Lake in Pope County. People like to leave reminders of themselves in that area as we report in Reading the Signs at Millstone Lake.

John Dunphy tells of the grisly excitement in 1841 at the chance to attend a hanging near St. Louis in Tickets to a Black Abolitionistís Hanging on Mississippi River Island.

On a lighter note we print the diary of Corene Pearce recounting events at Johnston City Township High School during her 1921 to 1922 junior and senior years. She noted the bobbed hair fad catching on among the girls and was a faithful supporter of her schoolís ball teams. We stick with Pearceís original title Diary 1921, 1922 School Year.

We introduce the Salt Well Dulcimer Band, a group of friends based in Equality that have entertained people at churches, festivals and community events the past few years. Check them out in Salt Well Dulcimer Players Bring Mountain Sound to Equality.

The Rebel recently set out to get lost and perhaps ó at long last ó made a friend. But probably not. His tale is On Getting Lost in the Woods On Purpose. We canít recommend following his example.

Dixie Terry brings us potato recipes, a hearty addition to any meal on a cool night. Learn how other countries have adopted the potato into their cuisine.

Then we have other odds and ends, like Christopher Columbus boats sailing past Old Shawneetown, an armadillo sighting in Saline County, old tombstones that incorporated fluorspar in the design and poems by longtime contributor Paul Stroble.

Enjoy the fall color every chance you get. The window of leaf color seems to narrow each year. Just about the time the color begins getting vibrant there is a violent storm that leaves the branches bare. Enjoy the color, the sweet smell of leaf mold and the warmth of a few campfires before winter is upon us.


The adventure continues



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