Tom Clyde: This is the time of year when strange things happen
The wild raspberries came on late this year, like everything else. They are puny but sweet. Some bushes are bearing a lot of them, and others are pretty thin. Thistle has grown up in the berries making them more of a challenge to pick. I was scavenging some on a walk with the dogs, when something big moving in a patch to the side of me caught my eye. It’s not out of the question to run into a bear. I looked over, and my lab was picking raspberries. He was thick in the bush, barely visible, delicately picking berries with his tongue. He seemed to have an eye for the ripe ones, and was being very selective.
I’ve never seen a dog picking raspberries before. That night we had a heart-to-heart about dogs being carnivores (corn-based kibble notwithstanding—the label claims it’s chicken flavored). No dog should be ashamed of being a raspberry eater, and I’ve had other dogs who would come running at the sound of the freezer opening in hopes there would be frozen peas to eat. It just seemed odd, and besides, there are enough neighbors now that competition for the berries is pretty stiff. There’s really no need to be sharing them with the dog.
It didn’t make any difference. He still eats raspberries when we walk down the lane. But just as a show of canine pride, there was a dead rabbit in the driveway the other morning. Neither the lab nor the Aussie shepherd would fess up to that, though it surely didn’t get in that mangled condition by itself.
It’s been that kind of season. Nothing much makes sense. In a year when the river flow has been significantly above average all year, I’ve had more trouble keeping the irrigation flowing than in some of the driest years. The high runoff scrambles the riverbed every spring. The high flow can be close to 3,000 cubic feet per second. That’s enough to rearrange a lot of rock and gravel in the riverbed. The low flow will drop to about 75 or 80 cubic feet, and once it gets that low, I have to work around the new gravel bars to keep it coming. So I round up all the kids in the extended family and we go roll rocks, building dams a foot tall that steer more water down one braid of the river instead of another, hopefully ending up with a wet channel where the irrigation canal takes off.
Most years, we solve it with one row of rocks. This year there are three. Sometimes we have had to go through the process to get permits to clear the gravel bars with a trackhoe. The permitting process doesn’t work. It’s mid-July before the water level drops enough to see that there is a problem. By the time a permit is processed and issued, and a contractor found, the irrigation season is over. Moving the gravel in October doesn’t make a lot of difference. The high water flow the following spring will just move it all around again. So we stack rocks by hand.
The kids all whine about having to do it, but once we get up there it always becomes play, and it’s hard to get them to quit when the project is done for the day.
This is the time of year when strange things happen. The other day a bunch of cattle decided to make a jailbreak. They were in a pasture east of the river with plenty of grass and no possible reason for mutiny. But something spooked them — a coyote, cougar, their own shadows — and they decided to bolt across the river and graze in the yards of the cabins on the other side. Stupid as they are, cows have an uncanny sense of which cabin owner has the most serious lawn fetish. There are lots of yards and endless grass, but they always head right for the lawn of the guy who spends 40 hours a week with his weed-whacker neatly trimming around the trunk of each tree on his wooded lot. He mows 2 acres with barber scissors.
It can be several years between river-crossing incidents. These are not the same recidivist cows going back to the scene of their previous depredations. They might be a couple of generations removed from the last bunch to demolish the suburban bliss. But they always go to exactly the same place. From the look of things, I have to assume they had been planning it for several days, holding it in so that when they did make their escape, they could provide a very thorough layer of fertilizer. It was a sight to behold.
Of course the dog had to abandon his raspberry picking long enough to go roll in it.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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I must admit that, although I have felt much love wherever I hung my hat during this life, I never felt more at home in a new cultural environment than on my first trip down that coastline.