Looking Back

This week I'm just rambling, thinking about the trip back home to western North Carolina in about three weeks or so. As a child, I would sit on the edge of a huge field listening to the breeze blow through the poplars, oaks, beech, and evergreen trees on the old Jarvis farm--a gentle whisper undulating across the hollow announcing its arrival with a rustle of leaves high above.

2013-07-23_field

I sit now thinking of the little springhouse where our neighbor, Odie would store her canned goods, smoked meats and fresh milk. This was a cool respite from the summer heat, a bit below ground, with water flowing constantly from an artesian well through the trough and storage bins made into the concrete floor. There it drained with a tiny constant splash out of the other side into the small stream that defined our neighborhood of houses on a little dirt road.

In the heat of the day, when tired from chasing frogs, salamanders or crayfish (crawdads), my buddy Kevin and I would duck into the spring house, cool off with a sip of water from the tin cup hanging on the wall, enjoy the shade and strategize our next "foray into the wild." We would marvel at the variety of color on the salamanders (I later found out that southern Appalachia is known for its many species of salamander), be cautious when catching and releasing the crayfish, and never were successful at anything more than spotting the frogs.  They were simply too quick and amphibious for us land-based mammals!

One summer day, we found what we thought was some sort of monster. Kevin and I had never seen one of these before and we were directly on the heels of a Big Foot hunt (this was during the Big Foot craze when we were kids), so we were already on edge, having convinced ourselves that we had a Sasquatch on the mountain behind our homes. Since the Sasquatch was already in residence, why couldn't another heinous creature be lurking about in our woods?

Well, Kevin and I were walking along the creek and all of a sudden, from a small pool, we heard this "splash, splash" from the water and little clicking (barking?) sounds from the water. We look over the edge and lo and behold, we spy a legitimate, dare I say "bonafied" water monster!!!! This thing had to be two feet long, with legs and a huge tail! It had huge feathery things flapping behind its head! It was either a baby Loch Ness Monster in its spawning grounds (obviously) or a humongous tadpole, which would eventually grow into a giant frog and starting eating everything in sight! After reeling in our excitement, we watched for a bit, not sure if it would attack or if it was happy with its aquatic kingdom and was only warning us to stay away.

We decided to hop into the water and see what would happen (we weren't very smart back then). By the time we had taken off our shoes and positioned ourselves on both ends of the small pond that was only about 12 feet long, the mud puppy decided it had had enough and, with a bolt, disappeared under the overhang of the stream bank, never to be seen again! This was in the "pre-cell phone camera" era, ahem, so unless we had an instant camera or lugged around my older sister's camera (tried that, she didn't appreciate a dirt covered camera), we had NO WAY of proving that this creature existed!

We couldn't wait to get home and tell Dad all about this new creature...dare we say...monster!?!...that inhabited our little stream! Should we tell the neighbors? Should we have the Forest Service come out to collect and study this heinous creature? 

Wikimedia Commons - Mud puppy

Well, once we described it to Dad and the noise it made, he said, "Oh! That's a just a Mud Puppy! It won't hurt you and you boys had better leave it alone." Well, leave it to Dad to hose up a good monster hunt with the facts and lack of danger! This creature turned out to be a Necturus Maculosus or Common Mudpuppy, based upon the habitat range in western North Carolina. Now, these guys are called Mud Puppies because they make a barking sound, hence folks giving them that name. They are considered a very large salamander, looking like a giant tadpole. They eat small minnows, crayfish, tadpoles, etc., and are a good indicator of a healthy ecosystem.

So, while enjoying the 'present' is the way to be, a trip back to childhood adventures is not so bad every once in a while also! Time to get back to studying, polish up presentations, prep for exams, and finish the trimester strong for both patients (present and future) and grades alike!