Friday, December 14, 2018

Chap 28

***Chap 28***

Redtail approached the church grounds and scanned for edibles.  A young grasshopper hopped sluggishly in the damp grass.  Again, her mind began wandering.  “Lots of pineapple weed and peppergrass.  I bet the grasshoppers get pretty thick here later on.  The plants look lush and green.  I doubt it’s been sprayed –at least not this year yet.”

Redtail got to the front door, to find it still locked.  She set her things down on the concrete pad next to the building.  The overcast sky precluded Redtail’s need to find shade for her stuff.

Redtail stood up, stretched and scanned the church grounds.  Mostly gravel parking lot and driveways and the rest mowed to the tree line.  She wasn’t sure how far the church property extended, so she decided to browse the obvious for potential foraging.

Redtail explored about 20 minutes, and sat down by the front door to do some munching.  Then she sat back and closed her eyes.  Not long after, Redtail heard some crunching on the gravel and she opened her eyes.  Pastor Tix was walking over from the parsonage across the parking lot.  Redtail rustled into more wakefulness.

“Hi Redtail,” said Pastor Tix.  “Oh, no need to get up.  You here early for some music and crafts?” 

“I guess so.”  She got up and brushed off a bit, then continued. “I’ve got a couple questions you might be able to help me with.”

“I’ll see what I can do.  Let me get unlocked here and we can go on in.”

Redtail laughed a bit.  “Oh, it’s not a sit-down deep theological issue at all.  When I was here Sunday, the kids all seemed excited about eating wild, so I thought I should take them on an edibles walk.”

“Eating natural is a pretty hot topic these days.  I think that’d be fun and timely.”

“My questions were: Are the parking lot and mowed area the extent of the church grounds? And how often does the place get sprayed?”

Pastor Tix said, “Those woods are ours, as is the meadow out there.  I know we haven’t sprayed this year yet, but we probably should be doing so fairly soon.”

“I was also thinking I could do that wild edibles walk here on the church grounds, if that’d be OK,” said Redtail.

“I don’t know that we’d have all that much to eat right here on the grounds.”

“Oh, you’d be surprised.  There’s almost as much edible as there is grass out here.”

“Maybe that weed spraying is due quicker than I thought.”

“Oh, please don’t,” said Redtail. “Just in the lawn itself are a dozen or so edible species of plants and practically nobody’d notice them if it stays mowed.”

“I guess there’s no rush.  Nobody’s ever fussed about the weeds.   But I’m not gonna get to it today anyway. I gotta get stuff ready for tonight.  You want to bring your things in?”

Redtail said, “Thank you.  I’ll do that.  Where’ll tonight’s festivities take place?”

“We’ll be in the Fellowship Hall in the basement, this way.  You going to do more edibles hunting?  It’ll be around an hour before most of the people start getting here,” said Pastor Tix.  “I’ll leave the basement door unlocked for you.  And feel free to come and go as you like.”

Redtail foraged behind the church, nibbling from time to time on things she thought clean enough.  A car pulled into the front lot and stopped.  Redtail heard snippets of familial bickering between car doors closing.  “Mo-ommmmm! She’s…”  “Just let it go…”  “…but sheee…”  Redtail smiled to herself and peeked around the corner to spot Lydia and who she guessed to be her older sister and her mom.  Redtail decided to get involved.

“Oh, hi, Lydia!  I thought I heard voices out here.”

Lydia smiled and got instantly happy as she ran over to Redtail.  “That’s my mom, and my sister.  Dad’s got his music night tonight and we’re gonna…”  Lydia stopped like she was just about to let out a big secret.  “Me and Lucy, my sister, are gonna do other stuff.”

“OK, sounds like a secret mission,” said Redtail, as she walked toward Lucy and Mom for introductions.  “I’ll be sure not to tell anyone.”  Lydia smiled big, but Redtail could see she really wanted to spill what she knew.

Mom and Lucy walked toward Redtail and Lydia and they all walked toward the church together.  Mom and Lucy carried black trash bags full of what looked to be donated clothes.  Redtail said, “I can take one of those if you like.”  Lydia rushed in and relieved her sister of one of her bags before she could hand it to Redtail.

“You’re weird,” Lucy said to Lydia. 

Lydia stuck out her tongue at Lucy, and Mom gave her ‘the look’.  Lydia straightened up quickly.  Mom said they had bags of clothes for the community clothes closet in Higginsburg.  Redtail made a mental guess at Lydia’s being about 7 years old and Lucy being around 12, but she didn’t guess out loud.

Lydia said, “This’s my dad’s church.”

“Is not,” said Lucy with a condescending smile.

Redtail gave both a look. And Mom drew in her breath to speak, but Lydia shot back, “Is so.”

Lucy said, “Is not.  It’s God’s church and Daddy’s just the pastor.”

Amy snapped, “Girls, just stop it!  You’ve been at each other all day!”

Mom extended her hand to Redtail and said, “Hi.  I’m Amy, and these two wonderful” (she clenched her teeth and looked at Lucy and Lydia) “loving” (and then the ‘Mom-look’) “Well-behaved young ladies are my daughters.  And yes, Herman is their dad and my husband.”

“Well, I’m glad to meet you guys,” said Redtail.  “I met Pastor Tix Sunday, and Lydia last week.”

They arrived at the door and Redtail reached for the handle.  Lydia slipped past, grabbed and held the door open with a proud smile, dropping her bag of clothes.

“Why thank you,” said Redtail and she walked in.

Amy walked in saying, “Thank you,” and a bit more quietly, “and try to be more careful.”

Lucy walked in Lydia’s open door and muttered, “Klutz,” and made instant eye contact with Mom.  She then added, “Thaannnnnk you, Lydia.”

Lydia curled her nose and snorted, “You’re WELLLLcome.”

Inside the church, Amy poked her head into the pastor’s office and then accompanied Redtail to the basement.  Lucy and Lydia stowed the clothes bags in an unused classroom and soon joined Mom and Redtail.  Lucy plopped down in a metal chair and laid her head on the table with a harrumphing sigh.  Lydia scampered off to the kitchen and grabbed some toy cars.  Pastor Tix brought in a box full of snack food from the car and set it on one of the tables.

Redtail asked, “Oh, is this a potluck, too?”

Pastor Tix said, “It’s informal finger foods.  Don’t let not having a contribution keep you from fellowshipping.”

Redtail said, “I’ve got an idea for something I can get real quick.”

Lucy lifted her head from the table and looked interested.

Redtail continued, “May I use the sink to rinse some foraging?”

“Treat the place and people here like home and family,” said Amy.  “Go right ahead with the sink.”

Lucy asked, “Are you going outside and, like, just pick stuff?”

“Only the good stuff,” replied Redtail.

Lucy sat up.  “Can I help?”

“Sure,” said Redtail, “That’d be fun and faster.”

Lydia ran into the Fellowship Hall from the kitchen eagerly offering, “Me too!  Me too!”

“Mo-ommmm!” fussed Lucy.

“She’ll be just fine,” said Amy.  “I bet you’ll hardly notice her.”

Redtail smiled.  Lucy sighed.  Lydia hopped up and down happily.

Of course, Mom was right.  Only a minute or so after Redtail explained finding dandelion flowers when they’re closed, clover, henbit and dead nettle flowers, Lydia was off on her own chasing grasshopper nymphs.

Lucy asked, while picking dandelion flower buds, “So how come there’s hardly any yellow dandelions?”

“Well,” began Redtail, “most people don’t think of it like this, but plants really do have feelings.  I don’t think they feel pain or emotions like we do, but they certainly know hot and cold, dry or wet and even stuff like hard and soft.  Some even respond quickly to touch.  The dandelions know the bees aren’t out.  They know the weather’s damp.  They even know it’s evening.  They don’t want to waste energy being pretty when there’s nobody to be pretty for.  To them, their pretty is functional, not aesthetic.”

Lucy and Redtail collected almost three cups of dandelion buds with just a few open flowers.  They gathered a couple hands full of violet leaves, flowers and pods, some pennycress (sometimes called peppergrass), curly dock and dead nettle and wild onion greens.  Redtail planned to save the onion bulbs but decided to add them to the salad, too.    She stopped at a fat thistle rosette and pulled out her new pocket knife.  Lucy gave a small squeak and a smile.  “I have that knife at home.”

Redtail looked at Lucy, raising an eyebrow.  Lucy corrected herself, “Well, one just like it.”  They both laughed.

Redtail reached down and cut off half a dozen leaves near the base, and put them on top of the forage sack.  Lucy said, “Eww!  What are you going to do with those?”

“I’m going to trim off the prickles and we’re going to eat the thick part.”

Lydia, in the meantime, squished three grasshoppers and a cricket and captured a new ‘pet’ cutworm.  They all got back inside and Lucy found a big colander while Redtail started processing their salad.  Redtail said, “It looks like you’ve done this before.”

Lucy smiled and said, “We have a garden.”

Lydia gave a gasp and muffled shriek and ran outside.  By the time Amy got out to see what the problem could be, Lydia was squatted over a big black ant.  She was blocking its route with her finger, every way it tried to go.  Amy learned it was now a non-issue that Lydia’s worm got lost.

By the time the salad got all cleaned up and shook and patted dry, there was enough to almost fill a large mixing bowl.  “Not too bad for not quite a half hour’s work,” said Redtail.  “Thank you so mych for your help, Lucy and—“

Redtail glanced around for Lydia, and Lucy rolled her eyes and sighed, “Lydia probably got distracted by a butterfly or something.”

Amy returned, saying, “Or something.  She found an ant, but was upset that she’d lost her worm.”  Amy smiled and shook her head.  

Lucy clearly took pride in helping Redtail as she picked up the salad bowl and the little bowl of thistle spears.  Redtail took the onion bowl and headed to the groaning board (or food table).  The door to the parking lot opened and Lydia erupted with chatter, ran to the door, and escorted Chloe back outside to play with bugs.

Chloe’s sister, Kimmy, walked in, craning her neck this way and that until she spotted Lucy.  She walked brisky and happily up to Lucy and bounced to a stiff stop.  Lucy eye-gestured to Redtail and Kimmy spotted her.  Lucy made introductions “Redtail, this is Kimmy, my bestest friend and Kimmy, this is Redtail, my newest friend.”

They shook hands and Kimmy said, “Pleased to meet you, Redtail.”  Redtail returned the greeting and Kimmy added, “That’s Kimmy with a Y.”

Redtail said, “I’ll try to remember that.”

Kimmy said, “Yep, C-H-Y-M-M-E-I-G-H, Kimmy.”  She gave a self-satisfied smile and Redtail wasn’t quite sure how to respond.

Lucy looked back and forth between the two.  She sighed, “Nah-ahhhh, Kimmy.”

“Well, it could be spelled like that,” said Kimmy.  “CH like Chemistry, Y like in Lydia, MM like in, well, Kimmy and EIGH like in the name, Leigh.”

Lucy said, “That’s just dumb.”

“I think it sounds kinda fun,” said Redtail.

The door opened again and in came Kitty with a sac of goodies for the groaning board.  “Oh, hi, Redtail, and Amy, and Lucy.”

Suddenly a blast of music shot through the basement.  Pastor Tix shouted, “Whoa!” and quickly turned down the music.

Redtail said, slightly too loudly at first, but toning down with  the music, “Wow, loud but cool music.”

With an embarrassed laugh, Herman said, “Sort of my theme song.  I like it, and,” he smiled, “I pick the music.  Ephesians 5:19 and 20 says God wants us singing to him, so I think it should be singing we’re excited about as well.”

“I’ve heard that song before,” said Redtail. “That’s… that’s…”

“Larry Norman,” said Herman.  “I think the song serves to show the devil, in fact, does NOT have all the good music.”

Amy and Kitty sat down with bags of craft materials.  They both pulled out projects.  Lucy and Kimmy gauged movements on what Redtail was up to.

Kitty said, “Redtail, you mentioned this morning that you brought a craft for tonight.”

Redtail said, “Yes I did, strange as it may look.  But I’ve got an excuse in that I’m a bit different.” She proudly pulled some flattened catfood bags out of her pack.  “These are going to be weather-resistant supplies bags, and these will be firewood sheets for carrying more than mere armloads of firewood.  They’ll just be narrow sheets with handles on each end.”

Kimmy, who sat down across from Redtail, asked, “Where do you get your material for your crafts?”

“Oh, I got all these bags out at the Supply Depot behind Grandpa George’s place,” said Redtail.

Lydia asked, “What’s a Supply Deeple?”

Lucy and Kimmy sighed and Lydia gave an exasperated, “What?!?”

Kimmy knowingly and carefully pronounced and spelled, “Dee-poe.  D-E-P-O-T.”

Chloe giggled, saying, “That’s dee-pot.”

Lucy sneered, “Nah-ahhh, it’s French.”

“OK,” broke in Redtail with a sigh and laugh, “The Supply Depot is where I get lots of my supplies.  It’s a place out at Grandpa George’s where people put stuff they don’t want anymore.  They’re not supposed to do it, but they do anyway.  What they can’t use anymore is often stuff I can use quite nicely.”

“Oooo! Oooo!” grunted Lydia as she jumped up and ran around the table to whisper to Lucy.

Lucy’s eyes got wide and she glanced at Amy.  Amy nodded and the girls got up and dragged Kimmy and Chloe upstairs with them.

Amy smiled and explained, “They got some sort of secret project going on.”

The girls got upstairs and opened up the clothes bags.  “I thought we were gonna get caught when we saw Redtail when we got here tonight,” said Lucy.

Kimmy asked, “D’ya think she knows?”

“Nah,” said Lucy.  “She doesn’t suspect a thing.”

Lydia piped up, “She’s pretty smart, you know.  She might know.”

Kimmy said, “Well, even if she does, we’ll pretend she doesn’t so it’ll be a surprise anyway.”

Lucy gave Kimmy a confused look and a head shake, “Like, what-ever.”

Chloe said, “Mommy and Aunt Kathryn picked out a bunch of their clothes for Redtail.”

Kimmy said, “Mom wasn’t sure if we were gonna come tonight, so she gave our bag to your mom.”

Lucy laughed, “I thought three bags was a lot for just my mom.  When we give them to her, let’s call it ‘craft material’ so she won’t think we feel sorry for her or like she’s a charity case –well, she is, but…  I better quit now.”

The girls sorted clothes, taking a time to play with some and snip at one another.  Meanwhile in the basement, the music played on.

Ted and Jane came in with Kevin.  Kevin was a little disgusted he had to come at all, until he spotted Redtail.  Ted brought a music-skeptic friend of his from work.  They picked places to sit close to Pastor Tix.

Ted made introductions.  “Mark, this is Pastor Tix or Brother Herman or Herman.  Pastor Tix, this is Mark from work.  He’s one who seems to only hear that butterflies and rainbows easy-listening music.  I thought I’d bring him out to hear some of the good stuff.”

Mark said, “So far, I’m liking what I’m hearing.

Redtail asked, “Who is that?  He sounds so familiar.”

“That’s Bob Dylan,” said Pastor Tix.  “With your wild eating, it’s sort of interesting that the first task God gave man was to identify stuff.”

Redtail said, “Yeah, I wish I knew my proper ID, but until then, I’m gonna take joy in being Redtail.”

“Speaking of ID and wild food,” said Pastor Tix, “did you have a particular time you wanted to do an edibles walk?”
“I could come out and show wild edibles just about any time, but a few weeks out might make it easier for people to schedule attendance,“ said Redtail.

“Let’s make it the third Wednesday in July then,” suggested Pastor Tix.  “That should allow planning time.”

Redtail said, “Sounds like a plan then.”

Tourniquet camp up on the play list and  Mark smiled and nodded his head.  Pastor Tix said, “There’s lots of music out there for our demographic if you hunt for it, but it feels like the Christian Music Industry targets the soccer and stay-at-home moms and female office workers.  It’s almost impossible to find real rock music with a clean Christian message on the radio.”

Kevin leaned over to Redtail.  “Can I come to that wild edibles thing in July, too?”

Redtail said, “Why sure you can!  Bring Mike and Jerry, too.” 

“THUMP!  TH-Thump, BUMP BUMP…!” went the stairway.

Amy spoke softly but firmly at the 4 girls who emerged giggling from the stairs, “WHAT was THAT!?  Your dad weighs as much as all four of you put together and doesn’t even make a quarter of the noise you do in the halls and stairs!  Walk softly.”

The girls looked caught, but not really remorseful.  It wasn’t the first time adults got after them for stomping and noise –probably wouldn’t be the last, either.  They got over it pretty quick and the noise level went back up a bit as they swooped in on the snack table.

Amy stopped her needle-felting and Kitty stopped her quilt block to watch Redtail sew.  Kevin and Kimmy were already watching and the other kids were playing across the room.  Redtail felt the eyes and silence and looked up.  She glanced back and forth between Amy and Kitty.

Amy smiled and asked, “Do you make all your tools and equipment, too?”

Redtail paused to look at her needle and thread and smiled.  “I guess I do, at least on this project.  The needle is a big honey locust thorn and the thread, if you can call it that, is unwoven from a catfood bag.  It’s really pretty tough stuff.”  She shook out the sheet of about one by three feet with a handle sewn on one end and held it up.  “When I get the handle sewn on the other end, I’m going to employ this and another one to help me carry fire wood.

Lydia suddenly broke away from her play to run over to Redtail.  She had an anxious but unworried look on her face.  Kimmy gave a look saying, ‘You’re invading my space’ as Lydia squeezed in to stand by Redtail.

Redtail said, “Looks like you’ve got something on your mind.  What might that be?”

With a rare, almost-shy tone in her voice, Lydia asked, “How come your name is Redtail?”

“Ly-deee-aaaaaaa,” scolded Lucy as she neared the table to see what was going on, “That’s personal!”

Lydia crossed her arms and gave an exasperated “Welllllll?”

Amy groaned, “Oh girls, just quit!”

By now, the little fuss had gotten everyone’s attention, followed by a couple seconds of quietness where Tourniquet sang of God, asking, “...I wonder if He laughs?”

Mark glanced at the speakers and answered softly, “Probably lots of times.”

Redtail said, “Oh, that’s really OK.  I don’t mind.  I don’t bring up my name unless people ask.”  She gave Lydia’s head a little pat.  “Sometimes you gotta ask to satisfy your curiosity.”

“Well,” began Redtail, “Tom, an old guy I met early in my remembered life, called me ‘Redtail MacSumpneruther, the Scotsman,’ after I told him what little I knew of my story.”

Mark gave a muffled snort and said quietly, “Scot maybe, but you shore ain’t no man.”

Kitty and Amy gave Mark the look and Mark grinned sheepishly and dropped his head in his hands.

Herman smiled and said, “You know, you’re right.  But… well…”

“Well good,” said Redtail.  “I’m glad to hear there’s no argument there.”

Chloe broke out of her usually quiet box and said, “Well, I think Redtail’s pretty.”

Kevin whispered, “Me too.”

Mark put his head on the table and laughed.  “I actually said that out loud, didn’t I?”

“Soooo,” continued Redtail, “Tom got what I told him a little jumbled up.  I think he had Alzheimer’s or something.  I figured the name was good enough ‘til I remembered what my parents named me.  Grandpa George gave it some thought and shortened it to RT Scot, and that one’s even official and on a library card.”

Lydia giggled, “And on the Museum guest list!”

The door opened and in walked George and Sarah.

Ted said, “Well, speak of the d..” and got cut short.

“You’ll do nothing of the sort,” barked Jane.  

George said, “Sounds like some heated discussion was goin’ on in here.”

Redtail said, “Oh, I think we’re all just funnin’.”

Pastor Tix said to George and Sarah, “Hey, help yourselves to some munchies!  We got plenty.”

“We got here pretty late,” said George, “so we didn’t pack anything.”

Herman said, “Suit yourselves.  The offer’s still good.”

Redtail said, “Yeah, eat!  Lucy and I even brought salad.”

Sarah said, “Well now, that one’s got me curious.”  She took a look at the snack table and then to the wall clock.  “There’s still quite a bit for only 15 minutes left on the schedule.  I better check out that salad.”

Lucy smiled and accompanied Sarah to the groaning board, but she had cookies on her mind, rather than salad.

Sarah said, “I recognize most of these salad fixings, but not this one.”

Lucy looked at what Sarah pointed to and proudly said, “That’s thistle leaf.  It’s sorta like wild celery.”

Sarah sat down by George, who’s planted himself by Pastor Tix, the D-J, and across the table from Ted and Mark.  George looked at Sarah’s salad bowl and chuckled, “An Oreo salad?”

“No!” snarled Sarah, “I got stuff for both of us.  And they’re not Oreos.”

George leaned back and looked at Redtail, who sat on the other side of Sarah, but somewhat buried in kids.  “Redtail, your salad looks almost like the one we got for our program.”

Redtail smile and said, “I think it’s pretty much the same except this doesn’t have curly dock.”

“We poked around a bit in the woods for ya before we headed out,” said George.  “We wanted to make sure you weren’t out back somewhere when we headed in to see that you had a ride home.”

Redtail said, “I got to ride into town this morning with Chloe.  I got to meet her mom, Kitty and several other new friends.”

Kimmy and Lucy looked at George and smiled.  Amy waved. 

Pastor Tix interrupted the activity. “Looks like this is the last song on the playlist.”

Amy got up and started closing snack packages and putting lids on containers.  Most of the kids jumped up for last hoarding of junk food.  Lucy didn’t refill, and Lydia had to be a little self-controlled with Mom standing right at the table.  Kitty hopped up and started bussing tables, packing and stacking bowls, plates and other trash so they took the least amount of space in the trash can.  George and Sarah stepped back with Mark, as regulars and Redtail rearranged the basement to its pre-fellowship state.

Sarah commented, “Looks like you’ve been doing this for a long time, Redtail.”

“I got here before it was all set up for the Music and Crafts night,” said Redtail, “so I knew what it looked like to begin with.”

Mark mumbled to George, “I didn’t want to throw my wrench of helpfulness into this seemingly well-oiled machine.”

“Me neither,” said George.  He looked at Redtail and said, “Sarah made me clean out the cab of the truck today, so we got plenty of room for all three of us to ride home.”

“MADE you!?” said Sarah.  “I did as much physical stuff as you did.”

“You sure did a heap o’ pointing and sighing," said George.

Sarah gave George a whop on the head.

“Ow!” muttered and smiled George as he shielded his head from another attack.

Kimmy giggled.

Pastor Tix said, “You sort of asked for that love pat.” 

Sarah said, “I think you better sit between us on the way home to make us behave.”

Redtail packed up her gear and got her leftover forage from the ‘fridge.  Lucy got another small bowl of greens and bagged up the rest and handed it to Redtail.

“Thank you!  Do you want to take more before I run off with the leftovers?” asked Redtail.

“I think I’m gonna pick some tomorrow,” Lucy said with a smile.

Redtail reminded her, “Only eat the stuff you know about, right?”

George asked Redtail, “About ready to head out?  I can get your stuff for you.”

“Thank you,” said Redtail.  “Sometimes it’s good to have extra hands.”

They bid farewells and loaded up in the truck.

                                                                   ***Chap 29***

Redtail woke to a soft, high-pitched whining noise.  It got louder and louder until she slapped herself on the ear and sat up.  She looked at her hand and thought, “Great! Mosquitoes,” and she absent-mindedly licked her hand.  “You’re not takin’ any part of me away.”  She paused and thought, “I suppose I oughtn’t eat the little bloodsuckers.  There’s no tellin’ where they might’ve been for a previous snack.  That goes for the whole edible vampire clan: mosquitoes, other biting flies, ticks, fleas, bedbugs, lice and the other little bloodsuckers.  I think I’ve got my next library research topic!  How do mosquitoes find food?  What attracts them?  What repels them?”

Redtail stepped outside the tent, startling an opossum.  “Good morning.”  The animal stopped, turned and looked at Redtail as if asking if her greeting was directed at him.  Redtail smiled and thought, “Redtail Scot, Possum Whisperer –I can think of more appealing-sounding titles than that.”  She said to the possum, “Yeah, you.  I gotta be more careful with my cooking and eating.”  As the possum waddled off, she said apologetically, “It’s not like I don’t want to share, but I like to know when I’m gonna have company.”  Redtail swatted at another mosquito near her face.

Redtail wondered, a bit, what she’d do for this unscheduled Thursday.  She slapped a mosquito and swatted at another.  “One thing I gotta do,” she thought, “is get moving so any potential aromatic or CO2 vampire attractant dissipates faster.”  Her Thursday plan appeared.  A new foraging ground awaited, so she packed up her forage bag, knife, a lunch and water and set out for the conservation area out back.

The most productive foraging spots, overall, are forest edges and recently broken ground, which is to say, broken within the last couple years.  The parking lot on the other side of the wide spot in the creek would at least have the edges along the lot and the access road.  The morning sun began poking through holes in the light clouds.  Redtail stretched, took a deep breath and smiled as she approached her old campsite.  Her feet squished on the soft ground, confirming the good choice in moving the camp uphill.

Down to the creekside and downstream to the berry patch showed a big up-coming harvest of blackberries if Redtail could beat the critters to them.  Her mind wandered to competition with the animals and other fruit.  “I gotta keep my eyes open for May apples, and later on, for paw paws and persimmons.

Redtail arrived at the spot at the creek where Sarah had hopped across a few days earlier.  Redtail gave a sigh.  The water level rose about six inches since then, making rock-hopping impossible –well, without getting wet, anyway.  She weighed her alternatives.  She could wade across with her shoes on, and squish soggy-footed the rest of the day.  She could take her shoes off and wade across and put them back on when her feet dried.  She could also put off her exploration for a few days when the water level went back down.  Redtail didn’t have the tools and didn’t want to take the time to build a bridge or cut a sapling stout enough to vault the creek.  She smiled as she pondered another option.  “I’m a big girl now, so I probably shouldn’t sit down and pout.”  Redtail glanced around and found a fallen tree.  She spotted a place and sat down.  No, she didn’t pout, but took off her shoes and put them in the forage bag.  She carefully went to the creek and crossed.

On the other side, a large rock stuck up out of the forest floor.  Redtail figured it to be a fine place to reassemble her feet for exploring.  She approached the rock and started to sit down.  Redtail froze in mid-action.  She gasped and her heart raced when she saw what she was about to do.  Redtail breathed a sigh of relief as the reality of her situation sunk in.

A little embarrassed, Redtail said, “Well hello there.  I’d never met a hog-nosed snake before.  I thought you were a copperhead at first.  I’d never met one of those, either.  Shouldn’t you be on a south-FACING bank, rather than on a south bank?” 

The snake answered, “I’m hunting, not sunning.”  At least Redtail imagined the snake saying that.  The snake slowly slithered off and under the leaves.   

Redtail cautiously sat down and waved her feet around in the air.  She stood up on the rock and gave a couple light, flat-footed stomps to shake off excess water and debris from her feet.  Sitting back down, she looked around and listened.  After a few minutes of watching, listening, rubbing and airing, Redtail decided her feet were ready for reassembly.  She put herself back together and headed out to check the May apple patch she spotted while her feet dried.