Posts Tagged ‘Negro Bill Canyon’

Female spotted towhee — Wikimedia photo

“The accent of one’s birthplace remains in the mind and in the heart as in one’s speech.” — Francois de La Rochefoucauld

A Southern Accent, Perhaps

            Towhee … towhee!

The sound was coming from a bird hidden in a tree about halfway up Negro Bill Canyon near Moab, Utah.

Male spotted towhee

Drink ur tea … drink your tea, a reply echoed from farther up the canyon.

The sounds stopped me in my tracks. I had no intention of hiking on until I had spotted the two birds with my binoculars. I was sure I would see two different species, based on the different bird sounds they were making.

Although tucked among some small branches, I easily spotted the first bird, a male spotted towhee that gets its name from its voice. With a black head and back, rusty sides, and black wings speckled with white spots, it was an easy identification, even without the binoculars. But this basic bird-watching tool let me get a closeup look at the towhee’s bird’s brilliant red eye. Such details always delight me.

After the second bird sang out drink ur tea … drink ur tea a second time, I found it sitting in another tree. Except that its head appeared to be more of a rich brown than black, the two birds were identical. According to my field guide, this was a female spotted towhee.

Towhees, I had read, learn their songs when young, and pick up different inflections, even copy the songs of other species if they hear them frequently.

Perhaps one of these birds had a southern accent, like this native Texan. It was a fanciful thought, but it might even have been true.

Bean Pat: Brevity: Stripper Girl  https://brevity.wordpress.com/2018/03/15/stripper-girl/  Always one of my favorite blogs, and this one is an example of how the world’s language  changes.

Pat Bean: is a Lonely Planet Community Pathfinder. Her book, Travels with Maggie, is now up on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y8z7553y  Currently, she is writing a book, tentatively titled Bird Droppings, which is about her late-bloomer birding adventures. You can contact her at patbean@msn.com

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Travels With Maggie

            “Soon or late, every dog’s master’s memory becomes a graveyard; peopled by wistful little furry ghosts that creep back unbidden, at times, to a semblance of their olden lives.” – Albert Payson  Terhune.          

Maggie on a trail in the Tonto Basin -- Photo by Pat Bean

  When I came across the above quote, it moved me to remember all the dogs that have made my life better.

            There was Curley, my grandmother’s stand-offish white spitz, who once jumped out of a car at a grocery store and wouldn’t let anyone approach him. They came and got me out of my second-grade school class, and he came right up to me.

            Blackie is the second dog I remember, a cocker-mix, who shared my childhood tears of injustice as we hid away in the center of a large hedge in the side yard.

            Tex, a beautiful big gray weimaraner, whom was inherited from my ex-husband’s dying grandfather, came next. Tex could jump the backyard fence from a standing position, and gave my young toddlers horsie rides.  

             Two dogs named Rev, for reveille came next. They were loving family dogs, more attached to my kids than me, although I was the one who fed them.

Albert Payson Terhune with one of his collies

            Then there was a period of time, following a divorce and several moves, when I didn’t have a dog. It was a busy time in my life and I didn’t know how much I missed having a canine companion until Peaches came into my life.

            I got her from a young couple who were moving when she was about five years old. It was instant love and bonding between the two of us. She never wanted out of my sight, and it gave her great joy to watch over and please me.

            She was my hiking companion, instantly by me knee when anyone approached on the trail, but otherwise circling around, seeing the scenery with her nose. And if there was a group of us, she felt it her duty to keep us all together. She would run up to the  leaders and urge them to slow down, and then back she would go to hurry the laggards among us along.

            The last long hike she and I took together was Negro Bill Canyon, a five mile hike to an arch near Moab. It was a very slow hike as I was recovering from foot surgery at the time and Peaches was blind.

            A few weeks later, when she and I were out on a short walk, she gave out. I had to carry her home. I babied her, cooked chicken and rice for her meals, and watched over her for another few months before it came time for me to bid her good-bye.

            Maggie, my current black cocker spaniel traveling companion, came next. I rescued her from a shelter when she was a little over a year old.

 She’s as different from Peaches as a bluebird is from a raven. She’s a whimpy hiker, and she thinks it’s my duty to protect her.

Maggie in her favorite spot in our RV -- Photo by Pat Bean, July 2006

She’s my boss, not the other way around. And everyone knows it

            And now she’s 13, gray around the muzzle and slowed by age. Time has become our enemy. Her life expectancy is shorter than mine. And as I acknowledge this, the tears flow on this page.

            Albert Payson Terhune, whose words inspired this blog, was my favorite author as a child. I read all his books, which are mostly about dogs. He was especially partial to Collies. His first, and probably best known book, is “Lad: A Dog,” published in 1919 and still in print today. .  

Who would have thought that the words of this favorite author from my past would return and now haunt me.

            Thankful the good memories of my pets, while not obliterating the pain of loss, outweigh it.

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Morning Glory Natural Bridge -- Photo by Jay Wilbur

“I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read and all the friends I want to see.” John Burroughs  

Travels With Maggie

 I learned about Negro Bill Canyon Trail at the visitor center in Moab, Utah, where I asked if there was a good hiking trail on which I could take my dog.

Moab is located adjacent to Arches National Park that has fantastic trails, but dogs are not allowed on them. The kindly desk clerk directed me to take Highway 191 north to Highway 128, which parallels the Colorado River, and then to look for a small parking area at the trailhead after about three miles.

It was easy to find and soon my dog and I were hiking up a narrow canyon trail that weaved across a small stream.

My hiking companion at the time was not Maggie. It was Peaches, a beautiful golden cocker spaniel who was then 15 years old. Since this was my first significant hike since foot surgery, the dawdling footsteps of her four legs and my two legs were perfectly matched.

It was actually a great pace as the trail, with its tinkling stream, red rock walls, willow groves and other wonders of nature, deserved adequate time to be properly admired. After about two miles, the trail forked. Peaches and I took the path veering to the right, which went about another half mile before ending at Morning Glory Natural Bridge, a 75-foot tall, 243 foot arch span overseeing an alcove.

Here, in this grand and peaceful setting, with a canyon wren serenading us, Peaches and I ate a leisurely lunch from my small backpack before heading back. It was the last hike Peaches and I took together.

Negro Bill Canyon Trailhead sign off Highway 128 with the Colorado River flowing past on the far side of the road.

The next time I hiked the trail, I had Maggie, a black cocker spaniel whom I had rescued from a life of abuse. She had been a year old at the time, and from her actions on the trail I realized this was probably her first off-pavement walk, certainly her first time to cross a stream. She either had to be coaxed or carried across. .

While she never became the great hiker Peaches was, Maggie’s now quite eager to get off the beaten path. In that, she and I are alike.

*Negro Bill Canyon is named after William Granstaff, a cowboy who ran cattle in the canyon in the late 1870s. While the name is not exactly politically correct, it’s more so now since the name was changed from the original “N” word.

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