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Pipevine swallowtail butterfly ... Photo by Pat Bean

 “Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which if you will sit down quietly,may alight upon you.” — Nathaniel Hawthorne

Day Four

Pipevine larvae

My camp site at Garner held one of nature’s surprises. Chomping down on tiny ground plants hidden among the short grass were a dozen or so pipevine swallowtail butterfly larvae. This morning as I took Maggie on her first walk of the day before getting back on the road, I saw the end result: an awesome pinevine swallowtail.

How do you become a butterfly? You have to give up being a caterpillar. It’s one of those lessons Mother Nature teaches us about ourselves. And with that thought on my mind, I left the Edward Plateau country behind and headed north on Highway 83.

Just as I exited the park, about a half dozen deer crossed the road ahead of me. The spots on their bodies, since they were adults and not fawns, identified them as axis deer, a species imported to Texas from India as game for hunters. While I’m not anti-hunting, and gladly eat the venison my youngest daughter shoots for her freezer every year, I could never put a bullet in one of these beauties – a contradiction many of us face in a country where food comes wrapped and sealed from a supermarket. I’m old enough, however, to still remember my grandmother wringing the neck of a chicken that would be our Sunday dinner.

I don’t long for those “good old days.” I’m quite happy living in a world that lets me, a lone female, travel cross-country in safety, with plenty of books to read and a microwave oven to cook my store-bought dinner. Maggie, I suspect, prefers these days, too. In my grandmother’s time, dogs were not allowed in the house.

My mind was all awash with such thoughts when I passed through Leaky, a town of about 400 residents and an antique store with a sign that read: “Sophisticated Junk for the Elite.” I laughed out loud, but didn’t stop to investigate. Sophisticated or not, there was no room in my RV for old, or even new, doodads.

South Illano River State Park headquarters, where purple verbena brightened the landscape and a vermillion flycatcher kept watch. ... Photo by Pat Bean

My sight-seeing stop for the day was at South Llano River State Park, where a vermillion flycatcher served as guard dog for the rustic headquarters. I was amazed to see this bird fly right up to the fence next to me. It was almost as if I was being scolded. When I mentioned this delightful, but unusual occurrence to the staff, they laughed and said he greeted all visitors that way.

Vermillion flycatcher ... Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

“He considers our office his personal territory, and wants everybody to know that,” a park worker said as she looked at my pass.

I spent a delightful hour birdwatching on the Illano River before saying good-bye to this small Texas park, giving myself a promise I would be back one day for a longer visit.

My traveling day ended at Spring Creek Marina and RV Park in San Angelo, a commercial park where I knew I could use my cell phone and get on the internet. My Verizon services hadn’t worked anywhere within a 50-mile radius of Garner State Park. That’s one of those traveling surprises that are not nearly as much fun as being able to photograph a pipevine swallowtail butterfly.

Sitting beside Lake Nasworthy, the park caters to fishermen. San Angelo is a convenient stopping place for me on my way between Texas (where family mostly lives) and Utah (where I worked for 25 years) so this was not my first visit to the marina. It’s a quiet quaint place, where a sign on the small combination office/grocery store tells everyone they can get snow cones and pickles, and where scissor-tailed flycatchers played this afternoon in the campground trees. 

After a walk around the lake with Maggie, I spent the rest of the evening catching up on three days of e-mail.  

Birds seen this day: red-winged blackbird, eastern bluebird, northern cardinal, American crow, Eurasian collared dove, mourning dove, white-winged dove, bald eagle, scissor-tailed flycatcher, vermillion flycatcher, blue-gray gnatcatcher, great-tailed grackle, ruby-throated hummingbird, kestrel, killdeer, northern kingbird, northern mockingbird, eastern phoebe, common raven, house sparrow, lark sparrow, vesper sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, European starling, bank swallow, barn swallow, cliff swallow, tree swallow, summer tanager, black vulture, turkey vulture, Bewick’s wren.

Photos and prose copyrighted by Pat Bean. Do not use without permission.

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