Joining The Warring Factions

by Curt Kovener 

Here in Indiana it appears that a bill is making its way through the legislature that will make it okay to say “ Merry Christmas” in public schools. I didn’t know that it wasn’t OK to send out the winter holiday message. But apparently the law-to-be is a result of what one state senator claims is “A War on Christmas”.

Our friends in Eastern Kentucky insist that due to clean air regulations and greater availability of natural gas that there is “A War on Coal”.

So joining in with the warmongers, this past weekend I declared “A War on Sumac”; specifically the sumac growing on the dam in the wilderness.

For the herbaceously challenged, sumac is a brittle wood tree which quickly grows to about the size of a broomstick. It has thin narrow leaves which turn a brilliant red in the fall which account for its only redeeming woodland value…that and the fact that young white tail bucks like to use it to rub the velvet from their juvenile antlers.

It is also called poison sumac and it has the ability, once a stalk is cut, to replicate from its stump  with a vengeance.

Three years ago I spent an afternoon with a saw-bladed weed whacker cutting the trees which block my view of the wild turkeys feeding below the dam. The other reason the sumac needs to be eradicated is that tree roots and dams do not mix well.

So with some warmer weather I employed some old and new warfare tactics: a long handled tree pruner and some basal bark herbicide to keep the sumac from coming back.

It is a process of cut, spray the stump, move to the next tree. Progress is slow as it is a matter of cutting the tree, spraying the stump before you lose sight of it, then tossing the cut tree (upwards of 8′ tall) down to the bottom of the dam so I don’t trip on it. An easy but time consuming task.

My back lets me know when it is time for a rest and some liquid analgesic.

Charley was glad to get out and explore and eventually just laid down in a sunny spot to observe and rest his old bones.

We both were enjoying the warmer temperatures and I eventually worked up a sweat and removed some of the layers of shirts I was wearing. It was a slow pace but without the sounds of a gasoline engine, I could hear woodpeckers seeking grubs in decaying trees, chickadees and nuthatches singing, crows cawing and the trilling of sandhill cranes flying high above in the wilderness sky. While the sun shined on the southern exposed dam making it warm, across the hollow snow still remains in the north facing shaded hills.

The exercise for my too long sedentary winter body felt good as did my peanut butter & jelly sandwich for lunch.

That evening, feeling sore but content from the day’s activities, I spied something crawling across the sleeping Charley’s fur.

Folks, it’s still winter in Indiana as the first day of spring isn’t until next Thursday, there is snow still on parts of the wilderness, and I pulled a tiny turkey tick off my dog.

So much for the notion that the extended polar vortexes would reduce the detrimental insect population.

I suppose I will put on the armor of bug spray and girdle Charley’s loins with topical repellant as we declare a chemical “War on Ticks”.