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HOME RANGE: Notes on Literature, Nature, Working Dogs, History, Other Obsessions and Sundry Annoyances by Henry Chappell

A column ends. Another begins.

After seven years, my Working Dog column in Texas Wildlife will end. I'll file the last one early next month, for the November issue. I've had my say on the subject - for now. I suppose I could continue, rehashing old material and explaining the latest techniques and dog-related gadgetry, but I've always preferred simple methods.

Starting next year, I'll write a quarterly column on water issues for the magazine. My thanks to Texas Wildlife Association for giving me a voice and even paying me for my opinions.
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"Only God Hisself could make this."

I'm not one to quote myself, but I'll make an exception here. This reminds me of a passage in The Callings, in which three buffalo hunters look out over a river bottom in the Texas Panhandle, in 1873:

Logan could think of nothing to say. Columns of bison came out of the southern breaks to the river while others moved into the hills and draws or onto the plains beyond. Packs of wolves skulked about the bands. Bulls bellowed and butted heads and rolled in the sand, yet the herd and the wolves and the coyotes seemed to Logan like one expansive living thing. "Only God Hisself could make this."

Ezra smiled and kept his eyes on the spectacle. "God's work or not, they won't be here five years from now. Better see it while you can. Your sons and daughters won't believe it. Nobody will. You can't tell it right. You gotta see it."





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Country Squirrel, City Squirrel

Great passage from an old squirrel hunting post by Hank Shaw at Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook:

"Make no mistake: If you have not hunted squirrels in a real forest you do not understand squirrels. Country squirrels are as different from city squirrels as are Daniel Boone and Perez Hilton. The only things they share are genus and species. Country squirrels are animals all out of proportion to their size: They are clever, stealthy and tough to kill, especially when the leaves are still on the trees."

Exactly. Why are squirrels considered "starter" game, preparation for poleaxing a deer conditioned to come to the clatter of corn dropping from a feeder?
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Wendell Berry on Displacement

As I wrote "Texas Water War," this passage from Wendell Berry's The Unsettling of America stayed on my mind:

"They have always said that what they destroyed was outdated, provincial, and contemptible. And with alarming frequency, they have been believed and trusted by their victims, especially when their victims were other white people.

"If there is any law that has been consistently operative in American history, it is that members of any established people or group or community sooner or later become 'redskins' - that is, they become the designated victims of an utterly ruthless, officially sanctioned and subsidized exploitation. The colonists who drove off the Indians came to be intolerably exploited by their imperial governments. And that alien imperialism was thrown off only to be succeeded by a domestic version of the same thing; the class of independent small farmers who fought the war of independence has been exploited by and recruited into, the industrial society until by now it is almost extinct. Today, the most numerous heirs of the farmers of Lexington and Concord are the little groups scattered all over the country whose names begin with "Save": Save Our Land, Save the Valley, Save Our Mountains, Save Our Streams, Save Our Farmland. As so often before, these are designated victims - people without official sanction, often without official friends, who are struggling to preserve their places, their values, and their lives as they know them and prefer to live them against the agencies of their own government which are using their own tax moneys against them"

Wendell Berry's "little groups" bring to mind Edmund Burke's beloved "little platoons."

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We're not fixin' to quit

Shirley Shumake and her brother Max Shumake are sixth generation Sulphur River basin landowners. Since about 2003, they've fought alongside family and neighbors against Dallas-Fort Worth business interests and water developers planning to build a giant reservoir that would inundate their farms and timberland. In the previous post, I linked to an article in which I describe the fight and the stakes involved. In the video segment below, Shirley talks about how she and her neighbors discovered that powerful outsiders planned to push the reservoir project through the permitting process and condemn the land before locals could organize effective opposition. To the surprise and vexation of certain urban interests, the reservoir planners ran into a hornet nest. The video is part of Enduring Women, an oral history project recently exhibited at the Bullock Museum in Austin, Texas. Shirley is speaking extemporaneously to a student historian, so much of the context is missing. But the photos show some of what could be lost, and what reservoir boosters are up against. My money is on Shirley and Max and the people of the Sulphur River basin.




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