A trip down the Trinity to Lake Livingston, I picked up the kids for an overnight at the Alabama Coushatta tribal lands. We stayed in a little cabin, actually a green wooden one room structure on wheels with electricity and air-conditioning – an RV made of renewable resources, without plastic, and not designed to be moved often, but rather occasionally, and probably locally. The boys (somewhat critical at this age) mused that if they were building a cabin like this, they would put in a loft for the kids. I’m not so sure – it’s probably safer the way it’s built. The project is probably a few years up from the birdhouse. The cabin had a big porch and was positioned next to an outdoor faucet for watering the dogs. The boys might have slept outside on the porch, but they opted for the AC.
Pulling all my money together, I ordered a large pizza for the 3 of us (the boys are getting big), and bought some oatmeal with dried berries and juice for breakfast, some eggs, yogurts, and sandwich stuff for lunch. We talked about not buying eggs from chickens that had been put in prisons to lay eggs, no matter how little money we had. The day before, I had been trying to find a pick-your-own farm to dry out and freeze some blueberries, strawberries, etc for the winter, but nothing had been available yet. The next morning we were up at dawn, and the boys enjoying the dried berries that came with their oatmeal, we walked the mile or so down to the lake so they could swim. They swam out to the more distant dock, and without a ladder, pulled themselves up after strategizing and cooperating for 5-10 minutes.
A short drive out to Lake Livingston State Park, we talked about the Trail of Tears (they already knew about this), and as we passed a sign that said “Wounded Knee“, I explained a little of what happened there to them. It’s hard to know how and what to say to kids who are this young. Was the moral of that story that truces cannot be trusted? Maybe, as we passed the prison next to the park, it is that not everyone who goes to prison or faces persecution by the government is wrong (or at least not all of the time). One of the kids thought that you could go to college in prison. I quickly explained to him that prisons were horrible places – no one would want to go there for any reason.
Although the Trinity river level had recently dropped 7 feet just downstream of Lake Livingston, the level of Lake Livingston had remained constant. We found an electrical outlet and boiled all the eggs (“just about right” one of the boys would observe), then decided to do a little hiking and exploring – beginning with the Oak Flat Trail, then a little up the Main Trail, around the newly reopened Pineywoods Nature trail on the boardwalk, and then back. The blackberries were out and after eating a few for lunch, I picked a couple of handfuls to dry and freeze. The kids saw a Western ribbon snake, an alligator, a frog, and we also saw a swamp rabbit, a heron, and a turtle. So, 3 reptiles, 1 mammal, 1 bird, and an amphibian. And lots of insects – mosquitoes, ticks, gnats, and flies. A lot of animal classes – all from the chordate phylum, except the insects.
By the end, the bug situation was so bad, it was almost mutiny! But the kids were just tired, and after a quick peek at the lake, they fell asleep in the car as I drove them back. All of the animals that we saw are heavily dependent upon water. We had just had some rain. The rain brought the bugs, and hopefully not so much pesticide in the human effort to make nature comfortable and productive for humans, that it would destroy the wildlife around us.
The boys had been living with a couple of free-roaming defanged pythons for a bit now, some bats, and 4 pitbulls, one of whom just had a litter of 8 pups. They were 6 weeks old. Ok. Maybe this is the scarier phase of training for vet school.