Saturday, August 13, 2005

"They rode thru red blood, to the knee"

"For all the blood that's shed on earth, runs thru the springs of that country"

(Words from a Scottish border ballad, that got into my head on my walk yesterday.)

I decided to take a little-used trail down to Onion Creek Friday afternoon, and found that the horse people have discovered it, so rather than being a narrow trail it is now a wide one. I found myself remembering the words of an ancient Scottish ballad called Thomas the Rymer, in which the Queen of the Fairies, who has kidnapped Thomas, shows him 3 roads in the world, the narrow road, close beset by thorns and briars, that leads to paradise, a broad wide road through fields of lilies that leads to hell, and the bonny road through the ferns that leads to her own kingdom, where she is disappearing him for seven years, as his penalty for having dared to kiss her.

I don't know whether the song, which I learned many years ago, reinforces my prejudice against wide broad roads, or that my liking the song was a product of my prejudice.

But I digress, as usual. The slightly widened road, which still has a few ferns, hard by the creek, led me to a surprise: A rock squirrel. Rock squirrels are common in the western half of Travis County (which is where Austin is) but they prefer cliffs and boulders as a habitat. There are plenty of those a few miles west of here, but few in my neck of the woods. He was in a tree, as rock squirrels frequently are, but his response to my presence (after I took his picture) was a typical rock squirrel one--he ran _down_ the tree and over the lip of an arroyo, presumably to hide in some rocks that indeed exist at the bottom of the slope.

Then, near the creek, I caught a glimpse of a little blue heron, backlit by the sun. He flew pretty quick, but I took his picture too.

It was a nice walk. And as an added bonus, I saw a rattlesnake, the first I have seen this year, a small western diamondback, maybe 3 feet long, disappearing across the trail 20 feet ahead of me. But I was not quick enough with my camera, alas.

Rock squirrel, Spermophilus variegatus
Rock squirrel

Little blue heron, Egretta caerulea
Little blue heron

A good walk. But then I got home I found, on the web, another picture of wounded faces of parents at a funeral being handed, with a white-gloved salute, a neatly folded American flag to replace their son. There are lots of verses to that ballad I mentioned, but those above are the ones that I can't get out of my mind.

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