July 25, 2006

Nature Men

Every newspaper ought to have an outdoors columnist, and the paper of my hometown lost a good one (he died yesterday) in “Will” Harbaum:
“Will was passionate about the wildlife, and about the woods and wetlands that he knew as well as the back of his hand,” said JournalNews sports writer Pete Conrad, who edited many of Harbaum’s columns. “That’s what set him apart. That, and his mythical backwoods friend, Woody Curlew.”

Many of Harbaum’s columns featured Curlew, a woodsman with an unpolished way of talking and a man of mysterious origin who was more at home under the stars than under a roof.

In one of his more recent columns, about turkey hunting, Harbaum — who often wrote with a gentle sense of humor — included a typical Curlew quote: “That ol’ gobbler is in a big white oak t’other side o’ th’ crick. We put him t’ bed las’ night, an’ he’s probably still thur.”
The Columbus Dispatch also has a good one in John Switzer, who is still with us. He wrote on Sunday:
The cicadas are singing, and Queen Anne’s lace and chicory are blooming along the roadside. Some folks have told me they heard their first cicada around July 8. Tradition says that the first frost will follow 90 days after they begin to sing.

I love Kay Winters’ little poem Sing a Song of Summer. It kind of sets the tone for this time of year.

When crickets sing
Their evening song
And Fireflies turn
Their lanterns on
And Spiders spin
At early dawn
And Weave their cobwebs
On my lawn
It’s summer.

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