Another clueless, airhead model

Saturday, December 01, 2018

The Knee Thus Far

 Day 1

The operation to completely replace my knee took about two hours.  I felt no pain afterward but that was due to the nerve blocking medication.  After day two I was reduced to Vicodin and a walker, unable to lift the leg at all.

No regrets. It was to the point where nothing was between my knee bones.  They were grinding together into dust.

 Day 7

With Connor, my stepson, gone I was on my own.  I had prepared meals in advance but found I needed more supplies.  My coworkers volunteered to help in whatever capacity and only once did I need help to purchase groceries thanks to David Sigafoose.  After that day I managed to drive to the store, work and rehab but it was still touch and go.  I can get around in the open with a cane but need a walker around the house. 

Day 10

The staples are out. The doctor said I was making excellent progress.  The risk of infection is almost nil by now.  

Sleep is fitful.  The rehab center puts me through basic leg lifting and stretches. After a week of therapy I am able to lift my leg.

Day 25:

The swelling is reduced to the knee region, making flexibility problematic.  To remedy this I hit the stationary bike at work, bending the knee as much as possible.  I am finished with rehab after realizing my day to day routine at work far exceeds what I get at the rehab facility.  It figures, people go in there after a day of senescence but I'm on my feet for hours as well as carrying, stooping and putting my knee in positions that ultimately make it stronger.  I'd say I'm at 60% power level which effectively leaves me drained by 1700.  For a time I needed 10 hours sleep to recoup. During the night I awake to ice the knee down then go back to sleep.  The process is repeated after work.  Meds are reduced to 95% and taken mostly after hours of pushing myself physically.  The background pain which has drained me physically and mentally is dramatically reduced from previous weeks.  There are times I don't notice it and times when I move instinctively without worrying where to place my leg.  Every day is incrementally better albeit still frustrating.  I remain positive I'll pass the fire physical fitness test in April but if now I'll keep trying.  I need to remember that a lot of physically disable folks never get better.

Keep Positive!!!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

An Alternate World Story

It’s always a crap shoot finding another reality’s version of Alohahawk, George, Lumpster and Ed.  This time stream was behind mine by three months but reading their blog posts would narrow down where they’ll be this day.  Pinpointing it to the hour is trickier.  Most times I can stalk them from a distance on the trail, then engage at a stopping point for the night.  They were on their way down from Emery Peak, making the 7800-foot ascent in 5 hours from the trailhead at Big Bend NP.  With full packs no less.   If I timed it right, they will spend the night at a communal site on the trail and it was not unusual for another hiker to be sharing it. Still healing from the knee replacement, I didn’t make the ascent rather, I waited for them to pass me as I hid amongst the madrones and mountain mahogany bushes. Staying an unobserved distance behind I waited till they stopped at a campsite then joined them within the hour.  A bag of good weed is the best icebreaker and after 37 trips it’s a no-shitter they’ll readily accept my invitation to smoke.  The weed puts them at ease, makes them more incline to accept the surreal and unexplained. That’s when I hit them with whom I am.  As always, they humor me at first but after ten minutes of answering questions no stranger could know they begin to settle down to a modicum of acceptance. In the earlier realities before I perfected my intervention, they would pack up immediately and move down to base camp.  I further settle them down by proving I had no weapons and sit where they have the advantage to overtake me.  

Alohahawk 37: Ratt, um I mean Rogue Botanist, you say you are from another reality?  The one where you survived being hit by that car in Austin? 

Rogue Botanist: Yeah, I only suffered a strained knee ligament which eventually led to a full knee replacement last year.  I’m still recovering from the operation and you can’t imagine what a bitch it feels like hiking up a mountain.  What happened right after I died?

Alohahawk 37: We attended your funeral with your family in Austin – Randy, Jersey, Martha and Sue, Boo and Jack and several others except Tripp.  He said he had an important test to study for.  That was the last straw. We all drifted apart from him after that.  I guess you’re not surprised.

Rogue Botanist: Not in the least.  

Alohahawk 37 stared intensely at me.  I saw the conflict in his face because of our shared friendship before I died in this reality. He tried to discern how I would look thirty-seven years after my death. My father’s genes had caught up with me by now, giving me a more bulbous nose and jowls. The balding genes are from my mother’s side of the family.
George 37: I still think you’re full of shit. Some psychopath who has nothing better to do then play mind-fuck games but you’ve broken up the routine of this hike so I’ll play along. Tell me then, how did you get here from your so-called alternate reality?

Rogue Botanist: Well, in my reality I survive the vehicle accident.  I got off the UT shuttle bus to walked in front of it.  That’s when I was distracted by what looked like a jagged light tearing into open air. I walked to it while ignoring a car that sped past the bust in my direction.  The driver hit the brakes just enough to hit the side of my leg and push me into the light.  I kept my balance but the light had disappeared.  Like an idiot I was more concern with seeing a movie then staying at the accident scene.  Throughout the years there were random times when the arm which touched the light would glow slightly and that same jagged light appeared for second or so.  I never told anyone because it’s crazy talk.  Eventually I joined the Marines and became a botanist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a refuge complex by the Texas coast.  The refuge is a mix of coastal prairies and bottomland forests.  The forests are my favorite place to get away for the day especially in the spring when heat and humidity are still low.  Only employees and researchers are allowed in most of the bottomlands due to the remoteness and dangerous wildlife.  I like the solitude to think and botanize and usually the only man-made sound I hear is an aircraft.  I was making my way up a dry slough when I saw that light in front of me.  This time it was larger, like a door about ten by six feet wide.  I didn’t see the other side of the slough through it, just some weird cascading lights, like large rain drops.  By this time, I was more curious than freaked-out. This had to be a doorway to another world so I walked through it.  Inside, those lights flickered around amorphous doors which displayed exact copies of the slough on the other side of them.  I picked one but stopped short because I might not find my way back.  My day pack of survival essentials had a 100 foot of parachute cord.  I tied it to an oak tree on the slough bank and let out the remainder as I walked back into the portal staging area and through a door. That’s when my leg started dissolving.  It hurt like a motherfucker but reformed when I pulled it back.

Ed 37: Makes sense.  From what I know about the paradox of realities there can’t be two version of the same person occupying the same place.  It would rip the fabric of time and you to shreds. 

Rogue Botanist: Exactly as I thought so I tried another door but was careful in case of another cellular disruption.  After the fifth of sixth time I passed through into a reality that didn’t destroy me.  Nothing suggested the habitat around me was any different.  I tied off the parachute cord to another oak and walked out of the slough into the forest.  I didn’t go far because if I didn’t exist here then that meant there was no Fish and Wildlife employee called Rogue Botanist. I also had no means to get very far in that reality.  I needed a plan so I followed the cord back into the portal between worlds and back into my own reality.

Lumpster 37:  How long ago was that?

Rogue Botanist: About October 2016 but I entered your reality 7 days ago on March 3 my time.  Since its January here that makes me a visitor from the future. That’s not always the case though.  Sometimes realities are ahead of mine but after 37 trips it has never been more than about a year and two months, future or past.  It took a while but I’ve got it down to travel in alternate realities where I don’t disintegrate and I’ve made a few observations along the way.  Substances that are not alive don’t dissolve when I carry them over.  For example, money and clothes and cell phones.  They must lack enough quantum charge inside them to disrupt the fabric of reality. This was confirmed when I tried to bring over a sapling in a pot and ants.  They dissolved immediately.  It also seems all realities are synced up, give or take.  The same events here have occurred thus far in all realities I’ve encountered.  Same disasters, same news, same shit head President Trump. All my siblings and friends and even my ex-wife is doing the same thing, mostly.  By that I mean even though they are richer or poorer or in a different job they have the same morals and values, same health and end up with the same partner or spouse or alone.  I think at the Big Bang a nearly infinite number of universes were born at the same time with the same quantum destiny infused into their sub-atomic matrix.  They each expanded out along in their own time streams at the same speed.  The differences in the time line for each universe is because they’ve encountered some force which slowed some down if for a quintillionth of a second.  Who knows, maybe it was a black hole?  After 15 billion or more years of existence any tiny discrepancy in time adds up.  

George 37: Wait a fucking minute!  Every universe has the same outcome for each person?  No one of us in any of the gazillions of alternate universes could be billionaires or president or married to Scarlett Johansson? We are destined to live out the same destiny in every time stream?

Rogue Botanist:  So far, yes.  No offense but people like you and me are destined to not make a piss-ant change in the direction mankind is going.  Please pass the joint.

Alohahawk 37: Then why did you die in other realities if you were destined to live in yours?

Rogue Botanist: Good question.  I’m not sure but I’ve got a theory. I think I was present at the right time when the time streams of universes collided at the sub-atomic level, causing a tear in their realities.  In some realities I should have come away from that accident with only a damaged knee.  In others, time stopped for a split-second to alter that car’s speed with deadly results.  That might explain why I can’t enter every universe because the alternate Rogue Botanist survived in them. When I bumped into that light some of it infused into my body.  I think that made me a conduit to the portal between other doors.  Although the portal may be stable now it is still random but luckily, I’m retired and have the means to travel at a moment’s notice when it appears. 

Ed 37: I’m have to ask, did you come here to say one of us or someone close to us is going to die?  

Rogue Botanist: No.  All of you go about your lives in a fairly predictable and safe manner for at least another 3 months. Remember, I can only see what happens up to one and half years in some realities.  I should warn you Ed though to not give diamond earrings to your wife for y’alls anniversary.  From what I’ve read she is entering a minimalist phase in her life and you will be a hero when you substitute that present for a trip with her to Vancouver.  I recommend the VanDusen Botanical Gardens when you’re there.

Ed 37.  What the fuck?!!? How did you about the present?  This is blowing my mind, but thanks anyway!  

Alohahawk 37:   So, I guess, aside from natural curiosity you travel alternate realities to blow peoples’ mind for the fuck of it?

Rogue Botanist: In a way, yes but also, I want to see if I can make life a little better for people who are alternates to the ones I’ve known in my world.  I’ve accumulated a substantial amount of money from knowing what sport teams to bet on, what stocks to invest in or when a crypto-coin will skyrocket in value. On my way to the door I’ll leave enough money for my alternate family to care properly for my mentally ill brother for the rest of his life.  Maybe that’s playing God but at least I’m not a douche bag god that brings joy while killing thousands of people with a virus or tsunami.  Then again, if I’m right everyone I know everyone will live about the same way as their atoms were destined to live from 15 billion years ago.  No matter what I do.

George 37: What if the door is not there when you get back to it? What then?

Rogue Botanist: That’s the risk I take.  Instead of a parachute cord I now use 10-gauge cable with a carabiner.  In reality No. 14 the cord was eaten down to one thread after a rodent tore into it for nesting material.  Even though I take financial advantage of realities which are ahead of mine there’s always that unknown future.  I don’t know if I will die again in this reality or the door will disappear.  I’ve found the doors in all realities decrease in size within about three weeks.  In reality No. 23 it shrunk down to around the cable’s diameter.  Fortunately, I was able to expand the entrance with my hands to get inside.  From now on I limit my visits to ten days to cover my ass. 

Lumpster 37: Is it like Schrodinger’s cat between the portals?  

Rogue Botanist: Aw, another good question!  Like the cat I am in a superposition of states, neither entering or exiting.  I figured this out when I scratched myself pretty good before leaving reality No. 11.  At that time, I had planned ahead to stay in between portals with provisions to last two days. I noticed the scratch didn’t heal or become infected.  It was in stasis until I entered my reality. I also noticed I didn’t feel hunger or any pain.  I think I can live forever in between worlds.

Dusk had fallen on the Chisos Mountains. Alohahawk 37 turned on his micro lantern, illuminating the group as they sat in silence for a few moments.  The visitor brought conflict to each No. 37.  None of them were pious men but darkness brings out primal superstitions nevertheless. Was this a test of faith or is the universe or universes beyond any person’s puny comprehension?  Rogue Botanist broke the silence

Hey Alohahawk, how’s Sue?

Alohahawk 37: Oh, you know, spin classes and Zuma.  Same old, same old. Just like she was destined.  

The group chortled.  

Rogue Botanist (looking at Ed): And Karen and the kids?

Ed 37: Doing good.  Pretty happy with life and me. Just so you know, if I ever see you near my wife and daughters, I would beat you within an inch of your life. 

The others echoed that warning.

Rogue Botanist: Understood.  Besides, I’m not coming back because no door has an identifying marker.  When I leave this world, the odds are infinitesimal against finding it again.

George 37: I gotta say Rogue Botanist, before I met you, I had occasional thoughts of what life would be like if I had made different decisions.  Would I be single now or married to another woman?  Maybe the best gift you’re leaving us is even if we don’t control our destinies it all turned out like we wanted anyway.  

Rogue Botanist: Good to hear.  Listen, I think I should move on down to basecamp.  I’ve laid some heavy shit on you all and if you are like the previous 36 you won’t get any sleep tonight if I stay in the area.

Alohahawk 37: Wait.  We may not be the masters of our destinies but in this reality, you stay the night and we’ll sleep just fine.  Would you guys agree that our livers won’t end up in a plate of fava beans and eggs in the morning?  

Ed and George and Lumpster nodded. 

Rogue Botanist: Okay, then I’ll have one more drag and sleep under the stars. 

In the morning I was gone, leaving behind a waterproof envelope containing a letter with 4 lines of six numbers separated by comas with dates from February through March:

To All:
I had to leave early because I “know” I will encounter delays that could make it a little too close for comfort to reach the portal.  Thanks for “shaking up” the monotony of this reality.  I didn’t see it coming when you let me stay overnight.  The line of numbers are for each of you.  Their dates correspond to the winning Texas state lottery tickets within the next three months.

Enjoy life – Rogue Botanist.

Monday, September 03, 2018

First Week in Wyoming

With deference to:

The Trees by Rush
The House at Pooneil Corner by Jefferson Airplane
When the Music’s Over by The Doors

Having parked the POV at my sister’s house in San Antonio I met my coworker, Boyd for this wildfire severity assignment.  The drive to Caspar, WY in our FWS truck consumed 27 hours with a night over in Amarillo.  Boyd is refuge manager for the South Texas Complex.  This assignment is a rarity for that position unless fire severity reaches Level 5 nationwide.  By then all qualified personnel are required to assist where needed.  To refuse is to be blacklisted from further assignments beyond his/hers duty station. 

Upon arrival in Caspar we reported to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) office.  It is an agency of the Department of the Interior as is my Fish and Wildlife Service. Its fire program consisted of 8 personnel, ranging from seasonal fire techs to engine captains to a Fire Management Officer.  Their area of operation is 6 counties from northeast to eastern Wyoming, covering hundreds of square miles.  The work routine was standing by until a fire was reported, possibly requiring 3 hours of driving.  Our first call was in the foothills of Alcova Lake resort.  Only a 10 minute hike with full gear and implement but still winding me. This was not unexpected.  In the past my mountain legs and lungs would come on line in 3-4 days.  That was the past.  I was unsure I would adapt as quickly at age 57. The fire tuned out to be a 10 x 10 foot lightning strike.  Unbeknownst to me this and 1-5 acre burns may be the norm for the duration. 

The following day brought continuous light rain, effectively reducing the chance of fire to zero percent.  When this occurs, the fire crew resumes other project work without worrying about extending too far from a reported fire.  Today’s project was in the mountains near Kycee, about an hour drive.  Our destination was a mountain meadow invaded by Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa).  There was unrest in the forest, there was trouble with the trees for the grasses want more sunlight and the pines ignore their pleas.  But the pines can’t help their feelings if they like the way they’re made and they wonder why the grasses can’t be happy in their shade?  Teams were broken up into one sawyer (chainsaw operator) and two swampers.  Swampers move branches and other debris away from the sawyer as he cuts.  Additionally we swampers piled the branches ten feet high.  Dozens of these piles occurred over the summer.  Come the first heavy snow the crew returns to burn the piles.  Now there’s no more pine oppression and the plants are all kept equal by hatchet, axe and saw.

The next day produced 3 small, local fires from .5 - 2 acres.  My two week mission is designated as a severity operation.  Over the years I’ve been in the shit, moped up after burned forests and on occasion worked severity details.  When a dispatcher request help we assist the county fire department but only if it’s a wildfire, not a burning structure or vehicle.  Thus far our crew never arrives on scene before the county FD.  The county has departments distributed throughout therefore, they have the advantage of any one fire truck arriving on scene before us.  What’s left for us is mopping up – putting out smoldering vegetation and/or cow pies.  We use two Type 6 engines (diesel F-350 trucks with a 300 gallon pump plus an incident command truck where the IC leader sizes up the fire and directs the operation.  Severity operations are a big deal here, stopping fires before they increase in size and create more damage.  The BLM crew regaled us with stories of fires that ran for hundreds – thousands of acres, consuming houses and other structures in their path.

For two days this week we didn’t have a fire despite potential conditions for such – high wind gusts of 50+ and low humidity. These 12-hour shifts mimic fire departments – hours of boredom punctuated by an hour or two of excitement.  When conversing with the crew my progressive philosophy is tempered by the ideology of the region.  This is a state which elected Trump by the highest percentage in the country. The present ideology is as ossified as its dinosaur fossils. President Obama is considered the evil mastermind of coal’s decline despite the fact that it can’t compete with the economics of cheaper natural gas, wind and solar power.  I hold my tongue, walkin’ around and I see/All the bullshit around me/Try and keep my mind on what’s going down/Can’t help but see the elephants around me.  I’ve yet to see a billboard or sign with a Democratic politician.  Liz Cheney, the eldest daughter of the Dark Lord himself (America’s 43rd president) is running for a second term.  For amusement I read her website rants, noting what she calls the war on the west. What does that mean? There was a war here once. That ended in genocide of indigenous people. 

Yesterday was two fires but at the first one we didn’t leave the engine because it was completely out.  That was caused by gunfire at a shooting range.  The second, on state land was also gun fire related.  Only 5 acres and another mop but at least we arrived while there were still flames.  Boyd calls this Turd Patrol because that’s all that’s left smoldering.  It's amazing how much I forget about the pain when I'm in beast attack mode on a fire. After an hour of extinguishing turds I have time to botanize, finding partially burned mountain bee plant and chard clumps of crested wheatgrass, an introduced species from Russia.  Nothing else though. All other grasses were obliterated by overgrazing. What have they done to the Earth? What have they done to our fair sister? Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her. Tied her with fences and dragged her down.

Crested Wheatgrass (Agropryon crestata)

Mountain Bee Plant (Cleome serrulata)

Tomorrow I’ll wake up at the hotel and start dressing in layers. The Leukotape on my arches is to offset hotspots as a consequence of several days of PT with fire boots and a 45 pound vest.  Next, a section of nylon panty hose over both knees prevents the bite of knee braces.  The left knee will be replaced in January, joining my artificial wrist.  The right knee is braced up from straining too much to compensate for the left. Nomex (fire resistant fiber) trousers’ are followed by liner socks, hiking socks and fire boots.  I wear a t-shirt until I need the yellow Nomex shirt.  Having donned my clothing and braces I count out the medication to get through the day.  If the grinding of knee bones or fibromialgia flare up becomes intolerable I opt for Tylenol and Codeine.  Black market Vicodin for mountain hiking.  Dark web Prednisone increases VO2 max.  Today it’s was a 1000mg ibuprofen day.  Aw, comfortably numb!

After 5 days of boots and vest PT and fires I start adapting to the physical routine and relish the increased expansion of air in my lungs and strength in my legs.  I’ll lose it all within a week on the gulf coast flat lands.  One week to go.

Curly Cup Gumweed (Grindelia squarrosa)

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Going, going.....

I’m at the hills. A statement I made often during my childhood to notify the parents where I would be for the day. If they seemed concerned I didn’t take note.  If I returned for water it was available from a garden hose.  I may or may not have returned for food until the day ended.  These hills were the southern extent of the Texas hill country, that geographic region of calcareous-kartz, cavernous topography from San Antonio to north of Austin and on.  My brother (and occasionally sisters) explored those hills in the days of 4-channel TV, no cell phone, no cable and no video games.  My hills uplifted to 100 feet then sloped down to the Salado Creek watershed.  My only notice of the flora at that time was to avoid the eye-level dangers of Spanish dagger yucca  (Yucca treculeana).  Trails were worn down from foot traffic and biking, offering access to our secret sites of hidden campsites and vertical caves where fear of danger was overcome by the tug of curiosity.  Shimmying down into those caves we never thought they were perfect for denning rattlesnakes.  I recall hoping to find an additional tunnel down there at 20 feet. I never did and now they are covered forever by asphalt and concrete.  




The entrance to the hills was at the bottom of my neighborhood, now a line of houses extending another 300 feet.  I entered from a cul de sac, wondering when houses will surround it.  The trail is well worn with dense overstory of cedar elm (Ulmus crassifolia) and Texas persimmons (Diospryros texana). 

It’s a western aspect, favoring drought tolerant species.  Spanish dagger and Buckley's yuccas (Yucca constricta) are interspersed among shade tolerant vines and shrubs.  

Spanish Dagger Yucca
Branches are festooned with ball moss (Tilandsia recurvata). Not a true moss but a bromiliade related to pineapple.  A western and drier aspect make for less ground cover and relatively easy hike off trail to view yuccas a little closer.  I hear birds of unknown species, taking a moment to record their sounds on my phone.  Late, I was informed they were Northern Cardinals by my biologist colleague.

Ball Moss

I move north and down slope to undulating trails which still accommodate mountain bikes and motorcycles.  Trails I too once biked on.  Prickly pear (Opuntia engelmannii) is not uncommon on this side.  Slightly less common is bird pepper (Capsicum annuum), the only native pepper in Texas and it's official state pepper.  A  velvet ant catches my attention momentarily.  Actually a wingless bee, I give it plenty of space.  According to the Schmidt sting index it rates level 3.  The highest level is 4.  A fire ant sting is rated level 1.

Bird Pepper

Velvet Ant (genus Dasymutilla
The trails are not that different now but I do notice signs of attempts by trucks to drive on them along the creek.  I try to find solace in hoping rednecks will grow bored with this endeavor and move on to other self-destructive hobbies. 

I also take comfort in that housing development won’t extend this far due to watershed flooding.  I see signs of this flooding – strewed flotsam and jetsam around trees and in the creek where my brother and I would jump into without fear of bacterial phages or bone-breaking debris.  That 4-foot dam of unknown origin is still here, defaced by graffiti but showing little degradation.  

Salado Creek

We would fish behind the dam for perch or crawdads and one time catching an American eel (Anguilla rostrata).  I doubt it exist anymore in this region of the creek.  I walk south along the creek, noting plants adapted to periodic flooding – green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) and cottonwood (Populus deltoides).  The eastern side of the creek flattens out with little understory vegetation other than trees, a consequence of high velocity sheeting action from floods.  

Cottonwood on east bank of Salado Creek with Green Ash in the background
The trail is on higher ground, just enough elevation difference to favor cedar elms, live oak (Quercus virginiana), indigo bush (Amorpha fruticosa), giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida) and horse apple (Maclura pomifera).  Again, there are signs of graffiti.  This time on trees.  I pondered that disconnection a boy or young man would have with the magnificent of nature around him.  To venture this far into the woods only to deface it is a failure of our society.  Then I notice metal tags on the trees, dozens of them with numbers. Each inscribed with a measurement in inches, probably the circumference.  A study of some kind?  Most are on cedar elms with the occasional live oak.

Indigo Bush

Live Oak.  Circumference ~ 10 feet.
I veer westward, the slightly more moisture of an eastern slope aspect promotes denser understory.  Texas persimmons with unripened fruit, guajacum (Guajacum angustifolium) and wafer ash (Ptelea trifoliata) increase.  Although the latter is not a true ash (actually a member of the Citrus family) it so named for its wafer-like seeds and ash-like leaves. 

Texas Persimmons Fruit

Wafer Ash and seeds

The ground flora diversity is sparse, mostly vines again stretching to the sunlight.  Two milkweeds, Net-leaf milkvine (Matelea reticulata) and swallow-wort (Cynanchyum barbigerum) have fruit (technically called follicles) which split lengthwise to disperse seeds to the winds on hair-like pappus.  Another vine catches my interest; it’s twining and leaf structure resemble diminutive cross-vine (Bignonia capreolata) and for just a minute I believe it. Then reality kicks in as I realize it is the non-native, invasive cat claw vine (Macfadyena unguis-cati). So named for its claw-like tendrils.  They look like chicken feet to me. 


Netleaf Milkweed Vine and follicle
Cat Claw Vine
Slope and brush increase, making me regret wearing shorts.  I trudge on, ignoring the scratches which  increasingly appear on the legs as well as accumulation of velcro-like seeds from hedge parsley (Torilis arvensis).  The forest opens to honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) and day flower (Commelina erecta).  

Day Flower

I face a wooden fence and garbage at the the pinnacle of the slope, the extent of development thus far.  I walk along it, bushwhacking through Johnsongrass (Sorghum halespense) and late blooming orange zexmenia (Wedelia texana), hoping to find calcareous outcroppings where the only known population of Sedum diffusum in Texas is growing. If I overshot it I can’t tell from the overgrowth.  I continue on my course, resigned to finding an opening in the fence line to walk back to the vehicle.  No sedum and no birdwing passionflower (Passiflora tenuiloba) to put an exclamation on the day.  Only fields of hedge nettle attaching thousands of seeds to my legs and socks. 

Orange Zexmainia

Hedge Parsley Seeds

This is the point in the story where you know I’m leading up to something.  Here it is – 

                                   ASS VINE (Funastrum cynanchoides)!!! 

 After twelve years I find it!  And not just one plant but a multitude of vines for at least twenty feet.  It had to be that plant but without a flower I need to cut it and smell the sap to be sure. Yep, smells like ass! Another milkweed, it is exceptional for butterfly nectar and a host plant for Monarch larvae.  I take a root cutting, hoping to propagate it back home.  

Ass Vine!

Now 20 feet of ass vine blocked the quickest route out.  With the fence on one side and dense thorn shrub on the other I decided to push through and tolerate the caustic searing of ass vine sap on my network of leg cuts and scratches. I found that opening – another swath of clear cut making way for drainage or is someone foolish enough to build in the path of it?  Forty years ago I walked on foot trails through this forested hill.  Now that trail is asphalt lined by houses. I’ll return this year, hoping not but knowing my childhood and hills will continue to vanish one tree at a time.