Saturday, August 21, 2004

The Return Of Weather; Fires Burning; Dealing With Punks

It's lightly raining this morning, which means it's wet outside, but my front yard is not yet flooded. Just looked out the window and saw a box turtle sprinting (at the highest velocity that a box turtle can attain) through my garden. Sprinting may not be the right word. Maybe it would be more accurate to say moving with a definite sense of urgency or haste. When it rains the Carolina Wrens gather under my porch. Despite their choice of habitat (swampland) they apparently don't like to get wet.

Thursday evening I went to a meeting of the Golden Triangle Audubon Society. The membership in attendence formed an impressive fossil collection. I probably shouldn't be so mean, but I was much younger than most of the people there, and I'm no kid. The evening's presentation was about birds of special concern in Southeast Texas. I wished it was over long before it was. The speaker had a tendency to talk fast and repeat himself with occasional departures into incoherency. There were times when he teetered on the brink of hysteria, and I half expected him to collapse foaming at the mouth. Oh well, it's nice to know there are people who truly care about the plight of Sprague's Pipits and Bachman's Sparrows. I was surprised to see one of MY photographs used to illustrate his lecture (a picture of a Swainson's Warbler that I had posted on my web site). I don't recall giving permission for it's use, although my name did appear on the screen, so I got a photographer's credit.

I did pull one interesting factoid from his lecture; apparently the epicenter of trans-gulf bird migration is the coast between Galveston, TX, and Lake Charles, LA. Apparently most northbound migrants overshoot coastal sites like Sabine Woods and High Island, making landfall further inland, where they disperse into the great riverbottom forests. The Trinity, Neches, and Sabine Rivers provide excellent stopover habitat, so I suspect the heavier concentration of migrants in this section of the Texas coastal bend is not the result of convenient propinquity, but of evolutionary programming. Since I live near the center of the epicenter, on the edge of a riparian corridor, I'm in a pretty good position to enjoy bird migration in spring (the Yucatan express pulls into the station HERE!).

Yesterday I drove to Houston. Near Troy's house in Spring I saw a couple of Mississippi Kites flying over a residential area in the morning, and later saw 3 soaring over the same neighborhood in the afternoon. Looked like 2 adults and a juvenile bird - possibly part of a local breeding population?

If you were driving I-10 east of Houston yesterday, and looked north from atop the arch of the Trinity River bridge, you would have seen a tower of orange flame erupting into the sky. looked like someone had lit a huge candle. This pillar of fire was visible for miles, although forest sometimes obstructed the view. We've just been through a dry spell, and according to the news there have been some large marsh fires burning. One night when I was working in Port Arthur the scent of smoke was heavy in the air.

Had a couple of incidents involving shoplifters at work this past week. Caught and ejected one punk who tried to hide a Sony Walkman in his pants. Another kid came in wanting to return a marijuana test kid without receipt (one of our high theft items), and when I wouldn't do it he grabbed some Cds and dashed out of the store.

About justice, Texas style - yeah, if you want to commit first degree murder this is the wrong place to be. They execute murderers here. But when it comes to misdemeanors and petty crime, Texas is too lenient. There seems to be a complacent boys-will-be-boys attitude toward most public misbehavior. Take littering for example. There's a big ad campaign running here, with the slogan "Don't Mess With Texas!" It's all bluster and b*llsh*t. I see people throwing stuff out car windows all the time. And then there are the people pulling trailers with unsecured loads and stuff falling or blowing off - not just causing litter but real hazzards for the drivers behind them. In California there's a $1000. fine for littering from a vehicle. In Texas it's only $200., and nobody ever seems to get caught. It's pretty obvious which state you really don't want to mess with.

In spite of it's vigorous application of the death penalty, Texas maintains a pretty high crime rate. I have a theory about this - maybe if there were stiffer penalties for lesser offences, fewer criminals would rise to the level of more serious crimes, like first degree murder. Just a thought...


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