As a child, I liked to wander unexplored territories, as much as that was possible growing up in a subdivision. It was nothing for me to jump the backyard fence, cross the concrete ditch, and shimmy under the barbed wire in order to explore the field behind the house. As I grew older and with a bicycle as my free ride, I went as far as my imagination and legs could take me, which was often to a pecan tree-filled lot beside the junior high school.
No matter whether I was exploring on my own or out hunting squirrels with Daddy, I always managed to find a natural treasure to bring home–a buckeye, hickory nuts, vacant turtle shell–anything in contrast to my suburban life.
Not much has changed since I was a youth, and even though the bayou has been home for some 35 years now, I never grow tired of anticipating and accepting what Nature might give me when I’m out and about. I’m always on the lookout for bones, flowers, feathers, or a unique rock.
Sometimes the objects seem to call out to me, as did this oddity while walking the woods of northeast Louisiana with Rene` Hatten during a recent deer hunt. Not ever having seen one before, I promptly picked it up and looked around at the pine tree trunks, speculating that one of them was missing a protrusion, better known as a pine knot, I do believe.
It’s weird how the finished wood is often called “knotty pine”, which makes no sense to me if the knot grows on the outside of the trunk. It’s obvious I’m not up on my pine knot education, and a Google search didn’t reveal much valuable information. So, I’m still very open to learning if this is, indeed, a pine knot, and why it’s a called a knot and not a lump or bump. Wait! Maybe it’s kind of like when Daddy would say, “Cut that out, or I’m gonna knock a knot on your head.”
I feel sorry for city folks who never get a chance to commune with and enjoy nature. I seize every opportunity to learn something new and take something away from nature, even if it’s just a photograph, a mental picture, a smell, or a sound. These are some of the things I took away from my recent trip to northeast Louisiana, and I’d like to share them with you.
The brilliant colors of the fall leaves enamored me, going from the bright yellow of the Hickory Nut tree all the way to deep crimson of the Sumac, and almost every shade in between. There are only two trees down the bayou with turning leaves, so this theater of color performed annually might be taken for granted by some, but certainly not by me.
As though competing with the leaves for attention, these brightly colored berries screamed out to me as we whizzed by on the four-wheeler trail. Sammy was kind enough to stop several times and let me soak them in.
In some places during the winter, the bright red berries provide the only bright color in the woods once all the leaves have fallen from the trees. The Captain’s family brought Possum-haw branches into the house as Christmas decorations when he was a child, because there was not enough room for a traditional evergreen Christmas tree, even if they could have found a way to get to town to purchase one. While the berries are said to be poisonous to humans, it seems local birds enjoy snacking on them through the winter months.
Most folks believe the French Mulberry, (known in other parts as the American Beauty Berry) isn’t edible. In small quantities, they won’t hurt you, although they have an astringent taste. In a pinch, though, they make a palatable jelly that tastes something like an apple and muscadine mix. How can that be bad?
No sojourn through the woods would be complete without seeing one or two of these.
Well, that’s it for your virtual nature walk with me in the woods of northeast Louisiana and the hunting grounds of the Hatten clan. If you enjoyed the photos half as much as I enjoyed the experience, then my attempt to take you on an enjoyable foray into the woods was successful.
Into the woods,