Softer Side of Hunting
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.
The deep magenta drupelets of the French Mulberry took center stage, while the crimson berries of the Possum-haw seemed quite content to play the background supporting roles.
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.
I can’t name this mushroom at the moment , because my field guide to mushrooms and fungi is AWOL, but the stark contrast of the white cap to the pine needles just begged to have its portrait taken.
Will pointed out this unique specimen in the middle of the four-wheeler trail, commenting that it was getting old and was much prettier when it was younger. Aren’t we all?
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,
You are totally amazing, a truly gifted writer. I will beg to differ with you on one aspect of your article. The beauty of some is not realized until they have the maturity of age……but I don’t want to point any fingers.
Hi Clay! You’re so kind to say those things. But I think you’re probably older than I!!!! What you say is still true, no matter our ages!
Love this post “Bayou Woman”!
Thanks, Amy, so glad you liked it. Hope all is well with you in your world!
I love the stories you write about because we both seem to like the God- made pieces of nature. I have a passion for vines, rocks, wood and my trying to imagine what I could do with the pieces. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK.
Simple things in live can be utterly amazing, can they not, Louise?
Here you go. If this series of posts doesn’t help you with the possumhaw, I’d be surprised. I’d bet that’s what it is, but you can decide for yourself.
I’m amazed to see Beautyberry in your post, too. I never had seen it until I was in far eastern Oklahoma in October. Now, I’m seeing it everywhere, in photos from Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. It’s said to like shade and water, which certainly would explain wy I’ve never come across it in my travels west.
I don’t remember ever seeing anything like your “knot”. I’ve always associated pine knots with imperfections in the wood grain, not external growths. This reminds me of a condition I’ve also seen on Steve’s blog – look at this example of fasciation. I did some hunting around and found references to it happening to trees, but the only photos I could find were of pine galls.
There’s always an answer – just have to find it!
Sorry, but your post had to be approved due to all the internet links within. Possum-haw it is, and I’ve totally deleted that paragraph and added a little more anecdotal info. instead. Thanks, Linda, for your tireless internet search abilities and willingness! However, I’m pretty sure that this thing isn’t a pine gall because there was no orange and no sap anywhere around. It’s a dry as a bone. But I enjoyed reading the links provided! Hope you’re not too hungover from too much tryptophan, LOL!!!
I can be so slow sometimes. Why not contact your local forestry service. Here’s one of our web pages. Notice on the left hand side there’s a “contact an expert” link. You can bet the forestry folk would know what you’ve got.
Great post! This is just how I feel when I’m out communing with nature! Most of my life it was in the woods. Now it’s in the desert most of the time. Things are just as fascinating in the desert (maybe even more so). I’m always bringing things home from my walks.
Of course, a hiker like you comes across lots and lots of treasures, which is great until you get ready to move, and then you don’t know what to keep and what to let go of!!! We can always find more free treasures, right?
That 1st photo is a real oddity! I’ve seen all the others, but didn’t know most of their names. BTW, what is the name of the field guide you use?
Most of those I own are the “American Field Guide to whatever” and they are bound in vinyl of a solid color, and about 4×8, an odd shape for books. I still haven’t found my mushroom/fungi guidebook. There’s nothing to keep people from stealing books from my library at the camp . . . . darn it. I guess I’ll have to bring all my books back home and no reading enjoyment for the trust worthy customers. 🙁
4×8 means it will fit in a back pocket. Makes sense now, huh?
Duh, of course it makes sense! But my pockets don’t stick out an inch. I doubt anybody would stick this in their pocket, but you’re right, that’s what they’re designed for! I still haven’t found it, Steffi.
You write so beautifully! Please don’t ever stop. I look forward to receiving your commentaries……..Raoul
Raoul Langlinais email@example.com
Why thank you, sir, and you are so kind to say so! I’m glad I have at least a handful of readers who don’t mind muddling through, LOL! Happy holiday, Raoul!
I believe the word you are looking for for the pine “knot” is a burl. They are caused by deformities in trees such as cut/broken branches, injuries or just a place where some kind of defect is.
Oh, now that could be it! Upon doing a quick “pine burl” image search, that is very similar to what I found. Thanks so much for letting us know, and I will do a little more homework after my company leaves and I have some down time.
Wonderful post, BW. Lovely foliage, fun fungi, pretty beauty berries.
I also have a tendency to pick up oddly shaped or colored rocks, pieces of wood, bones or anything else that catches my eye.
That pine burl would have come home with me, too.
I have turtle skull I dug out of a dune at the beach a good 30 years ago. We were out there with friends, back in the days when we’d spend all day on the beach baking ourselves like turkeys.
I noticed the dog that was with us digging in the dune. I went over to see what she was after. Spotting a bit of bone, I started digging, too.
The two of us, woman and dog, on all fours and sand flying!
It was an entire turtle skeleton. Have no idea what species. Completely clean. I was fascinated with how the backplates fit together and how the spine and ribs were fused to it.
I would have brought the whole thing home but Hubby nixed that idea in the bud! Had to settle on just the skull.
Great story, Gue`, and I have to wonder if you’re wondering now why in the world you let him stop you from bringing your treasure home? I’m just stubborn enough that I would have found a way to sneak it home somehow! Maybe the shell was too huge? Reminds me of a story . . . Daddy gave me a gift of a little box turtle shell when I was a child. He had painted it and had used the rub-off black letters to spell my name on the shell. One letter in each little box. I loved that thing. I had it for many, many years, and then when my first two sons were little boys, they broke it, but neither one of them will own up to it. It was a sad day, because I get attached to sentimental items like that.
While it was small, for a sea turtle, it was a bit too large to bring home. Besides, all the back plates had separated and most of the skelton had fallen apart. We really didn’t need a box of loose bones cluttering up the house! lol
What a shame your turtle shell keepsake got broken. I get attached to sentimental items, too, and find it hard to let them go, even if they’ve reached the point of falling apart. Or being broken and unreparable.
I call it starter pine. Its part of a root that is saturated in pine sap. Those who live in piney wood areas and have wood burning fireplaces use it instead of gas or paper to light the fire. Crack off a small piece and light it with a match. It should burn like candle wax.
I don’t think BW will be breaking it to try to light it. She’ll keep her treasure just like she found it.
My first thought when I saw it was…that is some kind of petrified animal in profile.
No, I won’t be breaking off a piece! And it doesn’t have the slightest hint or smell of pine sap, so I’m really not sure what it is!
Not all knots are fat wood. I have heard they are but the ones I have seen were harder than the normal pine wood with little or no sap. I am not doubting that some are, just I have missed ’em. Course there are lots of things I have missed. Only really seen fat wood once in my camping days, but you’ll never forget it. It’s like a magic wand for fire starting.
When I was a kid the old men always loved pine knots to whittle. Something about them made the knots harder than pine yet still malleable enough to be carved. All the old timers would gladly compensate a kid with peanuts and a cola or even a moon-pie for pine knot.
The knots I thought came from damaged limbs being grown over during the years. But I have seen big knots on the main trunk. Its kind of like a scar material, or that is what I always figured.
Looks like a nice trip, ambrosia for the soul BW.
Ambrosia for the soul. I love that. I have to admit, though, before having my first cup of coffee, reading your comment confuses me more than ever. So, old men like to whittle knots, and pine burls are fat wood? See? I’m so confused. I’m going to drink coffee, clean trout that brother-in-law and I caught yesterday afternoon, then prepare and stuff the duck breasts for grilling which Termite and Danno shot yesterday morning, and then maybe all this fat knotty burly talk will make more sense while I’m out fishing for trout again this afternoon with my son and daughter-in-law. It’s been a grand few days with so much family visiting. I love the hubbub!
The starter pine comes from the roots. You will find it anywhere a pine tree has fallen over and was uprooted either by wind or disease.
Thank you, smarty pants!!! So is it a burl or not?
Here’s what Wiki says about burls, knots, galls and starter pine. I’m starting to get confused, too.
I think it’s just a matter of regional, or family, semantics, when it comes to how and when they’re used.
I’m just not sure, as my piece doesn’t look exactly like any of those photos. And I should’ve photographed the bottom side and displayed that as well. I will do so tomorrow.
Okay, folks, I added a photo of the underside of the pine burl for you to see how the center of it is shaped just like a pine “knot” that you see in a plank when it’s milled.
That’s how some burls are formed. The branch, which are also the knots you see in a board, was either broken or cut from the tree. The result was the tree healing itself by covering up it’s wound.
You guys get those ‘witches brooms’ in small bushes caused by some bug?
Well, whatever that piece of wood is, it’s still cool looking. right side up or upside down!
Yes, I agree. I think it’s pretty cool looking, too!