Monday, September 28, 2009

A Beautiful Nebraska Rain and a Drive to Celebrate It

This past week saw Central Nebraska receive more than an inch of rain over a several day period, coming down in a nice drizzle. The cool temperatures and gloom may not be good for the psyche, but it is definitely good for the ground.

Wednesday the clouds began to break up, and what better way to celebrate the return of sunshine and blue skies (even if only in patches) than a drive in the country.

Just north of Sutherland, we saw the largest herd of Antelope we had seen so far. There is actually one additional creature that didn't make it into this photograph. The fella on the left is a nice big buck, who was none too happy about our disturbing his little party. Before he turned tail and ran, he made several little charges toward the pickup.

My guess is that he is gathering his ladies around him in anticipation of the rut. This is purely conjecture on my part, as I really have no idea if Antelope rut like Deer or Elk. But we haven't seen such a large group together that included a big buck all spring and summer. Click on the photo to enlarge for the detail.
Here is the object of our drive that day. The beautiful Birdwood Creek valley as it flows through Tin Camp. Tin Camp is a relatively strange name for a landmark, but at least there's a story behind it. Back in the days of the Indian Wars, U.S. Soldiers made their camp in this valley. They were none too neat nor environmentally conscious, and the early settlers to the region who followed them found a large dump site made up mostly of the tin cans that held the Soldiers' rations. Hence the name Tin Camp.

The name however, doesn't do justice to the beauty of the area as you will see in the photo below. Please take the tine to click on the photo to enlarge, and you will see a large flock of Turkeys making their way across the valley floor.
There is a home in the Tin Camp valley, and it's source of water is a spring on the north Birdwood creek. Really more of an artesian well, the spring has been tamed by a cistern and an overflow pipe into the Birdwood.
Just past the home site, the road crosses the creek, and this is a view up the valley to the west. If you enlarge the photo and look closely, you will see that the rancher has taken advantage of the bounteous hay crop this summer and mowed all of the meadows bordering the creek. The brightest green grass represents the new growth of the hay.
On the trip back to the south, the first of the many rainbows we would see on this drive appeared.
Here is another small rainbow in the distance, and don't you just love the way the sunshine contrasts with the cloud shadows on the hills? As you can see, the grass has lost it's green lushness, but is still thick and healthy for winter grazing.
Another rainbow that didn't quite reach the ground.
One of the perfect rainbows, arching completely across the sky.
The quality of this photograph is justifiable. It is meant to show that even though the sun was shining right where we were, we were getting rained on, and there was quite a storm along the western horizon. It was taken while I was hanging out the window of the pickup which was still driving down the road.
This is a beautiful rainbow that ends in the tree claim surrounding my grandparent's homesteading cabin, which was another destination of our trip this day. It looks OK this size, but if you click in it, again you will see that the quality isn't very crisp. By this time my companions were tiring of stopping every few minutes to take a picture of another rainbow, and I had to take it on the fly, which isn't so easy driving over a rough pasture trail road.

I've come to the conclusion that with so many rainbows, the Nebraska Sandhills must surely be the pot of gold!
The strangest incident of this day was the three dogs who greeted us in the yard of my grandparent's homestead. As you may recall, the homestead is unoccupied at this time, except for when we make one of our frequent treks to the ranch. Naturally, there aren't supposed to be any dogs there.

The mom was very obviously a well mannered and trained dog, and we had no trouble convincing her that we were her friends. We made a makeshift leash and tied her in the back of the truck. The pups on the other hand, were none too trusting.

The first made his escape into the barn. One of the bravest things I have ever done is crawl through that dark barn with a dim flashlight looking for where he had hid himself. Lots of critters make their home in that barn, none of which I would have cared to meet in such an awkward position. Fortunately, the pup was the only one I encountered, and I managed to drag him out and secure him with his mom.

The last pup was nowhere to be seen, so we made the ploy of driving away then circling back, which worked. He was obviously feeling the strain of being left behind, and it was the work of only a few minutes to capture him and place him with his family.
The story has a happy ending, because with a few phone calls the next day we were able to locate their owner, who had been searching for them for about three weeks. As a reward, we got permission to hike and ride on the rancher's land, which includes several miles of South Birdwood creek frontage. We will truly enjoy that.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

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