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journeys in the ozarks

June 17, 2007

That morning in bed I was hanging on to the vestiges of sleep when suddenly the dogs, as if responding to an alarm clock only they can hear, jumped up in unison and proceeded to turn the bedroom into bedlam. I didn't know then, as I dragged my old bones into a sitting position while an assortment of woofing and ricocheting dogs pelted me from all directions, that the fortunes of the day would turn on split-second timing, and that the Brownian motion of events in two different probability swarms fifty miles apart would intersect at a single, tiny point somewhere along that day's journey. Everything that day, for things to turn out right, would have to happen just so.

The plan was to go back to a certain collection of boulders in Richland Creek that I had photographed years before and take another look at them, spend a little time in one of my favorite places in the world, and maybe get a photograph or two along the way.

When Junie and I arrived at the spot late on that cloudy afternoon, I saw the creek was a little low for what I wanted to do. So we noodled around a little while without much ambition, and I was just packing up to leave when we got a nice little summer shower that dampened all the boulders and foliage. As it turned out, it wasn't even enough of a rain to wash the dust off the boulders, but it was enough to make me unpack the camera gear and have a go at exposing a few frames whether the creek was high enough or not.

It made all the difference in the world. Not with the photography, but with the timing. If it hadn't showered and we had left early, we would have missed what was coming.

Or if we had made our way back along the trail a little faster or a little slower, or if I hadn't taken the time to change into my sandals to cross Falling Water Creek, if we had stopped for a minute to snap a picture or two of Falling Water Falls, everything would have been different. If I hadn't pulled over at Nail for a cold soft drink from a vending machine, if I hadn't become a little lead-footed on Highway 7 and got stopped by a county officer, if there hadn't been beautiful filaments of fog rising in my headlights from the wet highway west of Swain that forced me to slow down, I might have hit and killed or might never have seen the dog that appeared out of the darkness and tall grass next to the road and darted onto the pavement ahead of me.

But when I was able to miss her and then stopped to investigate, she came running up to the car and jumped onto the car door, and when I opened it to see about her, she jumped over me and into the car.

All of that time, during the hikes and the showers and the photography, all of those miles away, hunger and fear had been driving her steps this way and that, and even in the rain and the dark had kept her moving. Her odds weren't good there and then, in that country, where the scarce inhabitants probably see more homeless animals than they can possibly deal with, and most people have dogs in part to keep other dogs away.

She fit the profile of an abandoned dog, female, about six months old, and collarless and tagless, but I checked without success at a couple of places to try to find someone who would claim her, even though it was getting on to 10 p.m. On the way home she calmed down some and warmed up some and fell asleep, and every now and then would whimper herself awake, which brought home to me how terrifying it had been to her to be hungry and abandoned.

She was a big pup, almost as big at six months as Bobsie is full grown, with a shape like a hound dog, and a short-haired coat, golden with reddish highlights, like a yellow Lab. She's a good dog, is Sergeant Dossey, and a gamer, the only dog I have who has enough pluck to stand up to the one and only Bobs, the alpha female of the crew, and they spend much of their time together sparring and jousting in the canine way. It's good to have her here, though she's a big dog who makes bedtime even more of an exercise in making sure that every dog is stacked properly on the bed, a sometimes harrowing process and one that usually culminates in a narrow strip of the bed being left over for me, and in much intertwining of various limbs, heads, and torsos, human and canine.

It's a small thing, I know, saving a dog's life, but to every dog that is saved it makes all the difference in the world, or the way I heard it said once, who saves a life saves the world entire. It's something that I tell myself is important, maybe as a way to believe that at least there's something that I've done with my life that is somehow meaningful. But anyway, when I see one of my dogs contentedly doing some quiet doggy thing, like shaking an old shoe to death, or when they're jumping as I bring supper to them, I know I've done the right thing, important or not.

previous journeys

June 3, 2007
A gentle rain began to fall, and for the next few minutes I sat at the the bluff's edge under an umbrella in the sweet pre-dawn light …

June 2, 2007
The last time I visited Kings River Falls the farm house at the trail head was occupied and an old fellow doing chores waved at me as I started down the trail between two of his fields …

May 26, 2007
By and by we came upon a spot where the river had deposited an impressive heap of boulders …

Apr. 29, 2007
We made it to the overlook a few minutes after sunrise and found gold in the eastern sky and a dusting of green across the hills …

Apr. 28, 2007
Rain fell in the Ozarks this week, and though more would have been better, the less that fell was good …

Apr. 27, 2007
But it wasn't the prospect of shooting waterfalls or boulder-strewn creeks that had me up at two in the morning …

Jan. 15, 2007
The woods have always meant solitude to me, have meant being able to take a dog for a walk and be at peace for a few hours …

Dec. 28, 2006
But the next afternoon we repeated our journey and I was there on time, standing ready behind the tripod …

Nov. 12, 2006
The red sky hugging the hills to the east told me that I was late and would have to hurry to get to the overlook on Buckeye Mountain in time …

Nov. 6, 2006
Luckily the foliage was near peak color, and the falls were running well and running clean …

Nov. 5, 2006
Sunday held the promise of rain, and in the middle of the night as we made our way south through the Boston Mountains on the way to the Ouachitas, we drove through sheets of rain, lovely shining, beating rain …

Nov. 4, 2006
So we took the short, very steep hike down to good old Number Two of the Seven Points and spent a couple or three hours hanging around …

Oct. 29, 2006
I started to hear the song of running water, and when the road curved toward the creek and brought us close enough to see what we were hearing, I decided it was worth taking a closer look …

Oct. 21, 2006
We made our way from a country painted in pre-dawn shades of gray and step by step walked into a yellow and red spangled landscape, where the trees bloomed like flowers …

apr.-jun., 2006

jan.-mar., 2006

oct.-dec., 2005

apr.-june, 2005

jan.-mar., 2005

oct.-dec., 2004

apr.-june, 2004

jan.-mar., 2004

sept.-dec., 2003