Thursday, January 18, 2007

Eagle Watching Days - Sauk City,WI

"There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot." Those are the opening words of Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac.

The ones who cannot may be drawn to the Sauk City, Prairie du Sac area this weekend for Eagle Watching Days. For more information please click here.

The official program can be found at this site.

Sauk Prairie, a name which refers to the twin cities, is much more than just a home for the widely known Cow Chip Toss. There is something of value going on year round. Take Hy60 west of Columbus and don't spend too much time looking for Susie the Duck in Lodi. Once a person gets west of the intersection with the Interstate System the countryside changes. The driftless area is hills and valleys, a nice change from Oshkosh.

I have been re-reading George Vukelich's A North Country Notebook this month. George called his radio personality Papa Hambone and had a radio show on WPR for many years. He would often open the show with the above Aldo Leopold quote and like Leopold, speak to those hills and valleys in the southwest area of the state. Papa Hambone's voice became silent with the death of George V. in 1995. Silence speaks volumes and Papa Hambone was the master of the 'pregnant pause'. He could say more with that pause after a comma, than anyone I know.

Papa Hambone spoke often of Wisconsin's John Muir, also Leopold's beloved Shack on the Wisconsin River, and also of the mid-west's most prolific writer: August Derleth, who spent almost every day of his life in the Sauk City area.

The Oshkosh Public Library catalog shows way over 100 items for August Derleth. I am reprinting today one page from his book "Wisconsin Country -A Sac Prairie Journal", in the hope that more readers take an interest in him.

This entry concerns Ferry Bluff, which now allows no human activity in the winter. It is an Eagle Preserve south of Sauk City.

Notes: This came out in 1965, from a journal kept in the 40's/50's. It is the story of a trip to Ferry Bluff. The Author, August Derleth, had been there many times..., but never in winter. I reprint here the entirety of Page 21 from this book. It begins with a reference to a previous work. Enjoy.


25 JANUARY: Lee Galpin wrote today that a certain kindhearted matron in one of the state hospitals was in the habit of reading my books to the patients, "when they're strapped down and can't do anything about it."

I went out this afternoon with George Henn, Carl Lachsmund, and Rob Seitz to climb the Cactus and Ferry Bluffs along the Wisconsin, marking the boundaries of property there. The afternoon was mellow, and the sun shone brightly. Snow, unbroken by any human footprint, lay deep over everthing, making the hill slopes singularly beautiful, especially in the contrast of snowy slopes and dark boles set against the Wisconsin's cobalt and the lighter blue of heaven. But though no human tracks broke the snow, there were marks of animals everywhere---mink tracks, a deer run, the signs of rabbits, squirrels, mice, birds, of fox trails crossing and criss-crossing among the trees. The climb was exhilarating, though for a time tiring. If one sits too long at a desk without deviation from the pattern, even the most pleasurable of diversions can become wearing. I had not before been on top of the bluffs in winter, perhaps in fear of the danger of slipping and sliding down the treacherous declivity into the Wisconsin, and at the crest of the hill I stood for a long time looking out over the snow-covered land to the villages---Sac Prairie, Roxbury, Mazomanie---and the Baraboo bluffs along the northern rim of sky and earth, in a kind of blue sheen, that familiar winter blue of snow and air, following the great curve of the Wisconsin from the northwest into the southwest, and reflecting anew in this soundless vastness upon the transitory insignificance of man against the enduring earth.

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