Sallie Satterthwaite's blog

Who will say goodbye?

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It was a rough week, last week, when the tribe gathered several times to say goodbye to recent members of the clan. Those left behind look around furtively, wondering, “Who‘s next?” as another generation realizes: They are.
I‘m an obituary reader. Can’t say I read every word of every obit, but I do read enough to recognize a neighbor or a church member. And I‘ve been rolling a thought around in my brain. Read More»

Jean in Florida

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Here’s an account of a few days in the life of U.S. Forest Service fire spokeswoman Jean Satterthwaite in July 1998. She is retired now, but has her name on reserve to manage the complexities of accounting for firefighters on the fire-line, potentially thousands of them when a fire grows as dangerously as this year in Arizona.
She phoned breathlessly from Juneau where she lived, to tell us she was on her way to Orlando.
Orlando? Why in the world would anyone leave Alaskan summertime highs of 76 to go to where the lows start out above 76, and the landscape is on fire? Read More»

Woodsy Neighbors

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It’s been three years since we last saw an armadillo and there they were, three of God’s most homely children, exiting that no man’s land under our back deck.
Those we saw last week could be the same trio, but I think they’d have matured more. This year’s models were a pale leathery brown; I described the 2010 versions as about 12 inches long, with a tapering nine-inch tail. I said they wore a pinkish tan-colored leathery shell, but Dave saw it as gray-brown. Read More»

Wood ducks a- fledging

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Seeing wood duck babies dropping from the sky is mostly a matter of being at the right place at the right time.
When we walked out to the end of the Flat Creek Nature Center boardwalk recently they could not yet have left the nest, or we’d have heard them. But when we sauntered back toward the cart path, a mama wood duck fluttered noisily away without rising from the marsh. “That looks like a diversionary move,” I exclaimed. “She has chicks nearby,” and sure enough, we began hearing the unmistakable shrill peep-peep-peep of baby ducks. Read More»

A spider’s relative

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She lives at the corner of our house where the glass room meets the screened porch, sheltered by the eaves. There she rests, head down and legs stretched languidly while we scurry about our busy lives inside.

Several times a day we stop to admire her plump black-gold-white body and the racing stripes on graceful legs. She seldom leaves the soft mat in the center of her web, except to pick up some (formerly) fast food for her supper. Read More»

The Next Boat Comes Home

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So. We’d found and agreed upon The Next Boat. A Nimble Nomad, she’s a pretty little river trawler, needing only 18 inches of water under her keel and able to run up on a sandy beach.

A 45 HP Honda outboard powers her so quietly you can carry on normal conversation in the cabin.

Which is where the helm is. No more frying in the sun in an open stern, we’ll do our boating in the shade. Or out of the rain. A companionway (nautical for “door”) both fore and aft enables captain or crew to step out into deep cockpits from which to handle lines safely. Read More»

Stranded in Kentucky

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“Years from now, when we retell this story to our great-grandchildren, promise me you won’t tell people I hid in the bathroom, would you?”
“Only if you promise not to make a column out of our stupidity. This is the dumbest thing I’ve done in 60 years of boating.”

What? Me, tell the world we let ourselves get blown into water too shallow to float our boat, and spent days waiting to be rescued? And all for lunch in a nice restaurant? Never. Read More»

The Truth about Abbie

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Among a host of things we need to get done before time runs out, one is to settle the question: Should we get a new dog? The last dog we had was an Irish Setter, and we had to put her down in the fall of 1993.
We loved that dear old soul to distraction, which helped us tolerate the shedding. As a younger dog, there was just no stopping the fun. She made a joke of everything and visited the bases of certain trees and shrubs as though invisible messages were stacked one on another as we went. Read More»

Still looking for Daddy

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When I opened a letter from a cousin last week, out dropped a photocopy of a hideously scarred old photograph. It was a formal studio portrait, dated December 1892, of a woman and a man of indeterminate age, with an infant and a small boy. I sat for a long time looking at that dim picture. It was the first time I had ever laid eyes on a likeness of my grandparents.

Haven’t brought up my genealogical data lately; I get so wrapped up in it that nothing else happens when “Mom’s doing genealogy stuff.”
My daddy’s family was what we’d call today dysfunctional. Read More»

Luna Moth Mysteries

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They looked like leaves, two lime-green leaves in a jumble, caught on the outside of the screenporch that allows us to have doors open at night. When I looked at them more intently, they transformed from tangled leaves to two large moths with wings tightly folded together.

The large insects appeared to be still in the process of extending their wings and legs, inflating them from weeks in pupae, making ready to take to the air.

I needed to start our dinner, but I decided to keep watch over the moths lest a bird or other predator decided to take them out for dinner. Read More»