Ah, the newness of a brand new year! Seems refreshing, doesn’t it? We’ve made it through the holiday season, a wretched election year, and part of the winter doldrums.
Cabin fever set in, yet? Ready to venture into spring, when nature comes alive again? The Super Bowl is still up to bat, as is Valentine’s Day. There’s also Inauguration Day on January 20.
Never in my adult life did I expect to see what happened over the political course of 2016. I’ve not met too many people who did expect it. The divisiveness and sheer angst of so many people. The election, the aftermath. Maybe I live in a bubble of all things pond. If that’s the case, please don’t pop that bubble.
Here’s what I know. This country will always have cultural issues. We are not an autonomous people. We are different races, different cultures, different religions, and different upbringings. But, that’s part of why I love this country.
Debbie and I decided to take a trip over Thanksgiving. Do something different. So, we booked tickets on Amtrak from Gainesville, Texas to Rochester, New York to spend the week with our great friends, Bucky and Mary Lainhart. We spent most of three days and two nights on trains. We bought the sleeper accommodations. Bunk bed overhead, two comfortable chairs facing each other and a tray similar to what you might see in first class on an airplane. Food was included. It was huge fun. We didn’t really know what to expect, as this adventure was new to us.
The food was really good, almost like a moving date. We headed to the dining car, were seated—with the caveat that there are only so many seats and so much time allotted for dining. What that means is that we could have company in our booth, and not know these people from Adam.
We rode from Gainesville to Fort Worth and changed trains. From Fort Worth, it was a 26-hour ride to Chicago, Illinois, running alongside the Mississippi River at dawn, south of St Louis, and over the farm fields of Illinois.
What were our take home points? The train was a smooth ride. No herky-jerky ride or clickety-clack of the rails. Smooth and comfortable. Food was really good. But, the biggest take home point, to me, was the diversity of the passengers and watching people interact in the dining car. There was a Mennonite couple in their late 60’s. There were African-Americans, middle class white women, people from the Far East, and one guy who showed up for breakfast with baggy eyes, saggy blue pajama bottoms emblazoned with images of beer mugs overflowing—all over his pants. His saggy t-shirt had a different picture of a beer mug, tipped over his belly. Boy, did that guy get some looks! But, as the wait staff randomly seated people, it was heartwarming to see the mix of people get to know each other, even if it were just for those passing moments. It was a healthy mix of Americans, riding across the country to their different destinations, breaking bread and sharing time with each other, oblivious to the ridiculousness of what was going on outside of that train. It was people respecting each other, sharing stories, and visiting. Different cultures and different beliefs, just people being Americans and enjoying each other’s dignity. Debbie and I found it refreshing, and it gave us hope that this country will be fine.
The lineup in this issue may not necessarily break you away from cabin fever, and it certainly won’t lead to peace around the world, but it will give you valuable insight into different topics to help you think through what you are doing with your precious land and water resources.
Mike Otto writes about the life span of ponds, Dr. Brian Graeb covers a similar topic on a more global scale, and Mark Cornwell describes Trophic Cascade and how it affects your waters. Dr. Wes Neal tackles ways to find the right kind of help when you need it. David Beasley helps DIYers figure out when to call calf rope, while Michael Gray waxes somewhat philosophical about being a dirt mover. We’ve got an interesting follow up about river otters, and Dr. Claude Boyd adds his thoughts about the values of soil tests from pond dirt. Eric West sorts through the science to help us identify problems. Dan VanSchaik shares clues about identifying upland game habitat. I’ve tackled several topics, too, like: Should you engage in a feed-trained fish program? What are the limiting factors of your lake? Will stunted bass grow? “Birdman” Mel helps cure the winter blues by feeding the birds. And, we have all the regular columns, too. Kids Korner is worthy of sharing.
Welcome to 2017! While we look at 2016 and shake our heads, let’s look forward into this New Year. It opens with promise and hope—at least I see it that way. Hope you do, too!
A series dedicated to Bob Lusk's general musings about land, water and life.
Letter from the Editor - Jan/Feb 2017