Under the Open Sky: Better Safe Than Sorry

By Kimberly Mason
For The Chronicle

I make it a habit each week to stop by and check on the fisherman at the Barrier Dam. I don’t make it a regular habit to climb down the rock wall near the spillway, however.

But Monday afternoon I decided I needed to make that scramble, both hands full of items I was sure I needed. As I stood at the top of the hill, my gut said to my (apparently) inoperative brain, “You better set something down; you’re going to be off balance.”
I didn’t set anything down. I told my gut to shut up and started down the hill.

A few seconds later, my foot slipped on loose gravel and as I was working to sink the heaviest and cushiest part of my body down into the dirt before I slid any further, I swear I could hear my gut saying to my brain, “I told you so.”

As I sat there, stunned and holding my twisted ankle in the air, all the anglers turned and stopped fishing for a moment to ask if I was okay.

I hated falling down in front of the guys and I had to work hard to keep my language from taking a very unladylike turn — language I usually reserve for those moments when I’ve hooked into a really big salmon and the words naturally spill out with the excitement of the moment or when I have to cuss out an irritating Russian angler (who is now my friend) for getting in the way every time I walk a big fish down the line.

As I was crawling back up the hill on my hands and knees, one of the fishermen hooked into a nice Chinook that took all the attention away from me and for that I was grateful.

I was also grateful that it took him a full ten minutes to work that fish in to the shore, which gave me enough time to hobble over to my car and grab my camera.

As I waited for the fish and net to find each other, I cataloged the gear in my car and remembered that I had “cleaned” my car not too long ago. I had a first aid kit with an ice pack in there — “had” being the operative word.

My plans to fish the edges of Swofford Pond and then take a hike with a friend after her work day was over were ruined. Instead, I had to head for the nearest emergency room (aka The Pioneer Bar & Grill) for an ice pack and some sympathy.

I didn’t notice that my knuckles were skinned up and bleeding until later. That first aid kit would have come in pretty handy.

Take a lesson from me, folks, when you go outside and play, it’s best to go prepared. If you don’t have a first aid kit in your car, go out and buy one now. If you already have one in your car, check it to make sure you have everything in there that you may need in case of emergency.

Check Hanging Baskets for Bird Nests

Before you take home one of those beautiful mixed flower baskets from your local garden center, you might want to check inside the basket for bird nests.

I’ve already heard of two cases of people bringing home more than they bargained for and are caring for a basket full of baby birds.

The Dark-eyed Junco must have a hankering for pretty flowers in their nursery, because they seem to be the ones that choose flower baskets most often.

Look to the Skies for Entertainment

One of the advantages of being stuck in a chair with your foot propped up is that you can do quite a bit of concentrated bird watching.

One of the more entertaining views has been that of the Brewer’s Blackbirds, who have their nests in the Christmas tree farm across from my house. The crows, ravens and red-tailed hawks try their best to sneak into the area to raid their nests, but the army of Brewer’s Blackbirds chases them right back out again.

I’ve never seen such bravery on the field of battle.

I have a host of baby birds just fresh from the nest coming to visit now. Red-winged Blackbirds, Pine Siskins, House Finches and Purple Finches are the most common.

If you haven’t taken down your bird feeders and given them a good scrubbing lately, now’s the time. Think of the babies and their good health.

It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Now, go outside and play. It’s gonna be a good day.

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Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer and photojournalist. Visit her website The (Almost) Daily News (almostdailynews.com), find her on Facebook (Kimberly Mason — The Chronicle), call 269-5017 or email kim@almostdailynews.com.