Twenty four hours later, people in the Kentuckiana area are still trying to absorb what happened yesterday. A monstrous tornado completely wiped out several small communities including the town of Henryville which is about twenty miles from my home in Louisville. It’s a scene of complete destruction and there was loss of life all along the course of this twister. Believe it or not, we were anticipating that this could happen. Meteorologists were telling us that the conditions were right for violent storms. I was sent home hours early from work as were many other people in town to take shelter in our basements and safe places. I wonder how much worse it would have been without the advance warning? Thus far, we are more than double the usual tornadoes normally seen in the early spring. Throw away your Farmer’s Almanac…I’m not sure it describes the physical environment we now live in. It seems we are living in extreme and unstable times. Pick your poison, too hot, too dry, too wet, too many powerful storms, too many natural disasters. I hope this won’t be a dangerous spring…but it is already off to a bad start. My heart goes out to all the people affected by this tragedy.
I’ve watched the local news on television and read the morning newspaper. I feel like escaping and so I go to the Falls of the Ohio. I see just one other person all day, otherwise, it’s sunny, windy, and the river is rising. The tall figure I made last weekend is gone! Not a trace…nothing. I guess it got up and walked away. To haul something that big out of here takes some effort and commitment. I head down to the water’s edge which is creeping up the bank. As the waves crash against the shoreline, I’m scouting for the flotsam and jetsam the river gives me as gifts. Here are a few of today’s finds.
I believe this might be a teething ring for a doll? It’s tiny and the black object next to it is an ordinary plastic bottle cap which is a good gauge of scale.
And now for another object whose identity I’m not sure of! My guess is this is some plastic toy vegetable? Anyway, I dropped it into my B. Deemer Gallery collecting bag and moved on. My fake produce collection keeps getting bigger!
In my hand, I’m holding a plastic smiley fish! Probably a child’s bath tub toy. And now, for my favorite find of the day!
When I find something like this I wonder how long it’s been in the river? It could be years based on the patina it has acquired. I was admiring the frogman when I saw something else moving along the driftwood. I froze so I would not scare it away. From memory I quickly recognized it as a Water Weasel which is a seldom seen animal in these parts. Carefully, I eased my camera up to my eye and recorded these images in quick succession.
The Water Weasel is an unusual mammal. It’s always on the move and it’s always hungry. Rarely do you see more than one of these critters at a time. It can probably only stand its own specie’s company during the mating season. The Water Weasel is also extremely secretive and so it’s exceptional to spot this guy. As it comes closer to my position…I realize why it hasn’t seen me. The weasel is chasing something and is focused on its quarry.
The Water Weasel has relentlessly pursued its prey across wood and sand and made its kill. This time the victim is a small White-footed Mouse that had the misfortune of crossing paths with this predator.
The mouse disappears with a few bites and with a quick lick of the lips the weasel vanishes into the nearby driftwood mound. The whole predator/prey relationship crosses my mind. It’s not about picking winners and losers…nature is indifferent and has no stake in the outcome. I notice it is getting colder and the wind has picked up again. I can hear the logs crashing into one another in the river and making that sound which I associate with the grinding of teeth. A drop of water falls from my runny nose. It’s time to go home and cross the bridge back into Louisville. I wonder how high the river will rise?
Postscript: The Water Weasel is similar to another small mammalian predator known in folklore as the River Ghost. Here is a preserved specimen from the collections of the Museum of Unnatural History.