Talking Trash and Texas History

Linda Jo Conn

The suggested “Let’s Get Outside!” ECRTMN chapter activity for the first week in January was to pick up litter at a roadside park or other public area.  Granted, it is not that exciting a task but with the Covid numbers still a concern, it was an activity that could be performed in solitude at any convenient time.    

Today was my day to “get outside”.  It was cool and overcast but fortunately, there was not an icy wind gusting from the north.  

After attending the hybrid ECR chapter board meeting in Cameron, I drove down FM 2095 to Gause and turned east on Hwy 79 toward the Brazos River and the Milam and Robertson County line. Just before the river, there is a pullover with a couple of granite monuments and a row of large crepe myrtle trees.  

One of the monuments commemorates the former site of the town of Nashville surveyed in the fall of 1835 as the capital of Sterling C. Robertson’s colony and named for Nashville, Tennessee, where Robertson and many of his colonists had formerly lived.  The location also commemorates the first Texas home of George C. Childress, the chairman of the committee who drafted the Texas Declaration of Independence.    

The monuments

The other monument was erected by the Texas Society of DAR in 1991 to commemorate the DAR Centennial Park.  According to the inscription: “In 1936 the Sarah McCalla Chapter DAR of Cameron created a park (about ¾ mile upriver) at the site of old Nashville to commemorate the Texas State Centennial.  The red rock DAR monument to the left was in that park which is now inaccessible.”  The red rock monument referred to was vandalized and is no longer on the site.  The inscription continues: “Sterling C. Robertson who is buried in the old Nashville Cemetery was moved to the Texas State Cemetery in Austin in 1935.” The monument commemorates the Centennial of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution 1890-1990.

I do not travel this highway very often, but when I do, I usually stop to check the site out.  Usually, there has been plenty of litter in the area, but today, there was not an inordinate amount so my workload was light. I found nothing exciting or valuable; just the usual beer bottles, aluminum cans, cigarette butts, and some miscellaneous paper items.  My haul was a Walmart bag stuffed full and a few large pieces of metal. I am intrigued by the mention of the Nashville cemetery and the former park.  I plan to do some research and will return to visit the cemetery in the spring.  

The haul of trash.

The area behind the monuments is now covered with rosettes of Texas Bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis) and it will certainly be worth the trip. 

Bluebonnets!

When a Four-Year-Old Takes Hold of Your Camera

by Carolyn Henderson

On Sunday, November 21, I discovered that four-year-olds have a natural eye for photographing nature. It started on the Saturday evening before when a friend asked me what I was going to do on Sunday, and I said I was going to go “iNating” at Wilson-Ledbetter Park in Cameron. And she said she and her daughter (the 4-year-old), would like to go with me. 

Vivi and the lady beetle.

Around noon on Sunday, we met at the park. Spring (the friend) had printed a nature scavenger hunt for Vivi (the 4-year-old). The idea was to keep Vivi occupied while learning about nature. It didn’t take Vivi long to find everything pictured except two with the help of Spring. A pinecone was not going to be found at Wilson-Ledbetter, because there is no pine tree there. We didn’t see a squirrel either. 

Wilson-Ledbetter Park bridge

She had been interested in me taking pictures of Birds-eye Speedwells, Straggler Daisies, Santa Maria Feverfew, Docks, and a Black Willow sporting yellow fall leaves. She asked me what each one was, and luckily I knew them – so far. This is when she decided to help me take pictures. Spring tried to divert her by offering her cell phone, but Vivi wanted the camera, and I was willing to share. It’s old and I need a new one, anyway. 

These seeds are not delicious.

After a few times reminding her to keep her fingers from in front of the lens, she had it down. She took a particular interest in holes in the ground, anything that had a “V” shape, because she knows that’s the first letter of her name (and the other letters, too), the blue seeds on an Eastern Cedar (which we had to dissuade her from tasting), Carolina Snailseed, Frostweed (which was still blooming), dandelions, and Lady Beetles, which she could also catch.  She had as difficult a time as I do trying to get some little yellow butterflies to be still for a minute. 

Carolina snailseed

All the pictures shown except for her holding the Seven-spotted Lady Beetle were taken by Vivi. She asked me to tell Santa Claus that she wants a camera for Christmas. I quickly sent the message to Santa. ; )

My New Friend the Water Snake Returned

by Donna Lewis

Well since I wrote about the yellowbelly water snake eating my toad friend, it returned.

I thought it had left since it had eaten my little friend.  Sadly, it liked the hole the toad had wallered out and decided that it would take up residence there.

Hole, before filling in

So, now I could see its head poking out the hole under the water faucet every time I used the hose. All I could think about was it might be a girl and she would have her babies there. Not a good thing.   

I didn’t want to hurt it, but it needed to go back to our woods, where the pond is. My Linda also said it must go. She would have been happy to get the shotgun and blast away. I could not let that happen.

So, all I could think to do was to remove the little area under the faucet and fill it in. Of course, the snake was in the hole while I got started. How exciting.

Tools are ready!

I put on my snake leggings, just in case it wanted to bite me. Then I got everything I might need to do this task.  I got a hoe, shovel, dirt, and some rocks and put them close to the area.

Protection

Then, I lifted the flat rock that I placed there to keep the water from making a hole.  As soon as I lifted it, Mr. or Mrs. Snake came flying out and lunged at me. 

I had the shovel, so I flipped the snake away and started trying to scare it. I kept moving towards it and flipping it about five feet away. It actually was bucking in the air!  It was both terrifying and funny at the same time. 

At last, the snake finally decided I meant business and took off across the pasture.  Yes!

I quickly dug out the hole and then filled it in with all the stuff I had assembled. This was last week, and so far no snake.

All covered up

Who would believe this, but it’s true. No snake was hurt during this adventure.

Closing Down the Martin Houses

by Donna Lewis

So, the sad day has finally arrived for purple martin landlords. Our friends have gone to their winter home in Brazil.  It is so quiet now without their beautiful song and chatter.

The martin houses must be cleaned, closed, and information about what was in the nest after they left recorded.

Normally, I just have poop and dead bugs in the houses. But, surprise, surprise, there was a little more this time (in the apartment house, not the gourds).

Ready for anything.

I opened the first slot that opened four compartments and yellowjackets came flying out at me.  Oh boy. I managed to only let one sting me on my hand, which got really swollen.

So, how do I get the little devils out? First of all, never use pesticides in a bird house of any kind. The residue could hurt newborn babies who have no feathers.  They are pink and blind like baby mice, very vulnerable. What I do is I take tongs and yank out the nest, then run like heck. Well, maybe not run anymore, just walk real fast. Then I wait for the adults to move on.

This year there were two red wasp and two yellowjacket nests in my apartment house. It took me six hours to get them all out.  I will close up the gourd house another day.

I left the apartment house open for now until I can safely clean it out with the wet vac, then wipe it with a wet cloth. I let it completely dry. Then, I put a cover over it till next February, when the martins return.

The main thing is to be careful when you look in the houses, and secondly not to use pesticides .I will miss my friends and hope they survive to visit me again.

Belly Botany at Orchard Park

by Linda Jo Conn

John Pruett, Connie Anderle, Ann Collins and I joined forces at Orchard Park in Cameron for a nature survey.  Eric Neubauer arrived at the city park earlier to look for spiders and at the aerated pond and was leaving as we arrived.  The park with its old pecan trees is neatly mowed.  The paved walkway around the park was used by walkers and joggers during our visit.  Several bordered rose beds, wildscape areas, and a huge purple martin house installed in the past are apparently not maintained as intended, but I envisioned a person or small group with the time, energy, and desire to add to the beauty and utility of the park volunteering their efforts here.

Purple martin house at the park

I was disappointed to learn that the Cameron City Manager is leaving for another position.  During a conversation I had with him regarding the Great Texas Wildlife Trails Adopt A Loop Project, I was impressed with his vision and plans to incorporate more natural areas into the landscapes of the city parks.    

Strolling around the park “at the speed of botany,” we did some “belly botany.”  Most of the plants in bloom were below the height of the mower blades. One remarkable observation was the abundance of white widow’s tears (Commelina erecta).  I observed only one blue dayflower during the visit. We were pleased to see straggler daisy (Calyptocarpus vialis) and turkey trot frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora) carpeting the park. Wing pod purslane (Portulaca umbraticola) was in bloom and the tiny delicate flowers of erect spiderling (Boerhavia erecta) required a closer look. 

Among the animals observed was a fox squirrel (Sciurus niger) checking out the future pecan crop and several crayfish mounds (Cambaridae family).  While Connie was trying to point out some rice stink bugs (Oebalus pugnax) she had spotted, my eyes focused instead on a tiny sharpshooter (Draeculacephala sp.) on a blade of grass.  

As a destination for your daily walk or to just sit and relax in the shade of the pecan trees, Orchard Park on East 6th street across the railroad tracks from the Cameron Yards is a place to go.