Wednesday, June 26, 2013

All that pertains to feedlots, meadowlarks, dust, and a certain '70's progressive rock band that shares the name of what most people think is a boring state

Neglected but not expired, this blog tenaciously clings to life like a doomed raccoon being bludgeoned to death by an irate septuagenarian gardener.

Here in Ulysses, Kansas, I recline [crunch crunch] on a veritable landfill of pillows in the Single Tree Inn. A fan of data sheets lies to by right; at my foot, my tired backpack, sun-bleached and dusty, regurgitates water [crunch crunch crunch] bottles, notebooks, a clipboard, binoculars, a GPS unit, and sundry other accoutrements that are a part of my daily life. And—provisions! Half a [crunch crunch] loaf of Sara Lee bread shares my bed, awaiting either mold or adornment with peanut butter, hummus, avocado, or some combination thereof. [Crunch]

(Your puzzled expression reminds me that I should parenthetically explain all the crunching going on. The culprit is a bag of baby carrots on the nightstand—or, more accurately, the culprit is me, periodically groping for a crisp cylinder of orange cellulose. I love carrots. This summer, I’ve consumed an average of four pounds a week.)

By some cruel twist of fate, I find myself working in southwest Kansas, surveying those great green pies upon which bored airline passengers gaze during flights from Chicago to Los Angeles. I’ve been on those flights myself; I’ve stared at the crop circles with detached horror, thinking of how miserable life would be among them.

The signature of center pivot irrigation. Photo courtesy of  Wikipedia, since (a) I cannot fly and (b) my camera no longer resides among the living.

Of course you know the four Axioms of Kansas. Kansas is hot. Kansas is windy. Kansas is flat. Kansas is agricultural. A month and counting of life here has convinced me that these are, indeed, true. However, even vegetation assessments under the overheated-car-engine blaze of 104 degrees beats menial labor in a paint lab, or not working at all.

My job, I explain to the uninitiated, is a combination of off-roading, geocaching, mud-bogging, birdwatching, and quantifying weeds (weeds, not weed, though wild marijuana does grow rampant through disturbed areas a bit east of here.) Although the surveys are endless permutations of the same seven or so species—Red-winged Blackbird, Horned Lark, Mourning Dove, Lark Bunting, Grasshopper Sparrow, Western Meadowlark, Dickcissel—the occasional novelty will pop up, like the Upland Sandpiper and Burrowing Owl yesterday, or the Golden Eagle and Bullock’s Oriole this morning.

It’s not so bad, being a field biologist. But I should shut my laptop and nap to compensate for my 4 AM rise—and to prepare for tomorrow’s similarly early start. Crepuscular is what I have become, crepuscular and carrot-consuming.