July 30 – Rain, rain, go away

Tuesday it must have been Take Your Husband to Work Day.  I went with Stacey to her office.  In the morning I mostly hung out and read a book.  I did visit the thrift store and pick up a few heavy cotton shirts for doing outside work.  We had lunch at The Brick Oven, in downtown Hannibal, which really does have a brick oven.  I hadn’t had a calzone in a long time.  In the afternoon we went to Clarksville.  We did not take the last train.  I drove down highway 79, which is very scenic along the Mississippi.  The Salt River was high, fast and filling the surrounding fields.  While Stacey was in a meeting, I toured the downtown.  There is a block or two of artists shops with really neat stuff.  They weren’t all open, however, because of the flood.  They have no levee, so they built a big wall of sandbags.  It held, but I think some shops have not yet returned after clearing out.  They had some nice flower gardens.  I shot some bees and butterflies while waiting. 

They cut this path through the wall now that the flood is over.

Clouded sulfur.  They were all over the flower gardens.

There was a tremendous thunderstorm on our way home.  We had hail and high winds.  Some cars were pulling over to wait it out.  It was at its worst when we reached Hannibal.  As we made our way to Stacey’s office, the rainwater was coursing down the hilly streets, overwhelming the storm drains.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  When Stacey came back to the car she noticed a nail in our front tire.  We left it in and I drove home.  It didn’t seem to lose any pressure.

Wednesday morning it was still drizzling a bit.  I took the car in for new tires, as the front ones were getting bald.  I did the dog and cat run. 

They do have a million dollar view up there.

This tree frog was hunkered down on a log where we keep a potted plant by the front door.

I did some homework, then spent the afternoon working on my CafePress account.  I opened a premium shop (Show Me Joe’s Shop) and imported all the products from my basic shops into it.  I’m still tweaking it, but you can check it out here:


Thursday I went out to Lowell’s.  They had just picked blackberries the day before, so I only picked about a cup myself.  Fortunately, Lowell has been picking and saving them for me, and had about 8 pounds already.  We fished three rounds of the lake.  It wasn’t extremely fast action, but I caught about five.  At one point I hooked something really big, probably a catfish.  It was pulling out drag and having its way with me when the hook on my jighead broke.  That doesn’t happen often.   After lunch we did another round of the lake with no results.  We fished the catfish pond and I caught a bass of about 14 inches. 

A flock of geese came in to the lake while we were fishing.

The widow skimmer, now a weekly guest.

Friday I did the cats and dog run and started mowing the lawn.  Now there’s a giant gear wheel near the road which I assume was put there to act as a level, stable platform to put the trash can on.  I’ve never hit it before, but this time I nailed it.  It bent the 30-inch blade on my mower, costing myself about twenty bucks in that moment.  Of course, George had one for me, and I had him sharpen a chain for me while he was at it.  I got a few more jobs done outside before the day was over, then worked on my CafePress shop some more. I updated all my calendars and created a new one: The Roadkill Calendar.  I’ve been collecting the images for almost a year.  Friday night we went to a block party downtown.  It was fairly fun.  We mostly hung out with the firefighters, who had the fire trucks there to show the kids.  We got good food, and there was a bluegrass band playing most of the time.  I talked to friends and toured the art gallery.  A couple of painters I know were showing their work. 

I know my aviation freak friends will enjoy this, a helicopter down by the river.

Saturday we went to Hannibal for the swim championships.  We had to drop Savannah and her friend off early to warm up.  Stacey and I went to her office, the post office, a farmers market, and a diner for breakfast.  We went back to the pool, stayed in the air-conditioned area and read books nearly the entire time.  When Savannah had a race, I’d walk to the pool bleachers and watch it.  She did well in most of her events.  In breast stroke, she took third, which I think is the best she’s ever done in an individual event.  After looking at the results sheet, I saw that the two girls that beat her were 13 years old, but had swum in the 15-18 category, which is allowed.  So among 15-18 year-olds, Savannah was best.  Incredibly, Savannah’s team (Can-oka) won the meet again, for the 12th time in a row.  The win was not expected, as we have very few boys in the older categories.   Afterward we went to WalMart then a Chinese food place.

This is how one recovers from such a day.

Sunday I went for a short bike ride.  I did the dog and cats run, then rode around town looking for targets of opportunity.  I got so distracted I was out all morning.  I was watching a painted lady fly down the street.  It finally landed in someone’s yard.  I stopped and began to photograph it.  Eventually, a resident emerged from the house.  She was a very nice lady who seemed pleased to have me there.

The Painted Lady.  Look at the abdomen; she’s ovipositing on the sage.

A nice Common Buckeye.  The oregano plant was very attractive to bees, wasps and butterflies.

The Cabbage White.

Great Golden Digger Wasp.  One of my faves.

My first shot of a Eurasian collared dove.  Looks like a mourning dove, but note black collar at nape of neck and squared off tail.

Stacey had a rare Sunday morning off.  She has quit her little country church.  I would say it was because they didn’t seem to adequately value her services, but it is not my story to tell.  Savannah had to work the 1 to 4 shift in her usual role as lifeguard at the pool.  Most of what she does is yell at bratty children who are breaking the rules, but on this day she actually performed a rescue.  A boy in her own class at school went off the diving board without knowing how to swim.  He did “distressed swimming” for awhile, but made no progress toward the side of the pool.&
nbsp; Savannah, recognizing the situation, sprung into action.  She dove from the lifeguard tower and pulled him to the edge of the pool.  I guess he laid on the concrete for a long while recovering.  It was quite the adrenaline rush for Savannah.

Monday morning I went down the street to the cicada killer aggregation.  There were more males than there had been last week, and they were busy chasing each other around.  When I could catch them perching I got some decent results.

Isn’t he cute?

A Tiger Swallowtail showed up, but it had a big chunk of forewing missing.  Luckily, another appeared, having perfect wings.

Twin tigers.

Lateral view of Mr. Perfect.

This is a shot I’ve been waiting about two years to get.

This big orb weaver was wrapping up her latest victim.  You can see the web coming out of the spinnerets.

Before I looked at these I bet Savannah I had taken about 300 frames.  It ended up being 302.  In the afternoon Savannah had to work.  I rode my bike down to the pool.  It was the hottest day of the year so far (97 F, high humidity).  The pool water felt good, and I practiced snorkeling again.  It was only moderately embarrassing to Savannah, as there weren’t too many people left at the pool. 

Paddling the Fenway Canal

I’ll be submitting this to Paddling.net soon.
A canal may not be the most wild and natural place to paddle, but it still makes for an interesting afternoon.  Fenway Landing Conservation Area is a state-owned site on the Mississippi River in Lewis County, Missouri.  Primarily, it provides a launch ramp for boats to easily access Pool 20.  However, on the gravel road to the river is a prominent pump station that takes water from levee district to the north and pumps it into a canal that runs south to Canton, meeting the Mississippi River just below Lock and Dam 20.  I’d lived here almost ten years, and fished both ends of the canal, but never explored it further.  I bribed my daughter into shuttling me and the kayak to the put in, where the water comes out of some large culverts running under the road. 

Here is where I saw the strangest phenomenon of the entire trip.  Thousands of fish were aggregating at the headwaters.  They appeared to be carp about 3-4 inches long.  They were schooling, jumping, making the water boil, and apparently trying to swim farther upstream. 

The “headwaters” of the canal.

Many anxious young fish.

The first section is tree-lined, and looks tropical with all its viny overgrowth.

In other sections I was almost level with the surrounding fields.

I disturbed this vulture during its dinner.  I’m betting it was fish.

Other birds I saw included Canada geese, great blue herons, kingfishers, eastern kingbirds, eastern phoebes, grasshopper sparrows, green herons, and a ruby-throated hummingbird.

This straight section seems like it will go on forever.  It will if you don’t work at it.  The current here is negligible, making this a paddle, not a float.

I was trying to illustrate how the flood killed these young oak trees, but I liked the way the clouds and reflections turned out.

I attempted some fishing.  There were lots of carp jumping and gar splashing, but no sport fish went after my jigs and spinners.  I also explored some creepy overgrown side channels, small creeks that drain the surrounding fields.  I knew I had plenty of time to burn.

When I got near the end of the canal, I stopped at this fence where I lost a couple of lures a few weeks previously while I was fishing for white bass.  That’s my double curlytail white grub at the lower left.

As I approached to retrieve the lure, however, I noticed that it had a fat, sinuous guardian.  Fortunately, she left and I picked up the lure (lower right).

At this point I turned right and headed up the ditch that routes Dead Dog Creek around the levee.  The water is seldom high enough to do this.  I could have gone farther than Route B, but I turned around there after crossing underneath.  It has three culverts.

Would you like Door Number One, Door Number Two, or Door Number Three?  I took One going out and Two coming back.  Apparently, all the mosquitoes in Canton spend the daytime in that tube.

I forgot to mention that to get into Dead Dog Creek I crossed this railroad bridge.

I had to do the kayak limbo to get under it. 

The bridge to the lock house marks the near end of the trip.  I yelled a few times when I was under its arching span, as it produces a tremendous echo.  It’s only a few hundred yards to the launch ramp near the ferry at Canton.  This stretch is on Pool 21 of the Mississippi, right below the lock and dam.  There’s at least some current there.  This trip takes about 2.5 hours, depending on how much you explore or fish, and spans about 5 miles.  The canal was about 7 feet deep along most of its length, according to my little hand-held depth meter, but then they were pumping a lot of water and the river was high.  The river stage was at 12 feet on this day (available here: www.crh.noaa.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=lsx&gage=canm7&view=1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1).    It’s often between 2 and 3 at this time of year.  Hence, it might be difficult or impossible to make this trip when the river is low.

July 23 – Cicada killer season

Tuesday morning I went to the cicada killer aggregation down the street.  I took a tripod and the 150 mm macro lens.  It makes for crisp shots, but narrow depth of field.  At full resolution you can count the hairs on these guys.  The overcast conditions made for nice, even lighting.  I just need to get a little more depth of field.
This one’s floating on a cloud (actually a stonecrop).

Grooming the antennae.

The new “Jaws.” 

Artsy close-up of purple coneflower.

The Spring Azure, a new species for me.
 Common buckeyes are starting to appear.

I rode my bike up for the dog and cat feeding run.  I tried to get the little waterfall that forms on the creek after a good rain (we had an inch during a violent thunderstorm overnight).

It’s hard to get a good angle on this thing.

Later I went over Nancy’s house to pick up a fish. 
Nancy has awesome sunflowers.  Bees like ’em too.       Pearl crescent and black-eyed susan.

Wednesday I went out to Lowell’s.  We started off fixing a small dock down by the fish cleaning station.  Lifting and shifting was all that was required to get things back in order.  We fished three rounds of the lake.  I finally caught a bass on the scum frog, but it wasn’t producing a lot of action so I tried other things.  The winner seemed to be a rat-L-trap.  I experimented with one of my baitcasting reels.  If I reduce all the anti-backlash settings I can make some slick underhand casts.  Gotta watch for snarling line, however.  We had lunch at the usual greasy spoon diner, but treated ourselves to a milk shake at the little grocery next door.  It was really good, but we were probably more in the mood for a nap than anything else.  We went back and worked on another dock, this one got stuck on a big pipe when it came down after high water.  The plan was to use a sawzall driven by a generator to cut the pipe off near water level.  I took off my shoes and socks to get out on the dock because of the wet approach.  The boards were so hot I had to soak my feet in the water periodically.  I pried up two of the deck boards to better access the pipe.  Then, just for grins, I stood next to the pipe and pulled straight up.  It came up a few inches fairly easily.  I told Lowell I wasn’t cutting no stinking pipe, and pulled it the rest of the way out.  We were very relieved at having avoided the painful, difficult and dangerous cutting method.  In future, the dock will be stabilized by cables so that it can’t float over its posts again.  We took another round of the lake, but only got halfway before our battery was dangerously low.  We had forgotten to plug it back in to charge during lunch.  I caught a final (6th) bass right before we got back to the dock.  I filleted the fish we had taken earlier and saved the skin.  We went up to the catfish pond and I put a piece of skin on a hook and cast it out into the middle of the pond.  I went back to my tackle box to get a bell and when I returned my rod was already bending.  I reeled in a respectable catfish.  I cast for bass numerous times, but got no bites.  I entertained myself by photographing stuff.

I like the shadows cast by the wings of this eastern amberwing female. 

Another male widow skimmer.

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could rise from the dead?
Why did the woodchuck cross the road?
I give up.

That night I got some inspiration from somewhere and cleaned out our stand-up freezer.  The timing is designed for trash pick-up on Thursday morning.  I found various game species from 2006, 2005, 2002, 2000, 1999 and, wait for it, 1998.  Yes, 10-year-old dead meat was in my freezer (wood duck, I think).  That means some of this stuff was moved here from Illinois and moved with us 5 times since.  Most was freezer burnt or worse.  Talk about your overdue jobs.  Out it went. 

Thursday it rained all stinkin’ day.  Nonetheless, my friend Leo came over for a garden tour.  First we went to lunch for a good long hour.  The rain let up a little.  I gave him the 50-cent driving tour of Canton, pointing out highlights of the flood and tornado.  I’m sure he thinks this is a great place to live now.  We looked at my prairie and the rest of my yard, then went down the street to Nancy’s and looked at her prairie and yard.  Yeah, it was an assembly of plant freaks.

Friday morning it was still raining.  I did the dog and cats run using the car instead of biking.  On the way out I spotted a Giant Swallowtail puddling in the drive.  I stopped and shot 140 frames.  No kidding.  I tried a couple of different exposure tricks, and the butterfly was very cooperative.  Still, it’s incredibly difficult to produce a perfect photo.

Dorsal view.

Lateral view.  Rainwater tastes good, I suppose.

In the afternoon I floated the canal from Fenway Landing to Canton.  Again, this will be the subject of a special entry.

Saturday I judged the car show.  I only had to look at 9 cars.  I chose the categories that were interesting to me, like cars from the 70s and 80s.   I voted for Best of Show a 71 Nova that was very nice: clean, minimalist, and period appropriate.  As usual, I was paid with a T shirt.  At least this year it was in my size and with a unique design (sorry, Mike, you’re not getting this one!).   I was riding my bike home when I saw a Zebra Swallowtail in a flower garden at Culver.  This is a species I have not yet photographed.  I lingered a moment to make sure it was going to stay there, then pedaled hard for home.  I picked up my camera and rode back.  It was still there, but shortly I noticed nearly an entire hindwing was missing.  It was pretty ragged all the way around.  I tried playing angles to minimize noticeable damage.


After lunch I rode my bike down to the pool.  Some kids were really impressed with my bike.  I told them it was older than them.  They asked if I had done any marathons.  I said no, given that marathons are usually run on your feet.  They asked how many bugs had bitten me. 
I didn’t know.  I did some diving with them, then practiced snorkeling for awhile.  I want to be real comfortable by the time I get back to Galapagos.

Sunday I took a bike ride along what I call the PCB route.  Not for the chemicals, but because I ride on Routes P, C and B in that order.  It’s 20 miles, and all paved.  It was largely uneventful, except that my sunglasses broke, I got a bug in my eye, and my right cleat went out of alignment.  It was a nice test of the new bicycle computer.  My cruising speed is only 11-12 mph.  It’s incredible what the thing can tell you.  I think I still have in my bike toolbox my old Huret mechanical odometer, which was driven by a big O ring.  What I need is a device that will tell me how many miles I have left in my legs on that day. 

I stopped to feed the dog and cats.  A nice Red-spotted Purple landed on the garage floor. 
Dorsal and lateral views.

I had picked up a couple of freshly roadkilled birds and saved them for my vertebrate field biology class next spring.  I also took a fallen dragonfly.  When I got home I set up my studio and played around with a ring flash and extension tubes.  I think I finally got them figured out.

Common whitetail, female.  I want a pair of sunglasses just like that.

Savannah saved this cicada for me, apparently Tibicen pruinosa, the scissors grinder.

It rained all Sunday night, and Monday morning I woke up to a big piece of the whomping willow lying in the back yard.  I spent most of the morning chainsawing it up and loading the brush in the truck.  I was interrupted by a tiger swallowtail basking in the dull, emerging sun.  Looks like butterflies are starting to come back.

Floating the Wyaconda River

Note: I submitted this to Paddling.net as a “Day Trip Report”.  Consequently, it reads a bit differently from my usual drivel.  They will only publish two of the photographs.  You, my subscribers, get 16!

Northern Missouri is not well known for it’s paddling opportunities (the Ozarks get all the attention), but there are a few places well worth seeing from your canoe or kayak.  I’ve floated the Wyaconda River in northeast Missouri three times before, but always with a partner in an aluminum canoe.  This would be the first time solo in a plastic sit-on-top kayak, the Wilderness Systems Ride 135.  I had my daughter shuttle me.  We left my car at the take out in La Grange, then she dropped me an the kayak off at the put in, Sunnyside School Conservation Area.  The iron bridge here is a landmark, but the name comes from an old school bus that was pushed into the river.  Remnants of it can still be seen immediately after the put-in.   The trip can be characterized by three reaches: the prairie, the rocky flats, and the mouth.  The prairie section has mud or sand  bottom and mature trees.  It’s very quiet and peaceful.  You’d seldom know you were surrounded by agricultural fields, except that occasionally the corn peeks out above the banks. 
A turkey vulture airs out its wings on a large dead tree. I also saw a bald eagle, a red-tailed hawk, many great blue herons, kingfishers, eastern phoebes, cardinals, blue jays, cliff swallows and bank swallows. 
The sound of traffic on Highway 61 disturbs the peace, and also signals the transition to the second reach.  The banks and bottom become more rocky, and a few minor rapids are found.

I pulled up on this sandbar for a lunch break.  Butterflies, including this gray hairstreak, puddle on the banks.

Columnar limestone bluffs are surprising in this part of the country.  I’d never noticed these inclusions before, which appear to be large geodes.

I saw several deer down on the sandbars in this section, as well as a woodchuck.  The rocky flats section has many shallow rapids.  They are not challenging to run in the traditional sense–they merely challenge you to find a place deep enough to get through without scratching your boat.  You will scrape the underside of your boat unless you portage.  There are some sections that require you to get out and pull your boat through the shallows.  The gage height was 3.38 and the flow rate was 70, well above the median of 12 (available here: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?05496000).  This means that most of the time the water is much lower, and more scrapage will occur in the absence of portaging.

Large boulders are rare here.  There were many damselflies–and dragonflies–flitting about along the way.  I was happy to photograph this one, a favorite of mine.  The American Rubyspot is an unmistakable damselfly species.

I’ve seen a softshell turtle scramble down the rocks into the water, and once saw a lizard on the bluff.  The rapids end in the mouth reach.  The Mississippi River backs into the mouth of the Wyaconda, making it deep and very slow.  Sometimes Asian carp will jump out of the water here. 

Sheer cliffs provide housing for cliff swallows.
The Route B bridge signals the near-end of the float.  This GBH just wants to get away from me.

A short jaunt down the Mississippi brings you to the riverfront at La Grange, looking pretty rough right now due to the flood of 2008.  Note: do not get out on the banks here, as the proverbial Mississippi mud is black, greasy and DEEP.  This float takes about five hours.


July 15 – Tree planting

Tuesday I went out to Lowell’s for an exciting day of tree planting.  We started early so it wasn’t too hot.  We planted osage orange, paw paw, blackberries, loblolly pine, false indigo and bald cypress.  The bald cypress were interesting, as I went nearly over my rubber boots in mud at the edge of the lake to plant them.  I was plunging a hole for an indigo when I heard “Uh”, splash.  I dropped the tree planter and ran.  Lowell had slipped into the catfish pond.  His expression indicated that he wasn’t wanting to swim at that time, so I gave him a hand getting out.  Fortunately, we were nearly done.  After he changed we went to lunch.  We fished during the afternoon.  Lowell caught a few.  I got some bites on the “scum frog”, but was skunked again (for the third time in a row, for those who are keeping track).  While we were driving around in the mule, we noticed the top was blown off of one of the bluebird nest boxes.  When we stopped to fix it, we found it was full of sticks.  Something had tried to build a nest in it, but not a bluebird.  We checked them all.  Five out of six had nesting material.  Most had the top off or nearly off.  One had an actual bird fly out of it.  It was one of the native sparrows, like a song or savannah sparrow, but too fast for me to tell.

Jewel wasp again–better image.                                    Wild petunia.

Wednesday I took the kayak down the Wyaconda River.  Though this will be the subject of a special entry, I will add a few observations here that don’t fit into that travelogue.  My brand new kayak is no longer pristine.  Dragging over the rocks has left some distinct scratches on the underside.  Oh well, it’s not for show.  I had left my chosen fishing rod at Lowell’s.  I used an ultralight spinning outfit that I have not employed in a long time.  I had forgotten how terrible the reel is.  Sounds like a coffee grinder.  It didn’t matter anyway, as I didn’t get a bite.  (That’s four skunks in a row, for those keeping track).  I didn’t really expect to catch anything without live bait.  At one point I passed a small tributary that was very turbid and smelled like sewage.  After thinking about it awhile, I reported it to the DNR. 
I wasn’t home long before Stacey’s pager went off.  There was a wreck right down the street.  After I put the truck away I rode my bike down there.  Check this out:

My interpretation is that the now inverted pickup truck was towing the rusty van on a dolly when something went awry, the trailer jackknifed, and the truck rolled.  We’ll see how my deductions match with the official report later.  Incidentally, no one was hurt.

Thursday I went to QU in the morning for meetings.  In the afternoon I drove Savannah and her current beau down to Louisiana (MO) for a swim meet.  It was very well organized, but not well attended.  That made it go fast, fortunately.  It looks like we will not win championships this year, as we have no boys older than 12 on the team.
Dive                                                                                                         Turn


Friday I decided to make the final push on yard work for this year.  I cut out a huge honeysuckle at the corner of the woods.  It covered about a 20-foot diameter.  Cutting it was the easy part.  Hauling the brush was the major work.  I learned one valuable thing: it’s easy to pull up even modestly sized honeysuckles in moist ground.  I hauled three loads to the brush dump and planted some trees I got from Lowell.  At one point I came in for a break, but immediately spotted a butterfly in the back yard.  I yelled, “Tiger swallowtail!” and ran to the truck for my camera.  I came in after taking 20 or so shots.  Savannah said, “What a dork.”  I’ve been trying to get a decent photo of this species for a long time.  Too bad I left the optical stabilization switched off on the lens; most of the images were too blurry.  It had a big chunk missing from a hindwing anyway.
Tiger swallowtail.                                                          Hard to resist a bee on purple coneflower.

Saturday Stacey and I drove down to Hannibal to meet a group of Americorps volunteers that was coming to do flood relief.  They seemed like a nice bunch of idealistic kids.

Sunday morning I rode my bike on the pet-feeding run.  I saw a zebra swallowtail when I arrived and gave pursuit, but lost it.  On the way I saw a lek (group of competing males) of large black wasps. 
I’m not sure what species they are yet, but there are enough to do a study.  If I find females there provisioning, I’ll know just what to do.  On the way back I wandered through the flower gardens at Culver and discovered a lek of cicada killers. And only two blocks from home.  What luck!  I took my first photos of CKs with the new camera.
Unidentified black beauty.                                                                        Perching male cicada killer.

Those in the know will recognize the pose of the male CK above as essentially identical to that of my tattoo.

After Savannah bought a new phone, I inherited her old Moto Razr.  It’s much more sophisticated than my old phone.  I can get creative with it by adding photos and sounds.  I’ve had a lot of fun making my own ringtones.  For Savannah’s ringtone, I snipped out part of an old Warren Zevon song: “Send lawyers, guns and money.  Dad, get me out of this.  Ha!”  So far, only money has been required.

July 8 – White bass run!

Tuesday I ran a bunch or errands around town, loaded the kayak on the Egg, and went to the Lewis County Fair.  I had volunteered to judge the photography competition.  They had too many categories and not enough entries (in some of them).  A lot of the images were pretty bad.  Once I got into a groove, I had no trouble picking winners.  A friend of mine was judging some food entries and she gave me some cookies.  Yum! I got a hamburger afterward and walked over to look at the dairy cows.  I ran into some friends there.  Larry told me there had been a good white bass run on Saturday, on the bridge down by the river.  I showed him the kayak and described all its virtues.  I went to Lowell’s after that.  I was going to take the kayak out to LaBelle, but a storm was coming in.  We thought we might have time to get a round of fishing in on Lake Lowell before it hit.  We went down to the pontoon boat and cast off.  It began to rain.  We turned right around and moored up without ever having cast.  There were no projects we could work on, as it began to lightning, thunder and pour.  The satellite reception went out, so we watched the King Kong DVD (most recent version).  When I left it was already 5 but I went straight down to the river to look around.  Fish were jumping.  I took out the baitcaster with a spinner and started casting about.  They were jumping like mad, but not biting.  I switched to a funky green curlytail grub.  Still no bites.  I switched that for a white doubletail grub and caught a small white bass.  I released it and caught another.  Finally, I caught what would be the biggest at 15.5 inches.  It might have been a hybrid striper, as some of its longitudinal lines were broken.  I caught four more keepers.  I had forgotten how well they fight.  It was lightly raining the whole time.  A dragonfly was emerging from its nymphal shell right next to my tackle box.  When the bite slowed down I ran back to the car for the camera.  A guy had stopped by with his two little girls.  They wanted to see my fish.  I said OK, but first I’d show them something really cool, the fresh dragonfly.  As I approached, it flew away.  Dang!  They had to settle for the fish.  I tried to catch one while they were there, but had no biters.  I caught no more. 

Wednesday morning I went straight back to the same site.  The fish were jumping and the bite was still on.  I caught several from the far side of the bridge, but when I switched back to the near side and figured out how to pitch the lure under the arch I started nailing the lunkers.  I added the end of a curlytail grub to a funny saltwater jig, and this was really working for me…until I snagged and lost it.  I switched to a spinner, which they seemed to like nearly as well.  I caught 32 and kept a limit of 15. 
I knew some of the recipients of this missive would not believe me without photographic evidence, so I arrayed them with the ruler set at 18 inches near the largest one at right.

I thought they looked better in this pile, however.

That night we went to a swim meet in Quincy.  Stacey met us there on her way back from work.  I volunteered to be a timer.  The meet was chaotic.  It was indoor, and the kids were so loud you coudn’t hear anything.  The lady running the race tried to use a whistle to get the kids in the right places, but it was just loud and annoying.  She bore a strong resemblance to the Mrs. Ballbricker character from the Porky’s movies.  He voice over the PA system was unintelligible.  Some kids didn’t swim their races because they didn’t know they were up.  A speaker on the other side of the pool, near the bullpen where the kids wait, was apparently nonfunctional.  I’ve seen this at many area pools.  Why don’t people know how to rewire speakers.  It’s easy! Savannah borrowed a pair of “better” goggles for her race in breast stroke, but they came off, and she had to swim blind.  She took second.  Her other races were about like usual. 

Thursday morning I went back to the river to see if the fish were still biting.  They were.  I didn’t get the size and numbers of the previous day, but still had fun.  I kept only 7 of the 24 I caught.  I didn’t want to fillet another 15.  What a pain!  I’ve been giving away a lot of fish.  I also caught a large skipjack herring, and hooked several smaller ones.  I haven’t caught one in years.  I put it back, even though it’s good catfish bait.  During a lull, I caught a baby gar with my net.  I put him in a bucket and he stayed there all morning.  Later I caught some minnows in the same net (huge schools were right at my feet) and put them in the bucket.  Immediately, the little gar caught a minnow and ate it.  I netted a few dozen more and brought them all home.  Savannah was amused.  I put them all in my little fish pond.  Wonder how long the minnows will last before the gar eats them all.

In the evening we went to the Lewis County Fair.  We saw a number of friends there, got some high calorie snacks, and sat in the bleachers waiting for…the combine demolition derby!  Only three combines showed up.  I guess scrap metal is so valuable that there aren’t too many junkers lying about anymore.  That was OK because I don’t know how many more would fit in the arena.  The John Deere had more power and speed than the two Massey Fergusons, but he broke the rod connecting the two rear wheels early on, losing directional control.  He limped along for awhile, but eventually couldn’t go anymore.  One of the Fergies lost its transmission, leaving the other as winner.  It took longer to clear them from the arena than the whole derby did.  Next up was the pickup truck demolition derby.  Only three of those too.  It was more exciting.  One rammed the other in a tire, causing a blowout.  One guy got sandwiched, which toasted his transmission.  Two of them nearly overheated, having steam pouring from the radiator most of the time.  It ended with a near fire.  It seemed to be sparking up.  I thought Stacey’s friends on the fire department who were volunteering that night were going to see some action, but the fire never caught.  The winner, in a suburban, spun a big victory donut and sprayed the crowd with mud.  Not us, fortunately.  We left before the lawnmower races, our necks feeling pink enough already.

Friday I went to Quincy, dropped off the recycling, and went to the office for a bit.  I worked a registration day at QU, ran some errands, and stocked up on lures at the sporting goods store.  I got back into Canton in time to help Savannah get a new cell phone.  We all went out to dinner for my birthday (46th).  I had a nice steak.  Stacey got me some kayak stuff I had wanted.  We went grocery shopping then just relaxed the rest of the evening.  Ron wrote me a birthday poem:


It’s one week after Independence Day

51 weeks to another some might say

Those in the know say it’s more important than that

It’s about a guy who has built a home for a bat

It’s about a guy who keeps bugs as a pet

And would keep a wasp inside if Stacey would let

He even calls his lovely daughter, “larva”

And I’m surprised he didn’t name her Marva

Yes, it’s Joe’s birthday and I hope it is going great

But keeping creepy crawlies is just his fate

I know high in the air he has his fist

And in it a bug…what the hell he’s an entomologist

So, Happy Joeday to you and your zoo

I guess you know I’m just “bugging” you

Happy Joeday,

I think I appreciated more the name he coined for my kayak — the Coyak. 

Saturday morning I went fishing at the river yet again.  The white bass were still jumping and biting, only fewer in number and smaller in size.  I caught 9, some of which were large enough to keep, but I didn’t feel like filleting fish.  I also landed a couple of skipjack herring. 

Skipjack Herring

During a lull I noticed a dragonfly nymph that had hauled itself out onto the bridge, but not in a place that was convenient to me.  I flicked it off with the tip of my rod.  By good fortune, the current carried it near the shore and I netted it.  I placed it on a nearby cottonwood tree.  I kept looking back between casts, and it finally began to eclose.  I took about 150 frames, but I’ll only show critical stages here.
Drying nymph   
Pop out                                                                          Pull up
Extricate abdomen                                                         Inflate wings
Step aside                                                                      Form up abdomen

Spread wings                                                                                           Fly away

I was hoping this would be a new species for me.  The swollen abdomen tip makes it a member of the Gomphidae, and I have few of them.  Though it has few adult colors, being freshly hatched, the thoracic stripes make it the Russet-tipped clubtail.  You saw that in last week’s message as an adult.  This event makes up for the one I missed a few days ago.

Sunday I took the kayak (or Coyak) out to LaBelle Lake.  This is one of the best fishing lakes in the area, and I have caught a near 5-lb bass there.  I had gotten up early, but there were already a dozen boats in the lake when I arrived.  To make a long story short, I got skunked.  I tried a variety of lures, including a white spinner, which I saw another guy use to catch a fish.  Not even a legitimate bite.  I still had fun paddling around the lake, though a stiff wind added to the challenge.  At least the wind blew me back to the launch ramp on the way in.  I harvested four bobbers anyway.  I also took the time to test some of my equipment.  The anchor and trolley worked well, and the new paddle grips were comfortable.  They also made it easy to find the proper hand position without looking.  The dry bag and otterbox kept things dry, including a camera.  I photographed just one thing.

Buttonbush has really cool inflorescences, nearly spherical.

A lot of my prairie plants are in bloom.  It’s starting to shape up into what I had hoped, I suppose because many of the plants are in their second season.

Showing some color                                              Black-eyed Susan
Bee balm                                                                    Purple coneflower with bonus bee
Gray-headed coneflower                                                 Purple poppy mallow

Other things in bloom at this time include coreopsis, moth mullein and probably others.  OK, there were a few bugs.
Evil weevil                                                                                                 Female widow skimmer–yet another dragonfly pic

“Mad sea dogs, the Portuguese.”
Leonardo DaVinci, as a character on Star Trek Voyager

I love that quote.  Yes, we are!

Monday morning I went down to the river.  I cast a couple of different lures, but got no bites.  The white bass run is over.  Sniff.  The minnows were still there, but the water had fallen at least a foot, and no fish were jumping.  I took a bike ride to feed the dog and cats of my friends.  I found out Tucker wasn’t there because he died some months ago.  Bummer.  On the way back I was riding along a ditch when I spotted a butterfly.  There have been very few this summer, as perhaps they were wiped out by the heavy rain.  There were also quite a few dragonflies, but you’ve seen enough of those!
Black swallowtail, male.                                                                           Clear-winged sphinx.

July 1 – Kayak fishing and pretty bugs

Monday I took the kayak out to Lowell’s.  The first experiment was getting it onto the Lil Egg.  I had to use webbing loops under the hood of the car to tie down the front.  It worked pretty well, and the straps didn’t even hum (twisting them helps).  We launched it from the dam.  Lowell took out the pontoon boat while I paddled around and fished.  They weren’t biting really well, but I did catch one bass before lunch.  After the most recent high water event, the floating dock had come down on top of a couple of posts.  Lowell got distracted working on that, and I joined in for a bit of sawing.  We did get it off of one post anyway.  I had a great time paddling around.  A lot of the birds let me get really close.  After lunch I changed into a swim suit and took almost everything off the kayak.  I paddled a short way out and then began the experiments.  It really takes a lot to flip the thing over.  I had to work at it.  Standing with both feet on one side works.  Then I got to practice flipping it upright and getting back in.  It was a blast.
The Egg Yak                                                                                        Stand-up paddling is easy ’cause this baby’s stable.
I love this expression, but Stacey says I look like Kane.                          Coming in at the end of the day.

Photos of me are all courtesy of Lowell.  At the end, I took my camera around to stalk the dragonflies.
Two damselflies, flying united.                                                                  The Blue Dasher.

When I got home I showered and went to Hannibal.  I met Stacey at her office and installed her printer.  We went to a dinner for the Red Cross annual meeting.

Tuesday I went to go feed my friends’ dogs and cats.  I rode my bike for the exercise, and the hill they live on is a killer.  Sadly, their Newfoundland Tucker wasn’t home.  He’s a favorite of mine.  I rode to La Grange afterward.  The flood muck remains all along main street, and you can see the waterline on the walls of the buildings on the East side of Main Street.  The smell was pretty nasty.  When I got home I tweaked a few things on the kayak and made straps to hang it up in the basement from the seat belts of an old VW.  That night Savannah had another swim meet, this time in Canton.  There are so few girls in her age class (15-18, the oldest group), that she seldom has many other competitors.  She did as usual, winning breast stroke and some relays.  I had planned to be a timer, but they had enough people already. 

Wednesday I started out by mowing the lawn.  Fortunately, I mowed the front lawn first because I didn’t get far through the back lawn before the mower broke down.  I wasted about an hour trying to fix it myself.  I finally gave up and called George.  He picked it up.  I had plenty of other odd jobs to keep me busy most of the day.  George called and I went down to help him with the mower.  He fixed the original problem, but uncovered a couple more.  They’re all too complicated to explain here.  Great.  I did photograph a bug I found in Kane’s water bucket.  It’s very good at playing dead, which it did for almost an entire day.

To the naked eye, it looks like a pebble.  It’s a scarab beetle.                 Here you see the underside of the head, the forelegs tucking into little channels.  It’s built like a tank.

Thursday morning I went back to George’s to work on the mower.  Though he has a welder, he didn’t want to weld it himself.  I volunteered.  He asked if I had welded before.  I said it had been a long time–a white lie.  He had a nice little MIG unit.  It was hard to see through his old mask, but I got it done.  The result was very ugly, but it held, at least for half of one mowing that I finished when I got it home.  The mower ran like it hasn’t in a long time.  New clutch, belt, sharp blade and oil change–all contributed, I’m sure.   In the afternoon I went up to help at the Fire Department cook out.  Every year they sell BBQ foods at the fireworks stand on July 3, when there’s a lot business.  I noticed that wherever I went, there was a smell of rotting garbage.  It was the first east wind we’ve had in a while, and the odor of stagnant floodwater was wafting to us from the river.  Most unpleasant.  Later I learned it’s probably fermenting/rotting grain in a ruptured silo across the river.  Reminds me a little of rotting cheese, or one of Savannah’s farts. 

Stacey was paged out early Friday morning.  Some lady had hit a deer, but had only bumped her head.  Not long after getting down to the firehouse, Stacey came right back.  There was no need for firefighters to be at that scene.  She was rather annoyed at losing sleep on her day off.  I did the chainsaw workout.  I got about a truckload of firewood from each of a couple of friends in town.  That largely topped off my wood racks and completed what I need for the winter.  While I was up at the Stookey’s I took some photos.
Interesting edible flower, wild salsify.                                                      Russet-tipped clubtail.

Little Wood-satyr, ventral and dorsal views.

I was fighting off buffalo gnats (AKA black flies, Simuliidae) while I was up there.  They are bloodsuckers, though I wasn’t bitten.  They
breed in running water, which we had a great deal of due to the flood.  Now that the flood is over, there’s a lot of standing water, the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.

I thought it might be interesting to make an accounting of the plagues we’ve gone through this year, just to see if we add up to the Biblical seven.
1.  Torrential rain (while we were on vacation)
2.  The flood
3.  The smell
4.  Buffalo gnats
5.  Mosquitoes (predicted, and already showing up)
6.  ?
7.  ??

Saturday I took Nancy out to Lowell’s.  We were going to give her the Grand Tour.  We walked all over the western half.  We saw lots of flowers and wildlife, and I took many photos.  Lowell’s bridges are out due to the high water so we rode the mule all over the eastern half.  After lunch we took her on a boat ride around the lake.  While we were at it, we cast our lures along the way.  I caught three bass, while Lowell caught a couple of bluegills, one of which was huge.  There were a couple of geese and their nearly grown offspring hanging around.
Eastern Pondhawk female                                              Halloween Pennant

Silver-spotted skipper sunning                                     Common wood-nymph, a new one for me.

Cranefly with green eyes.                                                                         Strange-looking conehead

Jewel wasp                                                                                              Carpenter wasp.

While we were poking about this wild turkey jumped up, scaring us thoroughly.  Matthew, it has your name on it!

Saturday night Stacey and I went to the Mark Twain Lake Rodeo.  It was interesting, as rodeos go.  The cowboys seemed outmatched by the livestock.  NO ONE completed a bull ride.  I thought the barrel racing was best.  Lots of the riders knocked over barrels.  The winner was a woman on a fast, agile horse that cornered incredibly well.  Even I could tell she’d be hard to beat.  One horse fell on the last barrel, dumping its rider, who picked up the bridle several feet away after she got up.  A few riders, including the rodeo queen and junior queen were disqualified when their horsed broke pattern–went the wrong way.

Sunday I took another bike ride, fed my friend’s dog and cats, and wheeled around town.  They had opened up the road through the levee so we can go down to the river.  It’s kind of a wasteland, and lots of things, especially electrical hookups in the campground, were pushed over.  Concrete bases are no match for the Mississippi.

Mullein plants all in a row.                                         A doe who loves soy beans. 

Monday morning I did pruning and trimming, resulting in a full load to take to the brush dump.  On the way back I straddled a large snake in the road.  I got out to make sure I hadn’t hit him.  It was a beautiful black rat snake.  I hustled him off the road before the next car got there.  Too bad I had no camera.  I met Stacey for lunch in Hannibal, partly to deliver something she had forgotten that morning.  We had pizza.  Afterward I wandered downtown Hannibal, went shopping, and drove up to Lover’s Leap.  I took a series of photos and stitched them into a panorama.

At left is downtown Hannibal, then the bridge, the river and Lovers’ Leap at right.  There’s a place where the fence is bent over, where people who had apparently taken stupid pills before arriving had crossed and walked out onto the precipice. 
It is absolutely sweltering here, with a temperature of 92 today and 80% humidity.  Hard to get much work done.