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Smoky Gold

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This is the text of Leopold's essay "Smoky Gold" paired with beautiful images. The presentation can be used as a backdrop to help illustrate public readings of the essay.

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Smoky Gold

  1. 1. On this SlideShare page, you will find several Power Point presentations, one for each of themost popular essays to read aloud from A Sand County Almanac at Aldo Leopold Weekendevents. Each presentation has the essay text right on the slides, paired with beautiful images thathelp add a visual element to public readings. Dave Winefske (Aldo Leopold Weekend eventplanner from Argyle, Wisconsin) gets credit for putting these together. Thanks Dave!A note on images within the presentations: we have only received permission to use theseimages within these presentations, as part of this event. You will see a photo credit slide as thelast image in every presentation. Please be sure to show that slide to your audience at least once,and if you dont mind leaving it up to show at the end of each essay, that is best. Also please notethat we do not have permission to use these images outside of Aldo Leopold Weekend readingevent presentations. For example, the images that come from the Aldo Leopold Foundationarchive are not “public domain,” yet we see unauthorized uses of them all the time on theinternet. So, hopefully that’s enough said on this topic—if you have any questions, just let usknow. mail@aldoleopold.orgIf you download these presentations to use in your event, feel free to delete this intro slide beforeshowing to your audience.
  2. 2. Smoky Gold
  3. 3. There are two kinds of hunting: ordinary hunting,
  4. 4. and ruffed-grouse hunting. There are two places to hunt grouse:ordinary places, and Adams County.
  5. 5. There are two times to hunt in Adams: ordinary times, and when thetamaracks are smoky gold.
  6. 6. This is written for those luckless ones who have never stood, gun empty& mouth agape, to watch the golden needles come sifting down, while thefeathery rocket that knocked them off sails unscathed into the jack pines.
  7. 7. The tamaracks change from green to yellow when the first frosts havebrought woodcock, fox sparrows, and juncos out of the north. Troopsof robins are stripping the last white berries from the dogwood thickets,leaving the empty stems as a pink haze against the hill.
  8. 8. The creek side alders have shed their leaves, exposing here & there aneyeful of holly. Brambles are aglow, lighting your footsteps grouseward.
  9. 9. The dog knows what is grouseward better than you do: You will dowell to follow him closely, reading from the cock of his ears the story thebreeze is telling.
  10. 10. When at last he stops stock-still, and says with a sideward glance,Well, get ready’: the question is, ready for what? A twitteringwoodcock, or the rising roar of a grouse, or perhaps only a rabbit?
  11. 11. In this moment of uncertainty is condensed much ofthe virtue of grouse hunting. He who must knowwhat to get ready for should go and hunt pheasants
  12. 12. Hunts differ in flavor, but thereasons are subtle.
  13. 13. The sweetest hunts are stolen. To steal a hunt, either go far into thewilderness where no one has been, or else find some undiscovered placeunder everybodys nose
  14. 14. . Few hunters know that grouse exist in Adams County, for when theydrive through it, they see only a waste of jackpines and scrub oaks.
  15. 15. This is because the highway intersects a series of west-running creeks,each of which heads in a swamp, but drops to the river through dry sand-barrens.
  16. 16. Naturally the northbound highway intersects these swampless barrens,but just above the highway, and behind the screen of dry scrub, everycreeklet expands into a broad ribbon of swamp, a sure haven for grouse.
  17. 17. Here, come October, I sit in the solitude of my tamaracks & hear thehunters cars roaring up the highway,
  18. 18. hell-bent for the crowded countiesto the north. I chuckle as I picturetheir dancing speedometers, theirstrained faces, their eager eyesglued on the northward horizon.
  19. 19. At the noise of their passing, a cock grouse drumshis defiance. My dog grins as we note his direction.That fellow, we agree, needs some exercise; we shalllook him up presently.
  20. 20. The tamaracks grow not only in the swamp, but at the foot of the borderingupland, where springs break -forth. Each spring has become choked withmoss, which forms a boggy terrace.
  21. 21. I call these terraces the hanging gardens, for out of their sodden muck thefringed gentians have lifted blue jewels.
  22. 22. Such an October gentian, dusted with tamarack gold, is worth a full stopand a long look, even when the dog signals grouse ahead.
  23. 23. Between each hanging garden and the creek side is a moss-paveddeer trail, handy for the hunter to follow, and for the flushed grouse tocross-in a split second.
  24. 24. The question is whether thebird and the gun agree onhow a second should be split.
  25. 25. If they do not, the next deer that passes finds a pair ofempty shells to sniff at, but no feathers.
  26. 26. Higher up the creeklet I encounter an abandoned farm. I try to read, fromthe age of the young jack pines marching across an old field, how longago the luckless farmer found out that sand plains were meant to growsolitude, not corn .
  27. 27. Jack pines tell tall tales to the unwary, for they put on several whorls ofbranches each year, instead of only one. I find a better chronometer inan elm seedling that now blocks the barn door. Its rings date back to thedrouth of 1930.
  28. 28. Since that year no man has carried milk out of this barn. I wonder whatthis family thought about when their mortgage finally outgrew their crops,& thus gave the signal for their eviction.
  29. 29. Many thoughts, like flying grouse, leave no trace of their passing, butsome leave clues that outlast the decades.
  30. 30. He who, ill some unforgotten April, planted this lilac must have thoughtpleasantly of blooms for all the Aprils to come.
  31. 31. She who used this washboard, its corrugations worn thinwith many Mondays, may have wished for a cessation of allMondays, and soon.
  32. 32. Musing on such questions, I become aware of the dog down by thespring, pointing patiently these many minutes. I walk up, apologizing formy inattention.
  33. 33. Up twitters a woodcock,bat like, his salmon breastsoaked in October Sun.Thus goes the hunt.
  34. 34. Its hard on such a dayto keep ones mind ongrouse, for there aremany distractions. Icross a buck track in thesand, and follow in idlecuriosity. The trackleads straight from oneJersey tea bush toanother, with nippedtwigs showing why.
  35. 35. This reminds me of my ownlunch, but before I get it pulledout of my game pocket, I see acircling hawk, high skyward,needing identification. I wait tillhe banks & shows his red tail.
  36. 36. I reach again for the lunch, but my eye catches a peeled popple. Here abuck has rubbed off his itchy velvet. How long ago? The exposed wood isalready brown; I conclude that horns must therefore be clean by now.
  37. 37. I reach again for the lunch, but am interrupted by an excited yawp fromthe dog, and a crash of bushes in the swamp. Out springs a buck, flagaloft, horns shining, his coat a sleek blue; Yes, the popple told the truth.
  38. 38. This time I get the lunch all the way out and sit down to eat. A chickadeewatches me, and grows confidential about his lunch. He doesnt say what he ate, perhaps it was cool turgid ant-eggs, orsome other avian equivalent of cold roast grouse.
  39. 39. Lunch over, I regard a phalanx of young tamaracks, their golden lancesthrusting skyward. Under each the needles of yesterday fall to earthbuilding a blanket of smoky gold; at the tip of each the bud of tomorrow,preformed, poised, awaits another spring.
  40. 40. Photo Credits•Historic photographs: Aldo Leopold Foundation archives•A Sand County Almanac photographs by Michael Sewell•David Wisnefske, Sugar River Valley Pheasants Forever, Wisconsin Environmental Education Board, WisconsinEnvironmental Education Foundation, Argyle Land Ethic Academy (ALEA)•UW Stevens Point Freckmann Herbarium, R. Freckmann, V.Kline, E. Judziewicz, K. Kohout, D. Lee, K Sytma, R.Kowal, P. Drobot, D. Woodland, A. Meeks, R. Bierman•Curt Meine, (Aldo Leopold Biographer)•Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Education for Kids (EEK)•Hays Cummins, Miami of Ohio University•Leopold Education Project, Ed Pembleton•Bird Pictures by Bill Schmoker•Pheasants Forever, Roger Hill•Ruffed Grouse Society•US Fish and Wildlife Service and US Forest Service•Eric Engbretson•James Kurz•Owen Gromme Collection•John White & Douglas Cooper•National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)•Ohio State University Extension, Buckeye Yard and Garden Online•New Jersey University, John Muir Society, Artchive.com, and Labor Law Talk

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