The riparian area by the Red River has become a veritable jungle, which is all to my liking. This is no doubt a product of several years of no spring ice scraping the vegetation of the area.

One big plus for this  development is that the big old elm, under which I love to sit, has begun to re-seed itself,  several of its saplings standing nearly 6 feet tall now. This re-seeding is a plus because although the big old shady elm sends down thousands of seeds each year, none of these seeds seemed to take until now, and this big elm is the only elm I can see in any direction. The green ash seeds, though, sprout like weeds.

The tree sparrow greets me with his sweet distinct four note call. I can trace his movement about in the big elm among its thick branches, but he refuses to let himself be seen.

The big bluestem grass has begun to dominate the area, some of it now standing nearly 6 feet tall. Its husky tan shaft of seeds tops each stem, making a field of golden brown, as you look across the top of them.

Each set of seeds on the shaft is on a single thin stem. There are perhaps 40 of these little stems on each seed shaft and perhaps two dozen seeds on each little stem, nearly 800 seeds on each shaft and a field of these shafts out there.

Now here is a little fellow who has dropped in on my writing board to visit me. He looks like a snail who has just crawled out of his shell and is wandering around in the buff. He has the two little antennas reaching out in front of him that give him the appearance of a charging bull from the front.

But now I’m feeling he’s grown a bit tired of entertaining and looks a little sluggish, if you’ll pardon the pun. So I will set him off onto a big bluestem leaf near me.

All of these little creatures are a mystery. Where do they come from, and where do they go? How does it happen that they touch upon my life briefly and then disappear? I shall likely never see the likes of this fellow again.

Now the field sparrow sings to me from the branches of the old elm, ending his song with his little trill. But he remains high up in the elm and won’t let himself be seen.

He is known to breed down here along the Red River, so I am wondering if it’s not yet too late for him to be starting a family, or perhaps a second family. He is the little fellow that always is teasing me with his tsee-tsee call down in the tall grass, but again, he won’t let me see him.

The giant old prairie willow to my left has taken some damage this year. The wind has torn off a huge limb that now droops down along the side of the trunk, still hanging onto the tree at the lip of the scar. That scar is as big as a hand towel. Gradually the old tree is letting go of its life.

James Alger, who lives in Fargo, N.D., has been a summer resident of the Leech Lake area with his family for over 45 years. Over that time he has grown to love and appreciate the people and the woodlands of this area.


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