This evening finds me eight miles west of the Red River in a huge ash and box elder tree lot on the plains of North Dakota. I am favored by the seeming endless twilight of a midsummer Dakota evening.
I am the guest of Carl and Polly Wendelbo, who have place here that they enjoy particularly in the summer. When one is in the depth of the dense woods it is intriguing how one can almost lose a sense of being on a vast prairie.
Some of the tree lot has been formed from a large shelter belt that dates back to the 1930s. It was part of the federal effort to hold down the wind erosion on the prairies during dry years.
A mourning dove greets me from the edge of the woods as I settle in. He continue for a few moments out of sight and then he is silent, but not before he has set the tone for the evening.
A white cabbage butterfly flits by in front of me. He goes from plant to plant in the heavy ground cover, which includes grasses, ivy and huge plantain leaves. Apparently he finds some nourishment among these cover plants.
The huge green ash dominates the forest here, some of them towering up 60 feet into the air. They grow densely, crowding each other for room.
A few mosquitoes check me out. One is crawling across the knuckles of my left hand as I write. But they must not be very hungry, for if I remain still and don’t disturb the brome grass around me, they seem to lose interest and move on, without so much as taking a nibble to check me out.
And now there is a sight! A tree sparrow, with his black stick pin breast and rusty crown, lands on a decaying bough of an old ash to my left, about 20 feet away. He eyes me and entertains me with his tsit-tsit-tsit-tsit.
He persists in entertaining me, passing across in front of me, a little closer to me among the low bushes and foliage. He seems comfortable enough with having me here if I remain still, comfortable enough to do his exploring near me. And now he entertains me further with his melodious song.
This is a treat. I have seen the tree sparrow in April of ‘74, but not much since. And now it occurs to me that perhaps he stays close to me because he has a nest nearby and he is gently scolding me. Well, my friend, I shall leave you to the pleasure of this woodland and I thank you for the visit.
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.