It appears my manic hummingbirds have departed for southern climes and have been replaced by honey bees, yellow jackets and butterflies.

It appears my manic hummingbirds have departed for southern climes and have been replaced by honey bees, yellow jackets and butterflies. The front feeder is busier than ever, but the back feeder is lonely. The noisy scissor-tailed flycatchers are now assembling along wires or clustering within trees. They too are preparing to leave. About the middle of October, the birds will pick a night, band together in a huge flock, and begin their migration to Mexico and Central America. I suspect they chirp and argue all the way. Birds are coming and going this time of year.

Go visit the Shawnee Public Library, admire the brightly painted new horse standing outside amidst the bed of attractive plants, and walk indoors to see the Deep Fork Audubon Society exhibit in the hall. Through the month of October we will have on display bird pictures in calendars (since the birds refused to cooperate and allow us to put them inside the glass case), bird feeder, bird house, photographs by fellow birdwatcher and photographer Steve Trammel, bird books from our esteemed ornithologist Donald Winslow (who just moved home to Indiana), and other pretty cool bird things. Birds are such an integral—and essential—part of nature.

With all the new housing being erected on the outskirts of Shawnee, why is it so few opt for native landscaping? Token or exotic shrubs and plants have been planted around the edges of the houses. Most of yard is laid out to be mowed. Had the owners not considered using various native grasses and plants? This would cut down on the amount of mowing and offer tracks of native vegetation lost during the construction process. The people moving into these houses must realize by their actions they have destroyed the habitats of the native wildlife that had preceded them. Some concessions on the part of these new homeowners would go a long way in reestablishing native gardens for butterflies, birds and other wildlife. Do they have kids?

Kids need nature. The National Wildlife Federation states that American childhood has moved indoors the past two decades and the results have not been positive. In a typical week, 6% of kids aged 9 to 13 will play outside on their own. Those 8 to 18 spend an average of 7 ½ hours on “entertainment media” each DAY. What is wrong with this picture? Children who regularly participate in outdoor activities before the age of 11 grow stronger, have longer attention spans, more active imaginations, do better in school, and are less self-absorbed and aggressive. They tend to turn into adults that care for the environment. The earth needs more of these people.

Begin by taking the family to the Japanese Peace Garden. The trees, shrubs and rock gardens have two new gates over the paths into the Heart and new picket fence along the northwest border. The old gates and fence were on their last legs, pegs, poles, whatever! The Peace Garden was the culprit behind my damaged right knee and ruptured gas tank. Okay, the Dallis grass tangled my feet and the knee twisted before I planted my foot firmly down to prevent falling. Bad move. The garden gets the blame, but the doctors and physical therapist get the money.

The ruptured gas tank fiasco was also related to the garden. On the way to my parent’s home, we stopped at the Fiesta Mart at the Warner Exit. I spied rocks that had been dumped off to the side of the road. The sandstones and limestones were cut into 8” to 12” pieces, possibly leftovers from the making of a fireplace or fire pit. A plant border! So on our return that night, the mission was to drive to the Fiesta Mart and gather rocks to put around the Yuccas at the Japanese Peace Garden.

This did not happen. The dark immovable object on the road took us in another direction. I did wonder what the wrecker driver would have thought had I asked him to please drive our car ( now secured and chained on the flatbed of the wrecker) over to the side road so we could load up rocks. Fast forward beyond the expensive tow job and car repair. Last Saturday we again drove to Lapland to work at the house. You know Lapland. It is where Western Arkansas laps into Eastern Oklahoma in Southeast Oklahoma. That part of Oklahoma is currently in a deepening drought. According to the Heavener Ledger, September was the driest on record. October is predicted to be dry as well. The 5 gallon gators on the azaleas were filled, and the 4 o’clocks, morning glories plus other thirsty plants were given drinks from the well. The wilting Phlox in the back would have to wait, but the birdbaths were filled with water after being emptied of leaves. Leaves were everywhere and falling as fast from the trees as I could sweep them off the patio, driveway and walkways. The trees along the hilltops are brown. It is so dry.

In the fading light of the evening, we arrived at the Fiesta Mart. The rocks were still there. After arranging them in the back of the SUV, we drove over to fill the car with gas. Shiny cars, hot rods, new and old trucks, many with flags flying from the beds, and antique classics were looping around the gas station, some roaring their engines while others obediently followed each other on Third Avenue into Warner. The long line of noisy vehicles then returned to again circle the McD/Fiesta Mart parking lot. One truck spun its wheels while standing still, spewing white smoke into the sky. Was it a parade of sorts? Turns out it was the second annual cruise night at Warner that lasted from 6 to 11 pm. Cruise night was so popular last year (a local barber set up a BBQ stand and sold out in 2 hours) they did it again this year. We heard that people were sitting in truck beds and chairs in Warner just to see the vehicles go by. It became even more entertaining when two autos gunned their engines in front of the police car and flew out of the gas station. The police sprang into action, lights flaring and siren blasting as their cruiser chased after the two. One took a left turn on the road, while the red car gunned its engines and took off to the right. The police sped after that one as it zoomed toward Warner. We watched as the taillights disappeared into the distance. They sure know how to have fun in Warner.

Within 5 miles of Warner the Interstate traffic funneled into one lane and we drove past a row of firetrucks and emergency vehicles and more flashing lights. The tractor-trailer hauling exposed giant round bales of hay sat on the shoulder. Some of the bales were on fire and others were smoldering, wrapping the Interstate in smoke. Emerging from the smoke, we and the rocks made it home. Very soon those stones will surround Yucca plants at the Japanese Garden.