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Oklahoma Wildscape #34


The Shawnee News-Star Weekender June 6 2020

Becky Emerson Carlberg

Today is National Yo-Yo Day.  Up and down.  Because of the Covid19 shutdown, education took a huge downward hit this year, with students sinking as everybody struggled to cope with the situation.  Not that we were ever that high up.  Oklahoma ranks 42nd in education levels.  The more sobering fact is 43% of adults in Oklahoma are at or below being functionally literate.  Sadly, one in five is functionally illiterate.

Literacy is not only the ability to read and write but use that printed and written information to function and maneuver in modern society.  Examples: voting, paying bills, signing contracts, understanding driving laws, following directions and job training.  You need to be able to read and comprehend.  Otherwise you're stuck back in the Middle Ages with the majority of the population who couldn't read.  Their fate was determined by rulers in power with no input from the people.

Our public-school education is freely available to all.  Illiteracy should not be a problem in our country, but yet it is.  Relying on other's beliefs or ignoring problems only make things worse.  People with reading difficulties seem to stop, take a stand, and refuse to change, either through ignorance or futility.  Their lack of reading skills limits the extent of their education and knowledge.  To be literate opens so many worlds.  Education is powerful.

People in this day and age know nothing about nature.  Malls and houses have replaced wildlife habitats; pesticides and chemicals continue to poison the environment.   Mowing assures nature is controlled, put in her place, and never comes back. Limited in their perspective, many appear unable or unwilling to modify their approach to nature.

I wouldn't be writing this if someone hadn't poisoned a large stand of half-grown green Maximillian sunflowers surrounded by gay feathers (Liatris) outside the fence of their precious cattle.  The Johnson grass next to it looks super healthy and will no doubt take over that area.  The chemical was a broad-leaf herbicide, a chemical which interferes with biochemical pathways and causes plant death. When it gets dry and dusty, and it will, the soils and debris will blow in the air with whatever chemicals were applied.  You will bring this into your lungs, body

Look at it from another perspective. The eyes absent genes (EYA) regulate proteins.   The same genes influence eye development in house flies, human development and plant fertilization to development of plant embryo.   We share 98% of our genes with chimpanzees, 90% with cats, 84% with dogs, cows at 80%, and 60% of chicken genes correspond to human genes.   Honey bees share 44% and microscopic single cell yeast has 26% DNA quite similar to human DNA.

Think on this.  Half our genes, 50%, have counterparts in the banana.  Mustard grass, source of mustard, shares 15% of their DNA with us.  So, if there's a chemical out there killing plants, how can it not affect us. But if you can't read or comprehend, you can't dig deeper to satisfy your curiosity.

Humans not only share DNA with wild animals but other traits as well.   We live in Oklahoma Wildscape #34.   More than 475 properties have been certified wildscapes in Oklahoma.   This presents unique opportunities to observe wildlife. Their behavior is very familiar.

The gray fox family currently resides under my art studio.  I am taking a short hiatus while the kits are at home.  Soon they will find their own paths, but for right now, the youngsters are under the watchful eyes of mom and dad.  One adult fox stays with them at all times.  Gray foxes (gray body with rusty-red trim) are rather independent mammals smaller than coyotes.  The male and female unite at breeding time and both help raise the brood.  I have seen three little ones scamper all over the place with one adult constantly monitoring their movements.  When time comes to retire for the night, they enter under the studio in single file while the parent waits outside, nudging and touching them, offering assurance and affection.  How human is this?

I've yet to figure the strategic plan, but during the day the mother turkey escorts her poults right by the fox den to the bird feeders.   Only three offspring are with her, so have the foxes had a few turkey meals?     The tone and intensity of her clucking is subdued as she gently shows the babies, now the size of small chickens, where the good stuff is.   This bird must have a big heart as she expresses concern for her little ones.   How human is this?

The roadrunner is cleaning house.  By the end of the summer there will be no more five-lined skinks, snakes, or frogs in the wildscape.  The roadrunner must prefer organic herps (Herptile"reptiles and amphibians).  The large rangy bird comes up to the side glass door with a new dead something, legs dangling from both sides of its bill.  Tail going up and down, the hunter raps on the door with its beak before dashing around the house to the front door where it repeats the process.  'Look what I have'.  The bird then runs down the front of the porch, circles the house a few times while stopping, hopping and bobbing before leaving. Every day the cuckoo comes.  Just like picking up lunch at a fast food joint.  How human is this?

Roadrunners are members of the cuckoo family.  The other prominent cuckoo living here is the yellow-billed cuckoo that stays hidden in the trees.  The prehistoric clacking of its bill is the only thing to give away this elusive secretive bird. Know any humans like this?

Snakes, lizards, turtles, and frogs eat garden pests.  They are environmental canaries that indicate a healthy environment.  Won't find them in polluted sites.  The box turtle frequents the compost pile and polishes off the apple cores and fresh veggies.  Lizards laze in the sun on the walkways and patio. Roadrunner happiness. Leopard frogs live in the water/algae filled whiskey barrel planter.  Do you want a clean environment?

I walked past a run-over green snake.   As I removed it from the road, the snake began to writhe in pain.   Even reptiles feel pain like we do.

Today is the 76th anniversary of Operation Neptune, better known as D-Day. June 6th 1944.  The US and allied troops invaded Normandy in this largest seaborne invasion in history.  The beginning of the end of World War II in Europe but at a massive cost of life.

The 53rd Anniversary of International Literacy Day is September 8 2020. Be ready. Learn to read.

Each of us can make the world a better place.  The choice is ours.