Monday, December 14, 2009

A Christmas Letter to Rose and Doug (her husband)

Bozeman, MT

Hi, Rose and Doug,

You certainly picked the right present for Cherie and me-our old alarm clock was about shot-we never knew if it was right or wrong. And your card was the most charming of all we received-in fact, about the most Christmasy we've seen.

We had an enjoyable Christmas, watching Kandy and Jamie with their toys. Kandy went to bed with the little doll with the hurt feelings that you sent. Of course, Cherie let the kids eat cookies and candy instead of food, so Kandy was sick all night. We all have to learn the hard way to say "no".

We had some of that terrifically cold weather here-it was 30 degrees below one morning, but the spell lasted only a few days.

We were marooned in a blizzard for several hours, in Idaho. I had visions of us all perishing. We weren't too well prepared, as far as clothing is concerned, but, fortunately, snowplows were on the job and we made it, but it took almost 11 1/2 hours to travel 218 miles. I was relieved and happy to get home, but happy to have had the experience. That was quite a feeling, to have sleet pelting me in the face so I could hardly see, and be driving through drifts, never being sure just when I'd get stuck.

I wish you could enjoy snow and cold weather as much as I and Kandy. She's getting independent-goes out and entertains herself occasionally-also tends to travel afield, which is sort of worrying.

We had mostly bare ground, but two days before Christmas it snowed several inches.

The house trailer's crowded, but little by little we are organizing and reoganizing, for more efficiency, and it is livable, now. If we are lucky, we can buy some land next year (if I find some way to ake money), and build a log structure enclosing the trailer, with room for tools, books, car and goats. I'm a dreamer, I guess.

Doug, do you think it would pay to put a straight shift in a '50 Dynaflow v8 Buick Super? It's a pretty rugged old car, but the automatic transmission gets stiff and hard to start on cold mornings. It also is hard to start when the motor is hot, sometimes, choking itself out. What do you think causes it? If we were closer, I'd liketo hire you to work over both these vehicles (my Dodge '56 pickup, too).

I hope you are both well and happy-we're so darned busy we don't have a chance to notice whether we're happy or not, so we must be.

Hope to see you somehow this year.

Love, Lou, Cherie, Kandy, and Jamie

Friday, November 13, 2009

Another Letter to Sister Rose

Dec. 28

Hi, Rose,

Thanks for the radio, and the toys for the kids. They should have enough now, so we won't have to buy them any more till they're teenagers.

It was fun to hear your voice-as Cherie said, if you want to get away from there, we should be able to send you the money. I'm sure the weather wouldn't be any worse here than there, and most likely better.

Our winter camp was fun, and educational. Wasn't very cold, but I guess that's all right for this time. We saw lots of deer, and some snowshoes (rabbits).

I have to go to school and see if I have any important papers or letters. I don't know if I'll get to go duck and goose hunting, as I wanted to, but maybe I'll survive until an elk-hunting or fishing expedition comes up.

We've been doing some wiring, shelf-building, and painting. We need an electric dryer in this country, and we needed some more receptacles, too.

So long for now,



Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cowboy Poetry: "Ode to a Faithful Partner"

(Written in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1952)

You are speckled now with rust, but you've helped a cause that's just,
And old Samuel would be proud of you today.
For a man of skill was he, back in 1873,
Where he sent the "Hawg-leg" to the West to stay.

There's a story long an' proud, of a gun that never bowed
To a pistol, foreign-made or otherwise.
Now, your "champeen" days are done, but, you rugged son-of-a-gun,
You've set up a record which don't need no lies.

Be they red men, black, or white; were they wrong or were they right;
When they gripped your walnut butt, they fought well-armed.
You have swung at Hickock's side, you were there when Custer died,
And it weren't no fault or your'n if they were harmed.

You've beheaded willow grouse; been called upon to kill a mouse;
And with your help, I've dined right well on goose.
Where I've rode, you've been along, and I always felt so strong
That I'd argue with a grizzly or a moose.

For you meant it when you spoke; and it wasn't any joke
To the varmint who had raised when I stood pat,
Or the gambler who had won, and proved crooked when 'twas done,
For his "hide-out" couldn't start to back up that!

Someday we're gonna part, but I'll say, with all my heart,
That you have proved the truest friend I ever knew.
Through the sandstorm and the blizzard, 'gainst the snake or Gila lizard,
We have fought and won, but now we're nearly through.

We preferred a rugged life, and we had our share of strife,
Which was what we really wanted after all.
So 'til Gabriel sounds his horn, we'll be ready, every morn
To enjoy each lively fracas 'till we fall.

Lou Jonas

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Family Newsletter, to Sister Rose

(This letter was written as Dad was about to begin a job as Director of the Center for Study of Natural Areas at the Smithsonian Institution. He was to hold this job for one year. Thankfully, they went on to have child #5, which was me.)

Sept 21, 1969
Bear Canyon, MT
but not for long.

Dear Friends,

Speed is the watchword, as usually; we intend to pull out for Virginia Tuesday. And the thesis isn't done, but we feel that it is past the toughest part, which was getting the data organized and synthesized into efficient tables, graphs, and figures. I'm gradually getting to be more of a statistician, and more fond of this valuable tool (statistics, that is). We will probably go through North Dakota and Minnesota, to let the kids see some different sights, and to avoid some of the possible September heat (though we might be wishing for some of it, if it turns cold.).

We will be signed onto the job, just about as soon as we want to be. First, we will have to get somewhat settled. We will live in the manor house (once owned by one of the Duponts) for a while, till other housing becomes available, since the Williw house (The large stone three-story structure) will take some time to fix up.

We 're pretty excited about the possibilities for the future. It looks like I will be right in the center of the activity, and have a chance to do anything I am big enough to do. I know some of the scientists connected with the Smithsonian, and will meet all those who are concerned with ecology and conservation (most of them), in the next month or two. I should meet all the best-known and most active ecologists in this country, and several from other countries, in the next year or two, so it looks like I will have plenty of contacts for future jobs, if any come up which I want.

We are supposed to have our fourth and last child about the 6 of November. This will be a little close for traveling, but with the camper, Cherie can stand up once in a while, and move around more. We plan to take a week for the trip, also.

This is one hunting season when my guns will get a rest. In fact, I hung up my rods early in the season, too, and have been spending ten or twelve hours a day, mostly working on the thesis. It's very interesting, but it will be a great relief to have it out of the way, and the degree in my hand, so I can start contributing to the scientific store of knowledge, instead of trying to soak it all up.

The Bull run Mts. are near Plains, and Warrenton, Va. Fine hardwoods, with turkeys, mushrooms, squirrels, whitetail deer, etc.

I carboned off the first of this letter, to allow me to write to several of you, will add a personal note.

~Dear Sis;

I hesitate to say this, knowing you might expect us to come, and we might disappoint you, but maybe we will go through Iowa again, and drop in to see you.

We'll be pulling a trailer, and to save time and money, we should take as direct a route as possible.

How are you, and Doug, and his family, doing?

How much did you use that book on self-improvement, you had there? Those things really work, but they take lots of time and effort for someone like you and me, who were so throughly trained in discouragement and cynicism. however, if it hadn't been for books like that, I would probably have committed sideways many years ago, instead of being about to get all the things I want (besides what I already have).

So Love,


Lou, C, K, J, K, and ?

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Family Newsletter

July 23, 1966
Bozeman, MT

Dear Friends,

I've reached the stage where I have so many friends it is hard to put aside time to write to each one of them often enough to keep our valued friendship in good repair (I'd hate to drift apart from any one of them). So I've come up with a scheme which I hope will enable me to correspond more regularly, and let each friend know just about how things are here with the Jonases.

I've decided to write a monthly newsletter to convey all general information, and then add a personal note at the end to each individual, so that you'll know I haven't put friendship on an automated and impersonal basis.

So~here begins Newsletter No. 1, of July 23, 1966. First, I'm pretty well involved in this business of doing research trying to prove myself worthy of receiving a Ph.D. I have been to the Teton National Park several times this summer, for stretches of several days at a time. I got a chance to observe the various wild flowers as they came into bloom, and to prospect for good fishing and mushroom hunting in various parts of this section of the Rockies. This year I saw several plants which I've been looking for for years; for instance, Indian Pipe (Monotropa), and broom rape (Orobanche). Out in the sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) we found a great many caterpillars, evidently the larva of the Io moth. I brought home a couple for pets, and they have doubled in size in three weeks, so they must be doing all right.

There is an area there where violet green swallows sit on rocks and branches, and one can easily observe the beautiful combination of colors on their backs. Those are some of the most gloriously-colored birds in existence. When I was leaving the area I have selected for camping (so I can be right in the midst of my study area), I ran upon the hugest bull bison I have ever seen. The heavy growth of long wool and hair on his front legs made him look much like a woolly-chapped cowboy of the Teddy Roosevelt era. He was a little grumpy, so I let him take his time about moving away, so I could take the road back to civilization. It was a treat to see the elk out feeding in the grass-sagebrush areas, even though it was quite a warm day, and was bright and sunny, at 5:00 p.m.

It was also a surprise to see the moose out feeding in the middle of the day. Two cows were "grazing" on the algae at the bottom of beaver ponds, and evidently enjoying it greatly. One was calfless, and appeared quiet plump, at least by normal moose standards, while the one with a calf was rather gaunt. The calf wasn't yet educated enough to know how to graze with his nose underwater, so hewas wandering around samping various leaves and twigs. Willow was quite acceptable to him, and it seemed that he enjoyed the taste of cattail leaves, too.

The moose seem to have definite preference for certain willows; just why is not known yet-there is a lot to be studied in that field. There are a great many species of willows, and even the best-known willow taxonomists make many mistakes. There must be a great deal of integradation between species, as there evidently is in cottonwoods, too. Nature doesn't have much regard for taxonomists.

My thesis will consider the various factors contributing to plant succession, trying to arrive at the reasons for cottonwoods being primary colonizers on gravel bars, a certain willow species on sand bars, and a different species on silt bars. And just how the building or washing out of beaver dams affects the communities of plants in that area. I'll have quite a challenge, gathering all the evidence available there, and then organizing it in such a manner that I can make some hypotheses which will stand up against the critical appraisal they will receive from the world's ecologists. It will be great fun anyway, even without allowing for the hours of incidental bird-watching, mushroom-gathering, an dfishing. I intend to get practically all my protein from trout and whitefish. I'll also try to get a bushel or so of suckers, for canning. We discovered that suckers have a very pleasant taste, at least as good as that of trout. The bones can be softened like canned salmon bones, by including 1 or Tablespoons vinegar per quart, and canning under pressure.

The fishing here near Bozeman has been good, with trout taking dry ot wet flies, or most anything else. A brown hackle peacock with red tail, fished wet or dry, did a find job for me the other night on Rocky Creeek, with trout (rainbow and brown) up to 11 inches being harvested. Ed Oswald, a fellow ecologists, and I caught 20 or more grayling, up to 11 or 12 inches, from Heather Lake, a rather high mountain lake at the end of a 4 1/2 mile climb. That was a fine sight, also, with a great flower bed extending for a couple miles, holding patches of marsh marigold and white buttercups, beautiful Dodecatheon (shooting star), heather, and other blooms. Then there were conies to watch, and hyalite opal to pick up, and white-crowned sparrows and finches to entertain us.

The kids are at least as entertaining as the fish and the other wild animals. Cherie took them to see the pigs the other night, and mentioned something about the "mama pig", then Jamie mentioned something about the "Jamie pig", and of course, there were "Kandy pigs" and "Kirby pigs", also. Kandy likes to see her daddy return each trip, and has to find me a prsent to show how she loves me. So she gets a pan and some wrapping paper, and fixes Daddy a love gift.

Kirby is Mr. Muscles, and has learned that he can climb, so now the period of extreme watchfulness begins all over again. He gets wildly enthused over cows and horses when he sees them close up. We want to take them to the Park to see the bears and other animals this fall, maybe sooner. We counted 7 adults and 3 young, the last time we came through.

On our last trip to the Tetons, we camped in the middle of the elk's night bedgrounds, and they woke us up frequently, either bugling or barking at the tent and car. Then some exceptionally talented coyotes favored us with a concert two different times. It was a very interesting night. And we went over Teton Pass in order to avoid the "bear jams" where strings of tourist cars are parked in the highway to watch and pohotograph bears. The east side of the pass islike a great flower garden. There are great patches of exceptionally robust fireweed (Epilobium Angustifolium), then extensive areas of bright scarlet paintbrush (Castilleja), and some fine specimens of mountain hollyhock (Iliamna rivularis). It was a very worthwhile show.

I took time to go to the top of Signal Mt., where such a fine view of Jackson Hole is available, and was treated to a great musicale there, mainly furnished by hermit thrushes. Then a hummingbird put on a display of aerial acrobatics, rising 30 yards into the air, then dropping like a bullet almost tot he ground, then repeating, while its mate watched from the grand stand in a Douglas Fir. A snowshoe rabbit was trustful enough to hop around the mountaintop near me, feeding and people-watching for a while. Then a blue grouse male was displaying on top, too-according t on eornithologist, he does that about every year, or at least one grouse does.

Time for a study period again-have to memorize a general botany text, study more taxonomy, and review Spanish again, all in preparation for course work and comprehensive exams, which I am told are really a traumatic experience. So long.

Aug. 5 I'm back from the Tetons once more, and about swamped with tasks which should all be done imediately. I need to get the battery charged, perhaps fix the starter on the pickup, so we can sell it, since it is getting a little untrustworthy, and I don't have the time and the room it requires to work on old cars. We hope to get by with just one vehicle for a couple of years, and save the money we would otherwise spend on repairs taxes, antifreeze, etc. I can use a state car to traveling back and forth to the park, I guess.

My advisor and I have about decided that we need a rubber raft or a canoe to do the work most efficiently there in the park. I've been looking at several different types of plant communities there, namely, a silverberry, and a cottonwood, and a blue spruce, and various willow species, along with lodgepole pine, red osier dowgood, and some other species. I have to use the clues present, and look for other information, to make decisions as to just what is taking place, and how long it will take the blue spruce to replace the cottonwood, and the lodgepole to replace the aspen, and what will happen if beavers build new dams, or if present dams are wahed out, and so on. It's quite interesting to a naturalist like me, but it is a real challenge. Occasionally I feel overwhelmed at the magnitude of the problem, realizing that there is much that I need to know, and that I have just one more summer to come up with a proposition that will stand up under the close scrutiny and critical attitude of several experienced botanists and ecologists.

Anyway, I'm having fun and learning a little each day. I am working on Spanish every now and then, too. There is a good possibility that I can use it in the future. The South and Central american countries are interested in hring american scientists, especially if the American taxpayer will foot the bill.

The fishing is still good here, but I don't get to partake of it as often as I'd like. I stopped at the upper Gallatin and caught some plump, tasty cutthroat trout last Wednesday.

The kids have been making lots of demands on my time, so it has taken quite a while to type this section of the letter. I'm learning alittle more aobut using carbons, and also am getting used to typing, so maybe these newsletters will be more legible in the future. I guess I had better stop and read a little in the Spanish text. So long again.


I've been promising the kids we'd take them to Yellowstone Park, to see bears, Rangers, and geysters, so we finally broke away long enough to doit today. Kandy was disappointed in the Rangers. In the book her little neighbor has, it portrays Rangers as sharp-nosed men who run around talking to bears, and these real-life ones seemed a little too prosaic to her, I guess. They really enjoyed the bears, though. We saw one sow with 3 cubs, and that was a nice bonus. Then when we saw some geysers from a distance with the steam arising, Jamie wanted to know if the clouds had fallen down. They were impressed with the boiling water springs, also, and the boiling mud.

While waiting for kids to go to sleep, and for the mad pace in general to taper off, at Cherie's sister's house last night, I did a lot of reading in a book called "Word Power", which I assumed was some book on vocabulary building, but it really was about the effect which our conversation has on our lives, another slant, and a very effective one, on the power of positive thinking. It made me realize that of late I've been letting negative thinking and worry creep back into my life, so I can now go back to convincing my subconscious that the "impossible" things I'd like to do are just as possible as the other "impossible" things I found I could do, if I tried.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Letter to Rose (Dad's Sister)

10 Feb, 1977

Hi, Rose,

Glad you enjoyed your Denver trip. I've been thinking of sending you bus fare to come out here, sometime next summer.

We sure would like to get some of that excess snow the East and Midwest is having such a rough time with. If we don't have a heavy snow pack in the mountains, it tends to make the summer water supply short.

We had a pretty good Christmas; the kids always enjoy it. How are Doug and Karen doing? Are you drawing unemployment pay? You should be able to get that, anyway, even if your boss wasn't paying into it.

We're always busy enough, trying to get the house fixed up, keep cars running, etc. We want to build on a utility room and greenhouse, and maybe a garage this year.

Cherie is working at French's now (they process potatoes in various ways). Marqueta stays busy, and makes a mess occasionally, or breaks something. She has lots of energy and an active mind. Jamie's becoming a very good artist. Kirby and Marq are good workers, Kandy does all right, too. She's 15 now, and has changed a lot. And Jody's still my little buddy, a nice loving kid.

Bye, with love,

Lou and Cherie, etc.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Osage Orange-Hedge Apple-Bois d'Arc is Ripe

(Originally published in the Piedmont Virginian) By L. Jonas

A small tree, known to early French explorers as "Boise d'Arc," is generally called Osage orange, or hedge apple.

Its French name is well-deserved, since this is the best American wood I know of for hunting bows. Until laminated fiberglass and wood came on the scene, many archers spent long hours whittling down a strip of this hard and resilient wood, till the cast was right. The bows looked handsome, too, especially when the tips of cow's horns were used on the ends, where grooves were cut for the bowstring.

The tree was originally a native of Oklahoma and Arkansas but when the pioneers discovered what an effective hedge it made, it was widely transplanted through the Midwest and the East.

Effective is the right word for it, too! It grows quite well closely spaced, and its inch-long thorns can repel any large farm animal.

Old hedge fences can still be seen in the Piedmont, and some of them still mark the course of old Civil War roads, such as long County Road 628, near High Point, where the road was straightened some years ago.

Not only were the thorns useful for keeping animals confined, but the hedges also had their good points as far as the hunter and nature-lover were concerned.

Rabbits found them a safe refuge, especially when some of the trees had been cut, leaving a stump surrounded by living "barbed wire." Quail still parade along these hedge rows, and squirrels find much of their early winter feed in the large fruits. Birds such as the evening grosbeak apparently like the seeds, also.

These fruits also make good bowling balls for the young country boy who doesn't mind staining his hands with the milky sap. It is possible that, if it ever occurs to the medical scientists, this juice will be found to be valuable, perhaps for removing some warts, like other lactiferous plants (milkweed and others).

The thorns do present a problem where the tree sprouts up in some place where it is not needd or wanted. however, it may be that the insecticidal and insect-repelling properties of the fruit will compensate for this.

Reports are beginning to pile up of persons who put one or two of these fragrant balls in their kitchen to drive out cockroaches and other pests. Some of the social elite like to use them for the fragrance itself, just to make their old mansions attractive to the nose, as well as to the eyes.

The wood is a beautiful yellow, when not weathered, but it is as hard to chop as any wood known, and will chip a good axe blade, when dry. This hardness makes it a little tough to drive staples in, but the durability of the post makes up for this. Some of the posts, even when only two inches in diameters, will last 40 or 50 years. as firewood, it burns almost like hard coal-hot and lasting.

I've had problems with this tree, such as when cutting a staff for climbing, and chopping it out of the pasture, but it is still a very interesting member of the Piedmont flora, and like most other problems, if we understand how to use the best, and take care of the words points, we'll live a richer life.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Brewer's Blackbird

By Lou Jonas

It's amazing how a Brewer's blackbird can carry three or four cabbage worms, and another insect or two, and still do an effective job of scolding an animal which is somewhere near its nest.

The nest is usually well-protected by thorns, but both male and female maintain a day-long sentry duty, and they are aggressive and active enough to put sparrow hawks and magpies to flight.

The gardener who is fortunate enough to have one or two pairs of Brewer's blackbirds nesting near his garden realizes how worthwhile it is to plant rosebushes and gooseberries for use as nesting sites. The vegetables don't begin to suffer much from insects until the young birds have matured and the family has left to take up a life of foraging in hayfields.

(Drawing by AnnaMarie Graham)

Insect Diet

A recent issue of the Montana Farmer-Stockman reported a survey of blackbirds and their foods in Winnipeg, Canada, which revealed that drop-damaging insects formed the greater part of the diet, including such as grasshoppers, beet webworms, pea and grain aphids.

The white and glossy black color of the male, along with a fairly long tail, are good clues for field identification. In strong light there are purplish reflections on the head. The song of the male is rather quiet and a little wheezy, but it comes as a welcome relief from the normal sounds of a Montana winter, such as the rattle of sleet on the window and the whining of the cold east wind.

Sociable Polygamists

This blackbird is quite sociable to its kind. Nests may be at least as close as five yard, and though females may outnumber males, seldom are there any Brewster spinsters. The male is a willing polygamist and may maintain more than one nest in his territory.

The family dog finds life more peaceful and quiet when the young have become independent. Then the parents lose their suspicious and aggressive attitude. When they have forsaken their nesting area for another year, the gardener feels sort of lonely and neglected.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

"The White-Faced Hornet-a Good Country Neighbor"

By Lou Jonas
(Originally published in the Piedmont Outdoors)

A teacher might envy the ease with which the white-faced hornet cant arouse immediate interest in the dullest of students.

Of course, its efficient attention-getter, the stinger, is seldom used, unless you are foolhardy enough to shake the branch of an apple tree where Vespa maculata has her nest. We have had large nests within a few feet of our door, at least two different years, and none of us except me was ever stung by a white-faced hornet (When I shook the apple branch.)

Of course, when the temperature hits 100 degrees or higher, it pays to be careful: wasps, like humans and other animals, get more short-tempered in hot weather.

This wasp has a more chunky build than most, and the white face and white stripes on a black background help to identify it.

The nest is not hard to identify, with its large size, after the colony is well-populated. Some measure as much as two feet in length in the South, where the warm season lasts longer.

In the fall, the old queen hornet in each nest has become senile, and is merely waiting for cold weather or a predator to finish her life. The young queens leave the nest, and winter under bark, or some other sheltered place, from which they emerge to begin a new colony the next spring.

Old nests are seldom used--the queen starts from scratch, chewing fibers from weather or partly-decayed wood, and builds a series of horizontal combs enclosed within a paper envelope.

Comstock said, "A small empty nest. . . is evidence of a tragedy. A queen. . . had started to found a colony. . . " but before she could rear a brood of workers to relieve her of the task of gathering food and paper, some predator such as a bird or a praying mantis had captured her.

Hornets eat spiders, caterpillars, and other insects. Wherever a farmer soaks feed for his hogs, flies are apt to gather, and there one can expect to see Vespa sitting on the edge of the barrel, revolving a fly in its "hands", nibbling around the edges like a kid with a tasty apple.

Vespa's speed is reported as 13.3 miles per hours, so a swift runner can escape the ministrations of aroused hornets, especially if his enthusiasm has been boosted by one or two injections.

Some experienced "hornet-escapers" recommend running through limber brush such as willow or hazelnut bushes, which, while swaying as a result of a man's swift passage, may whip the hornets out of the air, or cause them to ricochet and lose speed, or at least confuse them.

One article, at least, has been written about the ability of hornet venom to counteract rattlesnake venom, but the exact dosage was not specified (The best self-treatment for rattlesnake bite is still an ounce of prevention.).

Having known many veteran bee-keepers to extol the praises of bee venom (similar to that of hornets) as a preventative for arthritis and rheumatism, and knowing of experiments which were done at Montana State University, to discover the effects of wasp venom in the treatment of arthritis, one might speculate whether this readily-available medicine is not responsible, at least in part, for the good health most outdoorsmen enjoy.

Let us be properly grateful for these treatments we receive from our sharp-tailed friends.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Valuable Elderberry

The Valuable Elderberry

by L. Jonas
(Printed in the Piedmont Virginia September 29, 1971)

The common elderberry , known as Sambucus canadensis to scientists, is widely used in landscaping , and to attract birds. the multitudinous small white flowers give the bush, especially a healthy well-formed one growing in full sunlight in moist soil, the effect of a vase of white flowers.

The fruit is unusually rich in vitamin C, and other healthful nutrients. It has been a highly-regarded herbal remedy among Romany gypsies, Indians, and other herbalists for centuries. The flowers can also be used as a medicine, and are frequently used as fritters (fried after being dipped in batter).

The leaves are reputed to be an effective insecticide, and the dried leaves have been used to keep certain insects away. Cows eat the leaves, whether for food or the medicinal value, perhaps only the cows know.

Pioneers collected crocks of sun-dried elderberries and mixed them them with apples or other fruit, or by themselves, to make pie. A tea from the dried fruit, with some honey, is good for upset stomach, as well as bad colds. The juice makes a healthful drink, but is so strong, that it is much better mixed with apple juice.

Look for elderberries along small streams. It's worth getting acquainted with.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Dwarf Mistletoe

From "Our Wildlife Heritage", Montana
1 May, 1962

by Lou Jonas

Here is a plant which makes it legitimate to kiss a pretty girl, furnishes a uniquely shaped wood used in Western furniture and building, and, on the scientific side, ejects a seed at about 100 times the launching speed of satellite rockets.

This is the only member of the mistletoe family known to Montana. It has been used in place of the much larger and showier American mistletoe to hang in doorways at Christmas time, but there are drawbacks. Most of these dwarfs are less conspicuous than the needles, so it may be necessary to carry a magnifying glass to prove your point.

Probably the most conspicuous sign of its presence is the "witches'-broom" which is frequently seen on evergreens. The "witches'-broom", in turn, is responsible for the peculiar malformed poles which are used in the manufacture of unusual furniture, and as supports for ceilings in many commercial places which desire a truly Western atmosphere.
A witches'-broom

The knotted Forest, extending through part of Montana and Wyoming, is a common source of this type of lodgepole log.

Scientists have timed the speed with which this plant ejects its tear-drop-shaped seed, and estimate it to be about 500 g. The initial acceleration of a typical satellite-launching rocket is between 5 and 10 g.

There are five species of dwarf mistletoe in Montana, most of them more prevalent in the western part. Each has a specific host on which is grows. The one which prefers lodgepole pine is fairly common in Bridger Canyon, near Bozeman, and, of course, in the Knotted Forest.

Another, which lives mostly on limber pine, is found only occasionally, but if one travels to the crates of the Moon, in Idaho, it came be observed on almost all the places in the monument. One species likes Ponderosa pine, another will be found on fir, and still another Western larch.

The leaves do dontain chlorophyll, so it is able to manufacture its own food, but obtains water and minerals salts from the tree. The flower is inconspicuous, and the fruits are tiny berries which cling to a limb, in case they are fortunate enough to land there, and then begin a new generation.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Porcupine

By L. Jonas
(Printed in a Montana newspaper in the early 1960s)

The blunt-nosed "quill pig" could hardly be mistaken for an "eager beaver." He moves rather aimlessly from tree to tree, and finally selects one which seems just the same as all the others.

When there is snow on the limbs to furnish drink for him, he is content to perch high above ground for weeks. He apparently is sensitive to temperature, as he seeks cover in caves or beaver holes when the temperature drops past 30 below zero.

His preferred food is the bark from all species of pine, but he will accept spruce, cottonwood or willow bark, and feeds willingly in a handy alfalfa field or corn patch, and also eats water plants.

His diet may include such delicacies as axe handles, plywood signs, aluminum pans, automobile tires and dynamite-anything, in short, which tastes even slightly of salt (Ed note: they also love rosebushes!).

Tasty Trees

Occasionally Porkie girdles young pines. Then the sugars, which are produced by the chlorophyll of the needles, are blocked above the scar by hardened pitch. This makes the area above old scars very tasty to him, as well as to squirrels and mice.

One porcupine is estimated to destroy as much as $50 worth of timber a year. In this respect, of course, he is a poor second when compared to careless hunters, with their cigarettes.

Cattle and horses sometimes attempt to investigate this creature at close range. Not fond of being handled (or nosed), Porkie wards off such unwelcome attention with a swift tail and erected body spines.

Only the fisher and big cats seem able to kill him with impunity, and they are his only serious enemies among the forest dwellers. When these predators are removed by trapping or poison, the numbers of porcupines increase greatly, and they become a threat to timber production.

One winter in Jackson Hole, from November till April, I shot 19 porcupines, in order to relieve the pressure on the pines and spruce in our area. Montana forestry officials have imported fishers to release in the north-western part of the state, to control the porcupines there.

Porcupine Meat

Woodsmen find porcupine meat a welcome change from the steady diet of venison, especially if Porkie has had access to alfalfa hay, or green water plants. If he has lived in deep timber, and eaten nothing but spruce bark, he tastes much like the tree itself, but he is still far from inedible, especially if the eater has been travelling on snowshoes all day long.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

"The Value of Quiet Lands"

By L. Jonas

Many people regard land as wasted if it isn't producing farm crops, or doesn't have factories or homes on it. One lady, in a letter to the editor of one paper, suggested that we clear all wilderness and other forest land, and plow them to feed the world's hungry people. Since we're not very efficient yet at growing crops on slopes, or at preserving topsoil, it would be more logical to spend the time, energy, and money on plowing up our level lawns and flower beds. If each one-or-two family dwelling was torn down, and the rosebushes, bluegrass, tulips, and flowering dogwoods were thrown away, then grain or vegetables could be planted. We'd then have more food to give to the Indians and Pakistanians, who are increasing so rapidly that they can't possibly keep up with the demand for food (It took Pakistan just 35 days to make up for the loss of the half million people who were lost in the big tidal wave of 1970. There are also persistent reports of the sewers in Pakistan being clogged with the corpses of unwanted babies.).

Of course, the greater size of fields under monoculture (The raising of one crop only) would lead to a greater probability of serious plant epidemics, such as the Southern corn blight. Since that blight has been known to attack other grain crops besides corn, it could easily be that a super-strain could mutate and wipe out ALL grain crops. In that case, we hope the Indians, Russians, and Chinese will have enough extra grain in storage to tide us over until we can switch to eating potatoes, rutabagas, or whatever plant isn't affected by the epidemic.

Are quiet lands of any value? By quiet lands, we mean a spot where a person can go to get away from city traffic, the roar of jets, and other such afflictions. How important is a white oak, a magnolia tree, or a mountainside full of rhododendron in bloom? Are they of less importance than the Louvre, and the art galleries of Washington, D.C.? Or less important than the Smithsonian?

It depends upon whom you ask.I don't mind supporting art galleries with part of my taxes, even though I've been in one only twice in my life, and could have been quite happy if I had skipped those times. I'm willing to support the art galleries and the museums, because I'm convinced that culture is the big difference between humans and other animals. I'm happy to support parks, wilderness, and quiet country roads, because they are also needed by the truly cultured person. As Justice Wm Douglas said about wilderness, "Roadless areas are one pledge to freedom. . .The logistics of abundance call for mass production. This means the ascendancy of the machine. The risks of man's becoming subservient to it are great." We agree, that men and women are more important than the technology they have created.

(Ed. note: The rest of this unpublished article seems to be missing. Dad certainly had some interesting ideas on things!)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Serviceberry Worth "Taming"

By Lou Jonas, Bozeman
(Printed August 19, 1965)

The serviceberry, alias sarviceberry, alias juneberry, alias shadbush, has been a friend of man through many centuries. Indians dried the berries for winter use, and crushed them to form a cake, from which they broke off pieces to add to soup or vegetables.

Pemmican was made of ground-up berries and dried meat, with animal fat added. If a backpacker wants a nourishing, lightweight food, there's probably nothing which can beat this. Indians are also said to have made an eyewash from the boiled green, inner bark.

The white man has made much use of the berries in pies and puddings. In our family, we can as many quarts of serviceberries as we can pick each year, alawys hoping to get 100 before the season is over. Our two little children prefer them, with cream and honey, over most other fruits. Their daddy has gained energy enough to travel over a great many miles of the Rocky Mountains by eating these juicy black berries.

Lou's grandchildren enjoy serviceberries, too!

Moose, Deer, Elk, and domestic goats, and probably most other herbivores, relish the twigs, buds, and bark of the serviceberry, and ruffed grouse seem to feed on the buds more than on any other food, in winter, at least. The moose wintered so low here in our area and fed in the serviceberry patches to such an extent that it will be a pleasant surprise if there is any crop at all this summer.

Serviceberries are easy to recognize, growing as a shrub of three to twelve feet high in most of the Rockies, with an oval leaf with slightly serrate edges. The rounded mass of white flowers bloom some time in May, in Montana, a week or two ahead of the chokecherries.

There is a great difference in the sweetness and size of the serviceberry fruit, due partly to location, but also due to a difference in varieties. It would appear sensible for some horticulturist to choose the best of these varieties and develop them commercially.

A trim, attractively-flowering plant like this, with its healthful fruits, appeals much more to many of us pragmatists than a privet hedge which yields mostly exercise, and a place to spend one's leisure hours, with pruning shears in hand.

If I were going to develop the serviceberry for commercial purposes, I would investigate the patches which grow in various canyons near Bozeman, and also those growing in the Flathead Valley, along some of the gravel roads which run from Montana to Idaho. On one road there we saw the prettiest and most plentiful crop of serviceberries we have ever been fortunate enough to observe.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Comfrey-Man's Best Friend?

By L. Jonas
(First printed in the Piedmont Virginian)

What plant will heal colds, infected sores, and other ailments; is good food for humans, chickens, and livestock; is insect and disease-resistant; can stand hot weather, and weather down to -40F.; is drought-resistant, and can compete well with weeds, growing well in full sun or semi-shade?

Apparently the best candidate for this position is the comfrey, also called Russian comfrey, which has been raised for human food, as well as stock food, for hundreds of years.

It produces prolific growth and needs to be cut several times per growing season in Virginia, to prevent it from going to seed.

It is rather bland, so that it is best used for mixed salads or as a pot herb, mixed with something like beet greens, spinach or poke salad. It pays to separate the roots each year, since the younger plants have more tender leaves; the older plants tend to have rather stiff bristles on them, which greatly detracts from its appeal in a fresh salad.

I had been interested in comfrey for a long time, having read of it in many places. I finally got some from C. E. Ellwanger, near New Baltimore, who has raised it for quite a few years. The roots grew amazingly well, so that it didn't take long before I had a lot of salad material.

But the thing which most impressed me was its great healing powers. Last winter, our family had more skin infections and respiratory ailments than we had in the entire nine preceding years. One severe burn on my son's hand refused to heal, though we had every salve we could buy, including triple-antibiotic ointment.

In desperation, I decided to try the old ways, so I dug up a root (no leaves were available in February), crushed it and poulticed the sore. In one day the improvement was noticeable, and the sore was well-healed in a few days.

Then, since we had bad coughs most of the winter, I began to pick the tender comfrey sprouts as soon as they appeared in early spring, and divided them up among those of us with the worse coughs. In a few days, the persistent coughs had almost stopped.

Now, this is not enough proof as yet for me to say that comfrey is the greatest herb of all, but it is good enough evidence for me to pay almost any price to keep comfrey growing around the place.

Comfrey has been analyzed, and apparently it is the allantoin in it which is such a good healing agent. The herbalists are said to use comfrey in case all other treatments fail.

Comfrey-man's best friend?
Ed. note: I well remember being fed pureed apricots and comfrey as a child, as well as lots of comfrey "Orange Julius". Comfrey is one of the first things we put in the ground, whenever we move into a new home.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Letter to Lib (Sister) and Bill (Brother-in-Law)

Shelley, ID
July 25, 1971

Dear Lib and Bill,

Here goes another form letter, to let us write to everyone we wish. We had a long 7-day trip, and had to shift to low, and travel 5 to 10 miles in hour in some places, but we just had one flat, and made it reasonably well. The weather wasn't too bad; a little hot in Arkansas and Oklahoma, in the dreary parts where you don't see much except highways, traffic, and lots of people. You don't see much except highways, traffic, and lots of people. Then when you add the 30% higher prices on groceries in every state except Idaho, and some parts of Montana, it makes one even happier to get home. Northwestern Arkansas was nice, and parts of Nebraska were interesting, and they do have good parks in parts of Kansas and Nebraska. The blaze-orange butterfly-milkweed, and the elderberries and black-eyed Susans were common most of the way, and there was enough variety in the plants and crops and birds so it wasn't too much drudgery.

Kirby spent quite a bit of time up in the cab with me, naming the different birds and animals we saw, and we played an occasional game. Jody was a pest, of course, like all kids of that age, I guess, and Cherie had to stay in the camper with him most of the time. We left Kirby at one station and had to turn around, then wait till the station owner caught up with us (He had taken him in a car to catch us and we had just missed each other.

I sure don't want to make another trip like that. Twice across the country with a big overloaded trailer and camper is rough on my nerves. We moved into Cherie's old home for a while, and I am now looking for a job. Most teaching positions are filled of course, but there is one in Council, which looks like it could be a really nice one.

Then there are some state jobs, such as environmentalist, chemist, or microbiologist, which I might land if I have patience enough, and if we can find something else to keep the pot boiling till they open up (Like learning new edible weeds, and new places to find them.). I'm writing some articles, and getting my books and magazines straightened up and organized so I can find things at least occasionally.

We have two pickup loads of books, jars, sports equipment, clothes, etc., stored at Bozeman; we picked up one load and have to go back after the other. In the meantime, on that trip, maybe I can get some good fishing in Yellowstone Park. Then we have to try to get a few bushels of those prime mushrooms in Yellowstone, and go to a friend's orchard at Shoup to get fruit, if he has some unsprayed. In the meantime I'm laying a little linoleum, meeting organic gardeners, and others who are interested in preventing pollution and maintaining good health.

Out here there are drug problems, and teenage pregnancies, and other problems, as one would expect, since people are pretty much the same all over the world, and since our communication systems help the people in one place to know what every other place is like, so the resulting conformity makes on place in the U.S. much like other places, except for climate and degree of pollution. The mayor of Idaho Falls doesn't like to make any voters mad, so the only reason there isn't lots more pollution here is that there aren't so many people or factories.

I guess I'll manage, and start buying a linoleum shop, and we hope to buy a house soon. And herbs or flower seeds you want to part with? The aloe vera is still withus; how much sun do they need? How high do they get? Come out and visit; we'll try to line up some good fishing, or whatever you want. Would love to see you both again, to talk for a while. I want to organize an organic gardener's club and buyer's coop, soon as possible.


Louis and Cherie

Thursday, April 23, 2009


(This was published in the "Piedmont Virginian, Wednesday, April 21, 1971)

When can you find morels, the "sponge" mushrooms which are much loved by connoisseurs of good foods? Around here, the fruiting season (when the edible part appears) begins about the third week of April (depending upon how late the spring is.). The redbuds will have just begun to open, and the towhees will be singing loudly.
Bird Cherry

Bird cherries will also be in flower, as will the common meadow violet. Where can you find morels? In mixed hardwood forests, with a generally thick cover of dead leaves, and a lot of humus on top of the soil. The earliest morels will be in the more open sites, where the sun's rays have been striking with more force. The most common morels in the forest where I've hunted mushrooms are the narrow-headed morels (Morchella angusticeps). It is sometimes called the black morel. These may vary greatly in size, from as small as your little finger, to two inches in diameter, and up to four inches tall.

Yellow Morel

The size depends upon weather and soil conditions. If the minimum temperature the night before was 45 degrees F or more, and there has been a soaking rain one or two days ago, and if the relative humidity is quite high, there may be bushels of morels, large and tender.

Of course, the soil temperature in the upper inch should be 40 or 45 degrees F. If the minimum temperature dropped close to freezing, with perhaps a light frost, the morels will be small and distorted, and some may have the tops blackened by frost.

You may have decided, from this information, that morels are very sensitive to their environment, and this is true. The fruiting season will be very short if there is a late spring.

In 1970, by May 5, even though conditions were apparently perfect, there were no Morchella angusticeps to be found, and only one of the larger morels, the yellow one. This one generally fruits a week or so later than the black morel.

Black Morel

All the "spawn" in a certain site produces mushrooms within a two-week period or so. However, as you move to the north slopes, or go to higher elevations, the morels in those sites may still be fruiting. At 5,500 feet elevation in the Montana Rockies I've found good crops of the same species on July 4. And in the Crazy Mountains at 9,500 feet, I've picked them on September 15.

The black morel is a tan color when it first fruits, but soon turns black, especially if a warm sun strikes it during the day.

Look carefully at pictures of morels, so you will be absolutely sure that you have a morel, before you eat any. The surface is covered with pits, also, and not folds as in the Helvellas, which have some poisonous members in the family, and are not recommend for amateur mushroom hunters.

You may have walked past thousands of morels in the woods and never have noticed them. It's easy to do; they don't show up like wildflowers. Training in observation pays off here. Have someone point one out to you in its natural habitat, and study it carefully; as you find one and then another, you'll be surprised how easy they are to spot.

If you like mushrooms, you'd better out there while they're fresh, because insects and slugs love them, also. If they are several days old, they'll be loaded with fungus flies, maybe ants or slugs. Although a soaking in cold water will bring the pests to the top, so you can skim them off, I prefer to just admire these older ones, and then go looking for an area where young ones have just emerged that morning.

Mushrooms grow little or not at all, after the first night, so there's no point in leaving the little ones to grow.

The tastiness depends a great deal upon the preparation. As soon as possible after they're picked, put them in cold water, and leave overnight (This fills the cells with moisture, so the heat of cooking will "explode" the cell walls and make them tender.).

Next morning, drain the water thoroughly, slice lengthwise, dip in egg batter and fry.

The tastiness can best be judged by how my daughter, a mannerly little lady, reacted to it. A friend brought out a dish for us to snack on. After she tasted one, she began grabbing frenziedly with both hands and cramming them in her mouth, evidently not wanting to share them.

The larger yellow morel is better eating, in my opinion, but the black one is good enough to keep. By the way, there is a great market potential for morels. Mushroom eaters and dealers in the know agrer that the man who first learns how to raise them commercially will be able to make several million dollars, just selling the information.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Even One Moose is One Too Many

(This was written in the early 1960s for a newspaper in Montana. Dad and Mom lived in a cabin in Bear Canyon, outside of Bozeman.)
By Lou Jonas
A "mad" moose can create a lasting impression-an impression of distaste which can make a man feel like shooting every one he sees.

A bull once kept me in the house for half a day in the Jackson Hole country. Each time I opened the door, he would lunge at me. When he wasn't lunging, he was running his tongue out a foot or so (it seemed) like a disturbed snake, or grinding his teeth. His eyes showed more bloodshot white than any mean bronc I've encountered.

I had been told that any moose in the world can be driven away by a man with a club, and I wanted the man who told me that to come over and prove it, but he was too busy that day.

I had a very good alibi for not trying that stunt myself. I had 54 head of horses to feed, and there was no one else to take over the job in case I became disabled. My wife suspected cowardice, and maybe she was right. It's a very thin line between caution and coward, I've found.

I was reluctant to shoot the moose, even though he was thin and old and was almost certain to die before spring, anyway. The main reason I was reluctant to shoot him was that the only trail I had on which I could drive the sled through the deep snow, was the trail the moose was claiming as his own. I had work enough to satisfy me without chopping a bull moose up in quarters, so I could drag him off the road.

The herd wasn't suffering from lack of hay, so I waited. Finally, about noon, the potential troublemaker wandered off the trailer to feed on some spruce branches. I decided that the most humane thing for all concerned was to end its misery, and this I did with a .30-.60 rifle bullet.

Once more that winter I had trouble with moose. This one, too, figured the road belonged to him alone, and it refused to let the team pass. Worse yet, it began dashing up to the horses and rearing, trying to bluff them into turning around. I consider turning a team and sled on a narrow track, through deep snow, next to impossible, so I looked for another solution.

I wasn't sure just when the bluffing would cease and the damage to the horses would begin. I warned him in every language I could think of, that I was a dangerous opponent, but he didn't seem to understand. I carefully ricocheted a .45 slug off the top of his head, and he finally understood the message I was trying to convey. He went hastily and willingly off through the deep snow, which it had been so eager to avoid just a little while before. It stopped in an aspen grove and stood there for some time, like a man scratching his head and trying to figure out what had happened.

I've heard of people having trouble with mother moose, but so far every one I've seen has dashed off in greast haste, with her little brown baby making every effort to keep up with her. However, if a calf had been too young and wobbly to run, the cow's reaction might have been different. Maybe I'll still have a chance some day to see if the "club-wielding" approach really works.

Moose have no upper incisors, but they still do an expert job of de-barking willows, aspens, maple, serviceberries and alder with their lower plate and an efficient and firm maxillary pad on top. Chokecherries, serviceberries and bed-barked dogwood appear to be much preferred, and a few moose can raise hob with a serviceberry patch, if they stay around long.

Olaus Murie, pretty much of an authority on large deer, state the willows were the "staff ofl ife" for moose. They also browse the twigs and needles off fir as high as they can reach, which is a considerable height, since they may run from six to seven feet high at the shoulders.

This winter just ended has seen a very deep accumulation of snow, and the moose are especially companionable with humans, often feeding by the house here of a night and early morning, and bedding down within one or two hundred yards. Evidently traveling is difficult in their more normal range. However, moose can winter in much deeper snow than elk.

In summer, moose feed on the lush, succulent vegetation which grows in and near marshes and ponds. They graze some, but usually have to drop to their knees to do so, because of their relatively short necks.

A moose is a find swimmer and a fair runner. He gallops only in an emergency but prefers to trot. He covers miles swiftly and for a great distance, if he realizes a hunter is on his trail.

Moose are great tourist attractions, and the meat is as good or better than elk, although there are hunters who will disagree is this. It depends partly upon the age and condition of the animal and how long it is before the moose is dressed after being killed.

Also, the moose meat I've eaten tasted much better if it was fried, then allowed to cool before eating.

Moose are interesting to watch and to hunt, and there is plenty of terrain and food well-suited for them in the northern Rockies, but they need to be carefully managed.

Overpopulaton is a relative matter, but, as you might have gathered, there have been times when I figured that even one moose constituted an overpopulation.

Monday, April 6, 2009

MotherWort , Herb of life

Motherwort, Herb of Life

by Lou Jonas

Motherwort (Leonurus Cardiaca) was a favored herb among the pioneers in the Piedmont, and its hardiness is indicated by the fact that it is still found growing wild around many old houses, where the soil stays somewhat moist all the growing season, and especially where it is fertile. It is also found along gthe road which parallels the C & O Canal, but the best, most luxurious example of the plant I have seen is growing under Mr. C. A. Ellwanger's plum tree, near New Baltimore ( the same organic gardener featured in an article in the Aug. 18 issue of the Piedmont Virginian.) I gave him the start a year or more ago, and it has really appreciated that good organic soil.

The " cardiaca" part of its scientific name refers to its use by herbalists to strengthen the heart. It has long been called the "herb of life", and Richard Lucas qoutes an old proverb, " Drink motherwort and live to be a source of continual astonishment and grief to waiting heirs!" Lucas says the Japanese dedicate one of their four great festivals to this herb, probably in memory of an emperor who wasn't expected to be 15 years old, but after drinking a daily cup of motherwort flower tea, lived to be 70.

Scientists have been reported to have found much calcium chloride in this plant, and that amy account for its effectiveness, since that compound is necessary for muscle strength, and the heart is, after all, mostly muscle.

The taste of the raw leaf is so strong and so bitter that I can well believe it will kill worms in the digestive system, as it is credited with doing. A tea made from the leaves or flowers can be diluted, of course, to a strength more to one's liking.

I have been troubled occasionally during the last 25 years, with a low backache. I discovered long ago that, if I drank a cup of tea made from dandelion roots or leves, plus motherwort leaves or flowers, the backache stops within a few hours. These backaches may be caused by infected kidneys or prostate gland, and both these herbs are considered good for these ailments. Whenever I have been using the tea as a usual morning drink, I have never been bothered with the ache.

Motherwort is just one of the many interesting plants now considered "weeds" by most people. things have changed greatly since country folks had to rely upon themselves or a wise neighbor to stay healthy. Interest has been increasing tremendously in the last ten years, as anyone can see if he stops in a large book store, and looks at the stock. In fact, I have seen many books related to ecology and natural health, in the drug stores of the Piedmont.

(This was presumably written for the Piedmont Virginian newspaper, although the date is unclear. We have been drinking motherwort tea mixed with peppermint and stevia, which help to cut the extreme bitterness. We don't know how effective it will be in the long run, but it does seem to impart an overall feeling of well-being.)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

"Daddy, Are All Those Men Cowboys?"

Well, honey, m-m-m, there's lots of different kinds of cowboys. There are tv and movie cowboys, rodeo cowboys, cowboys who WORK and drugstore cowboys who say, "Aw, y'all kin jist call me 'Tex'."

The ordinary tv cowboy is sort of a ringtailed curly wolf who uses his sixshooter to unlock doors, turn out lights, tenderize the skulls of badmen, and even though he misses lots of shots at close range (So the show won't end too soon), when the bad buy is about to go over the last ridge and escape jusice, he can shoot him out of the saddle.

Many movie and radio cowboys can play the guitar and some can sing; others sing whether they can or not. One was called the "King of the Cowboys", but most cowboys refused to kneel and bow to him, so they probably had no hand in crowning him.

Rodeo cowboys are ringtailed curly wolves who can prove it, and do, every time they make a good ride, or throw a fast and powerful steer. They might be veterinarians or ranch kids who go to college, but their reputation and status don't do much to impress the bulls, broncs, and calves-something more is required.

Sometimes the rodeo cowboy is actually a working cowboy in his spare time. Of course, some of them get fired for making the whiteface calves manshy, or for teaching the boss' hot-blooded parade horse to buck. but others can toss a bale of hay higher than anyone else on the ranch, and rodeo just because they are young, tough, and fun-loving (They need fun, too, if they get up before daylight every day of the year to irrigate, or start a tractor, or get out to feed stock in a blizzard.) And it could be, like your uncle Rube Moss used to do, that the winnings will go to pay the hospital bill when the next son or daughter is born. When a man has lots of kids, he has to figure out all the possible ways to make extra money.

Beginning rodeo hands, or young cowboys of most types, for that matter, look down upon dudes, and these city slickers retaliate by calling cowboys "hicks" and "farmers", but it seldom comes to more than that, except perhaps in the vicinity of some bar on a Saturday night.

Some working cowboys don't care for bronc-busting- they avoid it if possible, like your daddy used to do. It might be that the only time they do a first-class job of bronc-twisting is when there are so many yucca plants, or boulers, that it's just not smart to get thrown. when they become good ropers or wild cow milkers, it's because it was in the line of duty. Sometimes a man has to learn to rope, if he isn't fast enough to outrun a horse or calf, and get a halter on it.

The drugstore cowboys knows big hats and high-heeled boots carry a certain romance with them, so he buys the best he can afford, and hangs around western bars and rodeos and sales barns and livery stables until he learns the ling-occasionally, one of these learns to ride and rope amazingly well, and perhaps even play the guitar.

Many cowboys wear big, heavy, hot hats, along with pointed-toed, high-heeled boots. Of course, these hats are darned practical in a rainstorm, and do furnish protection against the hot sun, too. And the high heels keep a man's foot from getting caught in the stirrup, on a bucking horse (Some ranchers do blame their baldness and stacked-up "hammer toes" on this gear.). Actually, on a working ranch, you might find the men wearing work shoes and baseball-style caps more often the the traditional dress, and they wait till their day off to dress up.

So, honey, if you want to tell what kind of a cowboy a man is, you'll have to watch him working. Another fair way, and pretty accurate, is to remember that if a man is really a cowboy, he doesn't spend much time bragging about it.

(I imagine that this imaginary conversation was thought up in response to my cowboy-loving brothers Jamie and Kirby, both of whom have grown up learning everything "cowboy", and have published western novels together.)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In Defence of Open Space

(This one was written for a college writing class, where Dad waxed philosophical.)

"Miles and miles of nothing but miles and miles." This is how one city-reared woman described parts of the west. This is a typical attitude of those people who have been reared in a completely machine-dependent environment, and are machine-dominated to to the extent that they feel vulnerable and helpless when isolated from their mechanical master, and are far away from the place where they will be fed and housed with little effort on their parts, even those who are not self-reliant enough to provide for themselves. These people bring to mind a story by Frederick Brown, in which the world's greatest mechanics (called scientists by the people) had managed to connect all of the greatest electronic brains by a world-wide electrical circuit. When the circuit and feedbacks were all completed, the first question the head mechanic asked was,

"Is there a God?"

"There is now," was the reply. A sudden fear chilled the spine of the scientist, and he reached for the switch to break the connection. However, a bolt of lightning instantly fused the switch permanently closed.

It appears that man moves ever closer to an idol worship of his one-time mechanical slaves. The great leaders of the human race, even as early as Biblical times, recognized the danger of placing one's dependence upon a blind trust in some unseen power of a detached, inanimate force. Whether one feels that the guiding force of humanity arises from within, is a universal force embracing all mankind, or emanates from an all-wise and all-powerful Super-being to us, most thinkers recognize a danger of detioration when mankind entirely loses its self-reliance.

How else can one develop self-reliance, without being placed in a situation where one is dependent upon himself at least for entertainment and moral strength. A retreat from the pressures exerted by fellowmen has been recognized as valuable by many great leaders. Some of them, of course, emulated Pascal, who liked a quiet room in which to think and grow mentally and morally. Others, like Christ, preferred to get out where the very force of life is evidenced in a quiet and forceful way.

This impression of sagebrush and grasslands being miles and miles of nothing, demonstrates the ignorance and poor observation ability of most city dwellers (And I speak from my own past.) Since one need not worry about danger as long as he faithfully obeys traffic laws and other ordinances, and pays large taxes to support an efficient police department, he is enabled to walk through life with his thoughts withdrawn into himself, and brood about his own ill fortune, seldom noticing the worse plight of others. With head bowed and eyes perpetually downcast (Perhaps in the hope of finding a billfold of good living), if it weren't for the summer heat, he might not even realize that the sun still shines.

Even most deserts have something besides "miles and miles." I once thought of the Mojave desert as a place where life was improbable, if not almost impossible. After I saw an eagle flying away with a jack rabbit, and found that there were great numbers of kangaroo rats, pocket mice, bobcats, owls, songbirds, coyotes, insects, and snakes which are well adapted to desert life, and began noticing the various forms of well-adapted plant life, such as tiny annuals which bloom after a shower, produce seed, and die, all in a span of a few days, I gained some realization of the toughness of life, and also gained inspiration and courage to face and solve problems in my own life, instead of regarding myself as the pawn in a game between two gigantic forces called Good and Evil, each of which was so tyrannical there was little to choose from between them.

I have learned to love sagebrush county since I have become acquainted with some of the "citizens" of this type of country. Unlike some farmers who feel an urge to bulldoze out all brush of whatever description in order to make a quick fortune, regardless of the welfare of America (Which suffers every time good topsoil is blown or washed away), I feel that there is much to be learned by the study of every type of terrain in the world. Mankind is still too immature to build a brave new world, although we have the tools now which would make it only too easy to do. At least, we could build a new world, perhaps comparable to what the earth look at its beginning.

It is possible that all of us, even the most self-reliant and individualistic, could be brainwashed to the extend that we could live uncomplainingly in a bare town of brick and concrete, and even do away with trees and grass in order to make room for more people and more hydroponic gardens to feed them, but I have a feeling, perhaps a premonition, that the decline and fall of the human race would soon follow.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Another Letter to Rose

June 7, 1964

Hi, Dear Sis,

We got your letter, and the card from Greenes. This is a late spring - the lilacs bloom a little, and then the weather gets cool, and stops further development for a while. The same thing happens with the apple trees, so some of these plants look rather shaggy, and unkempt. Of course, after bearing so heavily last year, we didn't expect them to repeat so soon. It looks as though the serviceberries might produce a bumper crop this year, and maybe the choke cherries, also. The Hansen's bush cherry is loaded with blossom, and also the mountain ash and wild plums. I want to look for gaint puffballs as soon as I can - there should be quite a few. I found some good messes of sponge mushrooms, or Morchellas, in our neighbors cottonwood grove. There are many, many birds around this spring - it makes it very enjoyable, and also profitable, as far as the garden is concerned.

We've planted quite a bit of garden, but some of the seeds appear to be defective. We'll have to be sure and buy from someone else next year.

*Kandy just brought me a Raggedy Anne and a Raggedy Andy doll-I'm not sure why-maybe they are a present, to show how much she loves me. She is a little interrupter, but it is nice to have her around, and very interesting. If we didn't have any kids, I would work with Scouts, just so I could maintain contact with the only humans who still retain the natural honesty of our ancestors, to a great extent. Older people become afraid of being childish if they still play with dolls, or marbles, around the hills wondering what makes the world works as it does.

Children are the most natural philosophers of all-everything is interesting to them. They don't take so many things for granted as we do, when we become blase, as most of us do. I'm glad I went back to college-it has really rejuvenated my outlook on life.

I hope things have worked out for the best for you-I almost welcome slow times here-its gives me a chance to fish, dig cattails, and write and draw. Many things which I don't take much time for, as long as there is work available.

Love to you, from all of us-


(*Kandy is my sister, and the oldest child of the family.
I love his comments on children; how true it is!)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Barn Swallows and Chimney Swifts:Ecological Indicators.

"Barn Swallows and Chimney Swifts:Ecological Indicators"

by Lou Jonas

If you're the type of person who does a lot of observing and thinking as you drive across the country on vacation, here's a question you can spend quite a lot of time on. "Why are there so many different kinds of swallows? Why can't one species do everything all other swallows do?"

If your experiences are similar to mine, you will see that in country areas like the Piedmont, where the air is less polluted, and buildings farther apart, as well as there being a few barns here and there, and some banks along road cuts or along streams, the air is divided up into something like "precincts", with each species having a niche fairly well separated from those of other kinds. The layer next to the ground and up to a little above treetop level, is generally patrolled by barn swallows, and by bank and rough-winged swallows when they are present, near banks or gravel pits.

Chimney swifts will generally be higher, quite a distance above the treetops, in this sort of environment.

However, when you near one of the cities with a great deal of pollution, such as Knoxville and other Tennessee cities, you seldom see a barn swallow, and I can't ever remember having seen them in smaller cities with cleaner air, where they sometimes build their nests in sheds, or on a porch ceiling.

In the cities, the chimney swift will work close to the ground as well as higher in the air. Why this change? As near as I can figure, it is due to the barn swallow being more efficient at the fast maneuvering required close to the ground, where there are more objects to run into; yet, when the barn swallow finds it impossible to exist, as it evidently does in dirty air, and is absent, the swift can and does take over the barn swallow's "job".

Where homes are provided for the purple martin, they are apt to become established, but they, too, seem unable to endure the sooty air as well as the swift. They seem to spend most of their flying time at a fair distance from the ground, perhaps because their soaring flight adapts them well to more open spaces.

In hot, dry weather, chimney swifts tend to move out of an area, probably because insects are more numerous in times of occasional rainfall. It was interesting to see the different in Warrenton and Culpeper in the fall of 1970. Culpeper had a good heavy rain, while Warrenton and surrounding areas had been missed for weeks. There were numerous swifts over Culpeper, while they had all apparently moved from the Warrenton area.

Thus the swallows of various sorts serve as good ecological indicators. They indicate habitat conditions. Are the barn swallows getting scarcer, and the swifts flying close to the ground much of the time, around your home? Then ask yourself, "Why?" and "When will I begin to suffer from bad air?".

(We do have an awful lot of mosquitoes, and not very many swallows for a rural area. Could it be all the spraying the farmers do to their crops?)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Prospector, a Poem

"The Prospector"

By Lou Jonas

A brand new day's at a virgin mountain stream
Where every minute corresponds to sand, or treasure's gleam.
I operate, so patiently, the gold-pan of my mind
To wash out worthless particles, until the prize I find.

And when the stream's completely worked,and I retire once more
The glowing memories increase my happy store.
And thus I find a peace of mind, though I'm hardened miser-
My hoard of of gold will not be stolen, and I'm happier and wiser.
(Dad actually was a prospector for a bit, while trying his hand at being a mountain man in northern California. He lived in a friend's cabin and trapped furs. This poem makes me think of the Lord as a prospector, and each of us a panful of silt. He swishes us around with the waters of life, to see if any gold may appear. Some of us may prove to have no gold in us at all, and we'll be cast back into the stream of judgment. The good Lord knows that He has swished me around for quite some time! I hope He finds a few nuggets worth keeping.)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Organic Gardening

(This was presumably written for the Piedmont Virginian newspaper.)


Herbert Spencer said, "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is a proof against all argument, and which cannot fail to keep a man in ever-lasting ignorance; this principle is contempt prior to investigation ." Many people who live by this principle scoff at organic gardening and farming being impractical, and regard the organic gardener as somewhat of a fanatic. But the thinkers are slow to condemn; they wait until they have a chance to compare the taste and looks of organic produce, and to if it really does appear to be impractical in this modern age.

The best turnips, radishes, carrots, sunflowers, and most other vegetables and fruits I have seen were those produced in a garden where the soil was good, and where there was a plenitude of natural nutrients. A good organic grower is smart, educated person, and one who is willing to work at it. He needs to understand the life cycles of pests and beneficial insects, and crop plants. For example, he knows that aphids have wings during part of the year, and during this time can invade a garden in great numbers literally overnight.

Organic gardening includes using natural fertilizers and such organic matter as lawn clippings, rather than burning them to pollute the air, or letting them wash into a stream, to cause water pollution. Of especial concern is the amount of humus in the soil. This humus is created largely by earthworms, which also, by their burrowing, help to let air and water into the soil, to keep plant roots healthy. Humus and the activity of soil creatures have a great deal to do with soil structure (And your county agent how important good soil structure is.).

The recycling of manures and vegetable waste, by returning them to the soil is part of the philosophy of the organic gardener; he gets so he realizes the important economic benefits to himself, as well as to the country, of wasting nothing, including glass and paper, and usually is most cooperative in the matter of keeping the highways clean. Chicago, and some other communities, have solved part of their disposal and pollution problems by selling the treated sewage to farmers, thereby helping the farmers also. New Jersey has gone a step further, by hauling the silt, dredged from rivers, onto farms where the sandy soils benefit greatly from it.

As the county agent in warrenton said in 1969, "A two to four-inch sawdust mulch will make a 100% difference in the productivity and ease of working, in your garden." This mulch preserves moisture, discourages slugs, sowbugs, and some other pests, keeps down many weeds, makes the soil more suitable for earthworms, which are the "soil builders" and adds nutrients to the soil as it decays.

Marigolds are planted with garden vegetables to kill soil pests, and keep many above-ground pets away also. Horseradish planted with potatoes keeps away the potato beetle. A band of sand or wood ashes around plants will keep slugs away from them. Predatory insects such as praying mantises, lacewings, and lady beetles are encouraged, and sometimes in emergencies are bought by the pint or gallon, to release where needed (However, if conditions aren't suitable for them, they may just migrate to the surrounding countryside, so here again is pointed out the need for knowing life cycles of insects.).

Now; is organic gardening really a fad, something engaged in by a bunch of health nuts who are fantatics about eating insecticides, and plants grown on deficient soils? Is it impractical? Some of the answers to those questions are beginning to come out now, through the reseasrch of various soil and plant scientists. It has been discovered that there really is a difference in the vitamin and mineral content of vegetables grown on different soils.

And when you read in the agricultural research bulletin, issued by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, about how the farmers in Canete Valley, Peru, had a total loss due to insect pests after having too freely used insecticides, for several years. Then, after calling in ecologists to recommend natural controls, they went back to making profits. You then begin to realize that organic farming might simply be the newest of the sciences; there is a great deal to be learned, but the rewards are great (Life, health, prosperity, and peace of mind could be some of them.).

When you further learn that a number of California farmers have turned to Dietrich (The best known supplier of predatory insects), because they couldn't afford the spraying costs, it strengthens your ideas.

Many people like organic gardening because, after building up the soil, it's easy to raise tasty vegetables, and the labor-saving makes it possible to spend more time at their hobbies, and still have the best foods. Can you think of a better reason?

(No, Dad, I sure can't!)