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.