Friday, July 14, 2006
Inquiring minds want to know!
Did you ever have a little mystery that haunted you because you couldn't find the answer? I have had one of those for a couple of weeks. This will sound like a trivial matter to some of you and it is really. But for me it is as compelling as those musical notes in "Close Encounters". In fact, while it doesn't involve musical notes exactly it does involve a rhythm. It began like this; I was on my usual running route which is very remote. I only pass a couple of houses and usually meet only a few cars in a 5 mile out and back. This route allows lots of time for thoughtful reflection (as in "I am going to die out here by myself") and I get to see lots of wildlife. I have seen 8 or 10 deer, several wild turkeys and various snakes and such. Well, a couple of weeks ago I realized someone had cleared some limbs inside a fence line along the road forming sort of a 4-wheeler lane--too narrow for a truck. Also, a new barbed wire fence had been strung inside of the old one. The new one was about 2 or 3 feet inside the old one and the cut limbs and small trees were just left on the ground next to the woodline. Nothing at all unusual about that. UNTIL I passed one spot that was emitting a loud clicking noise. Maybe not clicking so much as snapping. Have you ever had one of those jumping bugs get into your house on a tile floor and jump about a foot straight up and land with a click? I am not making this up. Anyway the sound was not too unlike snapping fingers if you are able to snap yours really loudly. Here is the really strange thing that caught my attention; this snapping sound had a distinct rhythm. Now I am not musically inclined. In fact, when Mitch Fewell attempted to educate the rhythmically challenged recently he seemed to be looking right at me. Of course, I was sitting in front of Mama Gwin. The truth is I can recognize when the beat is right or not. This bug/creature/spirit/freak of nature had a definite, steady beat and never missed a beat. I tell you that is weird in the middle of nowhere. I guessed some kind of beetle was eating the cut and discarded limbs. The first time I noticed this phenomenon, I walked through the ditch, climbed the first barbed wire fence and tried to zero in on the source of the sound. It had to be fairly loud for me to hear it clearly on the road--above my breathing. When I didn't see any interesting insects nor sawdust indicating an oak dinner I just went on my way. Then every day when I passed I heard it. Both ways. Eventually, I walked to the fence again with the same result. I asked one of Elmore county's home grown country boys what he thought it might be. No idea. Today my curiosity was too strong. If it were something eating the cut limbs it may move on at any time and I would never know. Who knows, this might be the discovery of a new species. Plus the area is in the shade and it was nearly 100 degrees. So I again climb over the first rusty barbed wire fence (which officially constitutes trespassing). I walked between the old rusty fence and the brand new barbed wire fence til I seemed very close to the source of the snapping sound. The new fence was not attached to post but rather to standing trees. Whoever strung it used those little black plastic insulators with a nail through the middle. Then it hit me. The new fence might have electric current running through it. That is a little unusual for barbed wire but not unheard of. Well, I figured this was probably the answer but how do you verify such a hypothesis? I read a quote once; "some learn by being told, some learn by watching others, and some just have to learn by peeing on the electric fence". That quote occurred to me right then. Guess again. I don't normally learn that way. I normally get someone else to pee on the fence. In fact that reminds me of a childhood story I will post sometime. What I did was find a stick with enough weight that it would knock the strand of wire away from the tree by throwing so I wouldn't have to be touching it at the time. Not taking any chances. When the stick struck the barbed wire and it shook back and forth the constant snapping noise quit for a few seconds. As the wire settled against the tree again it started back. Mystery solved. The fence has current running through it and is shocking the only tree that doesn't have a little plastic insulator. I will sleep better tonight and when I pass this section and hear the finger popping from now on, I will smile because I know something other folk don't.