Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

February 13, 2014

Ain't no snow in paradise

By Dan Graves Daily News
Greensburg Daily News

---- — We sat cross-legged at the camp fire, the flickering flames casting eerie shadows in the trees surrounding us.

An owl hooted in the distance, causing the ancient old man sitting with his head lowered to raise his arms over his head and proclaim, “The wise one of the forest has spoken. You are destined to suffer mightily at the hands of the gods of winter. There will be mighty winds and bitter colds to freeze your radiators. Many snows will come to hide the fruits of your labors in the yard and flower beds. Many rodents of the fields will seek sanctuary in your garage, chewing up the wiring in your automobiles and taking comfort with the bounties in your cupboard.” We listened with growing apprehension as he continued to describe the horrors of the coming cold months.

“There will be what is known as a jet stream vortex curling down from the arctic regions, bringing with it long periods of insufferable cold and misery. I would advise you to take sanctuary in a warmer climate before such disasters occur. That will be $25. You can pay my secretary on your way out. Have a nice trip.” Humbled with such prophetic wisdom we packed our vehicle and headed south to the land of milk and honey. After all, who would doubt the prophesy of an old sage who charged only $25 for such an accurate forecast?

How do you define a snow bird? First, they can be identified by their dress, especially the men. Multi-colored Bermuda shorts, a matching flowered Hawaiian shirt, black nylon socks pulled up half way to the knees and supported by garters, black navy last shoes, a Panama straw hat and a net bag to hold sea shells hung from a belt loop. Normally sighted on beaches, sometimes armed with a metal detector, but always carrying a long stick to poke at sand fleas. Joining these types has always been at the very bottom of my bucket list, but after listening to our old prophet we decided to take his word for it and get out of Dodge before the tempest(s) hit.

Little did we know how accurate his projection would be. But as for me, I decided to swim upstream. I would appear on the beaches wearing only a Speedo and a smile. And as far as I’m concerned, what Mother Nature put on the beaches would stay on the beaches. What use are sea shells in the middle of the Midwest other than to clutter up the top of the water closet of the stools in the bathroom?

Migrating to what for all practical purposes is a foreign land requires some adjustment to your environment. The flora and fauna are very strange, and if you’re a fisherman, being able to identify the swimming species to determine what can bite you back if you catch one is important.

Consider, for instance, the birds. At home most of the birds are relatively small with short bodies, stubby necks and legs with equally stubby beaks. They feed primarily on insects and handouts from bird feeders. Here, the local population wouldn’t touch a bug. Most have long skinny necks and matching legs and are armed with a beak that looks like a switch blade knife. With webbed feet they roam the surf looking for anything that swims and spearing it with the switch blade.

There is one exception to the feeding rule. Gulls are the hobos and pick pockets that flock on the beaches looking for unsuspecting tourists who are foolish enough to pack a picnic lunch. Thieves of the winged set, these miscreants can snatch a piece of cheese out of a rat trap without setting it off. Judy and I were sitting side by side, enjoying a warm day on the beach, stretched on folding chairs and snacking on tidbits. I loaded a corn chip with extra hot salsa and while talking to her, a winged missile shot in between us and heisted the chip, hot salsa and all. The thief hovered in front of us and scarfed it down. “Why, you scruffy beach bum!” I shouted. “Meet me here tomorrow and I’ll give you something to really upset your metabolism.”

Attracted by the commotion, another gull joined his buddy, landed a few feet in front of us and gazed at us with those beady little eyes, begging for a handout. Snickering, I made plans to return the next day with chips loaded with my special salsa concoction loaded with Rebel Yell hot sauce and gun powder.

One exception to the skinny legged variety are pelicans. Their favorite habitats are piers and boat docks where they sit looking like a bunch of Bowery bums with tin cups hoping for a handout. Occasionally they swoop over the water and scoop up small fish in a huge bill equipped with what looks like a floppy hand bag. I’ve seen them swallow fish in one gulp that I would have had stuffed and hung on my trophy wall. Apparently, they know what kind of fish to avoid. Swallowing something alive, equipped with teeth, could result in a major need for a beak full of Tums.

The trees are a combination of stubby and tall skinny palms that sport fronds, fan-like “leaves” that sprout from the trunks on large heavy stems. From what I discovered, they don’t drop off in the fall like our maple and oak trees. If they did, it would take a back hoe to rake the lawn.

Beside our patio deck is a flowering growth pronounced “boo-gan-villia” by the locals. Sporting delicate red blooms, it seems to be a mistake by Mother Nature, sprouting flowers in the middle of January. Kinda ruins the excitement of seeing our crocus blooms shoving through the snow in early spring.

As for fishing, there is nothing to report. So far, using Hoosier baits, I’ve been unable to convince these lazy louts to take anything. But when it happens, I’ll be prepared for the species that are equipped with fangs. I take along a shotgun and a baseball bat to subdue any critter with an attitude. My motto is, “Be Prepared!”