Columns

Stop & squeeze the bladdernut 2016.06.29

on . Posted in By The Way

BY DAVID GREEN

The concept was good. The problem developed in the way it was carried out.

My wife and I try to get in some exercise a few times a week. Sometimes we do, but it’s always less than we should be getting. And Ben is supposed to be keeping in shape for cross country. We all needed to get out and move on a late Saturday afternoon.

Ben doesn’t like running around a track or along a road. He likes real cross country, such as running the path along Bean Creek. Colleen and I consented to go, but we warned him that he’d have to turn around and run back to meet us every so often as we lagged behind.

We walked down the street to the old mill site, veered over toward the path and stood looking into the dark woods. And what did we see? Mosquitoes. Mosquitoes by the thousands.

We knew they’d be there. There are always mosquitoes along the creek in the summer, especially this time of day. We knew we were wearing shorts. We knew that once we started running there would be no stopping.

So Ben led it off, then came Colleen followed by me in the rear. Down the hill, across the board over the wet spot, around the first curve and then over toward the creek.

This was the first time I wanted to stop. No, I wasn’t tired yet, but that was too beautiful a spot to run past. It was the first opening in the path where sunlight came through and the late afternoon breeze blew across my face. But a high-pitched buzzing kept me moving.

On through the open area where weedy trees are moving in, then sharply left and down the hill through the sandy part of the path. It wasn’t just the mosquitoes we were battling; the stinging nettles were everywhere.

I saw Colleen slowing to a walk up ahead by the hackberry trees. It’s about time, I thought. I was ready for a rest. It didn’t last long though, because we were at the top of the rise leading down into lower ground, and we might as well run down the hill.

Traveling this trail is such a wonderfully sensual experience. Not just the sound of the mosquitoes and the brush of nettles. There’s constantly changing scenery. Everything was dry walking through town, but inside the woods it’s lush and green.

The smell changes often as you travel along the path. Run down that hill to the old creek bed and you’re hit in the face by “the Bean Creek smell.” I’ve never figured out what it is, but I’d recognize it anywhere. Maybe it’s rotting cottonwood leaves. It’s moist, it’s heavy, it’s pungent. And suddenly it was gone.

We’d risen up a few feet in elevation and we were walking again. The mosquitoes were swarming again and we were off and running.

This wasn’t my idea of a good time any more. I was missing too much. I was racing by raspberries and mulberries without eating. I was catching quick glimpses of cow parsnip that had gone to seed. I saw the young bladdernut pods, but never had the chance to stop and gently give one a squeeze.

Ben stopped to look for the fish that left some big ripples in the water alongside the path. Colleen urged him back into action, but I took his place. There must be a big carp down there somewhere beyond the clay banks.

Around the curve heavy with nettles there’s a medicinal smell. Then down the hill leading to the final stretch. We were running past baby buckeyes and I wasn’t stopping to feel the still soft prickles. We reached the Tourist Camp and walked across the park while applying spit to legs itchy from nettles.

Sure we got some exercise, but it wasn’t such a good way to travel. Much too fast. Tomorrow I’m putting long pants on and I’m going back—back to meander and amble that path along the Bean.

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