Edge of the Earth Journal
December 12, 1999
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Phil relaxing on the porch and
watching the birds at
Edge of the Earth Rd.
    My wife and I moved to our home on Edge of the Earth Rd. in July of 1998.  We were buying the place from a professor at OU who was tired of the trek each day along the interstate through a challenging matrix of eighteen wheelers in full rage, the reluctant elderly, the beautiful women in fast, fluorescent cars attempting to make themselves even more beautiful while weaving from lane to lane in the manic obsession of getting there on time, road-weary vacationers with miles to go before they sleep, and all the rest who were traversing the countryside, daydreaming of being anywhere else.  We chose making this daily, dangerous trek rather than having to live where we were all headed each morning.

     Edge of the Earth Road runs east and west.  It is but a short road, nine miles east of Lexington and five miles south of Highway 39.  As yet, I have not been able to find out the origin of the name but am confident of eventually tracking it down, even if I must make one up.

     We have three acres of land on which is a log cabin, matching log garage, and upstairs apartment.  My wife found it while looking at houses in the area and immediately signed a contract on it.  Circumstances prevented me from getting to see it for another three months, but for as long as we have been married, such decisions do not require discussion, only a signature.

     We are surrounded on three sides by tree lines, the thickest part of them being to the west.  We had a great deal more trees when we first moved in, but for whatever reason, it was decided to make Edge of the Earth Road an
"all weather" road, whatever that means.  So, bulldozers and backhoes were turned over to very young men who were themselves turned loose on the trees.  They took to their task with great fervor and made more and more daring forays into the ditch, clawing, gnawing, and snapping trees that had been here since before the birth of their grandfathers.  We tried to reason with them that such destruction was unnecessary, but they only smiled, revved up their dozers, and drove even farther into the ditch.  Now, where once the house was not observable as one drove by, large patches of bare openings now haunt what were once marvelous trees.

     When I called to try to put a halt to the needless destruction, I was told curtly, "Progress always has its price."  To which I answer, "no, only ignorance."  All to no avail.

     But enough of this rehashing of painful memories.  Our place is still wonderful and full of all the things natural that make the human heart, even a civilized one, beat faster with an appreciation of this earth's most salient gift.

     To the north is an open field where, come spring, we plan to dig a 10'-diameter pond, solely for the sake of the wildlife that traverses our land.  We've built numerous brush piles, hung many feeders, attempted to eradicate as many non-native plants as possible, and planted more trees as a haven for all flora and fauna alike.  It has been a joyous task with great rewards to soul and mind.

     Since moving in, I have kept a journal of all the flora and fauna encountered so far.  Opossums come each night to raid the feeders, as does the occasional armadillo, aerating the soil looking for grubs.  We've had as many as five raccoons, but have not seen any of them for the past couple of months.  The last we saw was a raccoon female with three kits in tow.  She was teaching them how to raid the feeders while, at the same time, teaching them table manners.  In the former, we watched as she would get one of the small ones to crawl up the tree and onto the branch to bend it down where she could get hold of the feeder and empty it on the ground.  Soon they were all feeding there, but then came the second lesson.  Any attempt to get close to the morsels she had chosen for herself resulted in a quick parental bite that left no misunderstanding of intent.  Biting seems so superior in successful instruction to our human, often errant, swat on the rear.

     Since our children are gone and scattered to each coast, we have replaced them with two cats, Lilly and Quincy.  They have laid claim to the place in a most evident way.  Whether it is their favorite chair, stair step, porch position, shade haven, or cardboard box, it is solely theirs.  One learns quickly to sit elsewhere, step around, or leave at peace such beloved creatures at their repast.  From time to time, spare cats arrive and a serious squabble ensues which results in cooing noises made by my wife and me as we apply appropriate applications of antibiotic ointment to scrapes and scratches alike.

     We have come to an agreement with our two feline charges:  they have free run of the place except for the birds.  It seems to be working quite well.  They are hell on mice but have left the birds largely at peace, save for a few excursions to the brush piles to rouse their feathered nemesis.  When we moved here, there were two resident cats already here.  They each killed a bird a day regardless of our instructions to the contrary.  Much against my personal proclivity, I was forced to "neutralize" them, as our military so eloquently describes it.

     Ah, now to the birds:  American Goldfinches, Tufted Titmice, Carolina Chicadees, Eastern Phoebes, Carolina Wrens, Bewick's Wrens, Cardinals, Spotted Towhees, Red- and White-breasted Nuthatches, American Crows, Blue Jays, Robins, Flickers; Downy, Red-bellied, Red-headed, and Pileated Woodpeckers; Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Eastern Bluebirds, Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks, Turkey Vultures, Kestrels, Barred Owls, Killdeer, Kingfisher, Bobwhite Quail, Mourning Doves, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Eastern Kingbirds, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, Eastern Wood-Pewees, Loggerhead Shrikes, Mockingbirds, Brown Thrashers, Cedar Waxwings, Starlings, Blue Grosbeaks, Painted Buntings; Field, Harris', White-crowned, White-throated, Chipping, and Savannah Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, Eastern Meadowlarks, Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Summer Tanagers, House Sparrow, and Purple Finch.

     I just love running through that inventory!

     Coyotes serenade us at night and in the morning deer are often in the field.

     This is a magic place for us.  The magic comes not from a Wizard's wand or our culture's sleight-of-hand marketing extravaganza, but rather from a calm, sedate landscape.  Some may wish for more but here at The Edge of the Earth, we have all that really matters.  And herein is our wealth.

"There are degrees and kinds of solitude."

Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac