Sunday, October 8, 2017

Watching a Great Blue Heron

Field notes from September 9, 2017

I’m sitting on a boulder at the edge of the Umpqua River, sitting quietly watching two lizards.  The day is still a little hot, but shadows grow long.  A great blue heron flies to the rocky shelf that reaches out into the river.  He pants and droops his wings.  It is their typical ‘I’m drying out pose.’

The heron stays put long enough for me to sketch him.  After about fifteen minutes of sunning himself he moves down between boulders.  I can’t see his body, but the angle of his head tell me he is hunting. 

When watching a great blue heron hunting ‘…you might imagine you are watching a statue of this bird.”
                                    John James Audubon

He finally moves to where we can really see him, but not for long.  All too soon he flies. 
The heron flies across the river and up onto an exposed limb on a tall alder.  He carefully limb-walks, getting himself tucked under the canopy of the tree.  The river valley will soon be in total shade.  Dusk is coming.  I suspect the heron is settling in for the night. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

In Honor of Uncle Bud

I seldom stray from my blog focus on nature or art, but here goes .....
Anna Wipli standing next to her son, Gerald 'Bud' Wipfli

I’m writing to honor someone I never met.  His story touches me because Dale and I are a distant part of his family and a very late chapter in his short life has just been completed.

Last winter Dale received a phone call from a government agency (I can’t remember the exact name).  Did he know Gerald Wipfli, a soldier missing in action during World War II?  -- Yes.  That would be Dale’s ‘Uncle Bud.’  The person on the phone is part of our government’s program to identify the remains of long lost soldiers.

Dale was very willing to provide a DNA sample, but later we found out he wasn’t needed. A closer relative was available.  Dale's maternal grandparents were Anna and Dominick Wipfli -- Swiss immigrants who met in Wisconsin.  Fourteen of their eighteen children reached adulthood.     Uncle Bud was the next to last child and the youngest is still living --  Aunt Betty.  Her DNA left no doubt that Uncle Bud had finally been found. 

We now know he died in the Battle of Hurtgen Forest near Schmidt, Germany – a  nasty battle shortly before the Battle of the Bulge.    It sounds as though he was found right where he died, standing in a foxhole.  In 2010 a company laying telephone cable stumbled across the site. 

Sometimes the government moves slowly.  He was found in 2010, we got the telephone call last winter, and by early summer we knew that would be  returned to his hometown, to be buried next to his parents.  He finally came home.  An honor guard met the plane; last weekend a service was held in the Catholic church of his hometown, Nekoosa, Wisconsin.  Many members of the extended family gathered to mark the occasion.

One particularly poignant tid bit of information surfaced recently.  A man named Tom Brady, son of Lewis Brady, contacted a member of the family.  He told us Lewis landed at Normandy with Uncle Bud – and that Lewis named his first born son after Bud.  Bud may have had a short life, but his definitely left an impression in that man’s heart plus in the hearts of his family.