Tag Archives: outdoors

When Extreme Drought Hits Home

Dry cattails line the dry and barren bed of Lake Wichita.

Dry cattails line the dry and barren bed of Lake Wichita.

As the old saying goes, Lake Wichita is but a shadow of her former self. Once a grand jewel of a tourist attraction and the first man-made lake built to provide fresh water for the residents of Wichita Falls, Texas, this dear old lady languishes in the final throes of becoming a dry wetland.

mussel shell 1-21-2004 3-37-06 PM

Fresh water mussel shells and decades of debris and refuse from boaters and fishermen lay exposed as the lake’s waters continue to recede.

The amusement park and pavilion with its dance halls, restaurants and docking piers that once drew thousands of summer visitors from far and wide across the Southwest faded into history long ago. Remains of fresh water mussels, desiccated fish bones and tons of trash and debris litter the lake bed today.

rusted drum remains 1-21-2004 3-35-15 PM

The rusted top of a 55-gallon drum lies buried in the lake bed, typical of the tons of debris littering the lake.

As extreme drought conditions continue to hold going into 2013, the future of Lake Wichita and the surrounding wetland marsh is uncertain. Located on the southwestern edge of the city and almost completely surrounding by urban neighborhoods, the lake is the property of the City of Wichita Falls. Lake Wichita Park and the Circle Trail for hiking and biking line its northern shore. Fresh deer tracks and other signs of active wildlife attest that the old lake is still an attraction and not just for people.

With a lot of tender loving care from her friends and visitor, this old lady has another hundred years and more of life potential in her yet.

fish bones 1-21-2004 3-23-13 PM

© Jim Miller 2013





Posted by on January 3, 2013 in Genesis


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Geminids variations

Geminids? 2 fukN layZ


cloud cover
warm covers
lack of ambition
another cosmic shower missed


Geminids shower mid December comes;
Dry clouds shroud my patch of planet.
My bed, beneath warm covers, remain I;
Old man sleep trumping ambition.


mid December show
clouds curtain from my viewing
covers over head


Thirty-two Hundred Phaethon comes, son of the sun, from Gemini’s twin bosoms spawn star stuff! Stuff of which ALL is born. Man, woman, butterfly, sky; the ever lovin’ music of the manic cosmic spheres, man; did you never like listen, I mean, really listen to Sagan, man! Growing strong, lasting longer; a hundred…one twenty…one thirty…one forty…one fifty…one sixty an hour shower down in the wee hours across the depths of sky…. Hidden behind the dry shroud curtain of rainless cloud that blankets this patch of planet we call home. Three a.m. calls anyway, as usual; and you’re up to pee, anyway, as usual, knowing it’s out there; silent, slow streaming at two dozen miles per second some two dozen miles high; and all you can do is stand with junk in your hand, slow streaming, pissing the night away because it’s, well, cold out there and the damned clouds block the view, and if you’re quick enough shaking off the dew, the warm spot you left so carefully laid between the covers still will be there to welcome you back to the comforters’ fold. What the hey, right? They’ll be back next December, right? Unless, of course, the ancient Mayans got it right. Good night.

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Posted by on December 14, 2012 in The Elderly American Songbook


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The New Camping for a New Mother Nature

WOW, what a night, huh?  Thunder rollin’, light’nin’ flashin’!  Had a little dab of rain, pinch of pea hail and a whole lot of wind.  Thank ya, Lord!

Naturally enough, our good rain brought others’ pain and suffering.  Huff Post is reporting five people killed in a tornado that swept through Woodward, OK, early this morning.  Judging from all the weather chatter yesterday ahead of overnight storms that swept the Plains and Midwest, casualties and property damage could have been much higher.  Scant comfort to those who lost loved ones, homes and jobs.  We’re prayin’ for them, too, this morning, Lord!

The TV talkingheads were talking yesterday about the importance of having a NOAA weather radio in times like these.  I say, first, get yourself a top notch weather guy!  My go-to guy on the Rolling Plains is Meteorologist Bryan W. Rupp over at KFDX-TV 3 (NBC) out of Wichita Falls.  Don’t let Bryan’s Tim-McGraw-style fedora fool ya, the boy knows his weather, not to mention our weather.  He’s tireless, too, in pursuit of the wildest weather–he’s a chaser in addition to being a savvy reporter–and constantly sends out critical updates on all the leading social channels.  Like Good Old Joe Brown used to say, I’m proud to recommend Bryan to ya, and, no, Bryan is NOT paying me to say that, damn it.

We were all set to camp out at the lake this weekend.  That, of course, didn’t go.  OMG (that’s “Oh, my gosh” for the hypocritical social police set out there who may be reading this but don’t want any of their fellow travelers to know it), we have not had a good escape to the woods since Horny Moose Camp in…when was it?…’96?  That was a weekend!!

Ended up staying home and turning to busy-looking chores in the back quarter (as in the 1/4-acre patch behind our socially-respectable-looking house); reassessing garden plots and raising the eye pokers, low-hanging branches that exist solely to fetch out an eye of a daydreaming mower.  Kept wondering to myself, there is the faint solitude of our backyard, what would I be doing if I were out at the lake?  Probably puttering around with busy-looking camp chores while really keeping a watch on the developing weather; thankful, I pray, to be clear of all the power mowers screaming and rubber-tires whining along Speedway!

OH, SHIT!!  Damn near half past ten and I haven’t yet checked in on Big Red and Ezra!!  Pardon my French, children, but this pair of red-tailed hawks have a nest of three eggs that will begin to hatch any day now.  We’ve been watching these two going on three weeks, now, starting shortly after Red laid her 2nd egg.  The nest is in Ithaca, NY, 80 feet in the air on a light pole overlooking a parking lot on the campus of Cornell University.  Live 24/7 streaming is being provided by the bird nerds who run the Cornell Lab of Ornithology here.  No hawklings yet….

AS I was saying…we puttered around the yard most of yesterday, waiting to see what the weather was gonna do.  Early afternoon Bryan posted expectations of a high-end tornado watch being issued by the Storm Prediction Center up in Norman, OK.  First I’ve ever heard the modifier “high-end” applied to a weather alert.  Seems the folks at the SPC coined the term during the 2006 outbreak, referring to storms packing especially severe (F3 or higher), life-threatening tornadoes, plural.

Our east-side neighbor lady has this tree with small clusters of white blooms hanging over our privacy nook where the A/C compressor lives.  I was going to trim some low hangers back when I noticed a mob of red admiral butterflies storming the blossoms.  Wind was gusting pretty steady around 40mph out of the southwest, so I was kind of surprised to see this level of butterfly activity.

A couple of red admiral butterflies out of several working on Latin Lady's tree.

Given the windy conditions, got me to wondering if this was some kind of swarming behavior, seeking a place to hole up until the blow was over.  Seems I’m seeing considerably more butterflies working our patch this season.  Mostly I’m seeing scores of LYBs (little yellow bastards) working the dandelions and what remains of the grape hyacinths. Also seeing a ton of  crane flies  this year.   I know, folks call these fragile fliers mosquito eaters, but that is a misnomer, children.  Adult crane flies do not eat at all–thus, they cannot bite you!–and the larval stages feed primarily on decomposing matter.

We thought about taking a cruise in the Blazer toward evening just to get clear of the city for a couple hours.  But by the time we had wrapped the yard chores, dark was setting in, not to mention the fatigue of the aged.  Ended up calling it a night, as usual, in front of the TV with nothing on worth watching.

So it was a stormy night in River City.  Love lying in bed during  a rip rumbling thunderstorm, which, truth be told, beats lying in a leaky tent during same.  The morning woke to partly cloudy skies painting swatches of yellow sunlight on sparkling greens.  The doves and mockingbirds were in fine tune, too.  Bacon from the oven, pancakes in a cast-iron skillet and coffee out of Black and Decker tastes almost as great as breakfast around a campfire.

Maybe we will take that drive out to Lake Arrowhead this afternoon.

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Posted by on April 15, 2012 in Genesis


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