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Chuck Hinman : It's A Jungle Out There

Chuck Hinman: It's A Jungle Out There! Chuck tells what he has seen that is usually forbidden - the big water hole on Wolf Creek in Gage County Nebraska.
Next earlier Chuck Hinman column - Long Johns Weather In Nebraska

By Chuck Hinman

It's A Jungle Out There!

Most people where I grew up in Gage County Nebraska would be utterly amazed if they had night vision and could see the menagerie of wild life they share their world with.

Many "thingies" live underground and only venture above ground at night; many live in or near water and shy away from the rest of us "normal creatures."

Let me tell you what I have seen that is usually forbidden.

The big water hole on Wolf Creek

There was a big water hole on Wolf Creek in Gage County Nebraska near our farm. The water was slightly murky but when the sun struck the water just right between the heavy foliage on the trees, it illuminated EVERY THING in that water hole. I have fished that hole many times as a kid but only caught a mess (if I was lucky) of bullheads or if I was really lucky a one pound catfish.

But what put the fear of God in me was the time I saw that hole lighted and saw huge carp, weird looking gars, turtles, catfish, bullheads, minnows -- it was like the aquarium at Sea World and here it was, a half mile from out house! There were just a few minutes that day when I was allowed to view this otherwise unseen world and it was stunningly beautiful! To my knowledge only God and I ever saw it. I will never forget it!

One of the NOT well known phenomena of the times was the invasion of corn cribs by unbelievably large rats. It was a common sight to see rats scampering over the corn still on the cobs in corn cribs. But here's what will chill you. Usually rats are just "big mice" in appearance. BUT there were a couple years in the 1930's, a period when everything else went berserk that even rats became giants. A case in point. Our garage was attached to our granary.

One night when we drove in the garage, our headlights focused on the inside back wall of the garage where there were all these huge rats lying on the 2x4 horizontal framing of the garage. It was absolutely spooky seeing all these rats the size of our barn cats! It makes me shiver as I write about that sight! The only defense was a deadly (to rats) gas gun that Dad discharged into the rat tunnels around the outbuildings.

Invasion by gophers

If you are old enough, some will remember the invasion of Nebraska alfalfa fields by gophers. If you are a football fan, you are saying -- "not in Nebraska -- gophers are a Minnesota animal with a dental problem."

If you are a Nebraska farmer, you know you have gophers when about, the time your alfalfa begins to set on lush growth in the spring, you see all those gopher mounds of fresh dirt cropping up all over your alfalfa field. I have no idea why they chose alfalfa over other fields but I can tell you from experience, it's a nightmare to mow a field of alfalfa when you have to elevate the sickle blade over ever gopher mound!

Trapping wildlife - even mountain lions

Gophers are controlled by trapping. I believe there was a bounty on them. They were such a problem Dad made arrangements with a local trapper who not only took care of the gophers but as a bonus got to trap the wildlife that preferred the environs of the Wolf Creek land we rented from Harry Fauver.

Some of the things he trapped which you seldom saw on your land were mink, fox, raccoon, beaver, weasel, skunk, coyote, possum, bobcats, and yes, even mountain lions. I had no idea that kind of wildlife abounded a few feet away from where I fished when I was growing up! A regular zoo!

And you thought life in Nebraska has always been dull. Don't be fooled -- it's a jungle outside your door! Brrrrrrr!

Wonders if gopher holes were cause of tragic mowing accident

Writer's note. My grandfather, Lansing Hinman who died before I knew him was a farmer south of Wymore, Nebraska. He was a prolific writer-poet in a political vein. His writings were on scraps of paper, used envelopes, calendars apparently intended by him to be thrown away. His wife Artie apparently retrieved them from the trash and saved them. I have seen and read all that he wrote but nowhere do I remember seeing the details of how he lost both feet in a farm mower accident. He continued farming wearing protheses. When writing this piece about the trouble caused by gopher mounds in alfalfa fields, the thought crossed my mind "was Grandpa Hinman involved in a tragic horses-drawn mower involving a gopher mound?"

Written by Chuck Hinman, 31 March 2008.

This story was posted on 2013-02-17 03:14:06
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