Friday, April 3, 2009
Poison oak and a gray fox
Smoke was rising from Badger's stovepipe, so I walked up to the cabin, and my friend came to the door.
"I'm going to check some camera traps. Do you want to come along?"
I met Badger shoveling snow a few months ago, when his playful cocker Mac could overwhelm the pint-sized Fred.
Now Fred is bigger than Mac and goes border collie on him -- nipping and herding relentlessly and making a nuisance of himself until the cocker lays into him.
This morning they had their first real dog fight while my neighbor was putting on his boots.
Badger is a Maidu Indian from the Enterprise Rancheria.
That's not his real name, but he chuckles that like a badger he's "a good digger".
He got the name for his feats in excavation when he was in construction work. Later he worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and after that he did contract work with many tribes across the country.
Of the Maidu, he says, "They killed most of us, but they put the rest of us on the Rancheria. When they made Lake Oroville we lost some of the land, and they didn't give us enough money to buy another piece."
I felt guilty for not warning my friend about the poison oak, which is leafing out in profusion.
He wore cutoff pants and had to pussy-foot through the shiny red leaves, which he did quite well.
"How did the Maidu keep from getting poision oak?" I asked.
"They didn't touch it," he answered.
"We were known as Digger Indians", he continued, "because we dug and ate a lot of roots."
Did he find "digger" an insulting term?
"No. . . that's how we survived. There were lots of foods to take and my people were good at it."
I had a clear image of the camera set, but I was slightly off course. We were trudging through dead manzanita and blowdowns, and my friend must have thought we were on a wild goose chase.
Finally I used the GPS to backtrack and found it.
The camera had been on that ridge for a month, and I expected at least a picture of an early season bear, and maybe even a mountain lion.
That would hardly compensate for the case of poison oak my friend would get, but my expectations were dashed as I flipped through the images.
The only pictures that camera had taken were of me and Fred a month ago, and Badger and Mac this morning.
I grumbled my disappointment as we retraced our steps to the ridge shoulder.
"I promise the next one is easier to reach, and the poison oak isn't as thick."
Badger didn't complain.
The second camera had the usual gray squirrel, and the gray fox seen above.
Badger thought the gray fox was a good result.
That afternoon, I drove back to his cabin and gave him a bottle of Technu.