Home is Where the Pinus echinata is

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When working in Australia, the weirdest thing about the experience wasn’t the accents, the plastic money or the fact that you can order a burger loaded with kangaroo and wallaby meat.

It was the birdsong.

Every day I walked a mile or two from my hotel to the shop and was unnerved by the birds singing in the morning because it was so alien. It’s akin to visiting a retirement home where the background music is death metal.

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This week I’m back in Arkansas near where I grew up. It’s my first visit back in many years, and the first thing I did this morning was to walk off into the mountain forest around our cabin. While I love the hardwood forests of Kentucky, I miss the shortleaf pines (Pinus echinata) we had in every corner of our farm.

The bark always looks like a pile of tectonic plates crashing into one another. And I always loved walking on the brown carpet of needles that formed in a large stand of pines.

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After getting my pine fix I spotted some blackjack oak (Quercus marilandica), with its odd-shaped leaves and shagbark hickory, which I see sometimes in our neck of the woods as well. It was all oddly comforting, even though I haven’t lived here for almost 30 years.

But I really knew I was back in Arkansas when the first roadkill I saw was an armadillo.

— Christopher Schwarz

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12 Responses to Home is Where the Pinus echinata is

  1. Now you’re talkin’.

  2. Welcome back from a fellow Arkansan. Though its a bit hot and humid to be out walking among the tall pines.

  3. hgordon4 says:

    Lots of Armadillo roadkill in Florida too…
    I know what you’re saying about birdsong. I’d add to that the insect sounds. When I’m up in NC it sounds otherworldly compared to the woods sounds I’m used to in FL.

  4. pfollansbee says:

    “unnerved by the birds singing in the morning” – What is wrong with you? I’m sure birds sing in Kentucky…don’t they? What is an armadillo song like?

  5. Lee Hockman says:

    I grew up in a northern suburb of Atlanta, GA and am absolutely SICK of pine. All of our “northern” relatives used to complain about snow storms, etc, but I am so tired of our “pine straw” storms that kills grass, along with all of the pines that fall during any “wind storm” or “snow storm” we happened to have. Before I moved, I spent a lot of time chainsawing downed pine trees from streets, driveways and power lines. It may be a good wood to make stuff from, but I just can’t wrap my head around trying to use it for anything. I do enjoy, however, using other woods to make stuff. I guess it’s just a matter of where you grew up.

  6. Alan Garner says:

    As an Arkansan who left some 45 years ago (plenty of trips back) we described them as “sun dried and road tenderized.”

  7. dpthew says:

    You should have tried the burger with Emu as well and had the true “coat of arms” burger.

    Must agree with Mr.Follansbee, I don’t get why a birdsong can be akin to death metal in a retirement home………..

    Unless, it was a murder of crows, all screeching “Faaarrrkk” at the same time. Bit unnerving if you are not used to it.

  8. As an Australian who has spent some time in the USA, I don’t know how you people stand living somewhere so unnervingly quiet. Then again, if anyone knows a retirement home that plays death metal, let me know.

  9. richardwootton says:

    Chris, I’m glad to see you’re enjoying your time in the Natural State. If you get the urge to eat some great BBQ, it’s worth the short trip to Hot Springs to eat at McClard’s BBQ. The ribs with coleslaw and hand cut fries borders on magical.

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