Friend Of All The World

I lost control of my truck on the unexpected ice and barely stopped before intersecting the oncoming traffic. What was that? Seconds later, as I waited to turn left into the medical complex, I heard and felt the sickening impact of autobodies as the driver behind me skidded on the same ice patch and smacked me. My hat flew off and coffee erupted from my cup. Damn construction! I called Dr. Campbell, the surgeon who removed the cancerous tumor from my neck back in June 2011, and informed his assistant that I’d be a few minutes late for my annual checkup.

The morning frost was long gone by the time I made it out to the Kettle Moraine Oak Opening on Bluff Road to finish piling the brush we cut last weekend.



The blue sky silhouetting the might oaks on the hillside was immaculate and I was under Rudyard Kipling’s spell listening to Kim, “friend of all the world”, on audio book. What a tale filled with metaphors: the Great Game, the River of the Arrow, the Wheel of Life… and told in the context of the rich and incomparable Indian culture of the late 1890’s. I blissfully piled brush as Kim simultaneously “ripened” into a secret agent for the British empire and faithful chela to the Teshoo Lama.

Dr. Campbell said everything looked good and that I had “made the right choice” by refusing the radiation and chemotherapy they had strongly recommended after the surgery. I don’t know if I’m “acquiring merit” by volunteering in the forest, and it doesn’t matter, I felt the reward in the present moment and thankful tears welled up.

I finished stacking what we laid down last Saturday and tried to consolidate the piles so they would be easier to light when we get snow cover.




Then I headed over to the high ground at Bald Bluff to watch the sun down and thank the Creator for giving me another splendid day.









See you at The Springs!

Bald Bluff

Thanks again for tuning into the Scuppernong Springs Nature Trail blog! Yesterday I had the pleasure of working with Gary Klatt, Zach Kastern and Jared Urban girdling aspen on a hillside prairie on the southwestern slope of Bald Bluff. This area is part of the Kettle Moraine Oak Opening, one of the few remaining examples of what was the predominant plant community in pre-settlement days. The best part of the day was that they let me rant on and on, suffering my righteous indignation at the way the world is working, with patient, good humor, or, maybe they were just laughing at me.

Jared, Zach and Gary.


Zach has been doing a lot of volunteer work in this area in the past year, flowering into a bonafide naturalist. He has adopted the place as his own and gained intimate knowledge of the flora and fauna. We couldn’t hope for a better steward to step forward and take care of this land!

Gary Klatt is a retired Math Professor at the University of Wisconsin Whitewater. He is a former director of the Ice Age Trail Alliance, and his contributions have even been recognized by The President. Here is Gary working on one of the many bridges he has helped design and build along the IAT.


He was awarded the “Spirit Stick” in 2010.


Gary says, “I’ve come up with a philosophy: Be kind always, and be useful when you can,”. Check out this homage to Gary in the Winter 2010 issue of Mammoth Tales on page 5.

It was drizzling when we began working and the brush was very wet, but our cheery banter soon banished the clouds and we all began peeling off layers.

The top of Bald Bluff has grown over with oaks since the days that Black Hawk and the Sauk tribes made it their home.

Afterwards, Jared invited us to Paint Brush Prairie, a rare, first-rate, remnant prairie and it was amazing to listen to Zach and Jared calling out one plant after another. We parked along Lowland Drive and crossed a farmer’s field on a DNR easement to arrive at the prairie, which is just west of the Rushing Waters Trout Farm complex on the google map below.

Listen to Jared describe the prairie.

I remembered a few names of the many plants they identified, but not this one.





Yellow Stargrass



Paint Brush


Death ‘something’?


I appreciated the opportunity to spend time and learn with Jared, Zach and Gary and look forward to the next Kettle Moraine Oak Opening workday.

See you at The Springs!