Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Great Grove Creek Crayfish Kill, Part 2

So I settle inta waitin’ ta see what kinda action the Il. Dept. of Ag. was gonna take in this open and shut case of, what should be highly criminalized, eco degradation…that chemical trespass inta my space. 
And as good as I knew stream fishin’ with crayfish most likely was, well, I had great desire ta find some crawdads, someplace, and go catch another stringer full of nice fat, big fish.

In conversation with neighbor who’s ground had been directly sprayed, he’d told me that he and actual farmer had gone up stream past where the action had occurred and, supposedly, they’d found live crayfish. Because there’s this long string of timber and pasture land that creek ran through, where spraying didn’t occur, I figured it worth a try.
I could drive right to area he directed me to. For me with dip net and bucket the water was easy to slide off inta. Cool. Refreshing. It was a hot enough a.m. I worked my way slowly up stream into crayfish habitat, rocks and riffles, water with a high oxygen content, which should have been ideal…and came up without a single sighting. I moved on upstream….
Over log jams and under tree limbs, up to my waist sometimes in the deeper holes, good crayfish habitat I searched through for well over an hour and came up with zero.

I couldn’t help thinkin’ back the week before when the aerial spraying, both by fixed winged aircraft and helicopter, went on from before sunrise till after it set, and this fer a long string of days. Couldn’t help but hear it near all the time settin’ here in my cabin or working around the place. Further up stream this flow went through other ground that was either corn or beans. Both these crops got heavily sprayed.

So with all that spraying activity, and after this failed attempt ta find my favorite bait, I set ta thinkin’ about other streams in the area.

I’d like ta say that I changed streams and came up with plenty of bait, but I can’t. I crisscrossed the area fer five er six miles from here, me stopping at creek crossings, checkin’ under bridges and in first rock/riffle area I encountered…and…and you talk about disheartened, those son’s-of-bitchin’ aircrafts had done an amazing thorough job. I couldn’t help but feel eco-raped, and on a large scale.

How much of that poison got sprayed over Ogle County? I found myself questioning. “There’s had ta be records!”

So I wrote that first story. Proofed it, printed it, proofed it again and set ta slowly checkin’ fer public reaction, me knowin’ that from some of my academic friends I’d get all kinds of flap about my country-speak style of writin’. Most who read it, liked it, had no trouble with it at all.

At the Ogle Co. Energy Fair, where we set up a tent and get opportunity to make contact with environmentally concerned and generally quite intelligent people, I had the opportunity to hand out quite a few copies. And, also, there were numerous who took the time ta read through part er all of the “Tombstone” information that my wife had gathered through the Internet.

This stuff reads like an eco nightmare. After giving copies to surrounding landowners I’ve asked the question: “After understanding what this stuff is, what it does…would you allow the use of it on your property?” And I’m glad to report that the answer has been 100% , “No!”

There at that Energy Fair I learned that the lethal chemical is a synthetic, petroleum based, sorta copy of organic rotenone. A totally non natural chemical. Somethin’ the natural ecosystem’s never encountered before. None of us, either.

And then this one gentleman, who’s sorta become an online investigator, and who’s been showin’ my story and that Tombstone info around, he finds where it’s made, Loveland Colorado, where he runs inta hung-up phones when he tried ta ask questions.

Also, he’d made contact with people in the chemical business in diverse areas like Texas and Louisiana, where the sprayers have quit usin’ this stuff fer exactly the same reason as the problem it’s caused here in Ogle Co.

So I wasn’t just layin’ back in the woods here, doin’ nothin’, just waitin’ fer the wheels of the Department of Ag. ta churn out its conclusive action in this case. No. I already knew, had been numerous times informed, how this thing most likely would go.
And that’s just the way it did. 

“Ha! A slap on the wrist!” Not my reaction but from those few I’ve shown this gem to.
And it is a gem, too. I’m going to embrace and treasure it.

So the investigator did ascertain that a violation had indeed occurred. I made a mental note that I need to get my hands on this investigative report, me knowin’ full well what a hassle it’ll be to go thorough “Freedom of Information” procedures. But I guess I’ll do it.
And I guess this letter places the blame for the eco destruction that happened here directly on a Mr. Stan Boling of Woodley Aerial Spray, Inc. All this stuff will be good info. to hand over to my pro-bono legal team…just as soon as I get that little detail pulled together. I made a mental note ta go first and talk ta this guy, see if he’ll cooperate with me and give me information, like, just how much of this crap got dumped on this part of Ogle County durin’ that week-long blitz, so I don’t have to subpoena his records. Which I will do if I have ta.

And I guess I know where to vent my anger with respect ta this slap on the wrist. Certainly I’ll attempt conversation with Mr. Warren A. Goestsch, Il. Dept. of Ag. Bureau chief, with respect ta this incident.

Boy! The questions that come ta mind with this dude. Like, fer starters, how many punches as opposed ta slaps does his agency merit out? Does anybody do serious jail time for doing serious eco damage? Do they have any sort of a baseline with respect to eco damage? Do they even take eco damage seriously? Like is this Il. Dept. of Ag. agency really lookin’ out fer the public’s interests, er is it just a toothless and tame pet of the Agro Chemical Industry?

And, too, I’ve got great desire ta find out how this responsibility wasn’t in the hands of the E.P.A., how it got hijacked by the Department of Agriculture, which I’m sure is heavily influenced by the Agro Chemical Industry. The more I think about this stuff, what’s goin’ on all around us and all the time with almost no one completely award of it er in control, I guess the more upset I get, the more goaded inta action I’m gettin’.

As I discover more, I promise ta keep ya informed.

Which agency? I find myself questioning, Dept. of Ag. er E.PA. has the say-so as to whether a chemical like this Tombstone is safe for usage and under what conditions?
Under what circumstances is aerial sprayin’ safe at all? Damn…look at all the warnings of the products own promotional literature. Considering the impossibility to calculate all the movements, in some cases like micro movements of air currents below an aircraft that’s creating major turbulence either behind er below it…how do ya keep shit like this Tombstone in place?

By now I’ve run this equation past a whole bunch of people, all of them, 100%, admitting to the impossibility of just that.

Whew! T.J’s comin’ fer the weekend. How am I ever going to simplify and explain all this to a six year old?

Do you know what the attention span of a kid that age is? I never timed it but I bet, except with video games, I’m guessin’ T.J.’s at less than five minutes, at best. And much of the time considerably less than that.

With his own essential pillow and blanket he sleeps on the couch here in the cabin, the same couch that our three dogs are accustom ta occupying, too. They know it’s off limits with him beddin’ there.

He sleeps like a rock, and I mean from the time his head hits his pillow. Bam! Sleepin’. And usually I can get my early a.m. two cups of coffee and an hours’ worth of uninterrupted readin’ time in before he starts ta even stir.

Not this last morning though. I’d not even sat down with my first cup and our big dog Miley, who just simply adores kids in general and especially him, licked him awake. Fer a while they played, which seemed Miley’s purpose. But then he turned his attentions ta me who’s right in the middle of a critical part of book I was readin’: The Forest Unseen, David G. Haskell. A really good read for anyone interested in the environment.
O.K. T.J. Let me finish just this one paragraph – admittedly a long one – and I’ll help you rid Miley of those nasty little cling-on burs, his passion of that moment.

Never got ta the end of it, something that demanded intense concentration. Had ta mark my page, close the book.

We tended ta Miley’s burs outside with a bur comb. He spotted a watermelon atop the cluttered picnic table. Boy-oh-boy does he love ripe watermelon. This one that I sliced open just happened ta be particularly good.

Fer maybe 20 minutes then I tried ta teach the kid ta far-spit watermelon seeds. I’m a lot windier than he is.

He followed me through feedin’ dogs and takin’ my vitamins. “Grandpa, how come you take so many pills?” “Cause I’m an old man, and I think I need ‘em.” Somehow this turned into a contest of who could kick their hand held highest over their head. He practices “Tae kwan do” and easily beat me.

We work our way up to my shell workin’ studio/a.m. exercise area, me with hopes I’d get ta do my daily routine. Good luck.

O.K. I conceded. Right then seemed like a great time ta continue educatin’ the kid. Did he remember us playin’ in the creek last time he’d visited? And all those animals we’d found under the rocks, the crayfish? “And the fishes,” he answered, shakin’ his head yes.
I set inta tellin’ the story as graphically, me with outstretched arms simulatin’ a crop dustin’ plane. I knew if I didn’t keep the action, the drama, I’d lose his focus. Which I did several times, him wantin’ ta lay on the floor and pet Miley.

Our conversation went on for well over an hour, during which I had him digestin’ concepts like eco systems and food chains. We approached this from multiple directions. And when he understood that deadly poisons sprayed in one place could affect things quite far away, “That’s stupid. That’s stupid,” he muttered numerous times with respect ta the sprayin’.

It was a hard lesson, I’m a hard teacher. At breakfast time, he, my wife and me eatin’ cereal with fresh peaches out in the yard, she asked him if he understood what his grandpa was talkin’ about? “Yeah. Mostly. For little people, it’s pretty dense stuff.”

Naturally, her and I laughed. “Yeah, T.J.,” Marcia came back, “That’s pretty tough stuff to explain even to grown people.

A four-wheeler ride around and about in the multi-trailed eco reserve was what he was up for. Always. Him settin’ in front of me with hands on controls, his grandpa with hand on the brake. We can easily chew up a couple of hours this way, us stoppin’ at points of interest; both his and mine.

Time spent in the creek, of course, was essential. The dogs led the way down an old beaver slide, T.J.’s gettin’ a nettles lesson in the process. Creek water and juice from the jewelweed, that’s the remedy I showed him. O.K. We’re in the water and there’s a small bridge belongin’ ta my north neighbor and this he’s got ta investigate. In conversation with this neighbor, the week before, I’d told him about the great “Grove Creek” crayfish kill, of which he’d already had the news. “My little nephews love ta catch crawdads when they camp down there. Lots of ‘em under the bridge, er at least there used ta be. He hadn’t been down there ta check.

Well T.J. and I did the checkin’. Lots of nice rocks. The creeks current is good right there so the water, after just comin’ over a riffle, carries plenty of oxygen. Perfect crayfish habitat. By now ya can pretty much figure out what we didn’t find. I drew T.J.’s attention to the undersides of rocks we turned over. “Remember all the little critters we found last time?” And of course he did. And of course he could see the difference. Dramatic. Tragic.
Tracks in the mud along the bank, next caught our interest. Easily seen were those of raccoons, muskrat and deer. T.J. didn’t know raccoons and muskrats eat crayfish, especially the former. I told him that them coons were most likely searchin’ fer that kind of food when they laid down them prints. “Do deer eat ‘em?” he questioned. No. Deer didn’t, I assured him.

The rest of the day we spent in shell studio, us makin’ him a purple oyster belt buckle. He just loves cuttin’ and polishin’ shells.

To be continued….

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