countryside

Posted by Ellen

"I went hiking one morning at about 5 am and found this boat," Ted told his Facebook buds, referring to a morning last month when he was in Dingle, a town on the far southwestern coast of Ireland.

"I wanted to sneak it out for a ride soooo much," Ted continued. "But somehow, I managed to refrain from stealing the boat. Sadly."

That was the short story. Recently, we learned the long story–which is really only a little bit longer–during a recent conversation with our traveler, now home again in Tedland, West Virginia.

Of course he wasn't going to steal the boat; the idea was just to borrow it. And it wasn't locked. It was just tied up with so many ropes, so many knots, big knots, tight knots, and it was five in the morning, way too early to be fussing with lots and lots of tightly tied knots.

In other words, sadly, Ted was too lazy (hungover?) to take the boat. So he kept on walking.

Posted by Ellen

Both of these Brittany Spaniels–bird dogs, for certain sure–believe they're onto something, here in a Pennsylvania marsh where just a few short months ago, sunflowers were smiling.

Posted by Ellen

Once upon a time, about ten days ago, the Carnes family of Cottondale, Alabama, noticed that a llama had taken up residence on a hillside way at the back of their property. It was skittish around people and ran off when they approached, but the next day it was there again.

Meanwhile, at the very same time and less than half a mile away, the Smith family, also of Cottondale, noticed that one of their llamas was missing, and that the chain-link fence around their pasture was damaged. The Smiths had bought three llamas, including a baby, its mother, and another female, just three days earlier, partly because they'd been told that the presence of llamas can discourage predators such as wildcats from attacking other livestock. It was the mother llama that had come up missing.

There had been reports of a cougar in the vicinity, and the Smiths, who raised horses, geese, and ducks, had recently lost a dog to wounds that the vet told them were probaby inflicted by a cougar.

The Smiths feared the llama may have been another cougar victim. A mother llama would not normally abandon her young, they believed. And llamas almost always prefer to hang with their herd; they rarely venture far on their own.

The Smiths asked their neighbors, but nobody had seen anything. The Smiths did not know the Carneses, and apparently the Smith neighbors were not in close contact with people who were in contact with the Carneses, who were also making inquiries.

The Carneses checked with the sheriff's office, but there were no missing-llama reports. They finally called up the Tuscaloosa News, which sent out a photographer and ran a feature story about a mysterious wayward llama. If nobody claimed it, the Carneses told the newspaper reporter, they'd eventually try to catch it and turn it over to the Humane Society, which ran a sanctuary ranch for wayward llamas in Oliver Springs, Tennessee. But so far, the animal had run away whenever they came near.

The Smiths did not subscribe to the Tuscaloosa News, but they had friends who did, and soon enough the two families were able to put the two stories together. They speculated that maybe the cougar or some other terrifying creature had in fact put in an appearance, jumping the fence into the pasture and frightening the llamas. Llamas often freeze when frightened. But maybe a mother llama would behave more protectively, perhaps attempting to chase the intruder even after it left the pasture. And then, because she was so new to the neighborhood, she got lost and could not figure out her way back home.

The Smiths schemed to get her back. They'd bring her baby and some corral panels over to the Carne place and use the baby as a lure to arrange her capture.

At this point, oddly, the newspaper dropped the story. Did the plan work? Or is the llama still on the loose? We just don't know.

Perhaps it's worth noting that this is an old-media story. The Smiths and Carneses didn't tweet about the llama; they weren't brought together by Facebook status updates. But the Tuscaloosa News is letting us down here. We can only hope that now that the weekend is over and the football game is won, the journalists can get back to work and dig up the rest of the story.

Posted by Ellen

The trees in Etowah, North Carolina, are naked in this shot–and they look fine–but it's really the road here that's got the moves.