Sunday, February 11, 2007

Poor Mileage and Exotic Ecology

I had two entirely new life experiences this weekend.

Friday evening, Dawn and I headed down the road for a rare dinner date (just the two of us) to be followed by dessert at the house of friends. Our plans went awry when I was unable to avoid a large hunk of metal in the road. The left rear tire had blown, but that was no big deal. I figured that before wining and dining my bride, I'd simply have the added pleasure of impressing her with my speed and ability at changing a tire. Unfortunately, I soon realized that, having punctured my tire, the metal scrap proceeded to do likewise to the gas tank. We had filled up earlier that day, and could only watch (as we waited for a tow) as the entire fill-up leaked onto the highway's shoulder. That tankful of gas took me less distance (on life's peregrinations) than any tankful I'd ever purchased.

Saturday, I saw a sight I had never imagined seeing in central Oregon. I was driving a back road between Maupin and Tygh Valley, when a flash of bright white near the ground out the left window caught my attention. I then noticed a number of Ravens in the general area, and suspected that it had been the head of an adult Bald Eagle that had flashed into and out of my line of sight. I backed up to the same spot. Sure enough, there was a Bald Eagle sitting on and eating from the carcase of... what? It was too dark for a deer or pronghorn, not the right color for an elk, or even a cow. It was very dark grey, nearly black, and, upon further inspection through a spotting scope, it had horns. It was...

...a Water Buffalo! I hadn't even heard of anyone in these parts raising this species, and have never read of them figuring prominently in the diet of our national bird. Nonetheless, there it was, and as I continued in the direction I was headed I eventually came upon a corral containing a couple dozen of them and a sign advertising their meat for sale. In its native range, it might be a Lammergeier or Egyptian Vulture that would make the most of the death of a Water Buffalo. But--this latest experience notwithstanding--I still don't expect to see either of these species in my wanderings around Oregon.

I hope you, too, had an eventful weekend.

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