There is no excuse for stupid

John Wayne once said that “life’s tough but it’s a lot tougher when you’re stupid.” I fit in there somewhere and this story sets a perfect example.

When Heather left camp one morning last week to monitor two Parent Reared cranes at Horicon Marsh, she asked if I would run the generator that charges our live camera. She had asked me the day before to take the trail camera out to Henry’s Pond so I thought I would do both at once.

The chicks spend the night at Henry’s Pond and it was still very early – about the time the sparrows normally stretch and fart, so I thought I would first drive down to Marquette County to see if crane #26-17 was still in the same location as the target pair.

I don’t think I’m any less intelligent now that I’m older but, like most people my age, the filing system isn’t what it used to be. I packed my chest waders, grabbed the trail camera and some zip ties but it wasn’t until I was parked on the roadside listening to reassuring beeps that I realized I needed a post to drive into the marsh to hold the camera. So on the way back, I stopped at our storage facility in Princeton to grab a T-post. We have everything in there from airplanes to fire hose but no T-posts so I cut a point on one end of a 2×4, found a hammer and headed to the pensite.

Halfway there I realized that the genny needed gas. Now that was something I knew yesterday but just like my name and where I put the keys, that bit of critical information was misfiled… and of course I didn’t have a gas can.

Sometimes happenstance can save you from all the consequences of stupid; like if one of the six gas cans we have happened to be full, but nooooo. So I drove all the way into Berlin.

Still bent on accomplished something today, I stopped at the parts store to pick up the tail pipe I had ordered for one of our trucks. They brought out this rusty, bent pipe that looked like they had dragged it all the way from the distribution center so that had to go back; and my to-do list remained check-less.

Back at the pensite, I filled and started the genny and prepared to head into the marsh.

Now the pond used most nights by the costume-reared chicks and their target pair is only quarter of a mile into the marsh so how hard could that be? Well, apart from the lions and tigers, it could be compared with slogging through the jungle. The ground is muddy and the grass is chest-high which means you can’t see where you are stepping. Most of the vegetation grows in clumps so their root base sticks up like a soggy stump about the size and height of a paint can.

Clump grass – nearly impossible to navigate.

Imagine covering your basement floor in paint cans about a foot apart, add a few inches of water and a foot or so of sticky mud and then turn the lights out.

Most of the area is surrounded by bull rush and scrub brush so once you are out there it’s a bit disorienting. I mean, it’s not like you could get lost, but your route in may not be exactly straight and it likely won’t match your route out. The deer paths are everywhere but deer don’t really have a destination in mind. After all, their food is everywhere and so it their bathroom so following them only adds to the confusion and may have a surprise ending. Occasionally I pulled out my phone and punched up Google Earth, which shows me where I am and where I wanted to be.

When I got close, I could see the plastic Whooping crane decoy that everyone refers to as the dummy mummy. Brooke put it out there a few weeks ago and asked me to bring it back. So I put my sharpened 2×4 down and waded out into the open water. Based on the law of equal and opposite reactions, as I pulled out the decoy, my feet sunk farther into the muck and as I struggled to free them, I fell and stuck both arms shoulder deep into the water.

No big deal but in that maneuver, I may have been turned around because when I waded back to shore, my 2×4 was gone. Ok it has to be here someplace I said repeatedly as a trudged back and forth through the mud and clump grass. Twenty minutes later, I reached the point of diminishing returns. After investing twenty minutes of sweat, I was running out of places to search. It was hard to believe I lost a four foot long 2×4 in only fifty feet of marsh but that couldn’t be the only conclusion. I was so dumbfounded that I stood still and yelled “BROOKE!! IT’S NOT FUNNY ANYMORE! GIVE ME BACK MY 2×4.” Of course, he didn’t answer and my 2×4 did not reappear. Halfway back to the truck I realized I was carrying the decoy in one hand and its mounting post in the other, so I turned back one more time. I fastened the camera to that one-inch rod and tripped over my 2×4 on the way out.

Here are a couple photos from the trail camera.

At the Roosting Pond: Background right are adult Whooping cranes 5-12 & 30-16. Foreground are two Costume-Reared Whooping cranes.

A curious Whooping crane investigates the trailcam.

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  1. Mindy October 17, 2017 10:26 pm

    Loved, loved the story Joe…..I have had many days like that and every time I say “This is one of those days!”. ugh, sigh
    So sorry that frustration was one of your companions that day for sure. But “stupid” was not. It was just “one of those days”. Thank you so much for getting the trail cam out there to the pond… The pictures are so great to see! I am still laughing though…..

  2. Joan October 16, 2017 11:26 pm

    Ha Ha Ha Ha, just cant stop laughing.

  3. Catherine Wohlfeil October 16, 2017 9:24 pm

    I’m still laughing!! I thought only I had days like that!! Good one!!

  4. Susanne Shrader October 16, 2017 8:49 pm

    Loved every minute of your story. Been there, done that, include getting stuck in the mud and then falling backwards with my whole body 6 inches deep in the stuff. You’re such a good sport to do things because people ask you to, and then trying to accomplish another five or six things while you’re at it. By the way, I thought only old Sparrows pass gas, like us old farts.

  5. Jean P. aka CrabtowneMd October 16, 2017 5:44 pm

    Perseverance is a wonderful thing and your story personifies it. Without that trail cam, we wouldn’t have the wonderful beak-to-lens and eyeball close-up crane selfie ! That picture is pure whimsy and brightened my day. Thank you for the amusing stories and great photos.

  6. Joe Duff October 16, 2017 3:54 pm

    Thanks Sue for the glowing critiques. The pictures were taken by an automatic camera so they are basically crane selfies. No credit there either.

  7. FFMN October 16, 2017 3:53 pm

    Ummm, been having a couple of ‘those days’, Joe, and thanks to you I could laugh myself silly reading your adventures in the marsh. Thanks. 😉

  8. Sue McCurdy October 16, 2017 11:39 am

    Great photos, okay story.

  9. Gerald October 16, 2017 10:51 am

    Just a typical day at OM. Ah well, just look at all the exercise you get.

  10. Cheryl Murphy October 16, 2017 10:08 am

    Oh and hub Mike says ?. He is still laughing! And remembering days like this!

  11. Cheryl Murphy October 16, 2017 10:01 am

    Joe this one goes in the “book” for sure! Really sorry you had such a bad day but it sure made for interesting reading! Hope you got all the mud off your boots. Or did you forget those too!

  12. Sally Swanson October 16, 2017 9:29 am

    You got the trial camera going! That was an accomplishment! Thank you, Joe!


  13. Janet Westlake October 16, 2017 8:49 am

    This is PRICELESS. Thank You Joe for making me feel I’m not the only one that have those days when it takes all day to feel you have accomplished part of the To Do list. I’m forever putting something down and within moments cannot find it. Living Life gives many stories to remember the journey. I googled “not how it’s done but how you get there” and found this quote:
    “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day.”
    ? Ralph Waldo Emerson

    Here’s to Tomorrow and more stories to tell us.

  14. Barb October 16, 2017 8:18 am

    How, You’re not stupid. You just had one of those days when you should have stayed in bed and watched Whooping Crane videos instead of trying to see them live!!!!