As if you needed another reason to visit the Lower Pecos!

Blind Mexican catfish found in underwater cave in Lake Amistad near Del Rio

Blind Mexican catfish found in underwater cave in Lake Amistad near Del Rio

 

Jack Johnson, National Park Service archaeologist for Lake Amistad near Del Rio, spotted the creatures over a year ago and worked with a team of specialists to identify and preserve them. Dean Hendrickson, curator of ichthyology at The University of Texas at Austin, identified the live fish, discovered in a deep limestone cave at Amistad National Recreation Area near Del Rio, Texas, as the endangered Mexican blindcat (Prietella phreatophila). The pair of small catfish, collected by a team in May, have been relocated to the San Antonio Zoo.

The Mexican blindcat, a species that grows to no more than 3 inches in length, is known to dwell only in areas supported by the Edwards-Trinity Aquifer that underlies the Rio Grande basin in Texas and Coahuila. The new blindcat finding lends additional weight to a theory that water-filled caves below the Rio Grande may connect the Texas and Mexico portions of the aquifer.

“Since the 1960s there have been rumors of sightings of blind, white catfishes in that area, but this is the first confirmation,” Hendrickson said. “I’ve seen more of these things than anybody, and these specimens look just like the ones from Mexico.”

Jack Johnson, a caver and National Park Service resource manager at Amistad, first spotted some of the slow-moving, pinkish-white fish with no eyes in April 2015. After several attempts to relocate the species, Johnson and biologist Peter Sprouse of Zara Environmental LLC led the team that found the fish again last month. Mexican blindcats are a pale pink color because their blood can be seen through the translucent skin, and they dwell exclusively in groundwater.

“Cave-dwelling animals are fascinating in that they have lost many of the characteristics we are familiar with in surface animals, such as eyes, pigmentation for camouflage, and speed,” Sprouse said. “They have found an ecological niche where none of those things are needed, and in there they have evolved extra-sensory abilities to succeed in total darkness.”

The Mexican blindcat was originally described in 1954 when found in wells and springs near Melchor Múzquiz in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila. It was subsequently listed as an endangered species by the Mexican government, and as a foreign endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Hendrickson led efforts to locate additional blindcat sites in Mexico and Texas for years but only located them in Mexico on previous expeditions.

“Aquifer systems like the one that supports this rare fish are also the lifeblood of human populations and face threats from contamination and over-pumping of groundwater,” Johnson said. “The health of rare and endangered species like this fish at Amistad can help indicate the overall health of the aquifer and water resources upon which many people depend.”

The fish are not yet on public display. They will be maintained alive in a special facility designed to accommodate cave and aquifer species at the San Antonio Zoo’s Department of Conservation and Research.

“The San Antonio Zoo has a series of labs specially designed to keep subterranean wildlife safe and healthy,” said Danté Fenolio, vice president of conservation and research at the San Antonio Zoo. “The fact that the zoo can participate now and house these very special catfish demonstrates the zoo’s commitment to the conservation of creatures that live in groundwater.”

Others involved in the discovery were Andy Gluesenkamp and Ben Hutchins of Texas Parks and Wildlife, Gary Garrett and Adam Cohen of UT Austin and Jean Krejca of Zara Environmental.

The finding brings the number of blind catfish species within the U.S. to three, all found only in Texas. The two other species of blind catfish in Texas, the toothless blindcat (Trogloglanis pattersoni) and the widemouth blindcat (Satan eurystomus), live in part of the Edwards Aquifer complex, the deep Edwards pool below the city of San Antonio.

This story and photograph are from the University of Texas in Austin.  Congratulations to Jack Johnson for his discovery!

Kaye George Writes About Awesome Waco Mammoth Museum

Mammoth

Writer Kay George and life-sized Columbian Mammoth at Waco Museum

The Awesome Waco Mammoth Museum

by Guest Blogger, Kaye George

Writer Kaye George Admires Mammoth Museum

Writer Kaye George Admires Mammoth Museum

The Waco Mammoth Museum ((http://www.waco-texas.com/cms-waco-mammoth)  is at the site of a remarkable discovery. In this stream bed, the fossilized bones of a mammoth herd, 19 mothers and babies, was discovered in 1978. Paul Barron and Eddie Bufkin were out hunting arrowheads and had the wisdom to bring the bone they found to Baylor University. It was found to belong to a Columbian mammoth.

Columbian mammoth lived in the southern part of North America. They are relatives of the wooly mammoth that the Neanderthals in my novel, Death in the Time of Ice, hunted. The novel is set 30,000 years ago, and the Columbian mammoth didn’t range as far north as the edge of the approaching glacier at that time. 30,000 years ago. That is, the Neanderthals could have hunted these animals if they’d been on the same continent. They did hunt them in Europe and Asia. In my book, the Neanderthals have made their way to what is now North America, one of the few liberties I took that runs counter to contemporary research. I say, just because we haven’t found Neanderthal bones on this continent doesn’t

Ancient Camel Bones

Ancient Camel Bones

mean they might not be here!

A dig was established in Waco, Texas at the site of the mammoth bones, which is still going on. When I visited the museum a couple of years ago, this was the largest herd of related mammoths ever uncovered in one spot. They’re aptly named. To give you an idea of their size, the mural above is life-sized and I’m about 5’ 8” tall.  You can visit the site and see the actual bones of these magnificent animals.

The herd may have gotten trapped in a steep-sided channel and drowned when a flood arose 68,000 years ago. A mural at the museum depicts the herd with their attending ancient camelops. It was thought that the herd let the camel hang around with them as an early warning system. Or maybe they could close ranks with their babies inside and let a predator get the camel.

excerpt from Death in the Time of Ice

 Nominated for Best Historical Mystery in the 2014 Agatha Awards

Here’s a part of what happened on a disastrous hunt early in the book. Enga Dancing Flower knows her Neanderthal tribe is in trouble. The dark seasons are becoming longer and the mammoth herds are fleeing south. When the tribal leader is found stabbed to death, the new leader thinks Enga did it. Expulsion and certain death loom. Enga must find the murderer to save her tribe — and herself.

Death in the Time of Ice by Kaye George

Death in the Time of Ice by Kaye George

Kokat No Ear is not here, Enga Dancing Flower thought-spoke.

Tog Flint Shaper read her thought and her fear. He summoned several others. Help me search the tall grasses. Then Tog spied a smear of dark liquid in the grass, leading toward the trees.

He must be in the forest, thought-spoke Tog. He ran into the woods, black with nightfall now, following the even blacker trail of Red and summoning the other three males to come with him.

The females squatted next to each other and waited. The males sent no thoughts to them. Enga checked on Ung. She was sound asleep. The wound still bled, but now seeped instead of spurting. Enga felt her shoulders relax just a notch.

 

How to Eat Bugs and Like It

Dr. John C. Abbott, Director of Wild Basin Preserve

Dr. John C. Abbott, Director of Wild Basin Preserve

My guest today is Dr. John C. Abbott, Director of the Wild Basin Creative Research Center (http://think.stedwards.edu/wildbasin/) in Austin, Texas, a part of St. Edward’s University.

Thank you for being with us today, John. Tell us a little bit about Wild Basin. The Wild Basin Creative Research Center serves as an extension of the St. Edward’s University main campus and includes 227 acres within the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve system. The preserve is open to the public for trail hiking and events. Wild Basin also offers volunteer opportunities and guided school tours.The Wild Basin Creative Research Center is an educational resource that provides extensive learning opportunities for students and the general public.

I understand you study dragonflies and damselflies. How did you get interested in insects? I have been interested in insects since I was a little kid. They have always fascinated me, I think largely because of their amazing diversity in numbers, form and behavior. I didn’t, however, develop a particular interest in dragonflies and damselflies until I was an undergrad in college. I was helping a graduate student in the lab I worked in, when he pointed a dragonfly out to me and said, no one is really working on this group, you should….the rest is history.

Insects in Thai market

Insects in Thai market

 I heard you say something about eating insects. Are you kidding? Not at all. The US and Western Europe are among the few cultures that don’t regularly eat insects. This isn’t because other countries are poor and they have no choice, it is because it makes sense, both nutritionally and efficiently to raise, harvest, and eat insects. They contain large amounts of protein and other nutritionally beneficial vitamins and minerals we need. They are abundant; there are more insects on the planet than any other group of animals (some 1 million species currently known). In fact, they are so numerous that they are impossible to keep out of our food supply, even if we wanted. I call this FDA sanctioned entomophagy, which is the practice of eating insects.  The government allows a certain amount of insects (or insect parts) in all our foods because you simply can’t keep them out. If you have ever eaten peanut butter, salads, or fig newtons, you have eaten insects.Most cultures around the world actively practice entomophagy (or eating insects). In most Asian markets, you will find numerous types of insects available. In Mexico they have a stink bug festival where not only do they eat stink bugs, but they also crown a Ms. Stink Bug!

Why would anybody want to eat bugs? Insects are plentiful, easily raised or harvested, and nutritionally beneficial.

Bug sushi

Bug sushi

They are also a sustainable food resource. So it is a simple matter of economics, for your pocketbook and the planet. Raising insects is much cheaper and has much less of an impact on the planet than see raising cattle. An economist at the University of Wisconsin, David Madison, once calculated that 1 person could collect 18.5 lbs. of Mormon crickets in a single hour. This many crickets contain 23,500 calories or the same as 87 chili dogs, 49 slices of pizza, or 43 big macs….think of how much effort has to go into producing those foods vs. just one hour collecting insects. Companies are ultimately concerned with their bottom dollar recognize this. One common example of an insect that is regularly used in our American food supplies is the cochineal. It is a type of scale insect that you can find on prickly pear cacti in the south. They actually raise them on cacti in large greenhouses in Mexico. They produce a deep red pigment that is better than artificial pigments for food coloring. So, many bright red foods (Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice, Gummy Bears, Mentos, Maraschino Cherries, etc…) get their red color from these insects. Companies list it write on the ingredients label.

Bug pizza

Bug pizza

Can you share any good recipes with us? The typical insect has a nutty taste to it, but in general they will pick up the flavor of whatever you cook them with or the spices that you use. So, we (well, really my wife, she is the cook in the family) often make desert items with insects when we are introducing the idea to others, because who doesn’t like sweets! You can also make some nutritionally healthy flour from insects, by drying them and then grinding them up. Some of my favorite items are Chocolate Chirp Cookies and Waxworm Fritters. There are actually a number of cookbooks out there focused on insect recipes (http://tinyurl.com/op4d2th). There is even a newsletter (http://www.foodinsectsnewsletter.org/)!

Are all insects edible? What should the novice insect gourmet look for? No, some insects are not edible because

Grubs and insects are eaten in many parts of the world.

Grubs and insects are eaten in many parts of the world.

they are toxic, or simply so small or hard to collect it wouldn’t make sense to harvest them as food. One source lists some 1400+ insects (out of the 1 million currently known) that are regularly eaten around the world. The big groups are ants, bees, and wasps, beetles, butterflies, and finally grasshoppers, roaches and crickets. It is the softer-bodied immatures of most of these insects that are used for food. They are more easily digested and easier to collect, so we are talking about eating caterpillars or beetle grubs, not an adult butterfly or big, hard beetle. You want to look for easily collected or obtained insects to use in food. Many insects are easily raised in large numbers. A good place to start is with mealworms (beetle larvae) that can be easily obtained from your local pet store.

Chapaulines, or grasshoppers, in Oaxaca, Mexico

Chapaulines, or grasshoppers, in Oaxaca, Mexico

Where can I try some? In the US, most edible insects are sold as novelty items. A company by the name of HotLix makes lollipops with crickets, mealworms and scorpions for example. You can often find these in novelty stores, but they are also available online. You might try local grocery stores catering to specific ethnic groups (Asian markets, Fiesta, etc…). Little Herds (http://littleherds.org/) is a local nonprofit that just got started. They are actively promoting insects as a sustainable food resource and have events where you can try eating insects. If you want to try cooking your own insects, you should make sure the insects have not been exposed to any pesticides. In other words, it isn’t wise to collect insects locally, especially in urban environments, because of all the insecticides that are used. There are several companies however, that raise insects specifically to be used as a food source for pet reptiles and amphibians. You can purchase insects from them, knowing they have not been exposed to insecticides and then cook them for use in your own recipes.

Many thanks, John. I learned a lot. Time for some crunchy cricket chips!

 

 

 

Cord-Wrapped Fiber Bundle: A Most Curious Artifact Comes to Light

Blooming cactus in the rocks above Eagle Nest Canyon

Blooming cactus in the rocks above Eagle Nest Canyon

As excavation in Eagle Nest Canyon heads into the final month, a mysterious fiber artifact is found, of course!  Rumor is that really interesting artifacts are always found just as archaeological  projects are  about to finish.  There are numerous suggestions about what this particular artifact could be, but I’ll let you decide for yourself. Please click the link below to read the latest post from the Ancient South West Texas Project by Kevin Hanselka.

Cord-Wrapped Fiber Bundle: A Most Curious Artifact Comes to Light.

Ancient Dead Bugs of the Lower Pecos

wolf spider

The Ancient Southwest Texas Project recently hosted a visiting scholar who studies archaeoentomology, or ancient insect remains. The purpose of this research is to identify insects in soil samples of particular archaeological sites to learn about climate and fauna of the particular time and place.  Steve and I were happy to host Dr. Eva Panagiotakopulu for a night in Austin on her way from Scotland to the Lower Pecos. Read more about her work in the post below from the ASWT Project.

Archaeoentomology?.

via Archaeoentomology?.

Restoring the Buffalo in Texas

Quitaque  (Kitty-quay) is located in the Texas Panhandle.

Quitaque (Kitty-quay) is located in the Texas Panhandle.

The mighty bison, or buffalo, is currently experiencing a restoration in Texas and other parts of the American west after being almost exterminated between 1870-1880 by commercial hunters.  Some estimate that over a million bison were killed in Texas alone in 1877. Caprock Canyon State Park near Quitaque, Texas is home to the official Texas bison herd. The video above by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department describes the herd today.  Visitors can drive through the park to see bison roaming natural grasslands as they have done for thousands of years. The park also offers various talks and activities, such as the Bison Festival, which was held September 28, 2013, or the discussion of Mary Ann Goodnight on March 22, 2014.   The Ft. Worth Nature Center will also host the Bison Boogie May 4-10, 2014 for the public.

Mary Ann (Molly) Dyer Goodnight (1839-1926) is the person most responsible  for preserving

Mary Ann Goodnight

Mary Ann Goodnight

the American bison from total annihilation. She was married to Charles Goodnight, and together they ran the famous JA Ranch in the Texas Panhandle.  She became concerned at the horrendous bison slaughter after the American Civil War, and saved several Southern Plains bison calves herself.  She fed them cow’s milk, which they apparently could tolerant without problem.  According to a story in the February, 1901 Ladies’ Home Journal, the calves drank up to three gallons of milk a day. This was the beginning of the Goodnight bison herd, one of the five foundation herds from which North American bison spring today.  For more on the “Mother of the Panhandle,” see this article from the Texas State History Association www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fgo35.

A group of images by Eadweard Muybridge set to motion to illustrate the movement of bison

A group of images by Eadweard Muybridge set to motion to illustrate the movement of bison

Several public bison herds exist in Texas today, including the one at Caprock Canyon State Park and one at the LBJ National Heritage Park near Stonewall, Texas, and over 40 private herds. In 2008 there were 61 Plains bison conservation herds in North American containing over 20,000 animals, and  over 400,000 bison in commercial herds. A large herd also exists at Yellowstone National Park, http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/american-buffalo-spirit-of-a-nation/introduction/2183/.

Bison are the largest terrestrial animals in North America. Adults are about 10 feet long and weigh anywhere from 700-2000 pounds. They can run up to 30 miles per hour and have been known to jump six-foot fences. Both males and females have short black horns that may spread to three feet. Evidence of several massive bison jumps, or stampedes off a cliff, have been found at Bonfire Shelter near Langtry, Texas, on the Rio Grande. To learn about how ancient people accomplished this, see www.texasbeyondhistory.net/bonfire/index.html.  To read about ancient people of the Lower Pecos stampeding bison, see my book, Peyote Fire, coming soon!

Butchering Bison the Stone Tool Way

Charles Koenig butchers a bison with stone tools

Charles Koenig butchers a bison with stone tools

My guest today is Charles Koenig, assistant project director of the Ancient Southwest Texas Project archaeological research in Eagle Nest Canyon during Spring 2014.

Hi Charles, thanks for being with us today. I know you’re an experienced hunter, but a

Charles Koenig

Charles Koenig

few years ago you had the opportunity to do something few contemporary people have done: butcher a bison using stone tools. How did this come about?

Hi Mary, thanks for the opportunity to talk about the bison project.  I would say I was in the right situation at the right time.  During the fall of 2011 I was President of the Experimental Archaeology Club (ExArch Club) at Texas State, and I was contacted by Dr. Jon Lohse from the Center for Archaeological Studies (CAS) here at Texas State.  At the time Dr. Lohse and CAS were doing research on bison bones recovered from Spring Lake in San Marcos.  Dr. Lohse came to me and said Hugh Fitzsimons was willing to donate a bison to be butchered with stone tools, and that myself and a few members of the ExArch Club could take this on as a project.  Because I had more experience butchering animals than other people I became in charge of the butchery part of the project.

 What kind of tools did you use? Did you make them yourself?

At the start of the project we only had one major research goal, which was to study the use-wear on

Flake tool by Chris Ringstaff

Flake tool by Chris Ringstaff

the stone tools after we finished butchering the bison. At the time, Haley Rush was analyzing the bones recovered from the Rowe Valley archaeological site as part of her thesis research.  The Rowe Valley site is a Toyah-phase occupation site (about 600 years ago) in central Texas, and Haley wanted to take part in the project so she could compare the bones from Rowe Valley to the bison bones from our project to see if the Rowe Valley bones were handled in similar ways.  So, because Haley was researching Rowe Valley we decided to use replicas of stone tools recovered from Toyah-age sites: long flakes, end scrapers, and beveled knives.

Neither Haley nor I are competent enough flint knappers to make decent tools, so Dr. Britt Bousman put us in contact with Chris Ringstaff.  Chris is an excellent flint knapper, and he was generous enough to knap all the tools we needed.  With several of Chris’s tools we attached (hafted) them onto wooden handles to make them easier to use.

What we planned on doing was using the stone tools to butcher the bison, and then Dr. Bousman and undergraduate Sarah Himes would look at the stone tools under a high-powered microscope to see if using the stone tools left behind any use-wear on the stone tools.

 What’s it like? Is bison hide denser or tougher than deer hide, for instance?

Exposing the belly

Exposing the belly

Well the first thing I would say is it was amazing how sharp the flakes were.  I’m used to using steel knives, but I would say the flakes Chris made were just as sharp as any steel knife.  The flakes were the best tools for actually butchering the animals—the beautiful beveled knives were horrible for cutting.

Yes, bison hide is much thicker than a deer hide, but the biggest difference was the amount of bison hair.  The hair was very thick, and the most difficult part was just cutting through the hair into the hide.  After the initial cut is made, you don’t really cut through the hide again.

What are the steps in butchering a large animal like a bison?  Where do you start?

The first thing you have to do is start removing the hide.  You can theoretically start anywhere on the animal, but the hide and hair is the thinnest on the stomach, so that’s where people normally begin.

Slicing through the abdominable hide

Slicing through the abdominal hide

Once you make the first cut you can start cutting the connective tissue between the hide and the muscles and basically peel the hide off the animal.

Once you have the hide peeled away from the stomach area, you have to begin removing the intestines.  This is where butchering a bison is much different from a deer because you literally need to almost get inside the ribcage to cut all the connective tissue—imagine Luke Skywalker in Empire Strikes Back.

What did you do with the entrails?  What would ancient people have used them for?

We did not do anything with the entrails, we had talked about taking the stomach and using it for stone boiling, but we ended up leaving it.  However, if we were doing this same butchery project 1000 years ago I’m sure we would have used most of the entrails and internal organs—this was, after all, a bunch of gringos butchering the bison.

How do you cut or break the bones?  It seems like that would be pretty hard.

Depending on how you field dress the animal, you sometimes do not even need to break any bones.  The only bone we had to break was the pelvis to remove the colon and other parts.  To do this we just used a large river cobble and smashed the pelvis, and then cut the organs out of the pelvic canal. 

Peeling off the hide

Peeling off the hide

Did you butcher the whole animal?  Like cut off the head? the hooves? Tell us how that was accomplished.

We did butcher the entire animal.  When we needed to remove any of the limbs (or the head) we cut around joints with the flakes and then cut any connecting ligaments—this way we didn’t need to cut through bones, which would have been very difficult.

 What happened to the bones?

Once we removed the muscle from the bones using flakes and scrapers we brought all the bones back

Smashing bones with hammerstones

Removing meat from bones

to San Marcos.  As a follow-up to this butchery part of the project, Haley Rush, myself, and several members of the ExArch Club crushed up several of the bones and then stone boiled the bones to extract the grease—that is another blog post entirely!

The idea of butchering a bison like ancient people might have brings up a million images or sensations to me.  What did it smell like?  What did it feel like? Was this just like butchering a deer?

Well, I would say the answer to this question will be different for each person who took part in the butchery part.  People always think butchering animals is bloody and smells bad.  Yes, there is some

Stone boiling the bones for grease

Stone boiling the bones for grease

blood and strange smells, but for the most part there is relatively little blood and only certain intestines (like if you cut into the stomach) smell bad.  I would say it doesn’t smell any different from walking down the meat isle at the grocery store.  I would say butchering the bison was no different from butchering a deer except for the bison is 5 times as big!

 What were you thinking or feeling during this experience?

Using the stone tools was the best part of the entire process because it really gives you a better feeling of what these people experienced.  For instance, we are used to knives with handles and you grip the handle whenever you use a knife.  Well, the flakes we used had cutting edges on all sides—which means your hand gets cut up just from holding the tool.  I can only imagine how rough and scarred people’s hands were from using stone tools all the time.

 What would you say you learned from this? How will this help you understand archaeological remains?

Although I don’t have room to talk about it here, I would say the most important part of the project for understanding the archaeological record was the stone boiling.  I’m used to making earth ovens where you put a lot of work in up front and then just let the oven do its thing underground for a couple days—not so with stone boiling.  We were out in the hot sun over a hot fire for 8 hours, constantly collecting fire wood, heating rocks, and skimming grease—it was a heck of a lot more work!  And, Haley was able to use the data from the stone boiling to compare to the archaeological assemblage from Rowe Valley which gave the overall project more focus.

Another thing I learned, or was forced to accept, was the beveled knives didn’t work to cut the bison, but the simple flakes did.  This was somewhat of a paradigm shift for me because many archaeologists like to call large bifaces knives, but based on my experience the large flakes are more knife-like than the bifaces.

Thanks for telling us about this, Charles. Not many people today have cut up a bison by any method, let alone using a technique that’s hundreds, and thousands, of years old. Learning about this certainly gives me a better appreciation for the lives of ancient people.

Owl’s Your Bird Knowledge?

I love watching birds, and I’ll bet you do too. But unlike Deer Cloud, the protagonist in my new book Peyote Fire about the Archaic Lower Pecos, and his band (aptly named the Bird Wing), I don’t recognize many bird calls. So I’m trying to learn the way we do it today–watching videos online. Deer Cloud and the Bird Wing would have known the calls of all the birds in their region of canyons and rivers as easily as we know TV sitcoms. They simply would have grown up immersed in this knowledge. If you’d like to try to recapture some of that ancient knowledge, listen to this video from the Cornell Ornithological Lab to learn the different calls of owls.

Watch this live Great Horned Owl cam to see owls in action, live.

My book is going through final revisions this spring, with an ETA of Summer 2014! You can bet I’ll hoot and holler when it’s done!

Cheers, and have a wonderful New Year’s!

Bees and Trees, Update

Flowering Purple Sage

Flowering Purple Sage

I had the good fortune to be in the Lower Pecos near Langtry, Texas (population 18), in the desert west of Del Rio and right on the Rio Grande, recently.  When I walked out of the house just as the sun was coming over the horizon, I heard the most astonishing thing: a purple sage bush was buzzing, humming, vibrating with unmistakable energy.

BeesandFlowersCommunicate050313When I went to inspect it closer, I discovered hundreds, nay thousands, of bees diving into the purple flowers sucking up nectar as fast as they could. There were two kinds of bees feasting on the plant: one a large black one, and the other much smaller and more golden color. I really don’t know much about bees at all, so cannot tell you the official names of these lively creatures. But I thought it was significant that there were TWO different kinds dining at the same time on the same flowers.

If there are any bee people out there, can you help me out?  I looked at the plant again towards sunset.  The

Tickle Tongue, or pickly ash, is covered with thorns

Tickle Tongue, or pickly ash, is covered with thorns

bees were gone, and the plant was quiet once again.

That evening we had dinner with rancher Jack Skiles, who has lived in Langtry most of his life. He commented on my blog about toothaches, and said he knew of another plant besides leatherstem that was good for aching teeth.  That plant is tickle tongue, also called prickly ash or Texas Hercules’ club.  He said if you chew the leaves, the mouth will go completely numb. He said he did not have one on his property, but knew where one was nearby. No doubt tickle tongue would have been a great addition to the Archaic Lower Pecos medicine kit I have written about in past posts.

Tickle Tongue

Tickle Tongue

For more information, see

http://www.dirtdoctor.com/Tickle-Tongue-Tree_vq3014.htm

Red Tailed Hawks Take Flight

Watch the red tailed hawks in this video from Cornell Ornithological Labs from eggs to flight. After mama hawk lays three eggs, mom and pop steadily keep watch. When the fuzzy chicks are born, they take turns bringing them chunks of fresh meat for breakfast. As feathers develop, mom and pop begin to get that worried look common to the parents of  teenagers everywhere. Then, one day, the first one flies!