Critters outdoors Photography Places


The weather actually cooled sufficiently to go outside on both Friday and Saturday. The humidity was high, but with the car windows down, driving was very pleasant.

Now is the best time to take photos of butterflies in this area, and so I packed up the gear and headed to the Busch Nature Center on Friday to take pictures of butterflies. We’re not a natural enemy of butterflies and dragonflies, and if you stand still and don’t let your shadow fall on them, it’s really quite easy to take photos. More, they’ll fly about, and even occasionally land on you–a fun experience when one lands on your glasses frame.

Blue Wing Butterfly

I decided to drive around when I was finished, to enjoy the sun that wasn’t trying to kill and just being outside. I love listening to cicada from a car, sound rising and falling as you approach and then pass. I enjoy being on a gravel road when no one’s about and the only thing you have to watch for is a pothole or rut in the road.

There were no one out fishing in the bright of day (the best time to take butterfly photos), and I walked around a couple of the larger lakes. Typically the fishing boats are used by fishermen, but I’m thinking of renting one just to explore. To be out on the water. It’s been so long, though, since I’d been in a rowboat.

Going past the wetlands, I spotted a great blue heron in a tree, fairly close to the road. I rarely get a chance to take photos of birds in the summer here–too much growth. I didn’t think he’s stay long enough for me to frantically put on my longer lens with the 2x converter, but he did. Most of the photos didn’t turn out because the light was too harsh and the background too busy. A few worked well enough.

Great blue heron

When I had stopped to take photos of the heron, I stopped dead, right in the road. A few people passed while I was taking pictures, fishermen most likely, but they didn’t honk or sit behind me, getting impatient. They just carefully moved around me. That’s what I like about people who fish: they understand these things.

Yesterday I decided to go ‘milling’. The weather was going to be overcast, which makes for better mill pictures. I took I-44 to Cuba to head down highway 19 to Dillard Mill. The expansion construction is still ongoing, which makes the I-44 corridor a bit like damnation alley at times. Still, most people weren’t too terribly impatient at the slowdown.

A SUV in front of me had it’s back door lid pop open, immediately dropping a shoe–a pink flip flop–on the road. That car was packed with people and vacation gear, suitcases crammed behind the last row of seats. Two young women seated in the back tried to shut the latch but couldn’t. We all watched as the driver moved forward again, and a bright red camisole top floated down and eventually underneath my car (we were all going about 10-20 miles per hour). A young man sitting in the second tier of seats undid his seat belt and tried to reach up to shut it, and that was enough for me. With visions of the car being rear ended and the kid flying out the back, I hit my emergency lights, put the car in park and got out, gesturing at the cars behind me that there was a problem and not to pass. I got to the back of the SUV just as the driver reached it and we both slammed the lid shut.

We did not, though, attempt to retrieve the pink flip flop or bright red camisole.

Once off I-44, the driving was really lovely. It was still overcast, more of a misty, humid fog than anything; cool enough, though, to allow driving with the windows down. I stopped in Steelville at the Mobile for gas, as I always do. The first time I stopped there, I was waiting in line to pay for something I had bought in the convenience store. I noticed how the clerk exchanged friendly banter with each person in front of me, and remembered thinking to myself that everyone in town must be buying gas at the same time. When my turn came, she was just as friendly and happy to see me, and I realized she probably didn’t know any of these people.

Ever since, I always make it a point to stop at the Mobile station in Steelville on my way into the Ozark interior. I think next time through, I’ll stay a while and take pictures.

goose on log

My first mill was Dillard Mill in Cherry Valley. There was no one about, which wasn’t surprising because of the high humidity. Luckily I remembered to bring a couple of paper towels to ‘dab at my perspiring brow’. Sounds better than sweat running in rivers down my cheeks, doesn’t it?

Speaking of sweat and dabbing, a few weeks ago, I tried to find a store that sold handkerchiefs. No such luck, I couldn’t find a one. Do people not use handkerchiefs now? At one store when I asked about them, the young woman looked at me, puzzled, and said, ‘Do you mean scarves?’ No, I meant handkerchiefs.

When I was a kid, a favorite Christmas present to make and give was personalized handkerchiefs. My mom would buy plain, white handkerchiefs–the really nice white cotton ones–and I would embroider them for gifts. Men usually got a bird or a tree or a leaf; women would get flowers. All would get their initials. Others who were more talented than me would crochet edges on their handiwork–or border the entire sheet. Others less skilled would buy them already daubed about with finery. They really are the epitome of grace–a marriage of beauty and utility.

Now, you can’t buy even plain handkerchiefs in most stores. Is it that people don’t sweat anymore? I must confess that I do when I’m out in the humidity taking photographs. Paper towels might work, but they also irritate. As for cloth towels, they’re not the same and far too bulky.

suspicious lizard

Back to milling. At Dillard, I walked to the river’s edge near the mill to take photos, enjoying the critters along the way. Now is when Missouri’s wildlife is at its most active. Wherever you go, there’s scurrying about, underneath or in the air. Unfortunately, as fun as it is to watch, it also makes it risky to walk in the woods. Ticks, chiggers, and mosquitoes: oh my! However, I managed to only suffer limited grazing yesterday.

(Checking legs and feet…)

Well, relatively limited grazing.

After Dillard, I stopped by Alley Spring, but didn’t stay long as I was going to take the long way home. It was nice to be out and about, but it’s still August and the best time to visit the Ozarks is starting in mid-September. I can’t wait, because I’m really anxious to hit the trails again.

Dillard Mill

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