Today we’re takin’ a break from The Mountain. The weather’s great, but routine chores here at the bus are calling and demand our attention. Tomorrow looks like a better day anyway, a few degrees warmer, so we’ll go back then.
In photos I’ve posted from The Mountain over the last several months, you may have noticed strips of purple tape tied in trees and brush. Deb’s cousin does that on his property, and he was the one who explained its meaning to us.
Arkansas was the first state to enact a “purple paint law” — in 1989, daubing trees and fenceposts on private property became the legal equivalent of posting “no trespassing” signs. The statute specifies the precise color of purple, the consistency and chemical composition of the paint, the required size and height of the blaze and so forth. Over a dozen other states have adopted similar laws. (Ohio isn’t yet one of them.)
Why purple? Because colorblind folks generally can distinguish it.
Tape may or may not carry the legal weight of paint, but its message is widely understood (and respected) ’round here. Given the type of vegetation on The Mountain, tape is more conspicuous than paint and we carry a roll of it with us in the Ranger. We’ve flagged a number of places — along the road, at obvious access points and around the cleared site.
Next time we walk the eastern boundary we’ll do some flagging there, too. The southern boundary, which we have yet to explore, will be more of a challenge.
During our walk through the brush yesterday, we noticed that there still was snow in low-lying spots and on north-facing slopes. Random damage to trees was also visible, especially among the cedars.
The eastern red cedar is a resilient weed of a tree. Like many softwoods it’s more inclined to bend than break, but larger specimens will sacrifice branches to preserve the main trunk. We saw casualties of that foot of wet snow last week — enormous limbs on the ground and evidence of fresh breaks above.
The lower slopes of The Mountain clearly were logged at some point — for oak, primarily, not for cedar. (There are charcoal-production plants in the Yellville-Flippin area.) As a result, there really are no ancient oaks on the property, at least none as old as the biggest cedars.
Along the eastern edge, however, and for whatever reason, are several of the oldest oaks we’ve seen. Sheltered by topography, they’re tall and magnificent — in much better shape than big oaks at the summit, which have virtually no protection from wind and weather.
Competing cedars in the same area grow tall — well over 60 feet, I’d estimate — their trunks self-pruned and their crowns reaching toward the sky. Adapting to conditions, they’ve taken on a very different shape than, say, those in the dense old-growth grove south of the summit.
These are things I notice. It’s a matter of intent — stop, be quiet, look around.
And it never, ever gets old.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.