Photography And Half-Thoughts By Mitchell Hegman

...because some of it is pretty and some of it is not.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

A Curious Thing Happened Near Dodson, Montana

Dodson, Montana, is about as quiet as you might expect for any town with a population of 124.  Located in far-away Phillips County, Dodson is nestled along the serpentine Milk River, a perpetually tan–colored, muddy river lazily looping across the Great Plains just below the Canadian border.
The Milk River, by the way, was referred to as “the river that scolds all others” by the Hidatsa Indians.  So, now you know that.
An interesting incident occurred near Dodson the other day.   An automobile rolled over on Highway 2 just west of town.   The two occupants of the car found themselves in a Fort Belknap hospital, but survived with only minor injuries.
When dispatched to the hospital to interview the driver of the crashed automobile, Montana Highway Patrol trooper Matt Finely, heard quite a story regarding the cause of the rollover.  The driver of the vehicle informed the trooper she had lost control of her car after swerving to avoid a kangaroo crossing the road.
I’m pretty sure the trooper, just the same as me, and just the same as the last two people I threw rocks at, and just the same as all my noisy cousins, have seen the exact same number of free ranging kangaroos around here.
That number is zero.
And here is another thing.  Montana state law forbids a person from keeping a kangaroo as a pet or farm animal.   Weirdly enough, however, owning a wallaby, first cousin to kangaroo, is perfectly acceptable.
Hmmm.  Maybe a wallaby, then.
After laughing at the notion of a kangaroo as the primary cause of the accident, Trooper Finley, drove out to the scene of the accident for further insight.
You got it.  He found a kangaroo standing right there alongside the road.
Well, maybe a wallaby—our laws being what they are.  Additionally, as Montanans, we are trained to differentiate between grizzly bears and black bears; not kangaroos and wallabies.  And don’t you dare throw a wallaroo in the mix.
Trooper Finley, after talking with a few locals, was informed there is a kangaroo ranch near Dodson.
Again, maybe a wallaby ranch.
Trooper Finley made no attempt to capture the beast and also managed to keep his automobile on its feet.
--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Butterflies and the Bees

Mud-puddling is a behavior common to both our toddlers and Mother Nature’s butterflies.
Butterflies will often gather in large numbers at particular mud puddles.  Once there, the butterflies will poke around in the mud with great earnest.  Similarly, bees will sometimes congregate around rich, moist soils that have been exposed for them.
They have a reason.
Puddles, rich soils, and on occasion (my apologies to breakfast readers) manure are sources of nutrients not provided by the nectar of flowers.  Sodium is a big draw here.
On our drive through the mountains the other day, that girl and I met a water-filled rut at the edge of the road encircled almost entirely by dozens upon dozens of wing-flexing northern blue butterflies.  As we carefully crept past, the butterflies abruptly ascended into several frenzied blue swirls alongside us.  
Yesterday, while exploring along the edge of the Missouri River just below Hauser Dam, we encountered another cluster butterflies at a gravel bar a few paces from the river.
This gathering was exceedingly interesting.
Tiger swallowtails, pale swallowtails, a single black swallowtail, and several honeybees had gathered into a tight cluster atop one small patch of gravel.  The gathering seemed almost fluid with all the jostling between butterflies and the arriving and departing bees.
Posted is a photograph I captured of the gathering upon first encounter.  If you look carefully you can see one of the honeybees near the top of the congregation.

--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Morel Mushrooms

If you have eaten morel mushrooms at a fine restaurant anywhere in the United States, you most likely ate "burn" morels taken from the mountainous West.   They were probably harvested by a commercial picker amid the charred and utterly blackened remnants of what was once a dense forest.
Burn morels, according Jennifer Frazer, writing for Scientific American, and citing studies following the 2013 Rim Fire in Yosemite National Park, are specific in their habits.  First, they appear in almost ridiculously huge numbers during the spring and summer of the first year immediately following a forest fire.  More interestingly, the study revealed that morels did not appear in plots where only 50% of the ground surface burned.  Morels only appeared in study plots where the earth was burned between 50% and 99%. 
Morels actually prefer to grow where full-on scorchers have blown down trees and swept bare the slopes, where fire bakes the earth and fizzles through the roots underground for days after.
Funny thing: morels are delicious.  They have a taste other than of dirt (as I perceive most mushrooms).  I find them to have a flavor not for removed from that of steak.
Morels are one of precisely two types of mushrooms I like.  I really like them.  I also like shaggy manes.
Sadly, my stomach does not appreciate morel mushrooms nearly as much as my taste buds.  The last two times I ate them, I found myself violently ill within an hour.  Over the years, I have been sickened by other mushroom types palatable to others. 
Yesterday, on a high mountain drive north of Helena, that girl and I came upon the remnants of a great forest converted to scorched earth and black sticks by a forest fire last year.  On a whim, we scampered lightly into the after-rain black trying not assume the same color.
Amid the broken and blackened trees and charred earth, we found a half dozen fist-sized morels.  We harvested them.  This evening I may try a very small taste.  They really are that delicious.

--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Something Steven Wright Said

—If a word in the dictionary were misspelled, how would we know?  
—Be nice to your children.  After all, they are going to choose your nursing home.
—Is it weird in here, or is it just me?
Steven Wright

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Flamingo, Birdy, Penguin

Birds are important to me.
Gulls and ravens have flown through my poems for all the years I have written them: “One white bird, two black birds...”
Every year, for the last twenty-five, I have marked down the date of my first bluebird sighting.  They are my official harbinger of spring.
I regularly talk with my magpie neighbors.
On my recent trip back to Ohio, Mackenna and I played sticker book regularly.  Finding a good placement for the white mama duck was always our first priority.
We are all about the birds.
Little Mackenna, though having just this month turned two (with a little help from her mother), sent me a Father’s Day card.
Today, I am posting a photograph of the card.
These birds are the rarest and most beautiful.

--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Right Path

I think it’s obvious I’m on the right path.  I’m still finding single malt Scotch and good friends along the way.

--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, June 17, 2018


On our recent cross-country drive from Ohio to Montana I was struck by the slowly changing landscape.  I watched as the leafy trees of the Midwest melted away to open plains.  The plains then ascended into tall mountains with dense pine forests.
I was similarly struck by how four and five crowded lanes of traffic gradually diminished down to two mostly quiet lanes.  By the time we reached Wyoming, we often found ourselves driving stretches of interstate highway without another car in sight.
It’s somewhat shocking to fly out from Montana and find yourself immediately plunked down amid the heavy traffic in Ohio’s cities.  As I have told that girl on several occasions, I feel as though I am constantly “merging with traffic” on my visits there.
Ohio has quite a history with automobiles.  
The world’s very first automobile crash occurred in Ohio City, Ohio, in 1891.  The accident occurred when John W. Lambert’s single-cylinder car sideswiped a tree and then careened into a hitching post.
There is also that tenacious, though undocumented, story that in 1895 a total of only two automobiles were on the road in the entire state of Ohio…and they somehow managed to crash into one another.
And there is this: The world’s first electric traffic signal was installed at the corner of Euclid Avenue and East 105th in Cleveland, Ohio, in August of 1914.
Things have been on a steady downhill ever since.  
--Mitchell Hegman