Long before I was involved with any type of conservation movement, I had a lesson in wildlife preserve management.
I can't even tell you the year, but it had to be a decade ago. My father had a landscaping customer named Mary Niles, and she had land to give. She and her husband had played a role in the creation of the World's End Reservation in Hingham, and while we were working for her - mostly, we plowed snow down her long driveway in winter, including that ridiculous April 1, 1997 storm that we had - she donated land to theHingham Land Conservation Trust for the creation of Eel River Woods.
She gave us that rare summer call. She had some work she wanted done, some trail creation and boardwalk building. I walked today in search of memories of those days, despite the arrival of Tropical Depression Danny.
I brought some back. I certainly remember knowing what skunk cabbage was. Upon reflection, that may have been the first wild plant I identified in the wild. I remembered the exposed roots on the trail, and why not? They were hard to forget. The last time I saw them, I was pushing a bouncing load of lumber over them in a wheelbarrow. I came to a small boardwalk. Was this one of ours? I couldn't tell.
One thing I did know was that the set of railroad tie steps up one of the rises in the trail was certainly not a Hingham Landscape Services creation. These steps had posts sunk aside the ties anchoring them to the ground. My dad would bury a tie and then use railroad spikes to fasten the one on top that would be the riser to the deeper one.
Nope, not ours. I drove too many of those spikes around the South Shore to not recognize our work today.
I have other memories of Mrs. Niles, as I called her then. Her house is for sale today, as she passed a few years ago. But I can tell you that there is a small koi pond on her property. On summer Sundays, it was my job to visit her house and make sure that the pump was working correctly, that the little waterfall was trickling, and that the five or six fish that lived with them were fat and happy. That wasn't anything to do with the business; that was just me wanting to help people I thought needed help. Besides, I couldn't think of anywhere more peaceful to be as the sun rose on those summer days.
Time: 30 minutes.
New species: None.
Stranger hellos: None.
What else is going on: Oh, bottles and cans, food shopping; turned the porch into the dining room and the dining room into my son's playroom; dinner with Michelle's parents.