It is two o'clock in the morning and the pain is burning in your gut.
You are 800-plus miles from home enjoying all the amenities of deer camp.
It is cold outside in a snow-covered country side. What are you going to do?
That was the dilemma facing Paul Bond last week while enjoying a successful week long black powder deer hunting trip. He and six of his friends had set up "deer camp" in my rather large shed. He tried walking it off but finally awakened Shockey the group leader to share his misery.
They made the short trip to the emergency room at McCook's Community Hospital. The diagnosis appendicitis and surgery was scheduled at eight o'clock. Paul lives in Illinois just north of Chicago. He is used to huge medical facilities where one is treated more like just another number. Not so in small town hospital here in McCook. The duty surgeon, Dr. Brenda Kopriva, who is new to this area, made a personal phone call to Paul's wife Mary before the surgery was started and again after its successful conclusion.
Then later, two more phone calls to report the process of healing and she also set up an appointment with his family doctor when he returned home.
Paul and his wife Mary were impressed! Many of the hospital personnel stopped by his room to say "hi" and mention that they knew his host over the next couple of days before his release.
Paul's comment was that he had more visitors than he would have had at home. That is life as usual here in Southwest Nebraska and we don't really appreciate it until a visitor tells us how good we have it. We are truly blessed to live in this community.
The current snow cover has been a boon to observing wildlife. Touring the local area I have been amazed to see huge numbers of wild turkeys. They seem to prefer the cover along creeks (in Nebraska pronounced "crick") and river beds. Coming out of cover they feed on crop residue. Along south of the Driftwood I noted what must to have been a flock of 250 birds.
Where they had brushed back the snow to feed it looked like a large herd of hogs had been rooting. Turkeys are everywhere. Deer tracks abound wherever cover is nearby. They seem to prefer habitat that includes the many cedars that are everywhere along stream beds. The whitetails seem to prefer foraging in cornstalks whereas the herds of mule deer tend to be found grazing green wheat where the snow was blown off by wind.
For some reason, mule deer have gathered in significant herds. I counted 24 in one band and a quarter mile away there was another herd of 26 individuals. Whitetails were found in smaller units of two or three although in one field near the river I counted 14 in one small field. It was a great surprise to find a pair of elk, a cow and a bull.
It was the first time that I had ever seen elk in this area however I've heard reports of them being spotted nearby. Reportedly fair numbers of elk are found in the cedar covered canyons along the south side of the North Platte River and even a few have been harvested by lucky hunters. South of the Republican, about 20 miles west of McCook, I found a pen holding no less than a half-dozen American Bison. Not far away at a prospering game farm, there was a much larger pen holding many Siberian Bison, possibly Canadian Wood Bison, which tend to be smaller than the American variety.
I understand that the game farm also has exotic varieties of wild goats but I was unable to get close enough to see any of those. Turkeys, deer, elk, hawks, pheasants, ducks and lots of geese are there for the observing. In the past, I've spotted an occasional bald eagle, but none recently. Notably missing during my several excursions have been any coyotes.
Our local coyote population has suffered from an epidemic of mange which has drastically cut their number.
Mange causes their hair to fall out and they die from exposure. It is just sad to see a bald coyote; the bare skin is purple, with nary a hair on their skinny tail.
In the normal ebb and flow of wildlife populations I suspect that coyote numbers will come back. Then the large numbers of wild turkeys will probably decline but that is the way of the balance of nature.
That is how I saw it.