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Plants of the Western Slope Feb. 7, 2018

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Photo by Al Schneider© Cottonwood in fall.

Cottonwood II

I remember riding my little pony and listening to his hooves rustling through the cottonwood leaves. And later there was a real horse ... a sorrel mare named Cindy, I was a bit older by then, so Cindy and I rode wherever we wanted (almost). Over the sandhills, along the South Platte River, down to the neighbors a quarter mile or so and then over to our other neighbors seven miles away. And I remember the golden cottonwoods along the Amtrak route when I traveled to Denver to help Mom after Daddy passed away, So much gold. But, now our trees are gone.

Although cottonwoods occur throughout North America, perhaps those of the West are best known. For early explorers and settlers knew these common trees marked the waterways, providing shelter in a land of few trees. They grow easily from cuttings and so they were planted across the country. Today they play a significant role in our environment by harboring birds and wildlife.

And as I write this column, I think of the wildlife. My, but I hate to see the trees go! I think of the robins and the western meadowlark that sang nearly all winter long for me. I remember the great horned owls that sang in duet as soon as darkness came. And the brown creeper that gleaned his way up the tree only to fly to the base and begin all over again. Of course the down-gleaning white-breasted nuthatch is in that picture too.

The squirrel with his antics, the raccoon that delicately walked along the top rail, the quail family that marched along the base in the shelter of the lower rail, the scrub jay that visits every winter, the dog walkers along the road, the friends that stop to gaze for Lewis's woodpecker.

My heart aches even though I know that it's time for the trees to go.

JANUARY 23, 2018

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