In a past column I related two nature legends. They were the Asian lady beetle and the timber rattlesnake. The lady beetles were said to have been imported to help control ticks. I wish this was true. The rattlesnakes were reported as being dropped from helicopters by either the Department of Nature Resources of the Hoosier National Forest. This also is not true. Let us look at some other outdoor legends.
I have heard of how cougars, wolves, black bears and other animals were being turned loose all over southern Indiana by again the Department of Natural Resources and the Hoosier National Forest.
The story always goes that Uncle Fred’s brother’s best friend Joe had heard from Bubba his buddy that old Hank had seem them being turned loose. How he had been in the right place to see these animals turned loose was never explained.
When I tried to reach Hank through Joe and Bubba I was never successful as old Hank was never home or was sick. I was never able to talk with anyone who had observed these critters being turned loose.
Now where were they being release I always asked? “Well up at Crane, or in Brown County, or someplace down there in the Hoosier National Forest,” was the usual answer.
“Why were they being released?” I also asked. “Well to help control all those deer that are eating up the crops and causing all those car wrecks,” was the usual answer.
I tried to explain that I was sure the Department of Nature Resources and the Hoosier National Forest were not turning these animals loose. “Are you calling my brother, Joe, Bubba and Hank liars?” The person I was talking to always shot back with a rather evil look on their face. To avoid a confrontation I usually said that is very interesting and changed the subject.
Down in Perry County several years ago I had my run in with the terrible “blue tail stinger.” I was out with one of the locals who was showing me a nice natural area. We had walked for some distance when we stopped for a short rest.
I was next to a tree when my guide exclaimed “don’t move.” Fearing a poisonous snake I froze with a touch of fear in my voice. “It’s the deadly blue tail stinger,” the man exclaimed in an excited near yell.
Blue tail stinger; I thought what in the world is that? Was it some Perry County creature I had never heard about and was it indeed that terrible?
“Where is it,” I asked. “It’s on that tree right behind you,” he replied. I slowly turned a saw a little skink with a blue tail minding its own business clinging to the bark of the tree.
“Why it’s only a harmless lizard,” I state with relief. “No, it’s the blue tail stinger,” he replied. “It’s more poisonous than a rattlesnake,” I could see he really believe it was a poisonous reptile and had probably learned this from Bubba, Joe or Hank.
To show him this pretty little skink was harmless I picked it off the tree and held it in my hand. He turned white and I guess he expected me to be stung by the lizard and die right on the spot. After a short stay in my hand I placed the skink on the ground and then it fled from these two-legged monsters.
The man let out a sigh of relief and probably thought I was either very brave or a fool to take such a chance. He never did believe me that the blue tail stinger was harmless. I bet he could not wait to tell Bubba about the idiot he took out in the woods.
I’m out of space so will have to wait for future columns to talk about hoop and milk snakes, snakes in pits and lost silver, gold and lead mines.