Culver, February

by Carl Strang

 

Over the weekend I visited my parents back in my home town of Culver, Indiana. It is located in Marshall County, one of the second row of counties south of the Michigan border, and is south of South Bend. The climate there is a little warmer than in northeast Illinois, but not by much. Still, I hoped for signs of spring on a Saturday afternoon walk. I reached the town park.

 

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Whenever I see the Beach Lodge, in my mind’s ear I hear the sounds of pinball machines, the steel balls bouncing off bumpers and ringing bells. I feel the grit of sand and recall memories of summer odors. On this day, though, the beach was empty of sun bathers and swimmers. A couple of deer had come out of the adjacent woods onto the beach on both previous nights, then turned back.

 

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Lake Maxinkuckee still was frozen, though the edges had melted so that in most places there was just a thin skim of new ice. Sand still was piled where the expanding lake ice had bulldozed it earlier.

 

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A single ice fisherman had found a way onto the thicker ice away from shore.

 

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It turned out he had gotten there at the beach. You can see the tracks of his sled on the sand as he sought a place where thicker ice reached the edge (the tracks are highlighted here because I am facing the sun).

 

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Here is where he took his first steps out.

 

ice-fisher-tracks-2b

 

I went on to the woods, which belong to the Culver Military Academy and are known locally as the “Indian Trails” as they contain footpaths connecting the academy to the town. Near the lake is a small swampy area, and there I found the sign of spring I sought: skunk cabbage flowers.

 

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These are renowned for their ability to metabolize enough heat to grow through snow and cold soil, bringing their flowers within reach of insects that are activated by the warmer early spring days. But I also found something unexpected.

 

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A seedling! I couldn’t identify the species, but clearly a seed had sprouted in February. I don’t remember seeing such a thing this far north before, but maybe I just hadn’t paid close enough attention. It wasn’t jewelweed, which can grow in such places but germinates later and has wider cotyledons. Skunk cabbage? I don’t know. I filed it away as another of those mysteries that sit in the back of the mind as inquiries to be attended, perhaps, later.

2 Comments

  1. July 5, 2009 at 6:16 am

    […] to the state conservation department on the numbers of various waterfowl species stopping by Lake Maxinkuckee  during migration. I filled out a postcard form each week and sent it in. That experience taught me […]

  2. October 12, 2009 at 6:25 am

    […] for purchase by American farmers. The 1836 survey covered the Indian reservations east of Lake Maxinkuckee, the township’s largest lake. That land became available to eastern farmers after the forced […]


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