Thursday, February 8, 2007
|Ground Hog Day
Last week the groundhog saw his shadow, so that means six more weeks of winter. This groundhog lives at the Museum (right now in the window). He's a great little guy. We named him Felix. The Marshall County wildlife room at the Museum is many children's favorite part of the Museum. We do have an incredible collection of Marshall County animals thanks to John and Pat Williamson. He used to have the Piggly Wiggly store here when we created the Museum in 1970. He generously gave us his collection of Marshall County animals. Included are a gray fox and a red fox. I used to think that was two different breeds but the coat color depends on the age and the season. Betty Moore gave a beautiful alligator gar, which is the only fish in the collection. My grandson, Walker J Swaney, gave a beautiful huge deer head, antlers and all. We have turtle shells given by Jorja Lynn and a terrapin shell, which was given by Matthew Robinson. Other animals are a mink, muskrat, bobcat, raccoon, owl, teal duck, and a female mallard duck. One of my favorites is a beautiful otter given by Russell Gray Houston and my unfavorite is a rattlesnake that nearly got my son, Walker Swaney, one day when he was fishing. It tired to climb into the boat with him. The boat was small and that monster was trying to get out of the water. It had probably been on the bottom of another boat. After the snake was killed, it was 5'10" long, weighed 13 pounds and had 12 rattles. Scary!
We have an egret given us by the Natural Wildlife Museum in Jackson and we have to be careful around the egret or he will still peck with his beak. These birds were really prevalent a hundred years ago but ladies of the world coveted the feathers for hat decoration so that the birds were slaughtered for their feathers. In 1910, the United States Congress passed a law declaring it was a crime to kill the birds as they had become extinct in the United States, but in 1960 the egrets made a comeback by riding on top of a storm from Africa and landed in South Florida. Slowly, they migrated northward and arrived in Mississippi about 20 years ago after being gone ninety years and they played havoc with the new catfish industry. Owners of the catfish ponds were forbidden by law to kill them so they hired guards to ride around the catfish ponds in trucks and every now and then to shoot in the air to scare them away as the birds could eat 1000 pounds of catfish a day if they weren't curbed, enough to put a catfish farmer out of business.
We have a Golden Eagle, the last of his kind here, as we killed them all. It was killed at Wall Doxey Park. Do you remember about thirty years ago when the first armadillo was discovered in Marshall County by Eugene Saxon in Waterford? The dog in the yard was having a fit so Eugene went over to investigate the reason for the commotion and encountered a little prehistoric animal that he had never seen before. Nobody else had seen one either and nobody knew what it was. It turned out to be an armadillo and today at the Museum we need a stuffed armadillo, as now they are a prevalent part of Marshall County wildlife. Armadillos used to be a western animal and none were east of the Mississippi River. Imagine that brave little first one who swam (?) across the river with that heavy coat of mail on his back or did he and wife walk across the bridge? Also we need an opossum, another prehistoric creature found from beyond the dark ages. We used to have wolves and coyotes, then we didn't have them, now we have them again. We need a taxidermied coyote (Esther Canon said there was no such word, but we need it as it expresses the message I'm trying to convey.) I once lived in the last house in the city limits of Memphis (Coyote territory) but I saw those beasts in my yard in the daytime and they seemed very brazen and fearless and I wouldn't let my grandchildren play in the yard unless I was there. When a fire truck or siren of any kind would go off, the pack would howl and raise the hair on the back of your neck and make chills go up and down your spine. Scary!
Alice Long brought us some sneaky little brown recluse spiders so everybody can see what they look like and what to avoid. We also collect fossils for the future and have a few incredible ones. Melody gave us a petrified animal snout about a million years old. If you have something to share, we would truly appreciate your generosity. I went looking for fossils and had an incredible find in the form of a petrified turtle! My sidekick is gone now and I have nobody to trudge through the field with or to help me dig. However, finding this turtle wasn't too long ago, he wasn't going anywhere as he had been there a trillion years.
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