Elk are nowhere to be found, but wildlife abounds

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My Granma, the poorly paid CEO of an 11-bedroom boardinghouse for a quarter century or more, often acknowledged being a jack of all trades and the master of none.

I am a master of one: the three-point turnaround.

OK. So it’s not exactly a trade.

Nevertheless, I’m so skilled at the maneuver that I can execute it with up to nine points if a cramped turnaround space so requires.

I’ve perfected it on many backcountry roads.

So, I didn’t hesitate when two neon-gaudy pheasants appeared in a wild-rose bush beside McKay Creek Road.

Pals Bret Rankin, Nora the Schnauzer and I went there looking for eagles and elk. We left Walla Walla in a dense noon-time fog that darkened our prospects for success.

Surprise!

We saw four bald eagles on Sumac Road, half-a-mile above the creek, and I got photos.

Then we drove McKay Creek Road 10 miles east from Sumac into a welcome sunshine.

On the South Fork, we passed a flock of 176 wild turkeys filtering across the road into a pasture.

We stopped at road’s end for Nora to sniff and bask, to stretch our legs and to ogle the sun-drenched slopes for elk.

No joy, but four whitetail deer high-tailed below rough rim rocks.

Overall that day, we saw bunches of deer — mule and whitetail — high on the hills and in thickets near the stream.

Moseying west again, we glimpsed the pheasants in the rose bush 6 feet away on Bret’s side.

They scrambled among thorny brambles to gobble wild rose hips. We passed at 11 mph, and they didn’t fly.

“Maybe they won’t,” I squeaked softly and rolled on for another 30 yards.

I checked ahead and back.

All clear.

“I’m turning back,” I said and cranked the wheel sharply to the left and to the right inches before stopping.

In reverse, I cranked hard right, drifted back and wheeled left inches from the bank and stopped. I pulled forward and back again for a strait shot to the east.

“A nifty four-point turn,” I crowed softly.

Bret handed me the camera as I rolled my window down and drifted to a stop. Nora stood at the window.

The pheasants scrambled for rose hips.

“Wow!” I whispered. “Shimmering colors.”

Peering past Nora, I snapped rapid frames, aiming for images uncluttered with briars, until the birds grew nervous and scuttled into the underbrush.

Rather than show off again, I drove 70 yards up the road to turn around at a pasture gate.

Bret soon spotted a big buck on his side. It walked toward the road, as if to cross, and I stopped.

Alas, the deer bounded toward trees along the stream. We tagged it the biggest buck so far.

On the way again, we stopped to watch five more eagles (two with white heads) and a hawk in adjacent trees.

Near the junction with Shaw Road, 56 pheasants scratched in the pasture. I slowed and they burst into flight with cackles of irritation.

At Shaw Road, we jogged south to watch deer in a farmyard.

Then, north again toward Spring Road, we passed more deer and pheasants.

We reached Spring Road and angled our way toward Mission. After refreshments at the truck stop, we headed home in the thickening fog.

“It was a good day,” Bret said.

“Yes,” I said, thinking of our camaraderie and my masterful four-point turnaround.

Nora, on Bret’s knee, licked his nose.

Again.

Contact Don Davis at darleneanddon@msn.com .

More of Don’s photos can be found online at www.tripper.smugmug.com .

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