Sometimes nature's force can overwhelm us with its destructive powers.
We were young boys, screwing around as young boys do. Our yard backed up to a wooded area and we were out playing around on an intoxicating spring day.
One thing led to another, and we decided it was a fine day for some target practice with our BB gun.
By this time in its life, the BB rifle didn't have much pop left in it. You could literally watch the BB leave the barrel. Any shot of distance needed a nice arch to it, like archers in the middle ages lofting arrows into a castle.
After a few rounds, my older brother Tom took control of the rifle. Just then, a redheaded woodpecker flickered up to a tree on the edge of the woods.
Ooooh! Tom cooed, knowing he'd get a big reaction from me.
NO! I screamed.
Tom whirled and aimed for the tree, nowhere near the bird, intent on nothing more than harassing me. He pulled the trigger, lofting a BB into the sky.
The woodpecker dropped to the ground, lifeless. I'll never forget the look on Tom's face as we rushed over to the body.
Tom always ran around the woods and rivers, catching frogs and turtles. Fish. Small birds. Checking them out, and always letting them go. He was beside himself. Sick with anguish.
We put together a proper burial for the woodpecker, and although we didn't make any spit-n-mud sealed vows that day, I never remember shooting the BB gun again. Ever.
Strange, our connections with nature and wildlife. It's all around us, yet, sometimes, we don't even notice.
Then, other times, it overwhelms us.
These memories drifted through my mind as I enjoyed one of my spring rides along the Willamette River trails. Enjoyed might not be quite accurate.
When I rode through the Alton Baker Park's Eastgate Woodlands in Springfield, I rolled past the fork in the path, where a nice little bench sits next to a rock inscribed with the Kalapuya Indian word hi-dwa, meaning in a wooded area. It faces a huge tree across the Canoe Canal.
On my very first adventure for this column in the winter of 2006, Ken Wilson led me down the path and pointed up to the tree, showing me the pair of blue heron nests.
A few months later, I brought my family on a ride to watch the herons in their nest, and listen to the clacking of their chicks' beaks, clamoring for food.
Last year, as I recall, three nests had popped up in the tree.
After a storm in the fall, I noticed one of the nests gone, along with its major supporting branch. Later in the winter, the other nests disappeared.
The tree is quiet this spring. No small groups of walkers, cyclists and joggers stop to chat as they watch the herons.
It reminded me of the osprey nest above the electrical tower just below I-5 two years ago. How we watched the osprey circle the Willamette, and bring meals back to its young.
I rode down there the day after a violent spring storm, and found the nest destroyed, in pieces, in the blackberry bushes. I dropped my bike and ran through the field, into the thorns, flashing back to that sprint to the woodpecker's aid.
Again, too late.
I miss the osprey and the herons this spring, just like I miss that woodpecker, all these years later.
View a video of the Eugene spring collected over the past three years along the river trails, or contact John Rezell, at www.eugenemeraz.com