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Archive for July, 2008

Hello again, fellow Blue Bird watchers!

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It’s Week #21 (and perhaps the final week) of the Blue Bird mating season at the Blue Bird Trail on the Campus of the South Mississippi Regional Center, in Long Beach, Mississippi.

Master Naturalist Buddy John reports from his Friday, July 25 survey of the SMRC Blue Bird Trail, that the five, large Blue Bird babies in nesting box #12 last week, flew from the nest. And with their departure, that now leaves all 13 nesting boxes empty.

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Master Naturalist Buddy john and Emily walking the Blue Bird Trail.

John said last week that he is very enthused with the results from the first mating season of the Long Beach Blue Bird Trail, with a total of 45 Blue Bird babies and 6 Chickadee babies born on the Trail, entering into the local bird populations of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

John added that he learned a lot during this season about Blue Birds, and is anxiously awaiting the next season to see how many of the 13 nesting boxes will be used by Blue Bird pairs to raise young birds.

We want to Thank all of you Blue Bird enthusiasts for stopping by during this first season of the Trail to check on how the Blue Bird mating activity has been going, and we welcome you to check back in with us next January or so, as the next season begins.

Or, stop by anytime to check out the varied posts!

In the meantime, Happy Birding!

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At long last, the time is here.

Time to head north and visit with my family, that I have not seen since last February and March.

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Oldest son and his family from North Carolina, arrived in Wisconsin Sunday for a week’s visit.

In mid-February, I flew back to a very snowy southern Wisconsin for the weekend, to attend an EMT Refresher Class, so I could renew my EMT-Basic License in Wisconsin.

During that weekend, I was able to see my wife (Blond Girl), my daughter and youngest son for parts of two days.

Then it was fly back down here to the Mississippi Gulf Coast until late March, when I flew from Gulfport out to Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina for a four day-visit with my wife, who had flown in from Madison, Wisconsin, and our oldest son, his wife and their two, young sons, in Durham, NC.

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Grandpa (Coast Rat) and Grandma (Blond Girl) with Noah and Truman in North Carolina last March.

Since that late March visit to NC, I have been back down here in the Long Beach area on the gulf coast, working weekdays at the SMRC to pay my living expenses, and continuing my two-year personal mission as a Hurricane Katrina recovery volunteer, helping folks here to rebuild their homes and lives.

Tuesday morning, my buddy Andrea from work, will drive me to the airport to fly back to Madison, where a member of my family will be waiting to pick me up and take me to my home south of Madison, where oldest son and his family, my daughter and youngest son will be waiting for a happy family reunion.

We will all be together until the following Saturday, when oldest son and his family will fly back to Durham. It will be good to see everyone again!

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Confederate Infantry fires a volley round at Union soldiers at Boscobel Civil War Weekend.

The following week, then, will find me getting ready for the Annual Boscobel, Wisconsin Muskets and Memories Civil War Weekend Reenactment, on Saturday, August 2 and Sunday, August 3. This event is one of the premier civil war reenactment events in the mid-western United States, drawing around 1,000 reenactors each year, and one I have been attending for about 10 years now.

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A Union gun crew fires a round during battle action at the Boscobel Civil War Weekend.

With that many reenactors all in one place, for an entire weekend, most of whom are wearing wool pants, coats and hats, and many carrying Springfield reproduction muskets tipped with long bayonets, about 60-70 of them riding horses in the Union and Confederate Cavalry units, and 80-100 or so of them manning and firing 30+ cannons (Big Guns), in what is normally the hottest and most humid weather of the summer, there exists a high probability that some of them will need emergency medical attention sometime during that weekend.

And that’s where myself and about 15-20 other EMS personnel come in.

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Civil War Weekend EMS Response Team at Boscobel in August 2006. Coast Rat is on the far left.

For the past eight or nine years, I have had the privilege of serving as a Muskets and Memories Organizing Board Member, as well as the Volunteer Director of the Muskets and Memories Grounds EMS Response Team.

My job annually is to recruit the EMS volunteers from around southwestern Wisconsin EMS Units for the EMS Response Team, plan, prepare for and oversee the EMS Response Team Plan for the event, as well as to obtain and deploy sufficient EMS equipment, materials and supplies to adequately implement the Plan, and to oversee the setup of the EMS Compound within the Encampment Grounds.

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Union Cavalry Unit engages Confederate cavalry and infantry.

Each day of the event, an hour-long battle is held on the event grounds, in the early afternoon, reenacting an actual battle which occurred during the American Civil War. The battle scenarios are all scripted ahead of time, detailing troop movements, cavalry actions and artillery shelling.

Within the various units involved in the battle, assignments are made as to who in each unit will “take a hit,” and go down, either as wounded or killed in action, to simulate the wound and kill ratios which actually occurred during the original battle.

To prepare for the daily battle, the EMS Response Team volunteers deploy camouflaged ice chests and water containers at strategic locations around and on the battlefield, which will serve as replenishment stations for EMS Teams stationed all around and on the battlefield, so they may replenish their pails of ice and water during the battles.

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Three members of the EMS Response Team prepare to deploy ice and water around the battlefield for the daily battle.

The EMS Response Team members are all wearing special EMT/EMS safety yellow, high-visibility t-shirts, have EMS fanny packs, and EMS portable radios on their person so that they may communicate with the Response Team Dispatcher in the Command RV, whenever they learn of a medical emergency anywhere on the event grounds. When that happens, the EMS Dispatcher sends the appropriate EMS response to the emergency location.

When the responding EMS Team arrives at the emergency location, they assesses the situation, provide First responder medical aid, and report their situation and requests for any additional aid to the EMS Dispatcher. If ambulance transport is needed, the Dispatcher immediately calls Grant County to page out an ambulance to the event grounds.

Each day for the battle, several members of the EMS Response Team actually dress up in either Union or Confederate uniforms and “take the field” with the troops for the battle, and respond to battlefield emergencies from their locations on the field.

In addition, several EMS Teams respond to emergencies directly from their assigned stations around the battlefield, to emergencies such as horse accidents, injuries, heat-related problems, bee stings and other injuries and conditions requiring the battle to stop while EMS Team members respond to and provide emergency assessment and treatment for the condition presented.

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With several of its crew killed, what’s left of this Union artillery crew fires another burst at the Confederate line advancing on their position, during daily battle action at the Annual Boscobel, Wisconsin Muskets and Memories Civil War Weekend.

There are also 1-2 local ambulances and crews staged on the edge of the battlefield to provide transport to the local hospital, when needed for serious conditions requiring transport during the daily battle.

The EMS Grounds Response Team operates out of a special fenced compoundlocated at the front gate where reenactors enter the event grounds. The Compound special resources includes the Grant County Emergency Management Dispatch Communications RV, one of the County’s Mass Casualty Trailers (full of goodies like back boards, EMS Jump Kits – including O2 bottles, fanny packs and more), two 10’x20′ pop-up tents – for triage and cooling down, and supplies storage, two John Deere gators units, one Special Event Field Ambulance, and a large camper for several EMTs to live right on the premises from Thursday evening until the event is over on Sunday evening, to provide 24-hour Walk-in EMS coverage to all of the approximately 1,000 reenactors camped on the event grounds.

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Near the end of a recent Sunday battle at the Boscobel, Wisconsin Civil War Reenactment, EMT members of the EMS Response Team attend to a serious over heating patient on the battlefield. EMTs surround the battlefield and are in uniform on the battlefield for just such medical emergencies. Can you pick out the EMTs? The women in the blue dress, the Union soldier to her immediate left is a paramedic, the second Union soldier to her right is an EMT, plus, of course, the three EMTs in the safety yellow t-shirts.

The weekend is a special time for all involved, from the reenactors, to the EMTs, to the several thousand paying spectators who will all experience a little bit of living history of their country and their ancestors. Most of the event EMS volunteers are returning EMTs who have participated in several previous Muskets & Memories reenactments, and have such a good experience, they return year after year.

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Boscobel Civil War Weekend EMS Pesponse Team members from Sunday of the 2007 event.

Personally, I have been a civil war reenactor for the past 11 years, and had 6 great great grandfathers
who fought with the Union armies during that terrible conflict, which claimed in access of 620,000 Union and Confederate lives during the 1861-1865 war.

I had the opportunity and privilege of participating in the largest civil war reenactment ever held in the United States, ten years ago, at the 135th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, where there were over 28,000 reenactors and over 35,000 spectators on hand daily for that incredible 3-day event, held on a 2,000-acre ranch just two miles from the actual battlefield!

It has been a special privilege to share this annual amazing reenactment experience at Boscobel with these dedicated and knowledgeable EMTs and Paramedics all these years. Their hard work and professional responses to the battlefield emergencies make me look very good. You guys are absolutely great!

God willin’ and the crick don’t rise too high, there will be more special times in the future.

If you find yourself in the Boscobel area, in southwestern Wisconsin, on Aug. 2nd or Aug. 3rd, stop by and say hello, and be treated to an incredible experience!

Keep your powder dry, hear?

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Ok, Blue Bird fans, we’re near the end of the Blue Bird mating season here, and it’s Week #20 update time for the Mississippi Gulf Coast Blue Bird Program in the city of Long Beach, on the 45-acre campus of the South Mississippi Regional Center!

Here is what ‘Master Naturalist’ buddy John and I found today, July 18, 2008, walking around campus during a Friday morning, taking the Blue Bird Trail nesting survey.

Here are this week’s Survey results:

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Master Naturalist Buddy John checks one of the SMRC Blue Bird Trail nesting boxes Friday morning during the weekly survey.

Box #1- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Box #2- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: 3 Blue Bird babies flew from the nest.

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Nesting box #12 has 5 fast-growing “bauble-heads,” as Master Naturalist Buddy John calls the Blue Bird babies. These guys will be flying the nest before the survey next Friday.

Box #3- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Box #4- 1 Blue Bird baby flew the nest. – Last week: 1 Blue Bird baby, 3 sterile Blue Bird eggs.

Box #5- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Box #6- 1 Blue Bird egg missing, 3 sterile Blue Bird eggs. – Last week: 4 Blue Bird eggs.

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The juvenile Killdeers are still growing and almost the size of the adult parents.

Box #7- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Box #8- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Box #9- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

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The second juvenile Killdeer.

Box #10- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Box #11- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Few old straw, no new activity.

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An adult Mockingbird alertly guards her nest in one of the trees on the SMRC Campus.

Box #12- 5 large Blue Bird babies. – Last week: 5 new Blue Bird babies.

Box #13- Empty Nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Totals This Week: 5 Blue Bird babies, 1 Blue Bird baby flew the nest, 1 Blue Bird egg missing (predator), 6 sterile Blue Bird eggs, 10 empty nesting boxes.

Totals Last Week: 4 Blue Bird eggs, 6 Blue Bird babies, 9 Empty nesting boxes, 3 Blue Birds flew from the nest, 2 Killdeer babies (one baby and one parent have disappeared, perhaps to a nearby area).

Master Naturalist buddy John continues to be very enthused about the activity, and reports that during the last 19 weeks of the program, 40 Blue Bird babies and 6 Chickadee babies have flown from their nests, and we also have 2 of the original 3 Killdeer babies left who have left their ground nest in one of the grassy areas on campus, and have joined their parents in feeding on the ground, during this first season of the new Blue Bird Trail.

The weather today was partly cloudy, light wind, humid and about 93 degrees.

Another update will be along next weekend. Have a great Weekend!

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Here are the results from the Wild Flower identification contest in last week’s survey results:

Wild Flower #1 – below: Common Name: Orange Milkwort, Orange Candy Root.

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Here’s a closer view of Wild Flower #1 – below: Orange Milkwort, Orange Candy Root.

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Wild Flower #2 – below: *Note: This flower starts out as a purple color and fades to the white it is here. Common Name: Meadow Beauty.

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Wild Flower #3: Common Name: Spiderwort.

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Wild Flower #4 – below: Common Name: Rose Purslane.

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Here is a closer view of Wild Flower #4 – below: Common Name: Rose Purslane.

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Here is Wild Flower #5 – below: Name: Threadleaf Coreopsis.

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Congratulations to Carissa at Good and Crazy for having the most correct wild flower names!

Thanks to those of you who ventured guesses on the names!

Another Survey next week!

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Ok, Blue Bird fans, we’re near the end of the Blue Bird mating season here, and it’s Week #19 update time for the Mississippi Gulf Coast Blue Bird Program in the city of Long Beach, on the 45-acre campus of the South Mississippi Regional Center!

Here is what ‘Master Naturalist’ buddy John and I found today, July 11, 2008, walking around campus during a Friday morning, taking the Blue Bird Trail nesting survey.

Here are this week’s Survey results:

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Emily The Tree-Climbing Wonder Dog, always goes on the Survey Walk.

Box #1- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Box #2- 3 Blue Bird babies flew from the nest. – Last week: 3 Blue Bird babies.

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The Blue Bird baby in nesting box #4 has grown very large and should be flying from the nest before next week’s Survey. Unfortunaely, it appears the three eggs in the nest with him/her are sterile.

Box #3- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Box #4- 1 Blue Bird baby, 3 sterile Blue Bird eggs. – Last week: 1 Blue Bird baby, 3 Blue Bird eggs

Box #5- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Box #6- 4 Blue Bird eggs. – Last week: 3 Blue Bird eggs.

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Five new babies in nesting box #12 since last week!

Box #7- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Box #8- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Box #9- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

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The Killdeer babies continue to grow.

Box #10- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Box #11- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Few old straw, no new activity.

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A number of beautiful wild flowers also grow along the Blue Bird Trail on our Campus, including many Trumpet Vine flowers.

Box #12- 5 new Blue Bird babies. – Last week: 5 Blue Bird eggs.

Box #13- Empty Nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

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Another Trumpet Vine flower, this one has a visitor.

Totals This Week: 4 Blue Bird eggs, 6 Blue Bird babies, 9 Empty nesting boxes, 3 Blue Birds flew from the nest, 2 Killdeer babies (one baby and one parent have disappeared, perhaps to a nearby area).

Totals Last Week: 11 Blue Bird eggs, 4 Blue Bird babies, 9 Empty nesting boxes, 3 Killdeer babies.

Master Naturalist buddy John continues to be very enthused about the activity, and reports that during the last 18 weeks of the program, 39 Blue Bird babies and 6 Chickadee babies have flown from their nests, and we also have 2 of the original 3 Killdeer babies left who have left their ground nest in one of the grassy areas on campus, and have joined their parents in feeding on the ground, during this first season of the new Blue Bird Trail. We are hoping to have at least 50 Blue Bird babies fly from the nests this season, but the season is near the end, and we feel it will probably be over in the next 2-3 weeks.

The weather today was partly cloudy, light wind, humid and about 93 degrees.

Another update will be along next weekend. Have a great Weekend!

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Meanwhile, we thought we would have a little Wild Flower contest.

Please have a look at the following wild flowers which were in bloom this morning along the Blue Bird Trail and see if you know their names: (Winners and names will be announced in next week’s Survey)

Wild Flower #1 – below:

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Here’s a closer view of Wild Flower #1 – below:

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Wild Flower #2 – below: *Note: This flower starts out as a purple color and fades to the white it is here.

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Wild Flower #3:

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Wild Flower #4 – below:

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Here is a closer view of Wild Flower #4 – below:

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Here is Wild Flower #5 – below:

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Good luck on coming up with the names of these beautiful wild flowers!

Another Survey next week!

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How do you follow up all of the many public and private family July 4th Celebrations on the Mississippi Gulf Coast?

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Live Oak-lined entrance to the CRAB FEST in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.

You go to the annual “CRAB FEST” in Bay Saint Louis, also known locally as “The Bay.”

Crab Fest is the 24th Annual, mid-summer fund-raiser event for Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic Church and Our Lady Academy located just off the beach in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, the same area that was ground zero for Hurricane Katrina when it came ashore as a Catagory 3 Hurricane on August 29, 2005. Crab Fest officials estimate that attendance at this year’s event will be a record 50,000+ people.

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CRAB FEST is sponsored by the congregation of Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic Church and Our Lady Academy in Bay St. Louis.

A good part of that same downtown “old town” area surrounding the church has been or is in the process of being rebuilt, including several of the facilities of the St. Stanislaus College next to the church.

When the Fest grounds opened for business Saturday morning, dozens and dozens of local volunteers were ready to serve up mounds and mounds of seas food delights, including all kinds of crab dishes, shrimp, catfish, oysters and other seafood delicacies to Fest goers during this weekend.

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One of the many signs hailing sea food lovers to the dinner table at the CRAB FEST.

In addition, there were areas on the grounds where many dozens craft vendors had set up their tents to try to entice Fest goers to purchase their crafty wares. And of course, a fest just wouldn’t be a good fest without all the carnival rides for youngsters and adults alike.

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Ralph (who is retired military), and his spouse Andrea, two of my good friends from Pass Christian, check out the vendor tents.

I was privileged to be invited to attend the Bay Crab Fest by Master Naturalist Buddy John and our mutual good friend and co-worker, Andrea, and her husband, Ralph. John brother, Bill and his friend, Melanie, from Dothan, Alabama were also on hand to join in the festivities.

We all met at Andrea and Ralph’s home in Pass Christian, and then made our way over the new $266 million Bay of St. Louis bridge, over to the city of Bay of Saint Louis, and turned left on Beach Road the short distance to the Catholic Church and the Crab fest grounds.

Andrea rode over to the fest with me, while Ralph chauffeured the other three folks in his car.

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CSX freight train approaches Bay St. Louis and the CRAB FEST grounds.

Andrea and I found a place to park within a few yards of the CSX railroad tracks, about a 5 minute walk to the church grounds, and wouldn’t you know, there was a freight train just about across the Bay railroad bridge approaching within a short distance of my car. The tracks run right along the Crab Fest grounds, so close that the back of the display tents were literally only a few feet from the tracks. During the several hours we were at the Fest, several freight trains passed through, adding to the distinct ambience of the event.

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CSX freight train passes over the Bay of Saint Louis train bridge, with he new Bay vehicle bridge in the background, which replaced the former one destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in late Aug. 2005.

There was a large crowd at the Fest when we arrived, probably around 2,000-3,000 people, at that 2:30pm time. There were even several residents of the Hancock County Jail on hand to change trash bags, and haul ice and beer around the grounds. Hey, why not put those fellow to work for a good cause?

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Prisoners from the Hancock County Jail, help out with trash can duties at the CRAB FEST.

The first on our agenda was to take a quick look around the grounds, and then head for the large “T”-shaped pavilion where all the different foods were for sale.

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Many of the visitors to CRAB FEST including a cup or two of beer with their sea food lunch on the grounds.

We all bought crab and fish-related entrees, various cups of beer and my bottle of water, and searched for a place in the shade to start enjoying the fare.

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Lots of crab yummies available!

My seafood choice was a bowl of Crawfish Etouffee, which was just delicious! Mel had catfish, and I believe Ralph had fried oysters, while John, Bill and Andrea all split a large box of boiled Blue Crabs.

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Andrea and john enjoy eating a selection of boiled Blue Crab.

Being a Crab Fest, of course there were crabs prepared many different ways, as well as shrimp, crawfish and oysters. If you like seafood, this was the place to be today (or tomorrow)!

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Bill puts away his share of boiled Blue Crab, too.

Of course, part of the fun one has during eating, and listening to the live, 8-piece oldies band playing about 15 years away, is the ‘people watching’ all of the hundreds and hundreds of people walking by and enjoying the Fest.

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Andrea, left, and friend fellow Pass Christian resident, Lelah, right, and friend enjoy a nice visit.

After lunch, it was back to the vendor tents to check out the crafts, paintings and other things lining all the tent walls. After looking through all of the tents, I ended up buying a only crab key chain. John purchased a couple of framed prints for his home.

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John, Bill, Melanie and Andrea check out some of the vendor tents at the CRAB FEST.

Then it was back to a table, to listen to music, drink some more beer, and water, and visit with each other and with friends who happened to walk by. Ralph and Andrea went up by the band and danced for a song or two, also.

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Ralph and Andrea dance it up at the Fest.

Bill and Melanie went on one of the rides, which turned out to be a little more than Mel really wanted to experience, but they both survived.

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Bill and friend, Melanie try out one of the carnival rides.

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Bill and Melanie survived the carnival ride!

Then back to another picnic table, when several of the group bought other seafood delicacies to enjoy, while doing a little more people watching. Andrea purchased a plate of fried crab claws, which she shared with two of us. Yum! They were good!

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Two youngsters tackle some of the cotton candy at the Fest.

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Melanie enjoys visiting during the Fest.

All in all, it was a most enjoyable afternoon, with good friends, good conversation, good weather and good food.

As we nibbled and people watched, and another freight train slowly moved past, the sun moved lower in the sky, and people continued to come, and go, and enjoy, the Bay of St. Louis CRAB FEST.

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Ok, Blue Bird fans, it’s Week #18 update time for the Mississippi Gulf Coast Blue Bird Program in the city of Long Beach, on the 45-acre campus of the South Mississippi Regional Center!

So, here is what ‘Master Naturalist’ buddy John and I found today, July 3, 2008, walking around campus during a Thursday morning, taking the Blue Bird Trail nesting survey.

Here are this week’s Survey results:

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Master Naturalist Buddy John and Emily, the Tree-Climbing Wonder Dog, traversing the north acreage of the campus Blue Bird Trail this morning.

Box #1- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Box #2- 3 Blue Bird babies. – Last week: 3 Blue Bird babies.

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Three Blue Bird babies are about ready to fly from the nest this week.

Box #3- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Box #4- 1 Blue Bird baby, 3 Blue Bird eggs. – Last week: 4 Blue Bird eggs.

Box #5- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Box #6- 3 Blue Bird eggs. – Last week: 3 Blue Bird eggs.

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New Blue Bird baby in nesting box #4.

Box #7- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Box #8- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Box #9- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: 4 Blue Bird babies flew the nest.

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The Killdeer babies continue to grow, and it won’t be long and they will be as large as their parents.

Box #10- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Box #11- Empty nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Few old straw, no new activity.

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The Campus in Long Beach has more than birds and squirrels living within its fences, as this furry critter attests.

Box #12- 5 Blue Bird eggs. – Last week: 5 Blue Bird eggs.

Box #13- Empty Nesting box, no activity. – Last week: Empty nesting box, no activity.

Totals This Week: 11 Blue Bird eggs, 4 Blue Bird babies, 9 Empty nesting boxes.

Totals Last Week: 12 Blue Bird eggs, 3 Blue Bird babies, 4 Blue Bird babies flew the nest, 0 sterile eggs,
7 empty nesting boxes, 3 Killdeer babies.

Master Naturalist buddy John continues to be very enthused about the activity, and reports that during the last 17 weeks of the program, 36 Blue Bird babies and 6 Chickadee babies have flown from their nests, and we also have 3 Killdeer babies who have left their ground nest in one of the grassy areas on campus, and have joined their parents in feeding on the ground, during this first season of the new Blue Bird Trail. We are hoping to have at least 50 Blue Bird babies fly from the nests this season.

The weather today was partly cloudy, light wind and about 87 degrees.

Another update will be along next weekend. Have a great Holiday Weekend!

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WOW!

What a pleasant surprise early this afternoon…

One of my favorite ‘Mississippi kids,’ longtime family friend, and ‘brother’ to my three kids, Reese Cobbins (pronounced: Ree-see Cobb-ins), from up in the delta area, near Greenwood, stopped by to see me early this afternoon, when he was driving his semi-truck west on I-10 from Alabama over to Nachez, to drop off a load of things for K-Mart stores.

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Long-haul truck driver and family member, Reese Cobbins.

Reese, who is 28, handsome, single, honest, hard-working, was born and raised in north central Mississippi, and spent time up in our home in Wisconsin during several summers as a member of our family, when he was growing up.

In doing so, he formed a very strong bond with all of us, which continues to this day. In fact, when our oldest son decided to get married about 7-8 years ago, he and his fiance asked Reese to be in their wedding, which was held about an hour north of St. Louis. Reese came up and had a great time.

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Reese and his truck.

Reese comes from a close-knit family, and currently has a small home on acreage owned and near by his grandfather, Norman, age 102, just west of Vaiden in Carroll County. Norman and his bride of 72 years, Willie, age 92, live about 100 yards from Reese, in a small ranch home, close by their original home.

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Norman and Willie, with your author, in 2002.

My wife and I have been privileged to be good friends with Norman and Willie for the past 15 years, having spent several weeks staying with them in their home over the years. They are gracious and considerate hosts.

Reese’s parents, and one of his uncles and his family, also live nearby, about 100 yards on either side of Norman and Willie’s home. Several years ago, after a tragic, late night fire had destroyed their family home and all contents, four of us from Wisconsin were able to help Reese’s parents rebuild their home, by completely wiring the new home and furnishing the three, exterior steel doors for the new structure.

Taught a strong work ethic by his parents, Reese has been employed as an owner-operator long-haul truck driver for several years for a large trucking firm out of Memphis, and spends most of his days driving the highways and byways of the U.S., delivering goods to a host of customers.

Reese admits he loves driving truck, and traveling, and usually gets home to see his parents and grandparents, about every two weeks or so. One thing he doesn’t like about his work, though, is the escalating price of diesel fuel he must purchase for his truck on an almost daily basis, especially when his fuel tanks holds 600 gallons of the high-priced stuff.

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Reese in his tractor cab.

Prior to going over the road as a truck driver, Reese worked for one of his uncles driving a Tour Bus around the U.S., and also had a vehicle hauling business, and a business setting up and skirting mobile homes in central Mississippi.

Reese keeps in contact with the five of us in our family regularly, calling on his cell phone (using a Blue Tooth), during his travels all over the country. The brotherly bond he has with my kids is very strong and important to all of them. Our daughter also asked Reese to be in her wedding several years ago, but unfortunately, when Reese and his fiance started north to Wisconsin for the wedding from his home in Mississippi, he experienced car trouble and was unable to complete the trip.

In years past, when he was traveling in southern Wisconsin with his truck, he would stop by our Wisconsin home for the night, parking his truck in a nearby Industrial Park. I always like it when Reese is in the area and has time to stop by and visit.

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Hitting the road to Nachez.

Over the past 15 years, I have had the privilege of bringing many charitable volunteers to north central Mississippi, and most of them have been able to meet Reese and make his acquaintance. Reese makes it a point to periodically call as many of them as he has telephone numbers for, and keep their friendships alive. One of Reese’s many Wisconsin friends he calls regularly includes buddy, Maggie, Dammit.

Many is the time during the past 8 years when I have been visiting in Reese’s neighborhood on charitable mission work trips, and Reese has graciously and generously opened his home for me to stay in one of his bedrooms or on his couch.

A finer gentleman or friend, you cannot find anywhere.

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