From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Passenger Pigeons in Christian County, KY

Extinct birds credited with creating a farm's rich soil



Passenger pigeon Passenger Pigeon

In Judge W. T. Fowler's little book, Christian County, Kentucky, written in 1915, he makes some interesting comments about Mr. R. F. Rives and his farm:

Mr. R. F. Rives is one of the largest wheat growers and tobacco growers in Kentucky. He has in ten years produced 250,000 bushels of wheat on his farm. He is Christian county's largest farmer taxpayer, and is second largest in the county, Forbes Mfg. Co. being the first.

His farm is in the heart of what is known as the "Pigeon Rooset [sic]" section. The wild pigeons in Audubon's day had for their roosting place a forest in Christian county which covered thousands of acres. This is the most productive land in the county. Its yields of wheat, corn, tobacco, clover and alfalfa are marvelous...

[This splendid farm] is a model for stately buildings and neat arrangement. Its master is one of Christian county's sages in agriculture and a man who has mastered the problems of system and management as few have.

The R. F. Rives farm was surely located somewhere in the fine farmlands of southern Christian County. Perhaps it was in the vicinity of today's John Rives Road, a few miles southeast of Hopkinsville, where the Rock Bridge Branch meanders through the fields.

At any rate, it's interesting that the soil had been enriched by passenger pigeon droppings.

Mr. R. F. RivesMr. R. F. Rives
Huge flocks of passenger pigeons gathered in Kentucky in the fall to feast on acorns and beech nuts. When he mentions "Audubon's day", he's referring to the observations of the incredibly large passenger pigeon flocks that Audubon recorded.

Nowadays, we'd be worried about histoplasmosis in a place with concentrated bird droppings. Health officials would test for the fungus, and if present, they would place the area under quarantine.

In fact, Hopkinsville spent several hundred thousand dollars just a couple of years ago to replace soil contaminated heavily by bird droppings in a park where big flocks of birds roosted.

A century ago, R. F. Rives just plowed the bird manure into the soil and made the most of his good luck. Ignorance was bliss -- and a whole lot simpler and cheaper.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.