By Dan Whittle
Close friend Jim Demos and I recently broke bread of fellowship and shared the wisdom of actually listening to people and the beauty of Mother Nature.
Things I love hearing in life include old John Deere tractors, slowly idling, to hear 'wheezing' and 'chugging' of the old two-piston engines.
It goes back to childhood during my "Bootheel" of Southeast Missouri upbringing when Daddy Whittle would not allow Farmall brand red dawg tractors be brought on our farm.
Best-sounding John Deere huffing and puffing came on cold winter days when Daddy would hook large belts to our old "A" model John Deere as a power source to saw timber from our woods into planks to expand our barn to allow for more pigs and cows.
That "A" model Deere was the last tractor we had with a large fly wheel that took stout grown men to spin in order to crank the vintage tractors of the 1940s.
Sounds are my main reasons of loving to attend the annual Eagleville Pioneer Power Days when highly-collectable vintage farm tractors and engines are brought in from throughout the Southeast to reconstruct the 'heyday-era' of farm life of America's landscape that will never be seen or heard again.
Wife Pat and closest friends know I love getting up in pre-dawn hours and taking off for the woods. It's one of the biggest perks of semi-retired life.
They assume my main mission is to take nature pictures with my trusty Nikon and 55-300 telephoto lens that helps me capture the beauty of Mother Nature in our beautiful Middle Tennessee landscape.
What they don't realize, is it's the quiet of Mother Nature I also love listening too, while walking softly, for example, on the board walks of the Murfree Springs wildlife refuge to listen to the swamp critters and beautiful birds in the heart of downtown Murfreesboro.
I love hearing the squawk of majestic Great Blue Heron there.
Which proves my point when presenting shows of my outdoor photography, that in picturesque Middle Tennessee, one doesn't have to journey far to picture and listen to "Mother Nature's Beauty All Around Us."
Latest outdoor photographic challenge is trying to capture the image of a large old owl that sometimes sits atop our home.
Pat described the last time we actually saw that big ol' owl while it sat perched on our roof, outlined perfectly as the approaching night's darkening dusk settled over our urban neighborhood.
"That owl must stand two foot tall, for it's one big ol' owl," Pat shared recently with church friends Robert and Carol Gentry, Sid and Mary Sue Salmons, and Helen and Jerry Cates.
So far, that wise old owl has evaded my camera, but what the owl doesn't k
now, is how much our dog Honey Bear and I enjoy listening to its rapid-fire "hoot-hoot-hoots" echoing in the quiet dark of the late night.
The gurgling sound of fast-flowing creek water is another sound I cherish listening too while in the quiet of Mother Nature's bosom.
That was dramatically-accentuated the day Cannon County Executive Mike Gannon and Woodbury Mayor Harold Patrick drove fellow amateur photographer Hooper Penuel and I to majestic Short Mountain, the mystical origin of the meandering Stone's River that resulted in formation of Woodbury, Readyville, Murfreesboro, Old Jefferson, Walter Hill and other settlements that dot the landscape in present-day Cannon, Wilson and Rutherford counties.
I love going to the side of Short Mountain, reputed to reign as Middle Tennessee's highest elevation point, and quietly listen to the gurgling sound of the modest little 'spring' that evolves into mighty Stone's River down below.
"Shhh, quiet please!!"
That was recent instructions I made to grandchildren Georgia Grace, Gabe and Zeke as we approached Stewart Creek, one of my secret silent personal bastion sites for outdoor photography.
History buff Toby Francis credits meandering cold-flowing Stewart Creek with resulting in the first grain grist mills that resulted in settlements known today as Smyrna and La Vergne.
I ask for quiet from the grandchildren as we mosey up to the banks on Stewart Creek on the backside of historic old Sewart Air Force Base, where dozens of Great Blue Herons and Black Crown Night Herons quietly assemble daily to fish for their survival.
It's one of my secret mecca scenes for nature photography hidden in the hustle and bustle of a modern city.
Shhh! If you listen close, you too can hear the quiet beauty of Mother Nature!!