Banjo Visits the Fairchild Oak

We drove a short bit yesterday to see one of the South’s oldest trees: a live oak that’s 400 to 600 years old. It has survived hurricanes, fires, floods and, as a nearby sign says, “the follies of man.” It was named in the 1960s after a botanist who loved it, and its current caretaker seems pretty smitten, as well. He says that the local ecosystem keeps it healthy and growing, still.

What’s also cool is that It’s in a forest of other very big live oaks, plus so many dense palms that you can hardly see a few yards past the trail.

We walked for less than an hour in the area, but Banjo was excited as always to be out on a hike. She hits the trail every time we go hiking as if she hadn’t been outside in a month (news alert: we walk her three times a day and take her on longer hikes at least once a week).

She’s just so danged excited to smell all the new smells: the possibility of bear in the woods, the burrows of gopher tortoises (although we don’t let her put her head in those because rattlesnakes like them, too), and maybe the trail of an armadillo.

The trail around the Fairchild Oak is home to small lizards, mostly, but Banjo trotted ahead jovially, making enough ruckus to keep Tracy from seeing any of the warblers he was hoping to see. As long as Banjo is happy, right?

Here’s a wider shot of that amazing tree.

Banjo’s Critter Encounters

She’s gotten bold here in Florida because there’s just so much danged wildlife around the campsite and on our hikes. Among her encounters:

  • Black bears, the first of which she barked at because it was pretty close to us (it ignored her); a later one she smelled far ahead and then turned tail back to the campground. The possibility of bear sightings is one of the reasons I walk her at dawn.
  • Armadillos, which she will lunge at if you’re not careful to spot first and then hold her tightly. What she would do with an armadillo if she caught one is your guess as good as mine.
  • Turtles, iguanas, frogs, toads. Her first, infamous, encounter with a toad was before we hit the road, the very weekend we fostered her to see how well she camped. She instantly put her jaws around that toad and then dropped it and backed away before she even broke its skin—her mouth was frothing and she was trying to spit out all things toad as fast as possible. (Of course I spent the rest of the hike googling poisonous toads, and this wasn’t one of them.) Since then she’s approached them all cautiously, but she definitely has to get a sniff in.
  • Gopher tortoises are tricky. If they’re standing or walking slowly, she sniffs the air and ignores. Tracy encountered a huge one a few days ago that was walking quickly toward Banjo and him, so she barked. Threatened by a tortoise. Banjo, you are a fierce one, indeed.
  • Around the campsite she catches some small animals before we can stop her, such as small moles and shrews—and other mystery baby animals. I’m guessing these deaths have severely affected Tracy’s and my karmic load.
  • Around the campsite we can keep her from bigger animals, such as opossums, coconut-stealing raccoons, and that rattlesnake in the Everglades that Tracy still talks about as being bigger around than my arm.

Well, the reason Banjo was surrendered to a shelter in the first place (which led her to us) is that she and her sister were chasing livestock. I guess this means she’s hog heaven with us: every week we move to a place with new critters for her to sniff, consider, and sometimes lose her self-control over.

Banjo in Photos

While searching for those wildlife pics, I came across a bunch of good ones of Banjo that I hadn’t seen in a while. Some I posted on Instagram or Facebook, so maybe I didn’t post them here? In any case, since she’s such a star here, I’ll give her an encore.

Michigan, waiting for a treat.
The Wisconsin River, where she showed us she knows how to swim (if she has to).
Iowa: sunrise and mist.
Oh so impatient in Ohio as the Airstream gets worked on.
In the truck, sleepy whenever, wherever.
Here in Tomoka State Park, Florida, doing a reclined eagle pose.

Okay, Banjo says for you guys to take care so you can pat her when we come through your hometown. Thanks.

3 thoughts to “Banjo Visits the Fairchild Oak”

  1. She’s so pretty! She reminds me of Sadie, who belongs to a coach at Waterford. Safue is all one colour but has the same look as Banjo, bred to run and hunt. Sadie also likes to chase livestock and is the scourge of small dogs who come to visit because she gets so excited she barks at them and leaps about until they get scared or angry. Holly has trained her really well but sometimes the urge to run like the wind to somewhere far away and to eat ducklings is just too much. A dog’s gotta do what a dog’s gotta do sometimes. Plus it keeps the duck population under control

    1. Lucky for us Banjo runs very little and barks rarely; that’s why it’s noteworthy when she does. For her, what a dog’s gotta do most of the time is sleep in the sun.