Southern Missouri hollows are somewhat mysterious places, with clear-water streams that disappear then reappear a hundred or two hundred yards down the hollow. There are shadowy nooks and high walls of limestone cliffs above under the ridgetops. Logging roads crisscross the streams taking advantage of any flat terrain.
One afternoon I was exploring a remote hollow I had never before visited. It was in late March, a stormy day. The somber pageantry of the clouds hid the sun. Mists were forming up around the garrets and lofts of the ridgecrests. As I entered the deeper woods of the lower hollow, the sky darkened. Down the path an animal disappeared quickly in a blur of movement before I could get a good look. A rain crow’s long labored call echoed against the stern hillsides. A nuthatch circled the trunk of a hickory upside down searching for larvae and making its high-pitched liquid tin trumpet call.