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The Buckner Preserve

07/16/05 12:00AM By Alan Boye
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(HOST) Recently, commentator Alan Boye took a walk in a corner of Vermont where he really had to watch his step.

(BOYE) There is a movement on the path ahead of me, then a large frog bounds into the air, plops to the side of the path and does not move. With the next step, I see another frog. Its green- ish-yellow body is covered with dark spots, like those of a leopard.

At the far western edge of Vermont, is a strange glitch of geo- graphy. Look on any map of the state and you'll see a thumb- shaped peninsula just west of Rutland. The trail where I walk is
at the southern tip of that isolated place.

I step over a downed tree. Another frog flips this way...and then yet another flops that way. I now walk carefully, studying the ground in front of me to make sure I don't accidentally squish a big, fat frog.

The path comes to the base of a massive cliff. I look up and listen, hoping to hear the screech, screech of one of the peregrine fal- cons that roost here. The peninsula of Vermont is one of the most ecologically diverse places in the entire state. Along with falcons, a wide variety of birds, trees, wildflowers and reptiles live here.

The Buckner Preserve, as this place is known, is also a haven for Vermont's only rattlesnake. The Eastern Timber Rattlesnake, although shy, is just as poisonous as its western cousins. This time of year it is very active.

I walk with a heightened awareness of my surroundings. All of my senses are on high alert. To observe things well takes focus. In the wetlands below the cliff, I can hear the call of birds from off among the cattails and the faint echo of country music from a distant fisherman's radio. I concentrate on the grassy edges of the trail and soon see my first snake. It's only a garter, but I check it carefully knowing that timber rattlers are often mistaken for garter snakes.

I stop and take a deep breath. Summer is in its peak. Brilliant white clouds are building over the mountains to my east. A hawk circles high in the dome of blue. At my feet, millions of tiny lichens cover a slab of rock. Ten thousand thoughts fill my head. Like summer itself, my mind never seems to tire of abundance. I have nearly forgotten myself in a flood of ideas, memories and feelings, when I see a motion on the ground near me. I snap back to attention and study the thick grass.

In the shade of some ferns sits a frog, barely moving.

This is Alan Boye just walking the hills of Vermont.

Alan Boye teaches at Lyndon State College. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.
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