Sometimes a walk in a natural setting is the best way to spend some time.

To be sure, nobody is on top of their game each and every day, and last Sunday I was having one of those days when you don’t know if you’re coming or going and you just feel sort of down. That afternoon, my wife suggested we take Gertie the Permapup for a walk in the rather cool but calm early spring day. Since nothing really sounded good to me, that sounded good to me.

We headed out from our remote Texas County high country outpost and in a short time we were walking along a creek that runs below a lengthy north-south ridge. The stream isn’t a river by any means and wouldn’t really even qualify as a large creek.

In the area we walked, its banks are lined with small bluffs on much of one side and pasture on the other. In keeping with the brook’s compact personality, the bluffs aren’t awesome cliffs, but they’re nonetheless picturesque and along with the surrounding mix of evergreen and deciduous trees, they present a scene that’s entirely Ozarks.

Despite not containing a large volume of water, the determined little creek flows year-round to at least some extent, and even stayed alive during the drought of 2012 when many similar brooks disappeared into the parched rocks and dust. That means it more than likely has over time amassed a rich history of human and animal visitation, and as we walked along it – crossing over it a time or two where large rocks allowed – my mind began to wander as I somewhat subconsciously pondered its past.

What have the little stream’s clear-running waters been host to over the years, decades and even centuries? Who and what has taken advantage of it for pleasure or necessity? What effect has it had on how many lives?

My imagination brought about many mental pictures.

I envisioned a pack of wolves enjoying a welcome drink on a hot summer evening.

I saw a group of Osage Indians on a hunting expedition watering their horses before heading back to their village on the Big Piney River.

I pictured a pair of trappers from Ohio sitting around a small fire, chewing jerky, talking about the day’s adventures and waiting for the coffee to heat up inside the pot dangling above the flames.

I envisioned a bull elk bleating loudly – water still dripping from his chin after dipping his snout into the chilly flow on a late December morning – his call carrying through every nearby valley and atop every adjacent hill.

I saw a trio of pioneer women washing clothes, smiling and giggling as they shared thoughts and feelings, their motley crew of four boys and two girls splashing around in a pool a few yards upstream.

I pictured a platoon of Union soldiers huddling around a fire on a cold winter night, quietly wondering if it was they who would make the first move in the morning, or their Confederate counterparts known to be hunkered down only two or three ridges to the west.

I envisioned a mother cougar watching closely over two young cubs as they learned how fresh running water felt and tasted.

I saw a teenage boy and girl holding hands as they walked home from the nearby one-room schoolhouse.

I pictured a bear sucking in water after successfully overcoming a buck on a warm autumn evening.

I envisioned a mother hawk and a pair of fledglings bathing their feathers on a cool spring day.

Suddenly my imagination was interrupted and I came back to full consciousness when I saw a young female Welsh Corgi splashing in the water in front of me. I laughed aloud at her playfulness and I smiled to myself knowing that most, if not all, of what I had imagined about the creek’s lifetime could well have been true.

As we walked back toward home, a foggy mist mysteriously descended upon the valley we were in. It was beautiful and somehow made the vast outdoor surroundings seem cozy.

How nice it was nice to get away like that – in the far reaches of combined thought and physical exercise. For a while, I was able to forget how odd I felt that day.

And all it took was a walk by the creek.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email:

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