The red-spotted purple butterfly is a species common all over the eastern U.S.
For all you armchair entomologists, its scientific name is Limenitis arthemis astyanax, a sub-species of Limenitis arthemis. But while this particular insect family may be common, my wife Wendy and I met a very uncommon member of the family during a kayak outing last Saturday.
This time, we took out boats to Noblett Lake, a 26-acre body of water nestled in the Mark Twain National Forest in northwestern Howell County. You might recall that Noble tt Lake was drained by vandals in August 2011, who basically removed the metal spillway plate in the lake’s concrete dam constructed years ago by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
But the dam was repaired by the U.S. Forest Service and the lake eventually filled back up, and there is now no noticeable evidence of the crime.
Noblett Lake and the surrounding recreation area (including a day use area equipped with a large pavilion also built by the CCC, and a primitive campground below the dam) is once again a fine example of the beauty that exists in many corners of the Ozarks.
Anyway, we put our boats in at a nicely cleared launch area adjacent to the dam on the south end of the lake, loaded up Gertie (the Permapup) in mine and away we went. The weather that day was ideal, as substantially less heat was in the air than on many recent Saturdays (although a good amount of tropical-like humidity was certainly there).
We passed near the dam, and then turned north along a gorgeous rock bluff below a big, steep, forested hill that rose sharply to the west.
We hadn’t gone very far when a butterfly stopped by my boat.
We were like, “Wow, neat — that’s a pretty one.”
Then it began.
The flying bug landed on my left wrist. I was like, “How about that.”
Then it landed on my paddle. And stayed.
I figured we weren’t going to remain in that spot all day waiting for a butterfly to leave, so I started paddling. The dang butterfly stayed put.
At that point Wendy and I were officially amazed. I didn’t name him while we were there, but I have since decided his name was Spike, since this bug was acting more like a dog than an insect.
After a little while, I stopped and Spike took off, circled a bit, and landed again on my right pinky finger. I paddle some more and he went right along for the ride.
I stopped again, and Spike went airborne again. This time, he circled around the floating Pembroke Welsh Corgi’s snout and actually attempted to land on it. Gertie snapped and Spike flitted upward.
I’m pretty sure I heard him laughing and giggling as he did.
Moments later, he paid a visit to Wendy’s kayak, landing on the bow to pose for a good photo.
Then he came back to my boat and we continued on as if nothing unusual was going on.
Finally, we came to a shallow area where lily pads were growing and the first of many large dragon-flies we saw came my way. Spike took offense and headed away for good.
In all, the butterfly that adopted us had been with us for about 20 minutes.
We weren’t even half done with our outing, so we continued on and saw much more beauty, heard a crowd of bullfrogs fire up a chorus and generally enjoyed every minute.
But the highlight of the day was Spike. At one point I almost asked him if he wanted to join us for dinner.
But I guess he had other plans, anyway.
Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. His columns are posted online at www.houstonherald.com. Email: email@example.com.