Last July I wrote a story about an unusual snag I found on the other side of Kickin’ Mule Creek. The base of the standing Ponderosa Pine was covered with ants, and I heard a distinct banging sound coming from this part of the tree. The sound was a sharp snap, like a woodpecker’s hammer but brighter. I was sure it wasn’t a woodpecker, because the sound was coming from the entire lower eight feet of the tree. I photographed ants excavating tunnels in the bark, and I thought the banging sound might be connected with the ants’ activity.
After a few months the tree became silent. I never found out the source of the banging, and perhaps it was not the ants for a friend contacted the world’s expert on ants—E.O. Wilson, and he was kind enough to reply and tell us he really wasn’t sure what type of ant would make exactly the sound I described.
This past spring during a fierce windstorm, the banging ant tree fell. I found it lying on the woodland floor when the water level in the creek lowered enough that I could pick my way to the other side.
Now that the snag is down, the ants seem to have left the tree. This presents another unanswerable question—at least for me, because it would seem the tree would be just as hospitable to an ant colony, if the tree were lying on the ground, as it was when the tree was standing. The seemingly ant-abandoned tree is another example of the many mysteries I chance upon at Mule Springs Farm.