The Fish Story

A Naked Man Hangs Down in Mississippi; Down Under in the Land of Down Under

By JAY MANN | Mar 01, 2017

After last week’s column write-up of a treehouse granny’s fight for her right to live the good arboreal life, I wasn’t surprised to get a slew of folks sending me a tree-related news report regarding an incident that took place down Blue Springs, Miss., way.

Per local news reports on WTVA, Tupleo, one Shane Treadaway of New Albany was found hanging upside down from a tree, “butt naked,” wrapped to hell and back in some sort of a cable. There was frequent mention that this all occurred off County Road 253. One can only imagine what highly localized significance there is in that.

Turns out Shane had been naked and afraid – and upside down – for something like four hours, though all that blood rushing to his head made the entire time frame a tad blurry. Far blurrier was his concise explanation of how he got into such a rescue-begging situation. Per WTVA, Treadaway told a deputy he had “climbed the tree looking for a dog and fell.” And here I thought he was going to have some barely believable excuse. As to getting enwrapped in a cable? Hey, I’m not overly familiar with trees in the Deep South, so I won’t guess at it.

Based on initial investigation, Union County Sheriff Jimmy Edwards believes Treadaway lost his clothing as he was falling down – but not out of – the tree.

Now, I’ve fallen “down” many a tree since early life and, well, I’ve never once lost so much as a stitch of clothing along the way, even the times I wound up hanging upside down in branches. Some pocket change, yes. Clothing, none.

As for stripping down before climbing a tree, one need only envisage a full-frontal shimmying up a gnarly tree trunk … ain’t happenin’, Bubba.

The suspended man might have been doubly-dangling up that tree even longer if it hadn’t been for his girlfriend running for help. There isn’t much mention of what part she might have played in what is now being referred to as “that incident off County Road 253.” Nor was there a stitch written about her clothedness. But she did heroically knock on several doors in a nearby neighborhood, seeking assistance. She eventually happened upon Jerry Feathers.

Feathers told investigators that a lady came running down the driveway asking for help. “So I go out there to help. After about three minutes in the woods, I saw this man hanging upside down in the tree, butt naked,” he said.

Factoring in the cables – don’t ask any further about them, seemingly nobody else did – Feathers realized a load more help was needed.

A rescue army was harkened. The response was amazing, egged on by an emergency radio transmission explaining just what was going on. Hell, fire companies from around the state sped to the scene.

There’s no exact mention of the suspended man looking down on the rapidly gathering crowd and moaning, “Oh, please, just shoot me now.”

It was soon crowd-control time.

Possibly heard: “OK, folks, just move along. There’s nothing to see here, just a cable-wrapped man, naked as a jaybird, hanging upside down and moaning something … Come to think of it, maybe all ya’ll better come on over a little closer and get you a good look. This is grandkids-tellin’ material here.”

Responder Steve Coker, New Albany fire chief, said, “We had to cut some trees out of the way, set a ladder up and do some rope rescue rigging to secure the patient, get him extricated from the cables, and lowered down to the ground.”

Not reportedly said: “All right, boys, let’s lower him real slow … the WTVA cameras aren’t quite set up yet … And, Lucas, he’s not serious about just shootin’ him now, got that?”

Shane survived, though he had to be treated overnight at the local Tupelo hospital for exposure. Last I heard, the entire incident off County Road 253 is still under investigation. I’ll bet.

THERE BUT FOR FORTUNE: As you know, it’s summer Down Under. To vicariously follow the sun, something I used to do literally for decades, I now take internet flights of fancy down to Australia. I tune into web-streaming newspapers and radio stations, listening to life nonchalantly taking place 9,900 miles – and a world – away.

So, I’m tuned into a highly Outback radio station and hear about a city where folks have taken the down under thing to an insanely literal level.

The deep-desert town of Coober Pedy, established 1915, is in the northern part of southern Australia – not to be confused with the southern part of northern Australia.

Suffice it to say Coober Pedy is in the middle of an Aussie-grade nowhere – an atrociously hot nowhere.

This time of year, the town routinely gets well above 100 degrees F. And it’s a dry heat. The relative humidity needs to break a sweat just to get above 20 percent.

Coober Pedy is so dry and inhospitable that the town had to literally build its lone tree – out of scrap metal. Gospel truth. It sits on a hilltop, with a plaque that reads “Tree.”  Tourists, of which there are many, are proudly told, “That’s our tree, mate. She’s a ripper! You can have a go at sittin’ under her, but she’s not much on shade. But, then, she never needs waterin’, neither.”

Living in these harsh conditions are the town’s roughly 1,700 inhabitants – though census-taking can be tough since many a Coober Pedyan lives underground, assuming the epitome of life down under.

Their subterranean homes are called “dugouts.” They are built below ground to protect residents from the savage sun up above. The burrowish abodes are deep enough to maintain a constant and comfortable year-round temperature. It has to do with the geothermal fact that, even as little as 10 feet down, the Earth’s temperature doesn’t fluctuate more than a few degrees, be it winter or summer above. Mid-70s is about right.

In Coober Pedy, many of the desert dugouts are quite hospitable, akin to an above-ground, three-room bungalow. They usually have a lounge, kitchen, sleeping areas and a bathroom.

Per the town's website, some dugouts are kinda cavernous, with an area of over 4,800 square feet. Pricewise, they are similar to Coober Pedy’s surface houses – which do exist but demand an AC system that can’t fail, or it’s time to pound on the door of a neighbor’s dugout – or commence to panic-digging a cool hole.

But why in bloody ’ell would anyone live in Coober Pedy? – no offence or nothin,’ mate.

Well, I’ve known that answer dating back to my entry-level lapidary days, shaping opal cabochons in a Waikiki jewelry shop. The finest opals I had ever seen came from, yep, Coober Pedy. It is dubbed the opal capital of the world. Billions of dollars in opals, some singularly worth a cool million, come from there.

Within the town limits, there are an estimated 250,000 mine shaft entrances, all highly personalized. Australia prohibits large-scale opal mining, allowing only single prospectors to work a 165-square-foot claim.

But my current fascination with life down below in Coober Pedy is far from opalesque. Nor does it necessarily have an angling angle, though I have heard of fly-fishing for lizards … Bloody oath! That’s Aussie-speak for honest injun.

Collectors filling the lucrative demands of a ravenous pet herptile market have been known to snag craftier reptiles using the same flies and, sometimes, casting techniques used by fly fishermen. Bloody oath, again. Hook damage to the mouth is minimal; no worse than a lizard snapping down on a sting-first wasp. In fact, as a kid, I used to rod-dangle a pickerel spinner to easily sucker in huge bullfrogs. That was also when I came to realize bullfrogs can bite down something awful when being unhooked.

Teacher: “Jay, what happened to your finger?”

Me, in front of entire class: “Bullfrog bite.” A hush ensues. Talk about utter coolness.

That aside, I immersed myself in subterranean life in Coober Pedy for what amounts to doomsday kicks. Looking at the insider photos of life down under, I pondered the possibility that such below-ground inhabiting might someday be the life norm for folks trying to survive a scalding, over-heated Earth.

OK, so maybe I also heard there might be entire societies flourishing just beneath the angry outer crust of Mars, based on its similar geothermal setup. If so, they would be both extraterrestrials and intraterrestrials … as we might also become someday. We’ll be sister planets: The Angry Red Planet and the Pissed-Off Burnt-Orange Planet.

FIRE FOR SURVIVAL: I must wax smokily poetic regarding the prescribed burning of the Pinelands by the N.J. Forest Fire Service – and its firefighting friends, should a controlled burn go off on its own, which happens kinda regular-like.

There are those who fret that the fire-cure method for removing highly combustible underbrush endangers wildlife, while blackening and uglifying a comely evergreen landscape.

Well, perish the thought of not keeping the Pinelands well lit. Firstly, prescribed burns are done when wildlife is safely tucked away beneath the earth, or when it impacts only wildlife that can easily bolt from the flames.

I frequently do walkabout in the wake of burns. I have never – as in never ever – found the charred remains of baked woodland creatures. Now, walkabouts after uncontrolled hot-weather wildfires, which controlled burns are meant to reduce, offers an awful look. Hardest hit by wildfires are bird nests, containing eggs over hard, and slowly roasted box turtles.

I saw the box turtle toll after the big Warren Grove blaze. Just outside Pinewood Estates, I counted dozens of DOA box turtles, especially along the old Pancoast trail. The good news was how plentiful the species is. The bad news … kinda obvious.

Re-noting, the Forest Fire Service prescribed burns have wildlife fully in mind, dominated by the realization that wildlife and wildfires don’t meld well.

But on to the more famed burning-Pinelands survival issue. Without fire, there can be no Pinelands, especially no Pine Barrens, a term that better depicts the look and feel of pygmy pines, now a much-beloved look and feel.

For centuries, long before humanity moved in, wildfires kept the South Jersey pine trees in the arboreal driver’s seat. The hot blazes helped expel seeds from pine cones, while preventing hardwood species from prevailing. Simply put, fire has kept trees orderly – and pygmyish. A unique environment.

No fires and the pines do just fine … way too fine. They prosper, mature and die. Eagerly awaiting are fast-growing hardwoods, like the famed scrub oaks, rising to the opportunistic occasion. An oaken domination arises. Its shady presence dooms any pine cone seeds or pine tree sprouts trying to reestablish the old order. At the same over-proliferating time, oak acorns are hard core, easily busting through the flourishing underbrush and leafy detritus of an unburned forest floor. Even non-nature types surely sense the lack of an aesthetic feeling to a million-acre New Jersey Oak Barrens.

As to prescribed burns, we owe this courtesy to the Pinelands. Since humanity is capable of rushing out and extinguishing forest fires, it is forest management’s obligation to just as earnestly go out and start them to secure a proper Pine Barren fire-based environment. In fact, the prescribed smoke you see rising up in the west is testimony to our efforts to perpetuate the Pines.

jaymann@thesandpaper.net

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