Anyone who has been following along at Left Coast Cowboys knows we have a harsh policy on invasive species. We were lucky enough to find this piece of land that had never been developed other than possible cattle grazing as evidenced by some ancient buried barbed wire. But otherwise, no one had planted the dreaded (at least by us) Mediterranean Garden or, even worse, the Kentucky Bluegrass lawn. Nope, we bought 40 acres of scrub oak land populated by native wildflowers, Madrones, Manzanitas, chamise, bobcats, coyotes and the occasional Mountain Lion. We loved it and immediately set out to make it more so. Any invasive plant that had found its way to the property was ruthlessly excised. And for a long time, we had a shoot-to-kill policy on bullfrogs. A historical note here: unless you count the genocidal policies toward California Indians, the introduction of the bullfrog is possibly the most devastating assault on native species. The bullfrogs were brought out here by Eastern Dudes at the time of the Gold Rush to satisfy the nouveau riche demand for frogs legs and other luxury foods. Once loose, Eastern bullfrogs set about eating everything in sight, including the eggs and young of most of the native species of turtle, salamander and our lovely California Chorus Frog. Now the Pacific Pond Turtle, the only fresh water turtle native to California, is relegated to ever shrinking habitat that is isolated enough that the bullfrogs — who can march over surprisingly large amounts of territory — can’t reach them. One of those places is Two Terrier Vineyards. We’ve received four turtles rescued from endangered habitat. At one point a fifth one just showed up. So clearly our no-tolerance policy toward bullfrogs in our man-made Lake Charles, is creating a sanctuary for them.
So you see our agenda. Basically it’s ethnic cleansing of anything that isn’t a California native. However, it’s a lot easier to rip up plants and scoop out bullfrog spawn than it is to actively kill something that’s surviving and performing a service. So when we discovered that we had a catfish and crayfish in the man-made pond we call Lake Charles, we were conflicted. I could be wrong, but I can’t find any catfish or crayfish species that is endemic to Northern California — or even anywhere West of the Rockies. However, they are scouring the bottom of the pond and cleaning up the algae and the detritus. The catfish, especially, is really impressive. Practically terrier sized. Still, I don’t want to foster a breeding ground for invasives given that we have a native seasonal creek at the edge of our property which hosts the endangered Pacific Salamander and feeds a spawning stream for Coho Salmon.
So here’s my dilemma: every critter at Two Terrier Vineyards gets named. We have Miss Kitty the Mountain Lion; Bob the Bobcat; Wilma, Wiley and the Kids, our Coyote family; and Chuck the Buck and his intemperate son, Keef, our Alpha male deer. While my first inclination is to name our gigantic catfish, I have to be honest that he may soon fall under our invasives policy. So far, he’s got a pass as he is cleaning up the detritus on the bottom of the pond and he doesn’t seem to have a mate he can breed with. But one hint that he’s producing little’uns and I’m getting my Southern peeps around and we’re having us a catfish fry. As one of my Memphis peeps noted: “Catfish? Crayfish? You’ve got a party in a pond!”
Here’s the thing: Mr. Catfish may not make the final cut, but for now, he’s here and he’s a denizen. He’s got to have a name. I would be inclined to give him a Southern name like Cletus or Beauregard, but that would just demonstrate my New England bred stereotypes about the South. On the other hand, most of our animals get indigenous names. Our Pacific Pond Turtles are Solano, Miwok, Pomo and Captain Jack after various local tribes and famous indigenous leaders. Another naming convention around here keys off of famous TV and movie cowboy figures. Hence Miss Kitty and Wiley. Retro is also a theme, so our breeding pair of Red Tailed Hawks are Hudson and Kitty Hawk.
I’m drawing blanks on this one, so I’m opening it up to loyal readers. Name our catfish! The rules are only that you have to submit your suggestions in comments on this blog post, not on Facebook. You can enter as many times as you want or offer as many names as you want. Entries close June 1st. The prize is two bottles of our very own Cabernet.
Let the naming begin!