Opal Ashcraft’s “Pal Book”

An Ohio Spring means so many things to so many different people, but one thing that means a lot to Ohioans whether veteran bird watchers or casual nature lovers is the returning of the sights and sounds of our bird populations. Across our great state a multitudinous variety of birds will be found celebrating, nesting and hatching as the warm weather graces our state. Others, however, just make a pit stop in there spring journey north.

“Ohio Memory” has in its archives a one of a kind item that chronicles one years’ worth of bird watching, it is known as “Pal Book” and was kept by Opal Ashcraft who lived in Mercer County. She kept the birding memoir for her birding pal, Arlene Keunkel in Knox County (hence the title “Pal Book”). The “Pal Book” dates from December to December 1949-50. It appears as black three-ring binder, but inside reveals itself to be a treasure box of love—love of birds and friendship. The pages contain not only journal entries, but color pencil drawings, photographic snap shots, news paper and various clippings, pressed flowers and even bird feathers.

Opal collects all of this to chronicle the birds she hears and sees in Fort Recovery, her rural home, in addition to what she observers in her travels to the surrounding communities.

Opal’s reporting on April rub-crowned kinglets, nuthatches, juncos, blue jays, red-winged blackbirds, starlings, herons, meadowlarks, field sparrows, and flickers—to name a few. Opal also writes often of a friend “Pete”. He is a woodpecker who made a home of a garden post in Opal’s yards and she writes fondly of his life and loves throughout the seasons.

The “Pal Book” chronicles with the same depth of devotion and love the stories of her farm, family the community and her friends. She speaks of books she is reading and makes beautiful observations and sketches of nature in general.