Monday, August 30, 2010

Dog Days and Snake Skins

     At 2:30 this morning, I stomped out to the back forty dressed in nothing but my little blue nightgown and Muck boots. The fog was backlit by a full moon and I walked through liquid silver as I crossed the culvert to the dog houses where I stood for a moment and listened to the distant bugling of my beagle, Sandy. I had let her off her chain at sundown so she could get a little exercise while the chickens were cooped up for the night. Sandy is too fond of white meat for me to let her loose when they are free ranging in the field. Gus, who was still tied, had been howling since 12:00 as he listened to her merry chase and I despaired of getting any sleep unless I moved him to the house to spend the night on the mud porch. I hoped that he would be quiet there.
     When I hopped out of bed to retrieve my loud hound, I wasn’t too happy about a midnight stroll. But, standing in that magical mist, I was glad I’d been forced out. As I listened to my beagle’s howl floating through the fog I could tell that she was running towards me. Rabbits run in a wide arc and Sandy’s singing got louder as she came full circle.
     Closer by, crickets chirped in the grass. My twenty-eighth year of teaching started last week and as always it was heralded by choruses of crickets in the fading meadow and yard. This is a bittersweet time of year. The garden is pumping out produce at a rate faster than I can keep up with and my freezer and cellar are fat with tomatoes, peaches, beans, corn, beets and pickles. But school has started and cold weather is just around the corner. The warm freedom of summer days has come to an end.
     Houdini, the snake who escaped from my room last week, was recovered under a trash can across the hall. As soon as I put him back in the terrarium, he shed his skin. Vernon, our school janitor said it was another sign of the approaching fall. He said snakes shed when the dog days have ended. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but because he had been without food for almost two weeks, I brought the snake home and turned him loose where I had found him. In a blink of an eye, he disappeared into his home hole.
     This is also the time of year when parents all around the county are prodding their children to finish 4-H projects. While Joe and I miss helping our kids with their animal projects, we don’t miss the tension of pushing them to complete their barn displays before midnight. Still, when a neighbor child calls, looking to borrow a lead rope, or a hog waterer, or a halter, Joe is always happy to help.

     So, here we are, empty nesters. Like the singing dog and the shedding snake, we’ve come full circle. I wonder what the next round will bring.

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