Fierce Wind and Stranger

The winds are strong and picking up on this morning of the eve of the winter solstice. The hawk lets out a shriek as she takes flight from the gnarled two hundred and fifty year old oak we call Josephine, and then she floats slowly against the wind’s current, correcting course with minor adjustments of her fully spread wings. A red-headed buzzard zooms by in the opposite direction, free-falling with the wind, its wings slightly tucked to maintain a semblance of control.

The winds always bring oddness, and as the three dogs and I near the end of our walk – a casual loop of the lower five acres – we discover a fourth, heretofore unknown dog in the front yard, leg raised and pissing on the decrepit wire fence. Now the walk starts all over again, and turns into a gallop as my three dogs chase this strange fourth dog back down into the nether reaches of the yard, all the way to the creek that dissects the property. I have to run after them, yelling instructions and cursing as they casually ignore me, focused instead on this new friend/foe/ stranger who has invaded their private sanctuary.

I manage to get behind them and chase the herd back the other way. Bill seems friendly enough to the dog – a little standoffish; Kiki the battle ax has her brown hackles raised; and Archie the pup- pup, is just playing, of course, running faster than all of them and laughing the entire time.

We get up to the front yard again and there’s the neighbor woman, yelling the stray dog’s name – a black and white border collie mix – “Ike! Ike!” He sees her and is in something of a panic now, trying to figure out how to get out of the enclosure he so easily managed to get into. His first attempt sends him careening into an unseen section of fence, and the collision snaps a rotten fence post I hadn’t known was rotten. Then he burrows under the fence through a furrow in the ground and is out, running down the street now, in the opposite direction of his owner’s home. She apologizes to me about the fence and offers to help fix it, but it’s nothing, the post was rotten to the core, a T-post will do the job.

I’m wheezing and sweating, I can’t remember the last time I ran so far and so fast, and we’re not talking a marathon here, not even a 3K. I contemplate, not for the first time, the notion of regular exercise, and dismiss it again. It’s too close to New Year’s to be considering any drastic changes in lifestyle anyway – resolutions are for amateurs.

Ike is still out and about, cruising through another neighbor’s yard. I just had to shoo him out of our yard again – the wind must be freaking him out and causing him to seek refuge. My own dogs are inside now, lolling about and probably discussing the morning’s excitement in their own canine language. Trish is sleeping and I am worried and anxious about all the things in the world that might come to pass.

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Bob Howard has been living, working, and writing in Northern Califonria since he moved to Chico in early 2000. In January 2011, he and his wife Trish relocated to Los Molinos, 30 minutes north of Chico, where they are the proud proprietors of the Double Happiness Farm. There they grow organic food, ornamental plants and trees, and generally work to enjoy the beauty of this great region.