Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Turkeys in the Snow

Today we had fresh snow and I walked the dogs.  I walk my dogs nearly everyday during the cold months and the path to the back woods is my favorite way.  My two black labs are as eager for the walks as am I, and I would swear Talladega has a big grin on her face.  Tally goes on a 15 foot lead, attached to a harness.  She is an alpha female, meaning she wants her way and she wants it now.  She is often more of a "guy" then Gauge my loveable other lab, who is still more "puppy" than grown up even at 2 years old.  We call her Butch, jokingly, as I think if she could lift her leg to yellow the snow, she would.  Gauge never strays far so he doesn't need a lead.  Some day I will figure out the e-collars that Kurt finds so easy, but for right now giving even a "nic" as they like to call it, is more than I want to try.  I believe both dogs need to walk on leads also and Tally really is good on lead.  I only have to untangle her legs from it a few times every walk.

We head straight back beyond our pond where a swath was mowed late in the summer to the food plots planted close to the ditch that cuts the two areas of land across our forty acres.  Today, as we passed the pond and looked to the back I saw a head pop up, in the food plots now snow covered.  Another head popped up and another.  I could see a body and realized it was a flock of wild turkeys.  Before the dogs saw them,  I directed them across the field to the lane.  By the time we came abreast of the turkeys they had crossed the ditch and were meandering across the field in the back.  I could see them clearly, and counted heads.  One, two, three, four and finally eleven heads poking among the ruined vegetation and snow on their way to the woods and the cover of trees and perhaps an acorn or two beneath the snow.   I breathed a bit of a sigh of relief that the dogs had not spotted the turkeys though they had seen us and were cautiously watching us as we headed to the back and the pond beyond that.  I noticed a lone set of tracks in the new snow of the lane.  Single file canine tracks heading toward the road.  These were not made by any dog.  These were coyote tracks.  I have never seen a coyote in our back woods, but I know they are there.  The various tracks I now see in the snow and across the ponds is evidence.  Last week after a snow, a single set of tracks went across our pond behind the house.  During the late spring and often during the warm summer nights we will hear them yipping.  They start as a single voice and a chorus will erupt, and just as suddenly they will stop.  I have heard them more and more even before dark during recent summers.  Sometimes an hour before sunset I will hear them calling.  I still remember the goosebumps the first summer night howling I heard awoke in me, but as with all things foreign, when they become commonplace, the thrill is gone, so to speak.  I still wonder if I wandered out of a late winters night if I would surprise one and who would be the more scared.  I wouldn't take bets that it wouldn't be me...

Our walking route takes us to the large pond in the back and we circle it to the south and then west.  When we come to the path's end, we head back the way we have just come but skirt the pond this time, instead of using the path through the trees.  Halfway back I spot a black lab dog trotting along the side of the pond that we will soon be approaching.  A yellow lab appears behind him, they are obviously together.  They are headed our way and are still a good quarter mile away, but I know sooner or later they will spot me or my dogs will spot them.  My dogs won that contest and started a barking brouhaha that stopped the other two dogs in their tracks and they immediately turned tail, (literally), and bolted back the way they had come.  It was all I could do to keep Tally from wrenching my arm off as she was all for pursuing.  Gauge would not run after without us along for the jaunt, so he stayed close but quivering with anticipation.  By the time we got around the pond where the dogs had been, all that was left were their tracks, which mine eagerly sniffed and circled and wondered where potential friends or enemies had gone.  Our walk back was uneventful, and after ball tossing in the back yard which was the end to our walks, we came in.  The end to our adventure came when a large red tailed hawk which we see often in the field, decided to make a swipe at the songbirds in the feeder I had just filled off our back deck.  He made a couple of passes flying nearly into the french doors flanking the deck and setting the dogs to barking again.  A bit closer than I like.  I figure he can have whatever field mice and "varmints" he can catch in the fields and woods, but he needs to stay out of my yard, that's a rule.

So a walk in the woods that most days is without adventure but never without pleasure, gave me both today.  It was something I would need later on as news of what should have been a return to post Christmas normalcy was not.  Its these moments I am learning I need to store up and pull out when I need that "normal" that may elude me....

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