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Comet Calves

Spring mornings in Colorado

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, March 26, 1997.

Each morning for the last few weeks, I get up and walk the five miles to work starting at about five AM. It sounds ghastly, but it has been anything but. The weather has been really nice, which is a big plus, and also, until recently, there has been the comet always right in front of me. Nothing improved on that except the morning star status of Mars and the full moon setting over the mountains. It was quite spectacular, I assure you.

Better yet, propelled by coffee and caffeine, the absolute stillness, and what apparently is an owl with a twelve foot wing span, the walk itself gets off to a rather startling start. Said owl is not the reclusive little creature with the delicate “hoo, hoo” beloved in movies and nature films. This baby cracks the air with a subsonic “Hoo” followed by the clear sounds of air currents forming weather patterns in Peru. I realize it is the surrounding silence that makes it all the more ominous, but when the owl takes off, apparently always from a tree branch above my head, I could swear the backwash sweeps across my face. Happened several times, and it can be a focusing event, let me tell you.

Just as sky lightens to that predawn glow, the comet disappears and the coffee wears off, I am on a dirt road between two large paddocks. On my left are horses, quarter horses I think, and their number has produced a foal, a filly. She is, like all her species, three quarters of her adult height and about one tenth her adult length, which leaves her looking way unbalanced, which she is. She has a deep crush on pedestrians, apparently, and meets me at one end of the paddock and plods along silently till she can go no farther, which generally gets a small snort of annoyance. I didn’t know what color she was until she reappeared in the afternoon walk back. I believe she is a bay, but the color descriptions of horses confuses me yet. In the afternoon, the next paddock is used to saddle train and break older horses, and she sometimes can be seen peering at her fate while munching grass in the distance.

Across from her is a large field with cattle. Up ahead, I take a right and head south for a while, past a house with several barking dogs, and slide down the other side of this field. As I look west, there are these bright white dots lying low in the grass. These are the faces of the season’s new calves. There must be about thirty of them. Mostly all black with these incredibly bright white faces, the calves are social, vocal, and much sharper than their mothers, one of whom is always caught in a ditch by the fence. Not long ago, I saw one being born, plopping out, being licked off, and rising unsteadily to its feet, and then wobbling after its mother. I didn’t even have to break stride to see the whole thing. By the time I got adjacent to the birth, which was only about twenty feet from the road, the calf was looking rather more sure of itself and was actually loping, if that is the correct term in judging a potential cows gait, next to Mom, who seemed way too nonplussed if you ask me. No sign of what must have been great pain, no trouble walking, rather fast, towards the herd near the field’s center. And her calf, whose arrival instigated an inappropriate burst of applause from me, which drove the dogs batty, has now disappeared into the sub herd of calves that seem to cluster together, each with such a beautiful white face. I turn east again soon after, and it is now only about a mile to work.

Another house with a barking dog, a chocolate Labrador, with a deep bark and no martial bearing whatsoever. He comes loping across the lawn of a large house, bellowing warnings, and then is confronted with another drainage ditch, about three feet deep and six across. Said impediment, his bark seems to indicate, is all that prevents him from tearing me to pieces. The ditch, however, is bone dry, the sides incline gracefully, and there is nothing to prevent his crossing it. His fear, though, is somewhat amusing, and I have become more and more like Bugs Bunny, closer and closer to actually bellowing “Ah Shut Up!” but I don’t. I don’t like being the loudest thing around.

Across the highway and I’m at work by seven. It has already been a good day.