–You deserve a palace made of gold. (But even a gold palace needs to be kept clean.)–
(Dad to Erin-8)
We moved to the country in the Spring of 1998. Our new home offered so much room for the children to explore and play and run around. They tromped through the tall, tan field grass making twisting paths that were not even visible from the house. Once the children entered the grass they couldn’t see out (or be seen from without). They were pioneers, blazing new trails in the wilderness, whacking at the grass with stick swords.
A sudden shrieking, flapping noise sound frightened the children and sent them running and shrieking themselves to the safety of home. A large bird had sprung up from its hiding place in the grass, flying off with loud whirring strokes of its short wings. They found me on the porch and told me about their terrifying encounter. A moment later we heard the guttural “Er-Er!” of a cock Ring-necked Pheasant, earning its name from the bright red head and white collar around its neck. They had been too scared to notice its beauty. Pheasants like the tall grass in which to hide from feral cats, skunks, raccoons, and sword-wielding children.
Darkness prevailed on the first occasion when we took the children to see the soon-to-be-ours country house with the big porch. No moon. No city street lights. No cars. Just the twinkling stars, much brighter than seen from our house in the city, and the lights from the sparse neighbors’ windows.
A strange sound started up across the street, a deep grunting that rose to a loud, rough bellow. Soon dozens of similar bellows started up, all at different times, sounding loud, dissonant, and frightening. Laura (2) started to cry, and still cried even after I picked her up and explained to her that the racket was just a bunch of cows mooing in the neighbor’s farm. She wasn’t convinced or set at ease. Black cows unseen against the black earth under the black sky. Even I wished for the morning light.
Laura felt happy the next time we came, during the day, when she could see the herd of black cows slowly munching their grass, slowly wandering around the pasture, and mooing peacefully.
“Just a bunch of black cows,” she said in a matter-of-fact, confident, but relieved toddler voice.
Roger Evans Baker is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road. The non-fiction book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon. Rose Gluck Reviews recently reviewed Rabbit Lane in Words and Pictures.