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Angus herd takes one last summer's dip

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Karen Madorin
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While calendars tell us summer is over and fall has begun, hordes of giant dragonflies ride still-warm breezes and wasps hover over ripe fruits. Summer birdsong tricks us into believing there’s plenty of time for a second round of ripe tomatoes and okra or many late season dips in a lake or pond. The reality is that frosty mornings are not far off. It won’t be long before summer tunes are silent, insects and birds will vanish, green leaves will turn to dry husks, and ice will crust ponds and lakes.

Driving to school in the shadow of a setting harvest moon on the final day of summer reminded me that morning sunrises would soon silhouette bare branches instead of peep through foliage. Currently, on my morning route, gold tones tint cottonwood leaves. Flocks of vultures congregate on elevators and tall antennae but no longer stretch wings to welcome sunrise. It’s too chilly. Mist or low lying clouds rise and float just above stubble fields and farm ponds, telling me ground and water temperatures differ from those of morning air. 

Despite signs that we are on the cusp of seasonal change, most of us enjoy the moment and postpone thoughts of icy roads and water tanks, snow covered driveways and sidewalks, and winter heat bills. We turn our faces to capture last warm rays and savor final cicada serenades. Some creatures literally immerse themselves in these last moments.

While cool temperatures created a smoke-on-the-water effect over a big pond on my morning route, by the time of my late afternoon return, those mists were long gone. The sun’s reflections glittered on the steel blue water as a heron stood sentinel on a dead tree branch. It was so pretty I stopped to take pictures.

Backlit by fall’s bright yellow sun, a herd of black cows crowded the water’s edge, mucking about in mud. Suddenly, one stepped into the pond and continued heading west. In the way that only cows know, the rest chose to follow their leader.

At first, the train of bovines waded in knee (do cows have knees?) deep. Slowly, water covered those ungainly bodies to the point I saw only ears and noses moving forward. Several times, even those dipped below the surface until I wondered who saved drowning cattle. Although I had been a lifeguard decades ago, I knew these huge beasts were beyond my rescue abilities.

Despite my concern, V’s of ripples continued moving across the pond until two black ovals and a big black squared reappeared from each. A bit at a time, the rest of those cumbersome forms emerged, shaking water droplets from their hides. Each spray reflected sunlight until it looked as if diamonds splintered off the black shapes.

I watched only the first members of the herd complete their swim across the deep pond before I drove off, smiling. It won’t be long before that water is too cold or too frozen for even thick-hided Angus to cross. Watching cow dipping was a great way to enjoy my last day of summer.