By Chuck Petterson
This is the golden time of year in Washington Township, Harrison County, Iowa. The crops, or their stubble, are various hues of yellow and brown. The late afternoon sun makes what could be a boring, monochromatic scene, a blaze of gold. On the few days where a late storm clears up just in time, the brilliance of the fields contrasting against the dark sky is nothing less than stunning.
I send the old dog out at this time of day, because it gives me an excuse to stand in the yard and gaze across the Mosquito Creek Valley to the east and take in the simple beauty of the Loess Hills. This afternoon a flock, perhaps a dozen, of small waterfowl took temporary refuge on the farm pond just off my property. I couldn’t identify them, but they are too small for geese.
As I go out with the dog I hear the unmistakable clamor of Canada Geese. We get flocks of 50-100 temporary guests during the spring and autumn migrations. This evening they are alternately on the water and feeding in the corn stubble. This year should be a good feed for them; dry weather encouraged a late swarm of grasshoppers to add protein to the corn kernels they favor over soybeans. Canada Geese are a strange lot. If they are on the water and want to be ashore, or vice-versa, they fly. They don’t swim to the shore and then waddle the few feet to graze. The ducks and teals that stop by don’t do that, at least not from my observations. Ducks swim to the shore and then walk around.
A red-tailed hawk flies by, pursued by a small, dark bird of undistinguishable breed. Certainly there cannot be any hatchlings to worry about in October, but who knows? This activity is common during late spring when birds are caring for their brood, but I can’t recall seeing this in October.
The dog will be 15 at the end of the month. He likes to stand at the fence and look at whatever he thinks is there to look at. A lot of times he forgets why he went out, and needs reminding. After the reminder he will move to the other side of the yard, or go to the far end, and look at something there for a while. Most times he eventually takes care of business, but not always. Sometimes he doesn’t remember until he gets back inside, and then begs to go back out again.
The second trip is now after sunset. The brilliance has been consumed by the
twilight. The lone, dark bird heads back
from wherever it came from and the hawk isn’t to be seen. The Canadas are still honking. They honk all
night. They are far enough away to not
hear them inside unless the bedroom window is open. Not tonight. Hard freeze forecast.
The dog takes care of his business and trots back to my office, where he gets comfy on his bed before I can get back inside.
I send the rest of the dogs out for one last opportunity around ten. At 10 o’clock the stars are competing for my notice with the blinking lights on the transcontinental airplanes and the golden hills secretly recharge somehow, ready to do it again tomorrow.
Charles (Chuck) Petterson lives with his wife of 43 years in rural Harrison County, Iowa. Following graduation from Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Chuck enlisted in the Navy. He spent seven and a half years at sea with the Atlantic Submarine Force after two years of training as a nuclear plant operator. He worked for Westinghouse Electric Corporation as a nuclear instructor and field engineer for 18 years. Since 1991 Chuck has been an independent technical writer specializing in proprietary documents for electric utilities and industrial thermal facilities.
Chuck’s creative outlets include playing saxophone in a variety of community concert bands and dance bands. His writing efforts include contributions to a variety of hobby interest publications. Polar Bear in Parrot Jungle is the first novel length story offered to the public.