Four Species Went for a Walk Today
Peaches, the pony, usually isn’t invited on the long walks I take with Harry and Scout. However, on this winter evening I do decide to include her. She doesn’t like to walk: she’d prefer to run —full gallop —flat out, — top speed! Our plodding quickly bores her so I keep her on a long lead to prevent her getting out of sight and into trouble. She circles impatiently, keeping me busy untangling rope from paws, hooves, and feet (sixteen in all). Amongst horses, speed equals survival. It is the equine's advantage in this world, and is what makes them better suited for races and wars than for leisurely walks.
Harry, the puppy, hunts for road-kill on both sides of the gravel up ahead of us. Because of his constant searching, he covers many more miles than the rest of us. When Harry finds some nasty tidbit he gulps it down as though we might wish to grab the nasty thing from him! The first pup in a wild pack to scavenge something to eat is the pup most likely to make it through a hard winter. The dog’s keen ability to find (and catch) food makes them useful for search and rescue, hunting, and herding. As dusk falls, we walk by a farm place with barking dogs. Harry is uneasy sharing our space with another “pack.” Canines are staunch defenders of territory, be it twenty-square miles of wilderness, or the tiny cottage at the edge of the field. They will guard either with a vengeance!
Scout, the bull calf, has a strong preference for walking at my side, his nose about even with my elbow. He maintains a steady pace throughout our exercise. Amongst bovine, calves follow cows. As his surrogate cow, he prefers to follow me. In general cattle move together; their steady migrations keeping their four stomachs full. Their large size gives them an advantage when threatened by the wolf. They form tight-knit bunches and fend off the attackers with their horns. We think of cattle mostly in terms of prime rib and nicely marbled steaks. (Along with a glass of milk, beef is what’s for dinner!) These mighty oxen were yoked together to pull the heavy wagons across The Great Plains, to skid the heavy logs from The Big Woods, and to break the heavy Sod with the Plow.
It was pitch dark and we still had two miles to go when headlights appeared in the distance. I quickly got Harry and Scout on leads, and along with Peaches, I pulled us all into the ditch, where we struggled belly deep in the snow. The unknown driver rolled past as we slowly gyrated in a tangled ball of mixed species. The steam from our mingled breaths glowed briefly in the headlights, the lights passed, and darkness enveloped us again. Only I, the one with the oversized brain, could have gotten us into this curious mess; now I’d have to get us out.