Mail Run

The mailbox and newspaper receptacle for my Idaho place are a mile down the gravel road. Most evenings, after the dogs are fed, I take Finn and occasionally Meadow on a Mail Run. 

"Can I come along?" this calf seems to ask.

This is a neighbor's calf. If her name isn't Bessie, it should be. She gets quite excited when we pass her pasture on our Mail Runs, sometimes running alongside the fence and kicking her heels playfully.

Maia's gimpy knee won't allow her to do the two mile round trip without significant soreness and stiffness the next day, so she unhappily stays behind. Even though Meadow can tolerate the distance, she doesn't care for the gravel, so I don't always take her. After most Mail Runs, I take the girls for a short walk of their own before dark.

Finn loves going to get the mail. He gets to keep me safe from real or imagined rodents hiding in the long grass alongside the road. He's constantly leaping and bounding after prey, amusing himself and me. Meadow ignores him. She's got too much dignity.

Finn, refusing to demonstrate his pouncing technique.

In the photo above, in the distance, is a large old barn (upper middle of photo). It has the typical distinctive notch at left upper end of its steeply peaked roof. This is one of three historic Meadows Valley barns along our road; there are many others scattered throughout the valley and the county, as well as neighboring counties. There's an effort to preserve those still standing.

Virtually every night I've been here, sleeping with my window cracked to let in the cold night air, I've been serenaded by one or more nearby owls. "Hoooooot ... hoot hoooot!" sings one, with another responding, "Hoot hoot hoot....hooooot hoot." Almost always the same three-part or five-part song, back and forth, over and over. It's a wonderful sound, and in this quiet section of the valley, usually the only one I hear in the dead of night. When I was visiting in early June, walking in the forest just above the house one evening, Finn and I spooked at least four great horned owls from the trees. It was magical to see them swoop past on huge wingspans, landing in trees down slope. I'd never seen them before. They're quite large birds.

On a recent evening, as Finn, Meadow and I are making the Mail Run, I hear the familiar hoot of an owl. I'm surprised, since it's still early. I scan the tall trees in the nearby field, but can't see the source of the hooting. As I approach one of the old barns, the hooting gets louder. I spot the owl - his horns distinctive as he swivels his head to take us in - perched on the ridge line of the barn's roof. Of course! That's exactly where he should be, the perfect vantage point for spying and swooping down on field mice below.

View through Bessie's historic barn.

The barn next to Bessie's pasture is no longer used to shelter animals. The owners have added a metal door, which is always left open; the barn's entrance is right at the road's edge. They stuff their barn with firewood for the winter, some hay, and machinery - like the old tractor you see in the photo - keeping the old barn alive and useful.

Almost sunset. Bessie's barn is barely visible, on the right side of road, mid-photo.

Can you spot the deer?

Closer to home, I see movement just beyond another of those old barns: a deer. Once it sees me and Finn, it stands very still. Finn hasn't seen the deer, so I keep him moving up the road toward home until I know he won't be able to see it through the tall grass. (This isn't the first time I've been grateful I'm much taller than Finn and able to spot game before he does.) Only then do I stop to photograph the deer, so well camouflaged that I'm not even sure she'll show up in the photo.

There she is - in the scrawled circle!

The deer's coloring blends perfectly with the dead field grasses of autumn. Smart girl, to stay still until we were safely past.

[Here's a better shot of the owl barn, taken 10-24-11, with the setting sun shining through the distinctive notch at one end of the peaked roof:]

One of many historic Meadows Valley barns.
Rebecca WallickComment