Things that go “moo” in the night

imageBelted Galloway, Bridgewater, Connecticut © Steven Willard

Having the day off tomorrow, it being the Fourth of July, I had stayed late at Glenn’s house where we had convened our Friday night “Boy’s Night Out”. It was just past midnight, and just past a full moon as I drove the crooked two lane road that led me toward home. Full moon or not, it was dark. The clouds had rolled in and were shrouding the moon in a thick blanket that cut the light to near nothing and dampened what few sounds there were to hear.

Slowing to navigate a particularly sharp turn, I became aware of a strange apparition off to my left. I pulled the car to the side of the road, and cut the lights and then the engine. At first I thought it was a white painted shed, but then I saw farther out in the field, another, and then another. In the dim light all I could make out, and that just barely, was what appeared to be large white boxes hovering above the ground, moving slowly in random fashion.With no lights from the car to ruin my night vision, and no noise from the engine to confuse my hearing, I slowly began to make out the shapes of cows grazing by night. Part of the confusion had been the unusual black/white pattern of their coats which are seemingly unnatural in their pattern and regularity; the black portions of their hides almost invisible against the dark gray of the night.

I grabbed my camera and got out of the car as quietly as I could, cursing the dome light that seemed way too bright under the circumstances. I turned on the little flash on the camera, something I almost never use, and crossed the road only to stumble and nearly fall into a small, grass-lined ditch. (At this point you’re probably asking yourself if I might have been “under the weather” from the night’s activities. The answer is no. I had one beer with a dinner of ribs and potato salad, follow by two strong cups of coffee with cookies for dessert.)

Working to keep from tripping over rocks and roots, I climbed the little bank at the top of which was a wire fence that enclosed the pasture. I began to make out the low sounds of bovines at work, doing what they do. The irregular, but steady noises of an eating machine, which is basically what cows are.

I steadied myself at the fence, affraid to grasp it for fear it might have been electrified as some are around here. Even now, I was having trouble making out most of the features of the nearest animal. The others were barely discernible; mere ghosts huffing softly as they grazed. Standing there, waiting while my eyes slowly adapted, I tried to figure out how I could turn on the focus beam of the camera. I usually keep it turned off because it is a giveaway when making candid photographs. But here, now, it would have been really useful. The little G3 Lumix, as with most other cameras today, however, doesn’t have a simple switch for such functions, instead, a multistep menu needs to be navigated, and I gave it up as too complicated.

Standing next to the fence, I was aware that the curiosity of the closest animal was bringing it closer and closer. I could make out the rough shape of a head, more in silhouette than anything; a darker shape against a slightly lighter grey background. I held the camera above the top  wire and aimed it in what I hoped was the right direction and pressed the button. There was an unsually long pause as the camera struggled to find focus and then the flash went off. During that pause, I had time to wonder, briefly and belatedly, just what the beast’s reaction would be to a flash going off in it’s face. Nothing, as it turned out. She only turned, coyly, like Rihanna on a red carpet runway, and held another pose. She worked the camera for a few more exposures, and then, like Rihanna, moved on to something more interesting.

I couldn’t make out at the time if anything was in focus, but took it on faith that at least one would be, so I got back in the car and went home.

Panasonic Lumix G3 with 20mm f1.7 lens, processed on my iPad Air using Snapseed.

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