I stared out the window at the icicles that clung to the screen, trailed down the deck’s railings and lengthened underneath the grill. The winds had smoothed out the snow. And I could see little birds jumping in-between the branches of the Blue Spruce on the south side of the deck.
Uriah was outside. I watched as he slowly trudged through the snow and picked a spot, out in the open in the sunshine, to sit down. He looked out over the yard, and then looked over his shoulder at me. He was happy to be outside. The sky above him was a beautiful deep blue with puffy white clouds. The ice shimmered like clear diamonds, enhanced from the blinding white sunlight, as it reflected off the snow.
I finished my coffee and headed for my coat and boots.
Once outside I pulled my scarf up around my face. There wasn’t a wind, but frostbite was a reality in these low temperatures. Uriah danced around my legs until I handed him his morning biscuit. I waited as he crunched it to pieces. Then he nosed around in the snow until he found every last morsel.
Being Uriah he tried for two biscuits. I shook my head at him. He didn’t seem disappointed; instead he turned and waded through the snow towards the back path.
The snow was powdery and painfully white.
Uriah stopped, and looked back at me; he was hesitant to step near the path. He must have remembered the cold water running under the ice.
I moved cautiously forward and pushed my ski pole down into the snow. It hit frozen ground. Confident I wouldn’t end up with wet feet, I moved on.
Ice crystals were growing upwards along every piece of dried grass and twig sticking up from the snow.
As I got closer, I could see unfrozen dark water. Little puffs of snow perched on top stray blades of grass, which sat above and over the water. The sight was spectacular! The area was covered with multiple bouquets of white snow flowers. The highest stood only two inches tall.
Uriah took a couple of tentative steps forward, and found his own way around the freezing water. Instead of walking straight ahead, he had turned and walked into the trees and scramble over branches.
By walking on piles of dried grass, I was able to make my way to the southern fence line. From there I picked my way around the water, hoping to avoid getting my shoes wet.
I noticed that I was not the only one who walked this way. I spotted the tracks of a coyote, rabbit, and squirrel.
I stopped and laughed! Pheasant tracks! They were heading to the east. The same direction I was going! As the ground slopped upward, I followed them up and away from the water. As the path moved slightly south, I found the tracks under the trees.
That bird had followed the fence line. He walked halfway down the path, and then his tracks turned to the south. Where he moved into the open field and headed towards the denser tree line.
I kept walking. I waded through the powdery snow. I passed up some smaller tracks. They looked like the rat tracks that were near Uriah’s kennel.
There were some prints I couldn’t identity. The snow was soft and the footprints had caved in. This animal walked with his feet apart. He left a trail, similar to train tracks.
Once I reached the end of the path I rounded the back and passed by the farmer’s air field. Headed north and took a left turn and then faced west. There the Bog Willows stayed to my right. This took me in the direction that headed back home.
I walked under a bush, and noticed smaller tracks, possibly rat tracks. Or, maybe not! This guy had circled around and around underneath the bushes. More than likely it was gathering its breakfast. A few feet on the other side of the bush I came across a coyote’s tracks. He was circling the bush from the outside. I assumed, he too, was gathering his breakfast.
Uriah appeared from the tree line and looked at me. I waved at him. He turned and went back to his games.
At that point I noticed some small, nearly dotty tracks on top of the snow. I stepped forward and stepped into a snowdrift. This animal had to be very tiny, or he would have sunk in the snow. I stood still and picked out its trail. Then I stepped back where I could follow its path without standing in deep snow.
This animal had circled every piece of grass and wildflower it passed, and it left behind a tiny dusty trail underneath each plant. Its tracks moved perpendicular along the path I was on. I thought this was great! I was heading home. I could follow it without wasting time. I would even walk a little slower and keep an eye on its tracks.
Then the little tracks disappeared under a Bog Willow…
That was when I made a mistake!
I walked forward to see where the animal tracks had gone to. When I did that, I brushed against the top of a sagging Bog Willow. It was capped with heavy snow, as was everything else in sight.
As the snow showered down on my head I heard a squeak! I saw a mouse stick his head out of its nest of milkweed seeds. That nest was built in the center of the tangled branches, on the top of that Bog Willow, which was about five feet off the ground.
I should stop here and tell you. I don’t like mice! I am the idiot that will dance on the couch, bed or table when one of the little buggers appears. On with the story…
Now, all this was happening at face level!
Uriah caught a whiff of fear and came running! He danced around my feet when he saw the mouse!
The mouse saw the dog! Then looked at me… Its mini brain worked overtime during those seconds when it tried to figure out, who it feared the least… That was the one it would leap at!
The Bog Willow branch snapped upward!
And the mouse squeaked and landed on my arm!
I was in a Disney movie….!
My fear was that mouse would crawl down my coat!
I stopped hopping and held my hand out to Uriah to sit. I kept thinking, “Stay calm and relaxed.”
I reached out and put my hand on the Bog Willow. I made a very shaky bridge, which I hoped that the mouse would use.
Once he was off my arm, I was out of there!
Uriah continued to hop up and down. Run in circles and sniff at the snow under the Bog Willow.
I headed over the flooded path, and broke though the ice. A wet left foot wasn’t going to slow me down!
Uriah, finally decided to follow, but refused to come inside the house. I left him outside to guard against an invasion of mice…
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