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"Got time to walk out back?" I asked Kathleen as I got up from the supper table. I wanted to look at the cows and the back pasture.

Since we have had cattle here on Alps Road, July is the time we must be vigilant about pinkeye. Some years we have had to treat most of the herd for this noisome disease, which can blind a cow in quick measure. This season we have been lucky so far. Only three animals, two cows and one calf -- all "baldies" (a Holstein/Hereford cross) have come down with pinkeye.

It was after 8 when we crossed the fence. The bull and a cow were grazing side by side apart from the herd. We chuckled about them as Kathleen walked slowly among the other cows and calves. I stroll along debonairly twirling the stock cane I like to tote on pasture walks.

The cows' eyes all looked clear and good, none hazy or swollen shut. We stepped over the wire that separates paddocks No. 5 and 6. The white dish of a full moon rose over the woods and waited in the deepening sky for the sun to set. But my eyes were on the ground.

This section had been grazed hard a month ago but has come back well, the timothy knee-high with lots of clover beneath. We talk about mowing it for hay. There should be enough grazing in the other paddocks to hold the herd through August. It should be good hay, and we need all we can get. Everybody is talking about empty barns and the tight hay market.

Kathleen is picking flowers, daisies and black-eyed Susans. We walk down the long hill to check the water level in the water hole we are going to use for the herd when we fence them in the far pasture. The lower hill is a purple mass of red clover.

The sky is a full of striking thunderheads turned red by the sinking sun. The wind has turned up the silvery undersides of the willow leaves along the creek between the hills. We just stand there wondering how we have ever deserved to be in such a place.

The water hole is a foot or so below the ground level, pretty good despite the dry spell, which is curling the leaves of the corn.

We cross the wire again and walk along the fence line where the grass has been mowed, talking about this wild strip between paddocks 8 and 9. Suddenly Kathleen is pointing to the brush along the dry stream. There is the white flash of a fawn's tail and then another's, too, as they bound into the darkness of the tall oaks near the gravel road.

I walk into the brush and come back with a handful of black raspberries. They are small, but their intense flavor fills the mouth.

Nearby, some animal has been working on a small burrowing job. I hope it is not another skunk. The other evening I was walking with the dog, and we encountered skunks three times in the tall grass. Three times she went after them, and twice she got sprayed. I don't think she understands skunks yet. Sometimes I think she could inspire a new batch of "blond" jokes, being a young golden retriever.

We walk back toward the house, and soon we can see its roof over the plot of locust trees we've planted. Kathleen heads back to the house as I walk over to see the pastures to the west where the cows were two weeks ago.

The thistles dominate the grazed-over plots, tall with purple flowers, as beautiful as they are obnoxious. They should be mowed before they go to seed, but it is hard to find enough time to do everything right. I smack one with my cane. It is almost as tall as I am. All in good time, I tell myself as I tread up the dusty cow path.

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