By Bruce Stambaugh
Even though I am usually alone, I always have plenty of company on my regular morning walk on the township road near our home.
I walk for the exercise of course, but the benefits far exceed staying physically fit. On these hot and humid summer days, I like to get an early start if my schedule permits.
If I can survive the tricky first tenth of a mile on our busy county highway to get to the road less traveled, I can relish the rest of the walk. Common sense tells me to stay alert for oncoming traffic and dodge the fleet of various vehicles by stepping to the side.
Once I’ve completed the macadam gauntlet to the safety of the township road, I turn east into the morning sun. After a few steps uphill, the road unfolds before me, rolling gradually down into a low, sweeping valley formed by the Wisconsin Glacier 10,000 years ago. Farm fences on both sides squeeze against the chip and seal roadway, making it seem even narrower than it already is.
I fondly anticipate these next moments. It’s the same road, but never the same walk. My audience waits, and every crowd is different. It’s not the Olympics by any means. In fact, it more closely resembles a circus.
I especially enjoy the high wire acts. The Eastern Bluebirds, including the juveniles still testing their wings, play their own version of leapfrog with me from the roadside power lines. Greeting me with melodious songs, the furtive birds wait until I nearly reach them before they flutter a few yards down the lines and land again.
I walk some more. They fly some more. The pattern is repeated a quarter-mile until the power lines run out. At that point, the beautiful birds make an arch over the hayfield and light upon the wires behind me to await my return trip.
Once the road flattens out, a congregation of Holstein heifers crowded head to tail beneath a black walnut tree suspiciously eye me. As I stroll, their heads turn as one, ears twitching, tails swatting pesky flies. Sensing a potentially easier prey, a few of the flies follow me.
Thankfully, a flashy yellow ball cap saved my baldhead. Still, I flail away at the persistent insects. I’m glad no other humans are around to witness my comical machinations. By the time I reach the valley’s shallow brook, the flies relent.
Continuing east past the newly built Amish schoolhouse, the Barn Swallows, Tree Swallows and Purple Martins all start chattering to me at once, circling overhead as if they were asking me to follow.
At Jonas Yoder’s farm, I break the law. A U-turn begins my return trip. I usually walk down the center of the road until I hear a vehicle or buggy. On average, only one or the other passes me on the township road.
The American Robins and Song Sparrows are all used to me by now, and keep on singing in place. A young flicker, still with no brilliant red on the back of its head, flits from fence post to tree to utility pole. Poison ivy vines, leaves shiny as Christmas holly, have nearly over grown every locust post. A Green Heron escorts me back up the incline until it settles atop the tallest tree in a dense woodlot.
Down the arduous homestretch again, my next-door neighbor’s dogs unceremoniously announce my arrival. I hit the trifecta. I feel welcomed, renewed and refreshed.
This column appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2012