The Dog Days of Summer
The day was typical for southwest Wyoming in July. Hot in Wyoming is about ninety degrees. Add a dry wind, blazing sun and cloudless sky. Kids and dogs laying languidly in the grass, no shade, no energy, no desire to move.
At lunch, we decided a trip to the Bear River would be a balm on our sagging spirits. Half-heartedly the kids changed into swimsuits, hats and flip flops. We all trooped up the road, heading for our favorite swimming hole. Until this week, the runoff has been extensive, the water too fast, deep and cold to imagine swimming in. Last week we trekked to the water, only to be turned home by the quick current.
Dragging their feet, the kids had no enthusiasm for walking a half mile. The dogs were too hot to chase an errant cat who crossed our path, and my husband lagged behind, unenthusiastically clutching a book. We half expected the swimming hole to remain unswimmable.
Sliding down the steep bank on dry grass, we all ended up on a slab of cement perched over a spot in the river. We looked doubtfully toward Charlie, wondering if we should get in. He nodded his approval, so I slowly waded into the middle of the river.
The cool water refreshed me immediately, and I encouraged the kids to join. Reluctantly, they followed my lead. As soon as we were all in the river, the dogs began barking, both too nervous to make the initial leap. With much coaxing, the fox terrier jumped in, and was immediately taken away by the swift current. The kids yelped and began butt floating after him. With much anxiety, the border collie followed, mostly out of a desire to herd everyone back to the slab. As she jumped from the slab into the water, her body slid into my, causing me to fall into the river. I floated joyfully after kids and dogs, grateful for an excuse to get my clothes wet.
Once we were in the water, we felt alive again. Floating on the current, drifting to the slower, deeper pools, we spent the day being revived by the energy of the river. As the afternoon wore on, chill began to set in. Each time we reached a particular bend in the river, we climbed out, walked back, then swam again. The wind, which had seemed so dry and hot earlier, now cooled us to discomfort, as the sun danced behind a quickly forming thunderhead.
Seeing the approaching afternoon storm, we headed home, everyone wet and shivering, but much exhilerated.
As the evening progressed, my husband and son built a fire in the patio fire pit. We were all dry and warmer. The thunderstorm moved on and the still air carried the sounds of kids at the park near the end of the block.
Finding all the ingredients for smores made me a hero as I emerged from the kitchen to join my family on the patio. Each kid has a different roasting and smore making technique. Samantha, 11, is a perfectionist. She slowly roasts each marshmallow, then meticiously puts the chocolate on a graham cracker, adds the marshmallow, and delights in each bite.
Alexandra would like to be a perfectionist, but she doesn't have the patience. She begins slowly. As the marshmallow starts to brown, she can't wait, and holds it over the flame, burning half. Frustrated, she smashes it onto a cracker, breaking the cracker and covering the table in melted sugar. Finally, she gives up and just eats the chocolate.
Our son, Gunnar, loves fire. He holds his stick in the flame, until the marshmallow is ablaze, Then he whips it out of the fire to watch it burn completely. He eats each component of the smore separately.
I like to roast my marshmallow slowly, then shove a piece of chocolate in the center, so it melts. Yum.
As we finished our roasting, Venus rose in the northwestern sky. The moon came out early too, about half full. We had been watching all week, noticing the distance grow between the two. As we stood looking for the first stars, Charlie suggested we take a drive, to fully enjoy the night sky.
We piled kids and dogs into the car, and headed east. About twenty minutes from town, the sky finally revealed stars that can't be seen through the light pollution.
On the road ahead, a large eyeball glowed menacingly. The kids whispered fearfully, speculating on whether it was a coyote or a wolf, ready to leap into the car. I unrolled my window, to the sound of their frightened protestations. As we passed the cow, which was standing on the road, it stared stupidly and harmlessly into the car.
At the top of a hill, we got out of the car and began a middle of the night hike. The dogs loved to race through the sage, chasing rabbits and deer. The kids hesitated at first, worried about vicious night creatures. Eventually, however, the powerful silence and the endless, star filled sky quieted their fear. We all lay on the cold ground, staring into the vastness of the heavens.
Not knowing much about astronomy ( I need a book), I could only point out a few constellations. We were delighted to see satellites, falling stars, and with the binoculars we could even see craters on the moon.
Hiking back to the car, we feigned disorientation, however, the children found their way back to the car, even in the pitch dark. We enjoyed a perfect ending to one of the many dog days of summer.
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