Many years ago in the seventies my wife and I were running a cattle farm located about twenty miles north of Fredericton, New Brunswick. We eventually had about two hundred head of cattle with around 65 calves being born each year.
The calves were typically born in February and March which as you might guess is a snowy time in the part of Canada where we lived. For some reason, calves like to be born at night.
Raising cattle is not the kind of thing you do with lots of help so during calving season I would make two to three trips a night to our calving area which was the woods around another barn a little farther away than the one in the picture.
The walk up the hill to the small field by the woods where the cattle were fenced was not a long one. Even with the walk back to the house it was only about six tenths of a mile. However, a good part of it went through the grove of tall spruce trees that separated our farm house from the barns.
Of course there were no street lights and you had to go no matter what the weather. If I found a cow that had calved, I would walk the new calf to the barn between my legs and the new mother would follow. I would put the calf and cow in a stall filled with nice clean straw. Depending on the weather they would stay in the open front barn two to three days and then go back to join the herd. The front part of the barn was arranged so that the calves could get under cover on dry straw during wet weather. With the barn facing south it made a nice place for them on a sunny day. Sometimes the straw looked like it was blanketed with calves. I remember looking up there one time and my oldest daughter who had just started school was sitting there in the sunshine in the middle of a dozen sleeping Angus calves.
Walking through the dark woods in an almost wilderness area, never really bothered me. I always figured that there was nothing in the woods that could harm me in the winter time. All the bears and there were lots of them were hibernating. The moose were deep in the swamps and the rest of the critters were more afraid of me than I was of them.
There is one thing almost certain about the northern woods. When the temperature is down around minus twenty-eight Fahrenheit, there are no crazed muggers hiding in the three to four feet of snow in the spruce forest. They would be frozen like a popsicle pretty quick.
Walking in the dark in almost silence is a rather unique experience. As someone who takes lots of pictures during daylight, it makes me use different senses. I have an opportunity to focus on my thoughts rather than where I am going to take my next picture. There is no television, no computer, and no music. While I usually have my smart-phone in my pocket, it never rings on my walks. All it does is record the distance that I have walked. I long ago took Facebook off my phone because all the status updates were too annoying.
If you have a safe place to walk at night, it is a great experience. You have to let go of all your fears of the dark. If you are not used to being alone in the dark outside, it is probably not a good idea to watch a bunch of crazy television vampire shows before you go on your walk unless television vampires have a hard time haunting you.
While things might wander through my mind, there are no vampires floating around in my head on my walks so that is not a problem of mine. I hardly even watch the television news these days much less scary vampire stories.
I have been in places where even I decided to not walk in the dark. I still remember one of my first nights in Washington, DC, during my career at Apple. It was a nice June evening and I wanted to walk down to see the White House. It was a short walk, but as I started out the door of the Hyatt Regency, the doorman stopped me. He told me that I was the wrong color to be walking around in that DC neighborhood in the evening. Being new to the DC area, I took his advice. My neighbor in Columbia, Maryland, had just been carjacked in his Volvo the previous week.
We now live on North Carolina's Crystal Coast, a long way from our old farm in New Brunswick. Coastal North Carolina and Carteret County where we live is a remarkable, almost wild place. We have the Croatan National Forest of 158,000 acres cradling our back. To the north and east of us is the 56 miles of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. To the south is the Atlantic Ocean and to the west on the other side of our two mile wide river, the White Oak, are the thousands of wild acres of Camp Lejeune.
While we live in a subdivision with just over forty homes, my walks at night are in a section that only has one occupied home in it. The distance to the end of the road there is almost exactly the distance that I used to walk to the barn in Tay Creek. Maybe that is why I feel so comfortable. In 2013, the biggest difference is that I have the benefit of a couple of street lights. Also the road is paved and the temperature might get to twenty eight Fahrenheit only a couple of times a year. It never gets to minus twenty-eight.
As I was walking the other night, the fog was rolling in off the river and the moon kept sliding behind the clouds. Someone had turned on almost all the lights in the one home along my path, but I could tell no one was home. The home looked a little spooky with the fog swirling around the blazing lights which seemed to be trying to ward off the fog. I could hear our local owl hooting in the distance. When I made the turn to head back home, a great blue heron squawked at me for disturbing his nap.
The walks I take these days in the dark do not bother me any more that the ones I took over thirty years ago. While I am a lot older and slower, our bears are over in the national forest. I have only seen one alligator passing through out waters in seven years and I never seen or heard any big coyotes around so I feel pretty safe.
I would rather be walking in the dark streets through the pine forests along the White Oak River than almost any street in any town in the world. It might look a little spooky in the fog, but even the fog is a pretty rare event. The warmth of the marsh often comforts me and prepares me for a good night's rest.
I cannot think of any place I would rather be even in the dark.