He never met a stranger

Everything is made to be broken.  Thus rings the loudest bell in life, the piercing sound of endings that follow all beginnings.  For in this universe that shelters us, nothing is eternal.
— Jason M Hogle, Some comfort here

Sometimes words fail me.  Not often, no, but sometimes.

Let me just say that Vazra will be missed.  And not just by me, but instead by everyone who ever met him.  Why?

Because he never met a stranger.  Just ask anyone who had the pleasure of being in his presence.

A close-up of Vazra (2008_12_27_003721)

Vazra
August 1996 – December 2012

Loss is a funny thing: immeasurable, though we recognize the fullness of it and know when it diminishes; uncontainable, though we can carry it in a single lifetime; and insubstantial, yet we immediately feel its weight when it rests upon us.
— Jason M Hogle, Dreamdarkers

A boy and his cow #3

After observing the livestock show hoping to better understand what was expected of him when he and Bella eventually entered the ring, Keigan returned to his cow’s side.

Keigan checking Bella prior to competition (20120818_03066)

Perhaps by this time in the day’s activities—most notably after he gained perspective and instruction from the ongoing competition—Keigan’s palpable fear, uncertainty and doubt began to change, to metamorphose into something usable, something akin to determination and intent.

Keigan and Bella sharing a moment before they compete (20120818_03073)

Because she continued drawing upon his emotions to help define her own, Bella’s substantial stress and worry remained tangible, material.  Keigan knew this as well as we did.  He therefore tried his best to reassure her, to calm her, but also to reiterate that she must follow his bidding if they were to have any hope of placing.

Keigan and Bella waiting to hear the get-ready call for their competition (20120818_03093)

The enemy of purpose is vacant time.  Always rushing only to wait, the boy and his cow found themselves suspended in that insufferable moment when they had nothing further to do save wait for the call for his class to show.  It would be unwise to leave Bella, he knew, because they would have to move swiftly when the speakers announced their time had come.  So they waited.  And worried.  And wondered.

Keigan leading Bella toward the ring (20120818_03110)

Then it happened.  Through the cacophony of bellowing cows and bleating sheep and laughter and voices and overhead announcements, word came for Keigan’s class to prepare for competition.

With show stick in hand, he led her toward the ring, through throngs of animals and people.  He led her toward competition, their first together.  He led her.

Keigan and Bella waiting yet again before entering the ring (20120818_03114)

Yet once again the enemy of purpose reared its ugly head.  Prepared and assembled, competitors had to wait.  Again.

Bruce, Keigan's ag teacher, giving Bella a quick look and giving Keigan last-minute guidance (20120818_03118)

But Keigan’s ag teacher Bruce knew they would have no better opportunity for last-minute checks, last-minute tips, last-minute guidance.  So he defeated the enemy of purpose by filling vacant time, wresting control from fear, uncertainty and doubt.

The moment didn’t last long, though, for the time had finally come.  Speakers throughout the arena declared competitors in their class should make their way to the ring’s gate, for they finally had to face the judge for the first time.

Competition comes in waves.  Competitors and their animals must first contend at the class level.  Worthy participants advance to the best-of-class competition.  And winners in best of class advance to best of show.

However, first they must make it through their class, be chosen to move on, impress the judge with knowledge, skills and genetics such that they place and move forward.  Keigan had great hope for placing in his class, deep desire tempered with realism that he might take best in class, and willingness to face the daunting challenge of competing for best in show.

To know if any of these prospects could be made manifest, he and Bella had to overcome the biggest hurdle.

The judge for the cattle portion of the livestock show (20120818_03132)

They had to face the judge for the first time.

— — — — — — — — — —

Photos:

  1. Keigan checking Bella prior to competition
  2. Keigan and Bella sharing a moment before they compete
  3. Keigan and Bella waiting to hear the get-ready call for their competition
  4. Keigan leading Bella toward the ring
  5. Keigan and Bella waiting yet again before entering the ring
  6. Bruce, Keigan’s ag teacher, giving Bella a quick look and giving Keigan last-minute guidance
  7. The judge for the cattle portion of the livestock show

How typical

Back when I photographed a pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) with its crayfish breakfast, I said,

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that this bird species remains one of the most skittish animals one can encounter.  The moment these grebes think there’s a threat, they vanish beneath the water’s surface and swim for all they’re worth, eventually surfacing some distance in a random direction.

Like this:

A pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) preparing to dive (2009_11_21_040589)
A pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) diving (2009_11_21_040590)
A pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) after diving (2009_11_21_040591)

Because the camera was in burst mode, those photographs were taken in a single second.

I had come upon the bird on an overcast morning.  Walking along the water’s edge, the grebe surfaced—much to my surprise—and we both reacted, me by swinging the camera and snapping pictures, and the grebe by doing precisely what I expect them to do.

But something else I said in that grebe-and-crayfish post was this:

Pied-billed grebes over these past few years have grown predictable to me.  If they vanish underwater, I usually know where to run so I can be right where they pop up.  And I know they don’t like people, but what they dislike even more is moving people.  That means once they see you, the best option is to freeze and hope for the best.

So after the moment captured above, I rushed headlong until I reached the spot where I thought the bird would surface.  And lo:

A pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) swimming away (2009_11_21_040649)

Though not as near as I had hoped, at least it came up pretty much where I anticipated.  And of course, surfacing to find it hadn’t outfoxed me meant the bird quickly paddled away, always watching, but this time not diving.  Mainly because I didn’t move—and perhaps because diving hadn’t worked so well the first time.

A few of my favorite things #9

Turtles.  All sorts of turtles.  Because turtles are cool, especially if you can get them to sit still long enough to capture a respectable photo.

Texas river cooter (Pseudemys texana) perched on a log (2009_02_01_005696)
Red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) sunning on a debris pile (2009_03_08_012937)
Female river cooter (Pseudemys concinna) building a nest (2009_06_07_022723)
Male three-toed box turtle (Terrapene carolina triunguis) sitting in the middle of a trail (IMG_2082)
Red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) crossing a dirt road (IMG_2257)
Red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) on the side of the road (IMG_2447)

That last photo gives me the willies.  Why?  Here, take a closer look.

Close-up of a red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) with mosquitoes covering its head (IMG_2444_c)

By my count, there are six mosquitoes visible on this side alone.  What about the other side?

Worse still, other than retracting its head and hoping for the best, what defense does a turtle have when it comes to mosquitoes?  From this image, I’d say none.  And boy does that make me itch.

— — — — — — — — — —

Photos:

  1. Texas river cooter (Pseudemys texana) perched on a log
  2. Red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) sunning on a debris pile
  3. Female river cooter (Pseudemys concinna) building a nest
  4. Male three-toed box turtle (Terrapene carolina triunguis) sitting in the middle of a trail
  5. Red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) crossing a dirt road
  6. Red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) on the side of the road
  7. Close-up of a red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) with mosquitoes covering its head