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Shadowy Companions On an Autumn Night

November nights in Vermont have qualities unknown to "leaf peepers" and summer visitors. Air is crisp, and bare trees make black lace against starry skies. On one such night, I decided to put a letter in the mailbox up by the road. I put on my hat, coat, and mittens and called my dog, Josephine. We stepped out into blackness. With the help of a small flashlight for an occasional bearing, we reached the mailbox. By then, I realized that the night was too beautiful to return to the house; all those stars. We started off for a walk down the hill.

We had not gone far when I heard a rustling sound coming from the steep bank on one side of the road. I turned on the flashlight, expecting to see small bright eyes close to the ground. No eyes, just dead leaves and dried-up remains of wildflowers. We walked on. Then I heard it again, this time a bit louder and higher up. I admit to having been scared. Suddenly, I saw a huge black cow silhouetted against the starry sky. Then another and another, still more, all in a row and two sizes larger than in daylight, their Holstein white markings invisible. Only a strand or two of rusty barbed wire separated us. They were looking down at me from the top of the bank. We stood looking at each other in mutual amazement for several moments.

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Then Josephine and I continued our walk. All at once, I noticed that we were no longer alone. The whole herd of warm black bodies was walking with us down the hill on its side of the fence. For their size, they made very little noise: just a few snuffles and puffy sounds. When we turned around to go back up the long hill, the cows came, too. It warmed my heart, somehow. Back at the mailbox, the cows all lined up in a row watching me, silent in the starlight.

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