Determined to find the yet elusive cows in Christ Church Meadows, I headed out after class to go “farming.” Farming is a word we used to use for what my Grandpa Frank did when driving while paying more attention to the pastures, farms and associated scenery than to the road. When the large white Lincoln’s right tires would catch the edge of the road he would usually pop out of his farming-mode and correct the car quickly enough to avoid danger. I guess it was up to those in the car with him to heed the warning should he be looking at the crops on the LEFT side of the road.
As I left out on my journey, I noticed the clouds were extremely dark and heavy. However, after hearing the locals complaining about the lack of rain for three weeks I quickly thought, “Oh – it won’t be that bad. A few sprinkles won’t hurt me.” I then set out for the Meadows.
I believe I wrote at one point about choosing a running path so that I would have the chance to spot the cows. I didn’t see them that day. All I found were big, round, fresh bales of hay in the Meadows. My motivating thought was, “I refuse to leave Oxford without seeing the cattle!” However, after two tries now under my belt I may have to change my tune to, “I TRIED to find the cattle in Oxford and those sneaky bovine eluded me!”
The walk down to the Meadows and along the fenced off area was beautiful. The weather was cool, there were very few tourists, and the further along the path I got the more people disappeared. When you walk down the road alongside the Meadows, it is lined with enormous trees that must be several hundred years old. They go on for about five city blocks, so I had quite a nice little daydreaming stroll.
To my left the whole time was the Meadows, sans the cattle. I could smell an occasional manure whiff and saw several farm vehicles. One large truck rolled by with a sign on the side reading: “Oxford Area Estate Maintenance Company.” The back was loaded down with fencing. I wanted to chase the truck and beg, “Please, sir! Wherefore art the COWS?!”
Have I mentioned that by this time it had begun to sprinkle? By the time I reached the Thames it was raining. And, by the time I took a couple pictures of the ducks and the boats, it was raining fairly heavily. I ran toward the nearest pub, squeezed through a wrought iron gate, went up the back way and almost fell into the door as the thunder started pounding away.
For the first time since I’ve been here I had one thought in my head: “Hot tea. I need hot tea.” I was fairly soaked, as were the other groups falling into the door in sets of twos, threes and fours. They all had a “I need hot tea” look on their faces, and most of them ordered that very thing.
As the rain began to come down in droves so loudly no one could hear each other talk, I began to take stock of what I was doing there. Every person who visits a place and has “free” agency gets to choose their path. The only limits are the choices afforded them by their time, the area, their money and their physical ability to move around at will. Twice now, I have chosen to seek out the cows. It’s because they are familiar to me. I wanted to see something here in Oxford like I have there at home.
By the time I had tea, my lunch, and had people-watched for a while in the pub the rain began to break up and the sun finally came out. Little did I know that as I headed back to my dorm I would soon be experiencing a different rain; one self-inflicted of sorts. That is, the rain of my tears as I spoke with my husband later that day and found out that our family dog passed away.
Joe E. Skimo was a really sweet Alaskan Malamute who had been showing signs of age, heart failure or some other doggy malady for a few months now. Joe E. was very loyal. So loyal that he would kill anything that came into our backyard that wasn’t human – included three cats that belonged to our young female neighbors (cripes). His physical ailments were exacerbated, I’m sure, by the extreme heat Oklahoma has been experiencing of late, and my husband had been detailing his efforts to keep Joe E. cool with water in various ways. One method was to create a “doggie mister” by hanging up the garden hose under the patio roof and setting the nozzle on a light spray.
I wish the cool rains of Oxford could have kept Joe E. cool, but I doubt they would have been healing rains. He was sick and I’m glad he’s not struggling anymore.
As I searched for something comfortingly familiar in Oxford, I have to believe that Joe E. did found some physical comfort as he passed. However, the personal rain down my cheeks for our sweet dog may come and go a bit more than what spews from the Oxford sky around here during my visit.
I’ll miss Joe E….miles and miles more than I’ll ever miss having not seen the cows in Christ Church Meadows.
Rest in peace, Joe E. Skimo. You were an extraordinary family doggie.