Magic moment

Let me open by hoping you receive a richly umber bouquet of exquisite umbels as part of your ultimate umbral celebration this coming Sunday afternoon. May your peapickin’ penumbral party be sinfully shadowy, too!

We didn’t see it coming. We should have, but we didn’t, until it was almost too late.

These were the wide open spaces of baked, naked desert in that rarely travelled limbo land that exists between Lovelock and Gerlach. Willis and I were in the truck, heading west towards G-town, anticipating an early evening encounter at Bruno’s involving tumblers and tuna melts.

We’d spent the afternoon at a biological anomaly known as Porter Springs, a sudden cluster of green shockingly set amidst the normal Great Basin colors of tan, gold, and brown. The reason to visit PS is one of avian voyeurism. It’s a place that’s been known, during spring migration, to offer water, food, and shelter to all kinds of birds making their way up the Great Flyway. At times, remarkable and unique feathered friends have been seen taking a break there. You never know when a treasured rarity might be spotted among these well-watered trees.

We’d done our lensing—and some nice species had been been encountered, although nothing insane—and headed westward into the late afternoon. We left the birds behind and entered the realm of burros. This wasn’t cattle country, and we didn’t see any wild horses, either, but there were plenty of donkeys, the apparent kings of Porter Springs. Handsome little bucks in their way, with their solid grays and buff colors. There were plenty of them on display.

We were looking at a group of eight coming up on the right. I was driving the truck, and we were both watching the burros to see what they might do as we passed. Just then, Willis said, “Look left.”

They couldn’t have been more than 50 feet away and right there alongside us. Five pronghorn antelope, running with the truck, breezing along at 35 mph. Neither of us had a clue they were there, since we’d been so intent with our burro watching. Just as I prepared to savor this surprising and delightful spectacle of being paced by pronghorns, of having the thrill of being, for just a few seconds, one of the guys … the five of them stopped. As one, almost on a dime. They acted in such a way that there was no escaping the thought that, somehow, as soon as we looked upon them, they’d decided that was it. Show over. We’ll run with you as long as you don’t look at us, buddy. Once you do that, though, forget it. We only share the magic peripherally. Never directly.

But for one second … well, maybe two. No, one. All of one second …