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01/01/07 12:00AM By Vic Henningsen
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(HOST) As he looks back on 2006, commentator Vic Henningsen is feeling some nostalgia for all the busy activity he observed on his country road last fall.

(HENNINGSEN) I like to get up early. Rising early is an antidote for aging: someone once said that as we get older the days seem shorter because we miss the high moments of their beginning. So most mornings I'm up before dawn, working away at my desk, glancing up every so often to watch the morning light steal over the fields by the house.

But not in the fall. Oh I'm up all right, but it's hard to get any work done. There's too much happening out there. And that's what I miss now.

Let's start with the geese. Every evening at dusk, large flocks of geese glide over the house and settle in the pond below. Sixty, eighty, sometimes over a hundred at a time. We're on the Connecticut River flight path and my neighborhood is a particularly appealing layover. There are two ponds half-a-mile apart, separated by a large hayfield where my next-door neighbor pastures his heifers. Plenty of food there.

In the early morning hours the geese hold loud discussions of neighborhood comings and goings. Deer drink at the pond, so do moose sometimes; coyotes and foxes stop there after a night's work. And then there's that guy - me - on the shore with a cup of coffee. Everything gets a comment.

Eventually they lift off in a spectacular - and noisy - display of scampering feet and beating wings. Sometimes, walking down from the upper fields, I'm startled by an explosion of geese rising in waves from a pond still invisible in the mist below.

On fall mornings heifers work the edge of the field, occasionally breaking the fence and meandering over to gaze at me through the study window.

Then there's Delphine, the neighborhood pig. If you'll picture a VW Bug covered by a bristly tea cozy, you've got Delphine. She's perfectly good-humored, but something of a force of nature: implacable, inexorable, inevitable. She's after my windfall apples and there's no stopping her - I've tried. Delphine's accompanied on her predatory expeditions by a goat named Zeus which, like most goats, is a kind of teenage boy among farm animals - he'll eat anything. Sometimes they're joined by two nameless sheep. My neighbor breeds dogs and the sheep, which have been raised with dogs, apparently think they are dogs. They romp along with Delphine and Zeus and make a decent attempt to growl when I get too close.

Twice a day this fall, Delphine and her entourage made their apple raids, striding down the road like gunfighters in an old western, scattering tractors and cars like townspeople running for cover. Overhead, air-traffic-control-geese coordinated take-offs and landings, turning the pond into the deck of an aircraft carrier.

But well before the first snow, the cows left the field, the geese took off, and the apples Delphine missed were pressed for cider. It's finally quiet around here. But nowhere near as interesting.

Vic Henningsen is a teacher and historian.

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