Canada geese in such great numbers they practically blacken the sky when they fly by, or get ready to make a stop-over at the open fields.
Great white egrets quietly fishing for breakfast at an irrigation ditch next to a grazing field of Texas longhorns.
A solitary blue heron seemingly admiring its image on the mirror-like surface of the water in the early morning.
Neat running rows of freshly plowed fields waiting for the next planting of row crops.
A bright yellow crop duster breaking up the solitude of the morning as it skims the tops of corn fields against the backdrop of new residential houses nearby.
Ancient-looking valley oak trees standing like sentinels in the middle of onion and tomato fields.
Manteca may be fast becoming a city of restaurants, shopping malls like Bass Pro Shops and the Stadium Retail Center, and all the accoutrements of a highly urbanized metropolis. But right in its back yard, specifically the rural areas south of Woodward Avenue and in adjacent areas to the east and west all the way to the winding San Joaquin River and at its confluence with Stanislaus River, there are still plenty of pristine areas where one can take a drive up and down country roads and lanes and feel like the city is thousands of miles away. Take the trip before sunrise and at sundown and you double the solitude and the beauty of the countryside. Feathered friends are at their most active feeding time in the fields, along the river, and even in the dairies with the equally hungry cows right when the sun is just caressing the horizon. At dusk, the countryside bursts into an endless palette of colors, especially in the fall, as the waning light gradually reveals the sharp silhouettes of oak trees, the mountain ranges in the distance, and the graceful movements of feathered friends in the sky.
Once in a while, a farmer’s field like the Rolling ‘O’ Ranch on South Union Road will have something in its corrals that invites you to stop for a spell and capture some Kodak moments. In the last year or so, rancher Leo Omlin has acquired a very unusual type of animal called a watusi. The heavy-horned creature has been sharing an enclosed field next to Union Road in peaceful co-existence with the Omlins’ longhorns. Needless to say, the watusi has become a popular show-stopper with camera-toting curious motorists.
To get to these countryside destinations, just follow any of these main thoroughfares and let themlead you to the bucolic backyards of Manteca: South Airport Way, South Union Road, West Woodward Avenue which turns to Williamson Road which takes you to the riverside residential community called Weatherbee Lake, and South Austin Road which leads you to rustic Caswell Memorial State Park where it dead-ends.
— ROSE ALBANO RISSO
209 staff reporter