Driving home Thursday evening in rural south Manteca, I was struck by the sight of black foliage atop a pair of tall dead trees in the middle of a field. I noticed the leaves moving, darting to and fro which I found puzzling. As it turned out, they were not leaves at all. They were little black birds looking for a crepuscular place to roost for the night. At least, that’s what I thought they were doing.
But what made me want to stop and pull over was the dramatic rural tableau – the nearly full moon against which the birds on the bare branches were being thrown in sharp relief. Unfortunately, there was no safe shoulder on the side of the busy road for me to park the car. After quick thinking, I found that opportunity in an old dairy farm nearby where the traffic was almost nonexistent.
I also happen to know the very nice and amiable family that owns the place. I’ve taken a number of pictures there before. I’ve even interviewed them a few times for my stories. One can’t ask for better neighbors.
Once I got the open space in front of the dairy, I got out of the car and walked past the cows that were having hay for supper, and past the young calves in their pens, to find a good angle that would perfectly juxtapose barn and moon together. The cows stopped momentarily to eye the intruder, or dinner crasher. But once they’ve established I was less exciting than the tasty morsels in front of them, they turned their attention to the more important things in their bovine minds.
In the back of my mind, while I went my merry way taking pictures of the moon – the precursor to Friday’s blue moon – framed with the rural rustic setting, I could not help thinking that soon – perhaps in just a matter of months – this bucolic setting will be gone, replaced by new modern houses. The barn and the cows and their grazing fields will be gone for good. The two-lane road where one can easily pull over to capture a rural tableau of birds, unusual cloud formations, endless rows of corn against a splendid sunset, or a crop duster skimming over the tops of the crops while a flock of birds followed its tail – all these will be no more in a few years. In just a couple of years, if that, actually.
On the bright side, I guess I have to thank the Great Recession for delaying the inevitable transformation from rural to urban setting. The underground utility pipes are already in place, or are being completed. The die is cast.
And soon, pictures like this near-full moon over the three-generation dairy just south of Woodward Avenue between Airport Way and Union Road will be no more than just a nostalgic memory.