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All summer long, Bob and I have taken mini vacations. These occur almost every day, and we don’t have to leave our farm.

At least once a day, Bob brings out our cart (a maintenance golf cart), and we head down our farm lane toward the woods. Sometimes Bob has clipped branches to add to our brush pile that is halfway to the woods; we have been known to forget about discarding the branches and give them a round trip back to the house. The next day we take them to the brush pile.

Our dog, Sunny looks forward to our trips. He loves searching for deer, rabbits, squirrels and anything that moves on the ground. Bob has his hopes on seeing a bear at least once in our woods.

During the summer, after a busy day, we’d head out late in the evening. Sunny would beat us to the door — he was all ready for his ride.

Of course, plans change, and a few evenings we were busy elsewhere. When Bob and I were heading out for Music in the Park on Wednesdays, Sunny didn’t understand. He wanted his ride. When we said “Stay” as we headed for the door, our dog gave us a disappointed, sad look. So we promised to take him when we came home — yes, I told him so.

The late trip down the lane wasn’t a problem when the sun stayed up after 9. We’d be able to hurry home and give Sunny his ride after our evening of music. As the days shortened, things have changed.

The last Music in the Park went extra-long. By the time Bob and I got home, it was dark. I was about to tell Sunny that he was out of luck that night when Bob stopped me. “The cart has lights,” he said.

I grabbed the leash, the dog and a flashlight, and then the three of us climbed into the cart.

The trip down the lane, between soybean fields, felt odd. The regular evening noises had disappeared. We could hear neighbors’ tractors still moving about their farms, doing chores, but no crane calls could be heard, nor the honks of geese.

I shined my flashlight ahead and laughed, saying something about shining deer — of course we didn’t see any.

As we rolled through the darkness, Sunny sat up in his usual posture, looking for critters. Suddenly a very odd sound came from the tree-lined fence row. Bob slowed the cart and then stopped. The noise returned.

Bob didn’t recognize it. I wasn’t sure what it was either.

“I think this is going to be a short ride tonight,” I said. “Can’t see anything, not even with the lights.”

My brave husband agreed with me. He had to drive ahead to a wide spot in the lane so he could turn the cart around. We were closer to the odd sound at this point, and a chill went up my spine. This was not the time or place to meet Bob’s bear.

It was so good to get home and back into the well-lit yard that night.

Evenings are much cooler now. Heavier jackets have come out of the closet for our rides. It sure doesn’t hurt to have a heater of a dog sitting between us as the temperature dips.

Yes, we do baby our pooch. Sunny is part of the family. But even though he’s a large dog, I’m not sure if I can count on him to protect us from a wild beast. Bob’s suggestion of it being a coyote didn’t help. I continued to think about meeting a bear.

Too bad our cart doesn’t have four-wheel drive. Our mini vacations end when the snow flies. We also don’t take chances when it is hunting season. Eventually, our rides end for the season. I’m sure Sunny won’t understand the change. I guess we’ll just have to put up with his sad face until spring.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;Sunnybook@aol.com

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